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Jewish Community Leaders condemns The Age's anti-Israel bias

Jewish Community Leaders condemns The Age's anti-Israel bias

20 August 2010

Jewish Community Council of Victoria President John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria President Dr Danny Lamm have again strongly criticised Melbourne broadsheet The Age for its ongoing anti-Israel bias over a number of years.

The leaders of Victoria’s peak Jewish bodies jointly noted that during the tenure of Andrew Jaspan and particularly that of his successor Paul Ramadge, The Age had increasingly engaged in a war of words against Israel.  Apart from steering its readership to a more anti-Israel position, The Age’s strident line had also had the hopefully unintended by-product of legitimising antisemitism in this country.

“There have been too many instances of anti-Israel statements to count, ranging from the blatant such as Michael Backman’s horrendous smear job in 2009 to the more subtle and insidious”, said Searle. “An example of the latter includes a recent article reprinted from Britains’ The Daily Telegraph which stated “Netanyahu will come under fierce pressure from Obama to extend a 10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank” which in The Age’s version had made the following insertions “illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank” (The Age, 070710). These changes make a world of difference.”

“We are well aware that The Age is a powerful institution in Melbourne”, Lamm continued.  “We have spoken to Mr Ramadge on a number of occasions, both privately and in public forums.  While he is adept at making the right noises, his follow through leaves a great deal to be desired.  We believe that The Age’s record speaks for itself.  Quite simply it is not a friend of our community.”

The most recent matter of concern was the reportage of Israel’s response to a flotilla of so-called peace activists that broached Israel’s territorial waters in an attempt to reach Hamas-ruled Gaza. The ZCV and JCCV addressed strong letters of complaint (attached) to Mr Ramadge which were ignored.

As Searle concluded in his letter, “The JCCV has had ongoing communication with you for a number of years on The Age’s bias.  Predictably you have consistently stated that The Age is even-handed and that your door is always open to the Jewish community.  I will remind you that these were your exact words when you addressed an audience at the Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre on 5 October 2009.   You soberly assured audience members that The Age was interested in their concerns and that you would always be responsive to them.  In this regard, I will also remind you that you took certain such concerns away with you.  To this day, you have not responded, despite our follow-up request that you do so (see attached letter).  And indeed, I am still awaiting your reply to my telephone call to you of 4 June 2010.  Your attitude bespeaks scant respect for the Jewish community.

I am not requesting your response to this letter – because frankly your assurances are no longer seen as credible by our community – other than a clear policy change to even-handedness as evidenced in The Age’s future content.  Until this is forthcoming I have no doubt that those of your readers who value Israel receiving a fair go will dwindle even further.”

Both Searle and Lamm concluded that the JCCV and ZCV will continue to monitor The Age and take any steps they consider appropriate.

Please address any media enquiries to Geoffrey Zygier on 03 9272 557


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