Thursday, January 22, 2009

Broadsheet no place for narrow minds

Article from: The Australian, January 21, 2009, by Michael Ronaldson, Liberal Senator for Victoria [posted here in full, with my own emphasis added - SL]:

IF anti-Semitism is truly the oldest hatred, the hallmark of this noxious ideology is the enduring nature of its bigoted beliefs.

Business columnist Michael Backman recently dredged up the most venerable of anti-Jewish biases in the place where they should be least expected: the opinion page of The Age. What Backman wrote was an appalling piece that did not deserve a berth in one of Australia's signature newspapers.

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote 2000 years ago that "impious and abominable" customs of the Jews made them "feel nothing but hatred and enmity for the rest of the world". Backman wrote last weekend that Israelis are known for being "rude and arrogant".

The New Testament Book of Thessalonians accused the Jews of murdering Jesus, and being "hostile to all men". Backman appeared to endorse that theological indictment when he wrote that Christian anti-Semitism was the Jews' "punishment for the death of Jesus".

Backman's opinion column didn't miss an opportunity to tick the box of every ethnic stereotype in the Jew-hater's handbook.

We are all aware of the folk tale that Jews are inclined to be tight-fisted. But then again, the same is said about my Scottish ancestors. Yet in his obsessive piece, Backman tried to legitimise this generalisation by asserting that Israelis are known for arguing "over-trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have means".

Such an unsophisticated argument serves only to demean the person who makes it.

Backman even seeks to lay responsibility for jihadi terrorism directly at Israel's doorstep. The al-Qa'ida attack on 9/11? That is attributed to "Israel's utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends". And don't you dare blame the death of 88 Australians in Bali on Amrozi and the other Jemaah Islamiah terrorists who actually built and placed those bombs. In Backman's eyes the true onus of guilt should be hung around the neck of all Israelis.
I can only imagine the anger felt by Jews on reading such a disgraceful allegation.

In the world according to Backman, the true cause of terrorism is resistance to terrorism. I am reminded of Winston Churchill's famous definition of an appeaser as "someone who feeds the crocodile in the hope of being eaten last". And the columnist neglects to explain how Israel is supposed to befriend a Hamas government whose covenant incites the murder of every Jew on the face of the earth.

As a business writer whose geographic specialty is Asia, Backman makes no claim to any particular expertise on the subjects of Middle Eastern history or politics. And just as fools rush in where angels fear to tread, he shows no hesitation about venturing forth with opinions that are rife with incomprehension and errors of fact.

Backman succumbs to the myth that the Jews of the Arab world were well treated by their Muslim neighbours before the Zionists came along to wreck this idyllic existence.

But serious students of the region tell a different story. The dean of Middle East scholarship, Princeton's Bernard Lewis, described the 18th and 19th centuries as "the lowest point in the existence of the Jews in the Muslim lands". And there is a vast array of evidence that documents the pogroms and persecution that afflicted Jewish communities from Morocco to Mesopotamia long before modern Zionism emerged.

For many decades, Israel's enemies have been beating their ploughshares into swords in a vain attempt to destroy Zionism, the national movement for Jewish sovereign self-determination. Time and time again, those same enemies spurned compromise, choosing instead a path of war and terrorism.

And while this has been a tragedy for Israel, it has been a catastrophe for those who should have gained the most. In Gaza, for example, the international community offered billions of dollars in aid after the unilateral Israeli withdrawal in 2005. For the first time in history, the Palestinians had a real opportunity to build the institutions of a civil society, free from foreign domination.
Instead, the election of the Hamas Government turned Gaza into a rocket-launching pad and imposed a strict version of Sharia legal code that invoked crucifixion and stoning as punishments.
The Age has apologised for its "error" in running the Backman column. But that is too little, too late.

There are no winners in the Middle East situation. And few of us can know or comprehend the fear felt by both Palestinians and Jews alike.

Israel is not without its faults. But Backman shows that one cannot despise the world's only Jewish state without much of that hatred rubbing off on the Jewish people as well.

I have great respect for The Age, but in this instance an apology is not sufficient. Instead, Backman's services must be terminated immediately.

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