Monday, January 19, 2009


I should not have been so staggered to learn of the decision by the Age Business Editor to publish Michael Backman's racist tome against the Israeli people in its business section on Saturday 17 January 2009 - Israelis are living high on US expense account.

The Victorian Jewish community has responded to this hate filled piece of vitriol based on supposition, questionable anecdotes and twisted logic with this media release:

18 January 2009


John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV), and Dr Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV), today jointly called on Melbourne’s The Age to apologise for publishing a blatantly antisemitic article (attached) in the Saturday Age yesterday.

Searle and Lamm stated:

"Sometimes criticism of Israeli foreign policy becomes so irrational and so hate-filled that it spills over into antisemitism. Yesterday Saturday’s Age (17/01) published such a piece wherein its columnist Michael Backman encapsulated centuries of hate speech against Jews in a few hundred words.

Among other things, Backman wrote:

Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians caused the London, Bali and World Trade Centre bombings.
Israel has united the Islamic world against Western nations.

The historical persecution of Jews constitutes punishment for Jesus’ death.

Israelis and Jews are disinterested in the welfare of others, and do not invest financially or socially in the broader community.

It is inexplicable why The Age would publish such a pernicious article, and why by one of its business columnists, a man whose field of expertise is Asian business and art, a man apparently without credentials on the Middle East, international politics or contemporary religion.

Each of the above statements is demonstrably wrong as are other assertions in the article. It is sheer nonsense to claim, for example that "The enmity many Muslims now feel for Israel has nothing to do with religion". Really? Perhaps Backman should read the hate-filled Hamas Covenant which explicitly talks about extermination of all Jews, not merely Israelis.

It is unacceptable that The Age gave a platform to this man’s hatred of Jews and Israelis and incitement against them. The Victorian Jewish community’s experience is that such commentary rouses violence and hatred against local Jews. Indeed, the JCCV and the ZCV made this very point to The Age only two weeks ago. We were assured by acting editor Mark Baker that its reportage was totally even-handed. And yet its editors saw fit to publish this vile piece. We are outraged with The Age for publishing Backman’s disgusting falsehoods.

The JCCV and SZC have complained to The Age today in the strongest possible terms on behalf of the Victorian Jewish community. We have further committed ourselves to further steps, including possible legal action. This is not 1930s Germany. We will not accept this hatred."

I couldn't possibly imagine a similar article about any other group of people gaining publication in any normal news outlet. The Age however, is not "normal" when it comes to Israel and the Jews. Mark Baker should be asking himself whether he would allow such a piece to be published about Muslims, Chileans or any other group. I can tell you now, that it just wouldn't happen.

Unfortunately, in the case of the Age and the Age alone, it came as no surprise whatever that this racist trope was allowed to see the light of day.

I will add nothing further other than to add an anecdote I recently heard about an Australian woman who was badly injured while bike riding on a tour of Argentina. I was told that she was full of admiration for the Israeli tourists - the only ones among her group who took the trouble to look after her and her sister during the woman's hospitalisation. I can vouch for the fact that this is a true story. I can't do the same for a lot of what I read in the Age these days.


Age responsible for bigoted stereotypes

by Michael Danby MHR Monday January 19, 2009

Local Al-Qaida franchisee Abu Bakar Bashir insisted Australians were murdered in Bali because "the Crusaders took Muslim lands (he was referring to Australian's intervention in East Timor)".

It is offensive for Age writer Michael Backman to use the blood of 80 Australians for his bigoted theories. Crass stereotypes about young Israelis not paying bills in Nepal feeds into offensive & primitive prejudice about ‘penny- pinching' Jews. Backman's poisonous article in Saturdays business Age has no place in serious commentary, I call on Backman to apologise.


Anonymous said...

Shame to any Jew who has anything to do with this bigoted rag.

Jewish businesses should stop advertising forthwith.

Anonymous said...

Shame to any decent human (not just Jews) having anything to do with these noxious hatemongers.

Anonymous said...

I seriously like your website and well done on this write up.

The Age is a disgrace and all sensible, reasonable people should stop reading it ASAP.

Wilbur Post said...

I understand the offending article may have been removed from the Age on line edition.

On this basis we can expect an apology in tomorrow's edition.

Anonymous said...

.... and how many days later will someone howl in a letter about how the powerful Jewish lobby forced them to withdraw the article and apologize ....

Anonymous said...

.... and how many days later will someone howl in a letter about how the powerful Jewish lobby forced them to withdraw the article and apologize ....

Anonymous said...

.... and how many days later will someone howl in a letter about how the powerful Jewish lobby forced them to withdraw the article and apologize ....

Anonymous said...

I am not a Jew but my relationships with Jews, including family relationships, and my support for Israel over many years makes me totally bullet proof against any suggestion of anti-Semitism. (Indeed I am much less tender minded about Israel's attack on Gaza than many Israelis and Australian Jews. I just hope it works, although I also hope that something convincing is done about those IDF roughnecks who could surely have avoided destroying UN facilities and make one remember that the capacity for atrocities is not something confined to Nazis or Japanese or Serbs - or Americans at My Lai).

So I get upset at the failure of the Jewish intellect which I admire so much that allowed the overblown attack made in the press release denunciation of Michael Backman's article and The Age for publishing it. Michael Backman's acute and acerbic articles on South East Asian matters (by no means friendly to Muslim led governments) are one of the few reasons for my reading The Age in recent years. How much harm it does to non-Jews perceptions of Jews when Jews are seen to protest too much, in such an us-against-the-world unite way, even if it woren't also harnessed to the cause of a foreign country. Nowhere did Backman exploit the old Christian libel of Jews as Christ-killers: he mentioned it as the manner traditional Christian justification for persecution of Jews. There is not the slightest suggestion that Jews do not support good hospitals, museums etc for Jews and non-Jews alike (contrary to the press release). To have done so would have been to invite readers to deny the evidence all round them from the Smorgon Family Plaza to the Lowy Institute.

What Backman did say. after referromg to the regard in which the Parsees are held in India was this:

"How have they achieved this? They are not flashy or arrogant. Their overriding characteristic is a deep interest in the welfare of others.
They have established hospitals, libraries, schools, museums and many other institutions and, most importantly, not for the Parsee
community exclusively but for everyone. So the Parsees have peace and the Israelis do not."

In the Middle East, even just considering Palestine including the legally established state of Israel, it would surely be absurd to claim that Iraelis (with minor exceptions of course)have done anything comparable to ingratiate themselves with the Arabs. On the contrary, whether in Gaza now or the West Bank where settlements and their supporting infrastructure are a standing and increasing offence against the hopes of Palestinians, Israel and the majority of Israelis they see, namely soldiers and settlers, are seen inevitably as oppressors. It is to the great discredit of any Jewish representatives that they commit lay themselves open and weaken the Jewish and Israeli cases by falsifying the record and claiming a temporary victory amongst people properly horrified by anti-Semitism.

"They [the Parsees] are not flashy or arrogant". Implicitly the Israelis are, or appear to be to Muslims. I'm afraid it is true that they appear arrogant, and not just to poor Muslims (and Mahathir talking of George Soros), and it is well known that the manners of the average Israeli are not those of the urbane Jewish resident of Melbourne or Sydney. When Backman reports attitudes to Israeli trekkers in Nepal as illustrating his case it brought to mind my own encounter in the Himalayas with some young Israelis whom I found interesting and impressive but blunt and uningratiating as if to counter that old stereotype of the prudent Jew in anti-Semitic Eastern Europe a century ago.

The Age is accused of publishing an article by someone who doesn't know about the subject but what he made a particular point about is what he does know about, such as Muslim attitudes in Indonesia and Malaysia. How desperate the press release writers must have been to ring every drop out of accusations of anti-Semitism not to treat Backman as a source of advice on a matter which friends of Israel would hope someone eventually would get right. Israel needs smarter support.

On Backman's website, to which I had to resort as The Age seems to have removed the article. I find that, if he deplores anything about Israel, it is the self-defeating lack of wisdom of some of its actions (hardly a novel view for an Israeli). I would not offer a judgment about what might have happened if Israel had never planted settlers on Palestinian land and supported them with aggressive policing and infrastructure building but it could hardly be worse than the prospect of eternal enmity with a people who are reproducing at more than double the Israeli rate and know that a steady stream of low tech attacks, the threat of a major terrorist attack and suicide bombings even by women will make life intolerable for Israelis.

Israel is entitled to its advocates here, and, indeed I count myself as an auxiliary but it should be intelligent advocacy which doesn't undermine the credibility of Israel's case in the longer term and it shouldn't damage the position of Jews and of Israel in the Western world by attempts at censorship (the self-censorship on Muslim and Aboriginal related matters is bad enough). What is more, it doesn't do Israel any favours if young Jews whose well-informed realism could be of value to Israel are taught to think that such rubbish as the press release represents sound thinking rather than flawed advocacy.

J K Murdoch said...

Nice try Mr. Anonymous but your spin is quite precious and doesn't explain why the editor of the Age and most reasonable minded people saw the article for what it is - a racist piece of drivel.

I am not Jewish either sir but I applaud what the Jewish community is doing to prevent such hatemongering lies and racial stereotyping to be spread any further.

The great irony of this all is the fact that the Parsees were originally driven out of Persia into India by intolerant Islamists. I guess they couldn't make their peace with Islam at the time either.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous apologist for Backman, I received this email from a friend who received it from a friend. It might be an interesting thing point for you to ponder to attitude to the Jews:-

On Saturday The Age published an article titled "Israel Must Learn To Live With Its Neighbours". It is unclear why this article was published in Business Day given it was devoid of any business content whatsoever, but rather was an outrageous combination of Middle-Eastern fiction and anti-Semitism.

Many people felt very strongly about it, so I’ve taken the liberty of outlining the inaccuracies and techniques used in the article for those who may be interested.

The author has used emotive arguments and eschewed any use of supporting facts, so I’ve taken the opposite approach.

The author begins the article by asserting that Israel is responsible for all Islamic terror, from London to Bali to the Twin Towers, and that Muslims have been united by “…anger at the treatment of the Palestinians”. In fact, when Bin Laden specifically outlined the reasons for his September 11 attacks he referred to America’s behaviour and the security threat it presents to Arabs globally. He was particularly angry at the presence of US soldiers in Saudi Arabia – a long-held Bin Laden grievance that has nothing at all to do with Israel. Israel was mentioned only briefly, and primarily in relation to its war against the PLO in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Further, the author goes on to state that “it is not Israel’s right to exist that is the issue” but rather its treatment of the Palestinians. However, the groups that carried out the aforementioned terror attacks – specifically Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda aligned organizations (such as Hezbollah) – all have the destruction of Israel as a central theme. As does Hamas. As does the Iranian regime. Conveniently, the author ignores these facts and instead provides Israel with the exceptionally na├»ve guidance that it could solve all of the world’s problems by simply turning the Palestinians “from enemies into friends”.

The author then makes the absurd remark that “the Islamic community is (united) like a body”. In fact, the Egyptians and Saudis were clandestinely in ideological support for Israel’s attack on Hamas. This was fairly widely reported in the Middle East and one reasons Hamas at first refused to speak to Egyptian mediators. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the two traditional regional Sunni powers and understand that Hamas is an Iranian proxy. They do not want the Shi’ite state extending its reach regionally into their territory. In fact, many throughout the Muslim world criticized Egypt for its tacit support of the Israeli operation against Hamas in Gaza, whilst others criticized Hamas (including a now-closed opposition newspaper in Iran). Arab Muslims and Persian Muslims are certainly not part of any single “body” and do not share a unified view of the world, most obviously demonstrated by the brutal Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Global Muslim unity, as documented in this article, is a myth espoused by the ignorant.

Even more relevantly, Muslims are not united in these acts of terror. Anecdotally, most Muslims globally are against the actions of the fundamentalists. By speaking of an “Islamic community” the author unfairly associates moderate, peace-loving Muslims in Australia with the actions of global terrorists. These acts of terror are in fact committed by two broad camps of loosely united Muslim fundamentalists – Sunni fundamentalists led by Al Qaeda and Shi’ite fundamentalists led by Iran (and including Hamas and Hezbollah). It would be worthwhile for the author to understand the geopolitical reality of Islamic terror prior to writing an article about it, and to better differentiate between Muslims and Muslim terrorists.

Another misplaced and unsupported assertion is that “Hamas did not enjoy the support of all people in Gaza. It now does”. Within any body of writing, the use of an absolute term such as “all people” generally reveals that the argument is not factually supported. This is certainly the case with this piece. Does the author believe that Hamas enjoys the support of the Fatah members it slaughtered in the past two weeks under the cover of Israel’s action in Gaza? Does Hamas enjoy the support of the Christians it persecutes? There are no reliable public-opinion surveys in Gaza, as the Hamas regime does not allow such surveys to be conducted.

Where is any evidence for the author’s assertion?

As if these factual inaccuracies were not sufficiently damning, the not-so-subtle undertones of the article are even more disturbing.

Throughout, the author has used many common and often age-old anti-Semitic arguments against the Jews including:

o Avoiding the use of the word “Jew” but using the concept of Israeli interchangeably so that he can criticize “Israelis” without being labeled an anti-Semite. This is a common modern-day anti-Semitic technique.

o Reiterating that Jews receive “punishment for the death of Jesus” – a reference to the blood-libel charge leveled at Jews in the Middle Ages.

o Describing Israelis/Jews are “rude and arrogant” .

o Describing Israelis/Jews are stingy and stating that they “argue over trifling amounts of money even though they clearly have the means” (this is a strong example of using the word “Israeli” to mean Jew).

In his conclusion, the author then suggests that Israelis/Jews should become like the Parsees in India, who are a “very rich” ethnic minority – against, attempting to portray the Jews as a very rich ethnic minority. The author for some reason notes that Parsees have established “hospitals, libraries, schools, museums”, and it is unclear why this is relevant. Israel has some of the best “hospitals, libraries, schools, museums” in the world, and Jews living outside Israel often contribute to the funding of “hospitals, libraries, schools, museums” in their own countries – including Australia.

He then finishes with a perplexing one-liner: “So the Parsees have peace and the Israelis do not”. It is as if the author believes he has somehow provided a 10-word definitive solution to the intractable Middle-East conflict.

Yet in his ignorance the author has missed his great and most amusing irony; the Parsees actually fled from Iran in around 600-900 A.D. to avoid persecution by the Arab invaders! They were Zoroastrians, a religious group that was destroyed or exiled by the Arabs and now live in exile in India because they still cannot return to Iran.

All those who support a free, Western-democratic world must work to ensure that the sole Middle-Eastern outpost of this ideology – Israel – does not suffer a similar fate.