Thursday, September 26, 2013

Geraldine Doogue: Still Clueless After All These Years

I don't know about you but I find the ABC's Geraldine Doogue profoundly irritating. This is primarily because, on those occasions - alas too frequent - when she discusses the Palestine/Israel conflict, little more than Israeli talking points emerge.

The latest example came on last Sunday night's Compass program - Why I'm still... Jewish - when she talked with 4 members of Australia's Jewish community:

"Can I raise the issue," she chirped at one point, "and it's amazing that I am raising this, but what about the rockets, what about Hezbollah, what about Hamas?"

So Doogue was amazed that none of her interlocutors had thus far started banging on about Palestinian fireworks - these, of course, being the be-all and end-all of the conflict in her view. (Hers was no mean feat actually: not only did she reduce the conflict to the level of a Zionist cliche but managed to stereotype her guests as knee-jerk Zionist propagandists at the same time.)

Doogue's unblushing invocation of this particular propaganda trope came like the proverbial shot-in-the-arm for the show's beleaguered (because terminally smug) Zionist ultra, Timmy Rubin. "Thank you. Thank you, Geraldine," she gushed, as Doogue babbled on: "In other words if you are going to give it [the West Bank] back..."

Until, that is, she was interrupted by the sharpest of the four, Ronni Kahn, who labelled her nonsense "scare-mongering."

To which an incredulous Doogue could only retort: "Is it?"

The thing is, Doogue of all people has no excuse whatever for such ignorance.

In January 1991, at the time of the First Gulf War, she presented a current affairs slot on ABC television called The Gulf Report. For expert opinion on events as they unfolded, the program turned to Macquarie University Arabist Dr Robert Springborg, a move which angered reigning Prime Minister (and uber-Zionist) Bob Hawke and catapulted Doogue and her colleagues, particularly Peter Manning, head of ABC News & Current Affairs, into the centre of a political storm. As a result, Doogue underwent something of a learning curve which she described in the Spring 2003 issue of The Griffith Review. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

"It was on! Day after day, new criticism turned up. We learned there was a 'war room' in Parliament House where the prime minister, with his widely acknowledged emotional attachment to Israel at full throttle, and several Cabinet colleagues, including future opposition leader Kim Beazley, pored over every detail. I became aware for the first time of the Israel/Jewish lobby and its power. Naive little me had never experienced organised opposition in my previous reporting life. In an odd way, it was enthralling to watch in practice what I had read and heard about. I just wish I hadn't been at the centre of it. This campaign was conducted in public and private. Letters arrived by the dozen, plus phone calls to the program (including utterly sexist diatribes directed at me; I was after all, one of the first Australian women to be allowed to report a war on television)."

Unfortunately, while Peter Manning, whose courage under fire Doogue acknowledged in her essay - "Peter Manning, I salute you," is her concluding sentence - has since gone on to study the Middle East conflict in some depth, even writing a book on the subject, Us & Them: A Journalist's Investigation of Media, Muslims & the Middle East (2006), Doogue, it seems, has not only failed to build on her initial awareness of the power of the Israel lobby by developing a real understanding of the Palestinian case, but has actually moved in the other direction, and now simply recycles Zionist talking points and cliches as the occasion demands.

Laziness? Self-protection? The price of retaining a perch at the ABC? Who knows? Perhaps it's time for her to pen another piece for The Griffith Review.

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