The Holocaust Historiography Project

Zionism and the Press in Australia: Two Views

While the press in Australia may be less inhibited than that of many other countries, journalists there — like their counterparts elsewhere — must still contend with considerable pressure from the Jewish-Zionist lobby. Recently, some prominent Australian journalists were invited by the quarterly journal Generation to discuss how that country’s media deals with issues of concern to the Jewish community. The frank responses of two of them are reprinted here from The Australian Jewish News [Melbourne edition], Dec. 4, 1992 (p. 19):

'I Surrender'

I have said publicly that I will never write or speak on the subject of Israel or Palestine ever again. Here is why:

The Zionist lobby in this country is malicious, implacable, mendacious and dangerous. They have caused me a great deal of lost sleep — and in the end my insomnia has not contributed anything to the resolution of the conflict over Palestine. I might as well keep my mouth shut and get some sleep.

What’s more, once the expression “anti-Semite” hits the air, or, heaven forfend, the sacred formula “six million” is uttered, then I know from bitter experience that there is not one manager or editor in the country who will defend an underling. We are thrown to the jackals.

In the end the truly tolerant have no defence against intolerance. I surrender. To the Zionists I say: you win. To the Palestinians: forgive my cowardice.

-- Terry Lane, broadcaster for ABC television and a newspaper columnist.

'Own Worst Enemies'

I have fronted at numerous Jewish fundraising dinners, written obsessively about the Holocaust, trudged around the death camps, performed opening ceremonies at exhibitions in the Great Synagogue in Sydney and fulminated against John Bennett and other revisionists.

As a consequence, I've enjoyed excellent relations with the Jewish community and with its principal political and social organizations

And then a funny thing happened. I was the guest speaker at a fundraising dinner at Jewish doctors in Sydney. It was a pleasant, congenial occasion, and despite my friendly criticism of certain aspects of Jewish political behavior (in Australia), I was warmly applauded.

However, the Jewish News gave a slightly distorted version of what I'd said, and, lo and behold, I suddenly became the Jews' worst enemy. Dozens of letters accused me of being an anti-semite.

I then received an extraordinary letter from [Jewish community leader] Bill Rubinstein which I found offensive in tone and remarkably patronizing. As it illustrated some of the very points I'd made in my talk to the doctors, I published it in The Australian and all hell broke loose. Lots more letters accusing me of being an anti-semite.

All in all, it was such a bruising and unpleasant experience that I decided not to write on Jewish matters again. Or at least to take a long sabbatical from matters semitic.

I could cover pages with evidence of my good-will to the Jewish community… In short, I felt that I'd paid my dues. And yet it took only a hint of cautious, friendly criticism to put me on the receiving end of Jewish anger.

… When it comes to dealing with the outside world, with we goyim who are also concerned by aspects of Israeli policy, the [Jewish] ranks close and the reactions can be excessive.

I could tell you of many attempts to repress or suppress an energetic debate on matters relating to Israel. I could describe a number of circumstances where Jewish organizations used a sledge-hammer to crack a walnut, over-reacting in a ludicrous manner to things they'd found objectionable in print or broadcasting.

When talking to the wider world, I try and explain such excesses in terms of Jewish suffering and anxieties. But when I talk to Jews, I have to say that, again and again, you're your own worst enemies. Instead of trying to persuade people to your point of view, there’s a tendency to bully, to threaten, to censor.

So as a friend who has laid wreaths at the concentration camps… let me ask Australian Jews, and Jewish organizations, to be more careful in the way they respond to debate in the Australian media. In America there has been a systematic overkill which has led to widespread resentment. I would not like that to happen here.

-- Phillip Adams, columnist for The Australian, a Sydney-based nationally circulated daily paper, and a broadcaster for ABC television.

From The Journal of Historical Review, May/June 1993 (Vol. 13, No. 3), page 15.