The "ship" in the title is not the Mavi Marmara (pictured above) but rather, the SS Fairfax (aka Titanic).
Last weekend, the two Fairfax flagships, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age Good Weekend editions incorporated an outrageously biased (even by Fairfax standards) piece of "journalism" written by Paul McGeough that covered six pages. The entire liftout was nothing less than a shameless promotion of the so-called "Free Gaza" movement - Project: GAZA. It was a story about so-called "peace activists" who are in fact about anything but peace. Their movement has as its real raison de être, the object of deligitimising Israel as a Jewish State and to dehumanising most of those who live within its borders.
A large part of McGeough's article was devoted to old news, much of it completely discredited, regurgitated and embellishing a cause seen by many as one that can only bring more tragedy to the people of the region.
The whole six page effort was a complete journalistic fiasco that was well fisked by the ZCV's advocacy department. A lot more in the way of fisking can be added if necessary to rebut McGeough's flattering treatment (reminiscent of the song "That's what friends are for") of Gaza "movers and shakers".
One of the results of this sort of journalism is that there is a groundswell of support developing for a new movement comprised of concerned Australians (many of them not Jewish) of varying political persuasions to foster the cause of peace and to counter the lies of the well funded (oil money?) BDS and Free Gaza groups and their media acolytes.
Meanwhile, the continuing one-sided treatment by Fairfax of a major world conflict is symptomatic of the malaise at this once greatly respected and admired media group.
According to Roy Morgan's research, the Age readership figures indicate the newspaper hit an iceberg during the last quarter with Saturday figures down a whopping 8.1%. The fall in the weekday edition was a little better with a drop of 6.5% and the Sunday Age is also struggling and destined to plunge further in the next quarter in the absence of news about the AFL which is in recess and the predicted decline of the country's Test Cricket team.
Last Thursday, tensions simmered at the Fairfax AGM and Chairman Roger Corbett was faced with several difficult questions from concerned shareholders including two on his organisation's treatment of Israel. The following is a transcript of the questioning Corbett faced and his responses from the Fairfax AGM webcast -
Michael Burd (question):
I am aware of many supporters of Israel who have cancelled their subscriptions and even advertising because of your relentless bias against Israel and the general undergraduate style left-wing nature of much of your foreign coverage and opinion. What are you going to do to restore some balance in this area?
Roger Corbett (response):
Well sir, you are entirely entitled to your opinion which we respect, there are others who would disagree with you. Only yesterday I was speaking to the Israeli Ambassador and I invited him and he accepted the opportunity of taking an interview with one of our journalists to put the Israeli point of view if you like. Our papers endeavour to be balanced, and to put both sides of the question. Does it mean that there will never be a critical article about Britain, Taiwan, Japan or America? No it doesn’t. Does it mean there will never be a critical article about Israel? No it doesn’t. But does it mean that we endeavour to be balanced in all we do? Yes we do and we’ve certainly given the Ambassador that response. But overall our editors endeavour to be as balanced as they possibly can. Does that mean Israel is immune from any criticism in our press? No sir. Next question please.
Daniel Small (statement)
As a Fairfax shareholder, I am very concerned. Firstly according to ASX (Australian Stock Exchange) data, Fairfax remains the most shorted stock on the ASX, we’ve got dividends that have fallen, a share price that continues to fall, and the only thing that has fallen further than the share price are subscription levels in Caulfield North and East St Kilda in Melbourne for The Age, and Rose Bay and Bellevue Hill for the Sydney Morning Herald. Two of the main assets that I as a shareholder have, our daily broadsheets, are nothing more than left wing rags that take their coverage directly from The Independent and The Guardian and show any lack of balance. And this can be seen most frequently in the content and selection of opinion editorial pieces and the publication or lack thereof of letters to the editor. Fairfax’s coverage of events in the Middle East are particularly and virulently anti Israel.
If you are looking for ways in which we can further cut costs at our company, for one, you can stop bombarding my telephone with resubscription calls, or letters that you post to me asking me to resubscribe to this rag because I certainly won’t do so until the quality of the journalism improves. Secondly if you are looking for further ways to save costs, you could do a hell of a lot better than retrenching your Editor Paul Ramadge, of The Age, your Foreign Editor Mark Baker, and your storytellers or journalists as you call them, Paul McGeogh and Jason Koutsoukis.
Roger Corbett (response):
Well sir I accept they’re your opinions and there are some or many who disagree with you. We respect your right to have those opinions, and you’ve expressed them. Not everyone would agree with you as I previously said to the gentleman who asked a question about Israel. In regard to the share price, the share price has recovered from its lows and in addition to that this business is subject to cyclical pressures and this business has performed as a media company as well as any in the world in those cycles. Your comments about cost cutting and so on I note, but yes we do endeavour to promote subscriptions and we do use telephone and we do use mail and other things to do. Your comments about journalists that you talked to about personally I don’t intend to respond to those questions and all I can say is that our journalists and those that manage them do their very best to bring a balanced point of view. By the very nature of newspapers, they will always have some controversy attached to them.
A detailed analysis of the track record of the Fairfax written media on the conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbours over the past decade would almost certainly render Corbett's claim that his "journalists and those that manage them do their very best to bring a balanced point of view" as being open to question.
Unfortunately, and I would suggest much to Corbett's embarrassment, his own newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, cut the ground from under his feet on the issue of "balance" when it published this small item on page 2 just one day after the AGM:
"Clarification: An information panel with the Good Weekend story ‘Project Gaza’ last weekend should not have said that Mohammed al Dura died after being shot by the Israel Defence Forces. The events at Netzarim Junction, Gaza, on September 30, 2000 remain in dispute. The information was introduced during the production process."
Exactly what is meant by "introduced during the production process" must surely be that the "disputed" claim was made by its journalist Paul McGeough who ignored a long running controversy over the child's death by writing the following (and note McGeough's comments in parentheses) when citing the reasons why one of his subjects, Greta Berlin who is married to a Palestinian, decided to become an Israel basher:
"Became hooked: 'When my daughter was refused entry into Gaza in 1997 and the death of Mohammed Al-Dura in front of news cameras on September 30, 2000' (The 12 year-old-boy died at Netzarim Junction, Gaza, in his father’s arms after being shot by the Israel Defence Forces)".
At this point the game is up for Fairfax, Corbett, his editors and their crusader for Palestine who wrote this and who authored several other pieces that have appeared recently in the Fairfax press. It's neither balanced nor supported by the evidence.
I use the word "evidence" because the real story of Mohammed Al-Dura was played out in the French legal system over a number of years and the verdict went against the people behind the people behind the cameras. The whole thing was a scam that whipped up a frenzy of hatred in the Palestinian territories and anti-Semitism around the world. It was responsible for causing countless, needless deaths on both sides and it stymied the peace process. Much of the evidence of that was in the form of film deliberately suppressed by those who falsely accused the Israeli army of the murder.
So the SMH "clarification" (interestingly, not repeated in the Age) proves that the writer of the piece is anything but balanced on this subject (we knew that anyway) so why, if you're supposed to be striving for "balance" in your presentation of the news, would you give over 6 pages of the Good Weekend to someone who is clearly "unbalanced"?
The challenge for Fairfax is now to provide some real balance by actually informing its readers of all the facts behind this conflict and remedying the error exposed in the SMH "clarification". Perhaps, an report on the courageous work of Phillipe Karsteny who uncovered the hoax and went through years of hell to prove it, might be enlightening to Fairfax readers? If they tried hard enough they might discover that Karsteny is available to take an interview.
Corbett is correct when he says his newspapers are entitled to publish the bad news about Israel but he is wrong when he claims his coverage is "balanced". To provide "balance", it would have to publish the really bad news about the other side as well. How often do we read of the excesses of Hamas and the IHH (both with connections to the notoriously racist Moslem Brotherhood)? When are we going to get the whole truth about conditions in Gaza and the terrorist thugs who rule over it instead of fluff pieces from Jason Koutsoukis about model prisons and the like? And when are we going to read something in those newspapers about the daily incitement to hatred against Jews in official Palestinian Authority media and in mosques in the West Bank?
There's lots more that can be done before there's a balance. The huge and rapidly expanding volume of blank pages in the Age is ample proof of that!