Sunday, January 27, 2008


This could have been written last week but what I have to say is better said today because today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

On Tuesday 22 January 2008 the Sydney Morning Herald published a shocking libel against the Jews and all those who suffered under the inhumanity of the Nazi jackboot. It took the form of a letter from a correspondent (Zaid Khan) who made the direct comparison between conditions for the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto and those of the Palestinians in Gaza under the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.

A number of readers were stunned and offended by the paper's lapse in judgement in publishing of such a scurrilous claim but the SMH ignored them and published a single brief response (Slight Difference) the following day. Peter Wertheim's Immoral Equivalence and this Washington Post editorial substantively answer the first letter, expose the dangers inherent to the region and the world that are posed by the unchallenged acceptance of the big lie and explain why Fairfax should have exercised some discretion over its publication in the first place.

Fairfax should have known better because the SMH offended on this exact subject before and, after a complaint was lodged with the Australian Press Council in 2003 about a Moir cartoon, apologised for what was termed a "self-confessed lapse in judgement". A year earlier, Michael Gawenda then editor of the SMH sister newspaper in Melbourne - the Age - recognised how deeply offensive such false equivalence can be to the public and refused to publish a similarly tasteless cartoon from resident scrawler Leunig.

But apparently Fairfax won't learn from its mistakes. On Thursday 24 January 2008 it crossed the divide and became more than just the publisher of a letter from a reader with an axe to grind. It joined the campaign against the Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust and against the Jewish State which has to contend with official Palestinian groups that threaten more of the same with a flood of correspondence all in agreement with the sentiments of the first letter.

This was a clear case of overkill - even from a news group that makes no pretence to the side on which its preferences lie - and it was particularly nasty. In the words of an ICJS correspondent, it "compounded the horror of the initial blood libel against the Jewish people" The SMH did so by publishing "five different letters all on the same theme claiming that the Jews of Warsaw would have acted as the terrorists (i.e. murdered German and Polish civilians) if they had the opportunity. In other words, in the week before Holocaust Memorial Day, Fairfax allowed the pages of its own newspaper to air the sort of material that gave rise to the atrocities of Holocaust in the first place."

The ICJS correspondent added "for the sake of the victims, we cannot accept this deplorable behaviour from what is supposed to be one of the country's leading media groups."

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