Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goose & Gander

Chinese diplomatic pressure was front page news in yesterday's Australian: "The Chinese government tried to pressure the National Press Club (NPC) into cancelling a nationally televised speech by Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer, scheduled to take place today. Political counsellor at the embassy Liu Jing met press club officials last week and requested the club withdraw the invitation to Ms Kadeer... The chief executive of the press club, Maurice Reilly, yesterday declined to comment on the half-hour meeting with Mr Liu, but club directors made it clear to the Chinese embassy that they were entitled to hear the views of Ms Kadeer. The Australian understands that press club officials... told Mr Liu that the club's policy on nationally televised speeches remained consistent with past practice." (Chinese pressure media, Patrick Walters)

Foreign editor Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan waxed indignant, urging the Australian government to intervene in the matter: "The Chinese embassy... must surely realise they cannot operate in Australia in the same way that their government does in China. And it is long since time past that the Rudd government should tell the Chinese this." (Diplomats must pull their heads in)

The paper's editorial went even further, demanding that the Chinese ambassador be carpetted: "Foreign Minister Stephen Smith should call in Chinese ambassador Zhang Junsai and ask him to convey an equally plain reply to Beijing: butt out. Mr Zhang must be told heavy-handed attempts to stop a woman who has broken no laws in Australia and who Canberra considers no threat to either this country or the peace of the world are unacceptable. And when he conveys that message, the ambassador could explain to his superiors that even if the Australian government wanted to stop Ms Kadeer from addressing the Press Club, it is not its decision to make, that in Australia freedom of speech is a fundamental right, not a privilege conferred and withdrawn by the state. Mr Zhang could also add that the Australian people will never accept a foreign power seeking to censor information and suppress criticism here." (China has no right to censor in Australia)

I couldn't have agreed more with that final, stirring sentiment: "[T]he Australian people will never accept a foreign power seeking to censor information and suppress criticism here."

But oh, the hypocrisy! the hypocrisy! Check this out from The Australian Jewish News of 3/6/05: "Controversial Israeli academic Dr Uri Davis' scheduled address to the NPC in Canberra next week is unlikely to go ahead... Davis' scheduled address - 'The Jewish National Fund of Australia: a critical assessment' - had provoked some concerns within the Jewish community, with Jewish National Fund (JNF) CEO Rob Schneider warning officials of possible legal action. 'The club could do themselves irreparable harm and damage and we would hold them jointly responsible for what Davis may say that could be defamatory towards the JNF', Schneider told the AJN." (Controversial Israeli speaker's Canberra address in doubt)

Well, well, well. So Uri Davis' appearance at the NPC went ahead regardless, yes? Err, no: according to The Canberra Times, "The NPC cancelled yesterday's scheduled address by a controversial academic because of lack of interest, not because of pressure from the Jewish lobby. The club said it had already rebuffed pressure to call off the speech by Uri Davis, a critic of the JNF of Australia, before the cancellation was made on economic grounds." (Club denies bowing to Jewish lobby, Ross Peake, 8/6/05) Well, that's the official line. But here's the rub. This blatant attempt to censor Uri Davis elicited not a peep from The Australian .

Nor did The Australian' s editorialist/foreign editor choose to crow about this: "The Israeli Government will lobby the ABC to abandon plans to screen a BBC documentary [Israel's Secret Weapon] that claims Israel has used nerve gas against Palestinians, and has an arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons... Israel's ambassador to Australia, Gaby Levy, said he would ask the ABC to reconsider airing the program... An ABC publicist said the ABC was committed to airing the program and would not be censored." (Israeli bid to block documentary, Patricia Karvelas, The Australian, 2/7/03) You'll be pleased to know that in this case the ABC stood by its guns and the documentary went to air in August of 2003.

As far as The Australian is concerned, it seems, what's good for the Chinese goose isn't good for the Israeli gander.

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