// you’re viewing...


THE ABC OF IMPARTIAL REPORTING: Bashing Israel bruises our public broadcaster’s rep

There’s a lot we don’t know about Australian-Israeli alleged spy Ben Zygier, other than there’s a grieving family and one of our friends and allies, Israel, known for its robust democracy and rigorous judicial system, appears to have caught him committing a serious criminal offence. We only know that because his lawyer said the matters with which he was charged were serious and because Israel is not in the habit of imprisoning its citizens without cause or legitimate process.

We’ve avoided writing about the matter til now because there’s little we could add and because we generally think there’s a great deal of double-standard, thinly veiled anti-Semitic, hysteria about Mossad, which we are pleased to know mostly does an exceptional job in keeping our fellow democracy Israel safe and protected from some rather seriously murderous foes.

The fact that Mossad gets a lot of attention while larger Arab external security services get very little coverage says a lot about the prejudices of many who obsess about the Middle East, in Australia.

Much of the Australian media has been appalling in its treatment of this story. As ever, the ABC has led the charge.

With even the best newspapers in trouble, commercial TV news coping with big changes too, the ABC is going to become more and more important, presenting all of politics (other than the extreme-left) with a serious problem. Taxpayers are comfortable enough with a public broadcaster that dresses to the Left but will increasingly become troubled by it if they’re the only well-resourced show in town.

The AM/PM programmes are meant to be one of the ABC’s most serious, heavy-hitting and best-resourced news efforts.

The ABC Saturday AM programme’s willingness to trot out the odious Antony Loewenstein to speak on Israel, as if he’s an impartial expert on it (rather than someone who agitates for the destruction of the Jewish state), is among its most egregious misjudgments in recent times.

Loewenstein is not a mainstream representative of Jewish community opinion. He is an extreme leftist, not just on the Middle East, where is the Israel-hating Nazi-style boycott-brigade’s token Jewish voice. He says hateful things most non-Jewish Israel-haters outside a skinhead mosh-pit wouldn’t dare. Last year, he said in a public forum that six million Jews should die to achieve the Palestinian state he craves. This year he is addressing a Marxism conference in Melbourne, alongside John Pilger.

He was described as hailing from “Independent Australian Jewish Voices,” a tiny fringe group that barely exists and has very little support in the Jewish community in Australia. Lowenstein worked at Fairfax for a time but was too red-hot even for them. He has written an Israel-hating  book, has a blog, but has little impact in journalism except where favourably quoted on Stormfront and other fanatically anti-Israel websites.

Loewenstein’s assertion that Australia’s highly-regarded and academically strongly performing schools are somehow recruiting grounds for Israel’s security agencies or military went unchallenged despite its hysterical and silly nature. Liz Jackson, the show’s host, seemed desperately willing to hear the outrageous canard that Jewish schools are training grounds or propagandising units for Israeli militarism or espionage.

She should have perhaps thought for a minute “Would I accept these assertions as sensible if articulated by someone from the Ku Klux Klan or Jihad Weekly or Nazis of Newtown?” There wasn’t a moment of scepticism or sanity-checking. Jackson just blindly accepted his every mad utterance.

Loewenstein went to suggest or imply that any number of Australian Jews moving to Israel would join the Mossad which has, according to that usually reliable anti-Israel source, Wikipedia, has all of around 1000 staff. From what we’ve read elsewhere, it’s actually quite a bit smaller. There are 7.7 million Israeli citizens. So chances are very few Australians moving to Israel are joining the elite spy service, in any capacity. That it is necessary to point this out shows how silly the discussion prompted by the ABC’s reporting on Ben Zygier has become.

And yet the fanatic Loewenstein suggested otherwise, that Aussie Jewish schools are zoned to Mossad like Dimboola was to Essendon back in the day.

Sadly, the award-winning ABC journalist Liz Jackson, didn’t think to challenge the hysterical nonsense. Not a single moment of scepticism. If someone had asserted that all Anglican schools train their pupils for a martini-vodka drinking, shaken-not-stirred life of emigration back to England for service in MI6, we suspect Ms Jackson might have questioned the sanity of her guest and would certainly have tested his silly claims.

That this kind of outrage occurred, and went unchallenged, is a serious problem, not just for Australian Jews, not just for the many Australians who see Israel as an exemplar of innovation, liberty and freedom in a part of the world not known for those things, but also for those who support public broadcasting and want it to be truly politically independent.

The ABC’s reputation for anti-Israel bias is reasonably well-established and seems to be accepted as part of its ruling ideology. Pretending Loewenstein is representative of Jewish community or any other mainstream community opinion does the ABC’s reputation even more damage.

The publicly stated goals, aspirations and standards of the ABC do not allow for this kind of bias to stand.

There was no signal to the audience of Loewenstein’s marginal role or of explaining this in terms of the requirements of  section 2 of the Code of Practice: 

‘The ABC should make reasonable efforts, appropriate in the context, to signal to audiences gradations in accuracy, for example by querying interviewees, qualifying bald assertions, supplementing the partly right and correcting the plainly wrong’. 

The interviewer simply went along with Loewenstein’s criticisms and opinions without question, even embellishing them.

Or of section 4 which mandates impatiality, balance and fair treatment. Were the facts gathered ‘with due impartiality? This is the only interview which comprises this segment which presents only one side of the picture without any opportunity to respond.

Section 5.3 of the Code of Practice states:
‘Where allegations are made about a person or organisation, make reasonable efforts in the circumstances to provide a fair opportunity to respond’. 


While many in the Jewish community might have wanted to avoid blundering into an issue where the facts about Ben Zygier weren’t known and where a family’s grief was still raw, there could have been any number of people involved in Jewish schools as educators or students who could have, from their own direct experience, contrasted with Loewenstein’s wild speculations, rebutted the fanatic’s claims.

It didn’t happen, leaving a supposedly serious ABC programme repeating a vile and absurd lie worthy of the Stormfront Nazi website. The ABC luvvies would be the first to tut-tut about the anti-Islamic MP Geert Wilders’ obnoxious views or some skinhead yob with Hitler tats. And yet views of a similar nature are broadcast quite willingly by them, as long as the proponent identifies as being an ultra-lefty.

There’s a lot we don’t yet know about what happened with Ben Zygier. It may well be best for the security of Israel that we don’t know. 

What we do know is that the ABC can no longer expect to operate in promotion of the biases of some of its staff. It can expect more – not less – democratic accountability to its own publicly expressed standards.

Tony Abbott’s election later this year won’t change much based on how little changed under Howard. But what most certainly will change everything are the big changes going on in the news market that could leave state-sponsored news operating largely alone, should newspapers and commercial TV news continue to decline and fail in the long run. The far-Left ought not imagine that a democracy could continue to tolerate the lack of diversity of opinion and a genuine balance reflecting community views at the ABC, in that event.

They should realise that the conservative side of politics and most people on the Labor side share these concerns. It’s not just about the Middle East, either, it runs much deeper than that. When a public institution, dependent on taxpayer funds, offends so many, then change, willing or otherwise, strikes us as inevitable, eventually.

The ABC’s performance on Israel is a symbol of how well – or poorly – its doing. We were greatly encouraged that SBS broadcast the very confronting and emotionally charged Israeli drama Prisoners of War that reminded those Australians lucky to see it just how diverse, fascinating, much like us and on edge Israel can be. So there are signs of change. And hope.

But based on Saturday AM and Liz Jackson’s effort, they have a very long way to go before the publicly funded broadcaster is actually broadly representative of public opinion on many issues, including the Middle East. If it continues this way, there will inevitably be a confrontation between the self-appointed and actually elected representatives of those who provide billions in public money to the ABC.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Just booked my flights to Melbourne for a lonnnng easter weekend. Bring on Marxism 2013 and seeing legend status speakers like John Pilger, Billy X Jennings and Brian Jones. As well as some more local & familiar legends like Antony Loewenstein ,Dougal McNeill and Tess Nichol. Tickets to Aamer Rahman : The Truth Hurts at Melbourne International Comedy fest booked too. Come at me March.

    Posted by Macca | February 26, 2013, 11:04
  2. Posted by Macca | February 26, 2013, 11:06
  3. God wont destroy Israel because there is no God but Israel will disappear in the next decade or so that is for certain.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | February 26, 2013, 12:24
  4. Loewenstein is a traitor to his ancestory. If he hates himself so much why doesn’t he just suicide.

    Posted by Piv | February 26, 2013, 12:59
  5. Gillard is now about as popular as genital warts.

    Posted by anon | February 26, 2013, 13:38
  6. Justice in secret is not justice at all. Hauling citizens off into prison camps is so American aka Guantanamo Bay.

    Posted by Anonymous | February 26, 2013, 16:49
  7. @ Anonymous
    I must agree, a better solution is possible

    Posted by Freddy | February 26, 2013, 22:45
  8. Where would you rather live? In the Israeli Democracy or under Hammas Fascism?

    Posted by Ali | February 27, 2013, 9:04
  9. Ali – Palestine not Israel if I had a choice and did not live in Australia. Israel will not exist in a few decades in any case

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | February 27, 2013, 15:50
  10. Good to see A-Jackoff that in one day you’ve added a few decades of life to Israel – from destruction this decade on 26/2 to a new decades on 27/2. On 28/2 you might give it a century or so. Sadly, the old fart that you are, you won’t live to see the day, not that it will ever come. It’s good you’re not Jewish as I’m not sure you could muster 10 people to come to your funeral.

    Posted by St Kilda Liberal | February 27, 2013, 17:45
  11. What part of never again is hard for you lefty’s to understand?
    Sure, destroy Israel I’m certain that they’ll not use all those nukes they have to prevent just that situation.
    Sell off there ABC, save a billion dollars or so each year. It’s not as if there isn’t other folks willing to report on the news.
    I used to be a ABC fan but the last 5 years or so they have dropped all standards in favour of water carrying for the trendy views of the left.

    Posted by Scott | February 27, 2013, 21:30
  12. Israel will not exist soon as the world get more advanced in sanitation and with widespread use of flushing toilets there will be less need to house the world’s human wastes.

    Posted by anon | February 27, 2013, 22:02
  13. St Kilda Liberal – The full quote is “next decade or so”.

    Not long now when you lot will be destroying that piece of filth that pretends to represent us in Canberra. But I bet the Liberals stuff it up as usual and the 5th column in Caulfield who say they are Liberals but will actually vote for the toad face because he is a supporter of Hebrewland.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | February 28, 2013, 0:44
  14. this old Jew agrees with much of what Lowenstein says and the author of the article does Israel’s powerful right-wing work for them- mixing Jewish ancestory with repressive right-wing Zionist policy : forgetting that a huge section of Israeli citizens actively work in support of the Palestinian born Israeli citizens who don’t get to participate in what is mistakenly called “the only democracy in the ME”.

    When you have an Apartheid system that actively discriminates against a significant proportion of the population, Arabs, it IS NOT a democracy just because you have elections that ensure Apartheid will continue.

    Christ, you people frighten me.

    Posted by adam | February 28, 2013, 11:26
  15. Perhaps Adrian Jackson can go and train the Palestinians how to fight. I’m sure they’d be impressed with his military prowess. Nobody else is.

    Come on Jackson. Just think of it. You could lead the Arab armies to yet another stunning victory.

    Posted by Dan Lewis | February 28, 2013, 12:27
  16. To be fair, I should add that when I was a wee lad, one day while my father was at work, I walked in on my mother being vigorously loved from behind by a visiting Israeli paratrooper we were billeting.

    Damn them those Israelis they ruined my life. But I have had my revenge. I no longer permit them to stay at my Middle Park establishment. And I laugh out loud when I taunt them so on this site.

    Still, that sinewy, muscular Jewish body loving my mother from behind haunts me. It haunts me so. Sometimes, when I have no guests at Middle Park, I like to wear a kippah and black thigh-high leather boots, put The Nuremberg Rally on the flat screen, and love myself.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | February 28, 2013, 20:24
  17. Sadly for you Adrian the Liberal candidate for Melb Ports is also Jewish

    Posted by St Kilda Liberal | February 28, 2013, 21:33
  18. Posted by anon | March 1, 2013, 9:58
  19. The comment by “Adrian Jackson” at 28 Feb 13, 20:24 is by an imposter

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 1, 2013, 18:32
  20. Yes that is a bit true St Kilda Liberal but the Liberal candidates family has been here for 200 years (even longer than mine) unlike the Prussian Danby who is effectively a new Australian in so many ways.

    Danby last on the ballot paper on election day; that is all that matters.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 1, 2013, 18:36
  21. Dan Lewis – I note that your Toorak clone Michael Burd went to listen to that Dutch islamophobic MP saying he only went to observe -yeah sure Mr Burd

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 2, 2013, 16:58
  22. Adrian – a lot of people went to “observe” Geert Wilders. It’s called an audience.

    Then there were your mates who went to “obstruct” and got violent. It’s called dole bludging hippie terrorist supporters.

    Posted by Dan Lewis | March 2, 2013, 17:59
  23. Ah, so you don’t like Danby as a “new Australian” but the Islamic “asylum seekers” are ok. Your logic never ceases to amaze me.

    I didn’t realise what happened to your mother Adrian. Sorry to hear that.

    Posted by St Kilda Liberal | March 2, 2013, 20:23
  24. The bloke who was vigorously boring Adrian’s mum from behind has seen the light and changed camps, he is now giving my gaping open back passage a rebore daily in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens and I love it.

    Posted by Dan Lewis | March 2, 2013, 22:03
  25. St Kilda Liberal – why are you protecting Danby your political enemy? Perhaps you are one who says that they are a Liberal but votes for Danby in a postal or pre-poll vote.

    Danby has not assimilated while the Liberal has over the generations. Danby still clings to the old countries be it Prussian or the creepy Tel Aviv Government.

    Remember Prisoner X an heroic Australian double agent working for ASIS killed by the Tel Aviv Government.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 3, 2013, 17:52
  26. Dan Lewis – I don’t think anyone will be boring my mother as she was incinerated in an oven in 1982 after dying from bowel cancer.

    I did not go to see the Dutch MP pig speak. He does not look pure Dutch though perhaps a bit of Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) blood in him.His hair appears to be dyed blond too.

    Posted by Adrian Jackson | March 3, 2013, 17:58
  27. Beverley O’Connor Describes Tony Abbott As Not Very Helpful

    Beverley O’Connor is yet another leftie ABC presenter. This week she has co-hosted News Breakfast on ABC 1. This is the very same Ms O’Connor who last year described one of Tony Abbott’s daughters as not very modern. On Tuesday, Ms O’Connor declared that Tony Abbott himself was not very useful. Clearly she is a presenter who doubles as a political commentator and gets the roles confused. How very ABC.

    Early in the program on Tuesday, at around 6.15am, Beverley O’Connor and her co-presenter Michael Rowland focussed on the issue of 457 visas. This followed Julia Gillard’s criticism of foreign workers taking Australian jobs. Beverley O’Connor was all the way with the Prime Minister on the matter of 457 visas. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Beverley O’Connor: We’d like to get your thoughts on Tony Abbott’s comments. Quite, er. Well, there’s almost a sort of bun fight, a very inelegant fight breaking out between the two leaders over foreign workers. And we saw the Prime Minister really clearly stating that she would be putting local workers first. It’s become a bit of an issue with the 457 visas. But Tony Abbott’s saying that that is very jarring to him. And, sorry, it’s going in a direction that I think is not very helpful.

    Having described Tony Abbott as “not very helpful”, Ms O’Connor went on to criticise the fact that the Opposition leader was supporting the position of business leaders who back 457 visas:

    Beverley O’Connor: And Tony Abbott going, I guess. The Prime Minister is in western Sydney where, of course, there are a lot of foreign workers who’ve become very much Australianised. And really – and he’s [Abbott’s] in fact really playing to business to say that they will be keeping very strongly those 457 visas because business really does want that as well in terms of some of the worker shortage.

    Pardon the convoluted expression. What Ms O’Connor is really saying is that Mr Abbott is a lackey for business. This, according to Ms O’Connor, is not a good show at all. Consequently, Tony Abbott should do something really useful by supporting the Gillard Labor government. Can you bear it?

    Posted by Hendo | March 8, 2013, 15:31
  28. To Macca spruiking marxism, I suggest this slogan for the conference:
    “Marxism: 100 years of failure prove nothing!”

    Posted by Annabelle | March 10, 2013, 20:26
  29. @ Annabelle | March 10, 2013, 20:26 more like Capitalism: 100’s of years of crisis interspersed with the odd boom…..oh of course the creation of a political class that have looked after themselves nicely especially in the NSW ALP Right and their lackeys in the union movement. So many crooks, so little time, so much fraud, not enough jails. Bring on the libs they only ones who will clean these f*ckers out so we can start again.

    Posted by Anonymous | March 10, 2013, 22:30
  30. Hey, at least you’re not in a gulag, anon ;-)

    Posted by Anonymous | March 10, 2013, 22:58
  31. @Anonymous 22:30.

    The Odd boom you say? Australia has been pretty good to me my whole life!

    Posted by Annabelle | March 11, 2013, 11:18
  32. Tony has told me no more sly bath house intercourse with gentlemen.

    Posted by Pissy Chryne | March 11, 2013, 16:25