Wednesday, March 05, 2008


A week or so ago, readers of the Australian Jewish News were treated to one of the most appalling pieces of self-justification and arrogance that one could ever come across in the print media. Given the opportunity to respond to an article published in the AJN almost six months before and written by ALP member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby, lame duck Fairfax journo Ed O'Loughlin enhanced his Israel bashing credentials and his boundless capacity to come across as being sanctimonious and smug in Ed O'Loughlin: My Israel reporting explained.

Mr. Ed got a right whacking in the AJN editorial [Why we published O’Loughlin] and some may say unfairly so on the premise that he wrote his pithy rebuttal in good faith but others would challenge that premise. In any event, O'Loughlin was wasted in the newspaper's next edition by regular columnist Tzvi Fleisher (the item is not yet available on line but a link will be provided in due course).

Readers of the AJN made their views known in response and I have awarded their efforts with the joint honour of letters of the week. Here they are:


I WISH to commend you on your challenging editorial, “Why we published O’Loughlin” (AJN 22/02). Your enabling O’Loughlin to defend his work highlighted your fair and balanced journalism in an exemplary way. As you put it, “Fairfax might produce some of Australia’s finest newspapers, but this week at least, we would like to think we have taught it a lesson in presenting both sides of a story.”

North Balwyn, Vic


PLEASE encourage Ed O’Loughlin to continue explaining his unbiased reporting tactics (AJN 22/02) so I can find out who the mystery expert in international law is who advises Ed to say that: “Israeli towns and villages in the West Bank and Gaza are illegal, built in defiance of international law and opinion” and that: “Longstanding UN resolutions call on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel” and that: “Israeli settlement-building is responsible for lack of progress towards peace”.

It appears from his articles that the same person has told Ed O’Loughlin that Israel’s actions are always aggressive and disproportionate (against Palestinian incitement and sadistic terrorism that isn’t worth reporting).

Anyway, Ed doesn’t seem to know that none of the above is true. You see it is clear that he believes that opinion can be peddled as the basis of international law.

Caulfield North, Vic


THE editorial last week stated The AJN took the unusual step of publishing an opinion piece by Ed O’Loughlin so that he could rebut some of the criticisms of his reporting from Israel made by Michael Danby MP last September.

Yet, in is own words, O’Loughlin admits the charge. He acknowledges that he did not file a piece on the Human Rights Watch report accusing Hezbollah of committing war crimes because he was too busy on assignment in Gaza, writing yet another piece critical of Israel’s conduct there. There you have it. O’Loughlin does not want to write about crimes committed against Israel, when the far more juicy option of writing about Israel’s conduct, inevitably in the poorest light available, can be undertaken instead.

The use of the term “scorched earth” in the caption accompanying the photo in O’Loughlin’s story this last weekend (“Demolitions continue on shaky ground”) was inflammatory and unnecessary. In contrast to the first sentence which is direct and dramatic, the second sentence presents as opinion the Israeli position, that is, “Israel says the farmers were building illegally on state land.” Yet the story was not about disputed territory, but about land from which Israel is not going to withdraw, and the caption was not fair or balanced.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has made firm representations in person to the editor and his team at The Sydney Morning Herald about the above issues and about the breaches of the Press Council ruling in 2003 not to draw comparison between Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and Nazi treatment of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.

This community should rightly expect that such comparison will not again be drawn and that by the time Jason Koutsoukis replaces Mr O’Loughlin in Jerusalem in a few short weeks, fairness and balance will begin to be restored to the pages of the Fairfax Press.

David D Knoll
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies


O’LOUGHLIN is part of the worldwide media onslaught that aims to delegitimise Israel’s existence by making sure that Israel’s suffering is never the focus. His coverage reminds me of the famous Dry Bones cartoon of the two boxers in the boxing ring, where only the Israeli punches are shown and never the Arab provocation.

Caulfield South, Vic


I’M pleased you printed Ed O’Loughlin’s op-ed piece and your measured editorial response. Ed reminded me about the story of the blind men describing the elephant. The one who felt the tusk said an elephant was hard and smooth, a second was feeling the legs and said the elephant was round and rugged like a tree trunk. The third guy stumbled upon the elephant faeces and said that an elephant was soft and squishy and smelled bad. They were all factually right to some extent, but for some reason that third guy reminds me of Ed. Go figure.

Bellevue Hill, NSW


AMERICAN-BASED independent Honest Reporting (HR) website recognised Fairfax’s Ed O’Loughlin with its 2007 Dishonest Reporter Awards he was awarded the prize for Worst Moral Equivalence.

HR’s seventh annual recognition of the most skewed and biased coverage of the Mid-East conflict was awarded to Ed for his oversimplified background information on Kassam rockets.

Congratulations, Ed and thank you AJN for its excellent editorial response.

Toorak, Vic


WHEN I heard that Ed O’Loughlin was to explain his Israel reporting in your newspaper, I anticipated he might emulate Kevin Rudd, so I waited for his heartfelt apology for his biased coverage. Alas, there was nothing of the sort.

O’Loughlin claims he doesn’t refer to suicide bombers as “militants”, but he once wrote of a Palestinian schoolboy wearing a suicide belt, “... that Abdo is an impressionable teenager illustrates the way in which Palestinian militant groups send the young and vulnerable to carry out suicide attacks on their behalf”.

On Hanan Ashrawi, O’Loughlin ignores a recent George Negus interview, where she talked of articles coming from Australia “trying to justify what Hamas was doing by saying it had to deal with a situation that was unruly or a situation of lawlessness. You do not correct one error by committing another.”

Moreover, he neglects to address major criticisms about his use of warped standards of moral equivalence and his selectivity in presenting the news. Many readers also want to know why he is reluctant to cover Hamas’ genocidal charter against Jews, its connection to the Muslim brotherhood, its incitement to murder in its media, attacks on Christian communities and countless war crimes. Surely, these must be addressed before a reporter can be considered “a reliable source” for news from the region?

In his defence of course, O’Loughlin can always plead he was on “another assignment” elsewhere at the time.


The lame duck is apparently on his way out of the Fairfax door: the long awaited event is expected by the end of the month. One rumour suggests that he might end up at Reuters where he should be right at home with the blind men and the elephants in the news room. My bet is that he won't be missed by any of the above AJN readers.


Wilbur Post said...

My deepest apologies to AJN letter writer Ronald Green who deserved inclusion in the list of letter writers of the week even though his excellent contribution was slightly off the topic I was covering. Green is a relative of Loewenstein who was a guest in his home when visiting Israel allegedly to do research for his book "My Israel Question". The house guest from hell failed dismally in that task and produced what can only be described as an "encyclopaedia of ignorance" that contained countless errors of fact including a map that put Israel's Gallilee region inside Lebanon. But that's another story. Here's Green's letter -


ANTONY Loewenstein, bent on equating Australian Aboriginals with Palestinians (Ha’aretz website, 19/02), has gone somewhat further than usual in pursuing his single-minded anti-Zionist agenda.

In his contentions as to why Israel needs to apologise to the Palestinians, he succeeded, whether intentionally or not, in belittling the Aborigines’ suffering. In a not so deft sleight of hand, he equates the treatment of Aborigines with the increase of “settlers in the West Bank by five per cent” and the building of housing in East Jerusalem.

The insensitivity to the Aborigines’ suffering through these comparisons is unfortunate, and goes some way to show Loewenstein’s mindset. While I would have expected him to have some knowledge, or at least show some measure of empathy towards sensitive issues in his own country, I am not surprised by his dearth of knowledge and facts about the Middle East. It is not shocking, then, that Loewenstein sees only why Israelis should apologise to Palestinians, and sees no reason why Palestinians should apologise to Israelis. That says it all.

Ramat Hasharon, Israel

M A Follone said...

But don't be surprised if the usual suspects like Sol Salbe get their opportunity to back up the lame duck with some of their own quackery in this week's letters section.