Friday, September 17, 2010

Just a Pussycat?

Remember this from Sydney Morning Herald columnist Mike Carlton back in June?:

"It is a ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby. Write just one sentence even mildly critical of Israel and it lunges from its lair, fangs bared. 'I rejoice every time a f.....g Palestinian dies, f... them!!!! Israel should flatten Gaza with a nuclear strike and be done with it', said one of hundreds of Jewish emailers this week. 'How dare you insult Israel you overpriviledged [sic] racist white moron, f... you and your stupid article. I wish I could smash your dumb face in'"? (See my 12/6/10 post A Ferocious Beast for Carlton's complete account of his mauling.)

Inevitably, Carlton's comments became the subject of an Australian Press Council (APC) complaint by one, Judy Maynard. The APC, as it turns out, dismissed the complaint and its adjudication appeared in today's Herald.

The following paragraph gives the gist: "In her complaint to the council, Ms Maynard firmly acknowledged that Mr Carlton had the right to express his opinion and that, for example, it is not anti-Semitic to criticise Israel. But, she said, the two items contained 'anti-Semitic elements and bring opprobrium on Jews through the use of racist imagery [and] factually incorrect statements'. She referred in particular to what she called the 'bestial' imagery and the implication that all critics of Mr Carlton must be, in her words, 'tools in an orchestrated campaign' by the Israeli government. She complained about use of the term 'Jewish lobby' as depicting advocates for that cause as being 'sinister'."

So the bared fangs and the orchestrated campaign are really just a figment of Carlton's anti-Semitic imagination, eh?

Unfortunately, no.

Remember the saga of the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize, when the Sydney Peace Foundation, led by Professor Stuart Rees, dared bestow that award on Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi? What a brawl that was! Not only were the fangs bared and the claws out, but there was more orchestration than Beethoven's nine symphonies put together.

To refresh your memory, here's an extract from an Alan Ramsey column of the time: "[Foundation chairwoman] Kathryn Greiner... was one of the jury of 6 who selected Ashrawi unanimously in September last year [2002] as this year's recipient... [T]wo weeks ago... she phoned Rees to talk frankly about her concerns with an accelerating campaign against Ashrawi. A file note of their conversation reads: KG: 'I have to speak logically. It is either Hanan Ashrawi or the Peace Foundation. That's our choice, Stuart. My distinct impression is that if you persist in having her here, they'll destroy you. Rob Thomas of City Group is in trouble for supporting us. I think he must have had a phone call from New York. And you know Danny Gilbert [partner in the law firm, Gilbert & Tobin] has already been warned off'. SR: 'You must be joking. We've been over this a thousand times. We consulted widely. We agreed the jury's decision, made over a year ago, was not only unanimous but that we would support it, together'. KG: 'But listen, I'm trying to present the logic of this. They'll destroy what you've worked for. They are determined to show we made a bad choice. I think it's Frank Lowy's money. You don't understand just how much opposition there is. We cannot go ahead. If only there was progress in the Middle East, this would not be such a bad time'. SR: 'I won't be subject to bullying and intimidation. We are being threatened by members of a powerful group who think they have an entitlement to tell others what to do. This opposition is orchestrated. The arguments are all the same - that Hanan Ashrawi has not condemned violence sufficiently, that she was highly critical of Israel in her address to the UN's Johannesburg conference on racism, and wilder accusations that do not bear repetition'. KG: 'But you're not listening to the logic. The Commonwealth Bank - I was at a reception last night - is highly critical. We could not approach them for financial help for the Schools Peace Prize. We'll get no support from them. The business world will close ranks. They're saying we are being one-sided, that we've only supported Palestine. SR: 'Kathryn, we need to avoid the trap of even using the language of 'one side'. That's not the issue. We are being bullied and intimidated and you are asking that we give way to it. The letter writers and the phone callers who this group encourage have spent weeks bullying a 25-year-old colleague of mine who handles the foundation's administration. You are asking me to collude with bullying'. KG: 'I'll tell you how serious this is. [NSW Premier] Bob Carr won't come to the dinner. He'll flick the responsibility to [his deputy, Andrew] Refshauge at the last minute. And you won't get the Town Hall. It is more than [Lord Mayor] Lucy [Turnbull's] life is worth. They will desert us as well. SR: 'I've never given way to bullying. Public life is too much characterised by cowardice. If we give way I'd be so ashamed I couldn't face myself. The image of the Peace Foundation would be shameful. Our reputation would count for nothing. KG: 'My friend, I am telling you what the reality is. The foundation will be destroyed. I'd hate to see its work come to nothing over this. Our critics are saying it's an awful choice'. SR: 'These critics are 'they' and 'them', invisible but powerful people. They stay powerful because they are invisible. They bully and intimidate in the same breath they behave as unblemished pillars of the community. Do you mean to say that in cautious, often gutless, Australia we are not going to follow through on this? No. I remain completely committed to our decision'.' (Here's Lucy, caving in, taking flight, Sydney Morning Herald, 25/10/03)

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