Friday, December 30, 2011

Beware of Israel Lobbyists Bearing Guidelines

Apparently, it's not enough that pro-Israel comment is allowed to dominate the opinion pages of the corporate press. Now one of the apartheid state's most active lobbyists, Vic Alhadeff of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has just been given a platform - in the Fairfax press - to pronounce on what the public should or should not be allowed to say on the internet.

In his opinion piece, Time for blogosphere to exercise discipline, published in both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age on Wednesday, Alhadeff argued, in essence, that too many "offensive," (read 'anti-Semitic') comments are "making their way into the public domain," that this is "untenable and unacceptable - not just for the Jewish community but for all who value a tolerant society," and that greater "vigilance" and "self-regulation" by media outlets is the answer.

Then, as if that wasn't worrying enough, the Sydney Morning Herald editorialist weighed in next day with this stamp of approval: "Alhadeff is not arguing for more regulation, just more effort by the mainstream media outfits to moderate what appears on their internet fringes - maybe emulating the New York Times model of 'trusted commenters'. Self interest would suggest they take his advice," (A case for online moderation).

Yes, it all sounds eminently reasonable, and yes, some of the examples of offensive comments proferred by Alhadeff in his opinion piece are indeed offensive. Yet we have a problem here. Are Zionist ideologues and Israel lobbyists such as Alhadeff, who routinely conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in a position to offer guidance on this matter? With Alhadeff and friends supplying the guidelines for those in control of the delete button, what is there to guarantee that the anti-Zionist baby will not be thrown out with the anti-Semitic bathwater?

One may be forgiven for wondering whether some act of 'guidance' or other was what led to SBS Television pulling the plug on all website comments during the channel's recent screening of Peter Kosminsky's 4-part Nakba drama The Promise - despite the fact that none of the comments even remotely approximated those Alhadeff cited in his opinion piece. (See my 14/12/11 post Now You See It...)

Thankfully, if not the clueless editorialist, then at least one Herald letter writer in yesterday's issue had the sense to know that veteran Israel lobbyists and their nostrums should be taken with a grain of salt:

"The vile abuse that is a feature of the blogosphere is symptomatic of the polarisation apparent in our society (Time for blogosphere to exercise discipline, December 28). For democracy to function tolerance and compromise are essential. I'm disgusted at the rejection of the eruv in St Ives. I'm also dismayed that Israel is trying to pass a law that will stop the broadcasting of the call to prayer in mosques (Mosques row, December 14). I eagerly await a copy of Vic Alhadeff's strongly worded letter of protest to the Israeli government. Steve Castleau Bexley

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