Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dominating Public Discourse: SBS/AIJAC News

Overheard on SBS 6:30 pm World News Australia bulletin, 9/1/08: SBS newsreader, Anton Enus, interviewing a Kadima MK about Bush's visit to Israel: "What about those settlements that are still being built in the disputed areas?"

"Disputed areas"? Enus means the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, in particular the West Bank. The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since it was seized by Israeli forces in 1967. It is the longest military occupation of our time. As to its status: "The UN Security Council, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have each resolved that the [Palestinian] territories...are occupied...[but] The Government of Israel in its public statements and many of Israel's citizens and supporters dispute that the territories are occupied and...argue it is more accurate to refer to the territories as "disputed" rather than "occupied..." []

Why have SBS (as well as the ABC) chosen to ignore the reality of international law in favour of toeing the official Israeli line?

This incredible state of affairs is the fruit of a campaign waged against SBS (and the ABC) by the most militant component of Australia's Israel lobby, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). Blogger and freelance journalist, Antony Loewenstein, has described this campaign in his 2006 book, My Israel Question:

"In October 2003 AIJAC released a report alleging systematic bias at SBS news and current affairs in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict...It also objects to SBS calling the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem 'occupied Palestinian land'. Why? According to the report, 'It is indisputably the case that this land has never previously been under the sovereignty of either the Palestinian people or a state called Palestine, nor is there any legally binding UN decision or international treaty that says it should be'....I submitted a freedom of information request to SBS requesting all documentation related to Middle East programs between 2001 and 2003. I eventually received a bundle of documents that confirmed my suspicions: the vast majority of 29 letters of complaint submitted to SBS news and current affairs management about Middle East coverage were from AIJAC's Colin Rubenstein or other AIJAC staff, and all fit a similar pattern." [pp 192-195]

As the redoubtable Mearsheimer & Walt point out in their 2007 blockbuster, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy, "Pro-Israel forces are well aware that dominating discussions about the Jewish state is essential to their agenda. These efforts do not always succeed, of course, but are still remarkably effective." [p 168]

Just how effective was apparent on SBS' 6:30 news on Wednesday night.

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