What, I ask, could possibly turn a sweet little ABC presenter into a ravening Mark Regev?
I ask this curious question after having heard Lateline's bambina Emma Alberici interview soft Zionist Peter Beinart (The Crisis of Zionism) on 26 April. But was it really Emma? I mean, there I was watching her, but what was that I was hearing? I'll be damned if it wasn't everyone's favourite Israeli spin doctor!
After noting in her introduction that many American Jews have "dismissed [Beinart's] book" as "an attack on Israel by someone whose views on Israel are at best simplisic and at worst demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East," Emma went on to assail Beinart with Gazan rockets, decades of peace-seeking Israeli governments, Palestinian leaders who'll be damned if they'll recognise the state of Israel, and Hamas, "which continues to perhaps not call for the destruction of the state of Israel, but it certainly doesn't recognise it."
Where were all these Israeli talking points coming from? Surely not from bambina Emma?
A quick scan of our poppet's profile at the Lateline website revealed her to have been a business journalist, and more recently, the ABC's Europe correspondent. Reading between the lines, I'd say that all she knows about the Middle East came from mere snatches of mainstream media coverage of the area, probably inadvertently soaked up between trips to the shoe shop and the hairdresser.
So if Emma's Mark Regev wasn't something out of the Twilight Zione, what was it?
Could she have collaborated with one of the other 13 members of the Lateline 'team'? I wondered. After all, what's a 'team' for? But which one? Zipping through their website profiles, I could only conclude that 12 of them would probably struggle to locate the Middle East on a map of the world. But Candice Talberg's profile, however, looked a little more promising. It read as follows:
"Candice Talberg is a producer with Lateline... She has worked as a journalist in the UK, the Middle East and South Africa. Candice worked as a journalist at the BBC in London for 5 years before moving to Australia in 2005. While there she worked in both news and current affairs, making foreign documentaries and producing international news. She worked for a range of programmes, including Newsnight, HardTalk, BBC World News and Correspondent, where she was the researcher on a story which won a Peabody Award in 2003."
That disclosure of course could hardly be considered conclusive. I mean, face it, how many corporate journalists who've spent time in the Middle East really know what's going on there? No names, no pack drill, mind you. Anyway, since it was the only lead I had, I decided to google Candice.
I found a Candice Talberg who was a graduate (1993) of the United Herzlia Schools of South Africa and a Candice Talberg (and here my heartbeat accelerated appreciably) who had been an employee (Public Affairs) of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in 2006. That's right, a colleague of Vic Alhadeff's, no less. Could one survive such an experience and emerge unscathed? I asked myself.
Still, even assuming that these 3 Candice Talbergs are in fact one and the same, was I any closer to unravelling the mystery of why an amore like Emma seemed to be channelling Mark Regev (or maybe even Vic Alhadeff!) last Thursday night? Who, but the proverbial fly on the wall, will ever really know?
But alas, no sooner had I gotten to the bottom of one mystery (all things being equal) than others presented themselves.
Why, I couldn't help asking, does Ms Talberg's Lateline profile leave out such vitally important background information as a stint at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, if indeed she had worked there? And how, moreover, does a former Israel lobby employee manage the kind of objectivity supposedly required for a job at the ABC?
After all, with bambina Emma uncharacteristically coming on like Mark Regev when interviewing a critic of Israel, even one as meek and mild as Beinart, I hardly think viewers can be blamed for asking such questions.