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March 13, 2014 12:37 am

Confronting Foreign Media Outlets on Anti-Israel Coverage

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avatar by Isi Leibler


The two articles linked below were recently published in the Australian, the only national daily newspaper, and are of primary interest to Australians. However, I believe they warrant wider circulation. The article by John Lyons is an example of the bitter battles we face from journalists who are either biased and intent on demonizing Israel or naively take at face value the fantasies presented to them by Arabs or delusional Israeli extremists.

The other by Greg Sheridan, the foreign affairs editor of the Australian, puts forward a case for Israel – in a manner that many of our own spokesmen could well emulate.

My response to the article by John Lyons was understandably not published by the Australian. However I had a very relaxed exchange of views with the editor and stress that the exclusion was not based on hostility or rejection of the views I sought to present. Despite their biased and bigoted representative in Israel, I could only hope that we had a few more newspapers throughout the world presenting Israel and the Middle East in as balanced a manner as the Australian.

Evil and Deeply Untrue – by Greg Sheridan

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Distant ‘Experts’ Choose to Ignore Israeli Realities – by John Lyons

My Response:

Over the past few years, I have followed John Lyons’ Australian articles on Israel with increasing frustration. With the exception of a few “fig leaves,” his reporting has been distorted, biased, and clearly designed to demonize Israel. His most recent outburst in the Weekend Australian (08/3/14), one of the most biased diatribes against Israel that I can recollect the Australian ever having published, displays a total absence of journalistic integrity.

Lyon’s reporting relies on untrustworthy and highly prejudiced sources. He utilizes false testimonies from Arab propagandists and extreme Israeli leftists. He quotes disgruntled retired Israel officials and highly questionable human rights organizations.

He even goes so far as to include obscene, uncorroborated accusations that Israeli soldiers beat a child “to a pulp.”

Lyons fails to grasp the asymmetry of the Israeli-Palestinian political situation, which thus leads to a distortion of facts. In Israel, journalists enjoy freedom of the press to pursue every angle and dissect every possible Israeli misstep. In the corrupt, anti-democratic Palestinian Authority, where there is no freedom of the press, they are manipulated by propaganda and lies.

Lyons omits to provide necessary context. He writes about the Israeli army’s alleged abuse of Palestinian children without mentioning that the crimes committed by Palestinian children, including stone-throwing, have maimed and killed innocent civilians. He never mentions the education system of the Palestinians in which their children are brainwashed to sanctify hatred and violence – from Palestinian kindergartens to mosques and the government-controlled Palestinian media.

Above all, he ignores the fact that no country has a better record of ethical military practices than Israel, which trains its soldiers to abide by a strict moral code and punishes those who violate it. Despite being the only country in the world whose existence is under continuous threat and has been subject to unending siege and terrorism since its inception, Israel remains committed to defending itself in a manner that least harms innocent civilians.

Lyons disregards the broader context of the Middle East and fails to note that Israel is the only democratic country in the region with Israel’s minority Arab population enjoying greater freedom and a higher standard of living than in any neighboring country. He makes no mention of the 150,000 Syrians who have been butchered in recent months or the abuses taking place in Lebanon or Egypt.

His attack on the Australian Jewish community and distant ‘experts’ for condemning his outbursts is somewhat pathetic, especially when he quotes a disgruntled retired Israel foreign office official whose political views are regarded by most Israelis as delusional.

It is Lyons who is out of touch with mainstream Israeli thinking. He is oblivious to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Israelis have no desire to rule over the Palestinians and only want to maintain the status quo in order to prevent a repetition of the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which resulted in an intensified flow of rockets against Israeli civilians.

He omits the fact that, given security assurances and a genuine peace partner, Israelis would be willing to withdraw from over 90% of the territories over the green line. Indeed, two Israeli Prime Minister’s made such offers to Arafat and current Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and were rebuffed. But Lyons seems uninterested in the Palestinian leadership’s unwillingness to compromise or its endless rejections of generous peace plans, and fails to assign even partial blame to the Palestinian leadership. He ignores the corruption within the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, and the cynical manipulation of their own people.

That is not to say that Israel is infallible. As in any society, there are aberrations. We make errors and individuals commit crimes. In most cases a vigilant media and highly critical public demand transparency and rectification of mistakes or misdeeds. Our hyper self-criticism, at times even masochism, underlines the highly developed sense of morality to which the Jewish State holds itself.

We are not averse to being criticized for real or perceived failures like any other country. We do object to journalists who distort or employ double standards. Unfortunately, Lyons falls into that category and, after his recent outburst, gives the impression that he is promoting a view rather than reporting as an independent journalist.

In fact, a personal experience suggests that he has now evolved from a reporter to an activist engaged in demonizing Israel.

In August 2012, when former Foreign Minister Bob Carr was visiting Jerusalem, I hosted a dinner party at my home to introduce him to a number of prominent Israeli government and media personalities. I was shocked when he informed me that upon arrival at the entrance of my home and when departing he and his party were accosted by a delegation orchestrated by Lyons and his partner, urging them to cancel the visit on political grounds.

Linking this incident with his recent outburst, I would suggest that John Lyons ask himself whether such behavior is consistent with the role of a professional journalist.

Isi Leibler, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, lives in Jerusalem, where he contributes a regular column to The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, the most widely circulated Hebrew daily.

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