IT is now more than six years since Michael Danby launched an extraordinary public attack on The AJN in a letter sent out to all of his constituents. The letter not only disparaged the newspaper and individual journalists but was also littered with, and based on, a number of factual inaccuracies and wholly false claims.
Despite requests for an apology or even simply a letter of correction, six years on there has still been no response.
Nonetheless, and this is the crucial point, despite the very public spat, in the months and years that followed we have run countless opinion pieces by Michael, interviewed him about, and quoted him in innumerable stories, given substantial coverage to, and in some cases actively supported, his campaigns – from his attacks on Julie Bishop’s stance on Iran to his calls for the extradition of Malki Roth’s killer – hosted him at our two most recent election hustings, and hailed him as the community’s and Israel’s staunchest advocate in Canberra.
In short, like many of those who may disagree with his politics or his style, we recognise that Michael Danby is an Australian Jewish institution, and we fully appreciate that, whatever our differences, as a community we have been enriched by his presence and his service.
As for his latest ad campaign, calling out the lack of balance exhibited by the ABC in its coverage of Israel and, in particular, by its Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill, The AJN has done the same in numerous articles and editorials in recent years.
The specific cases Michael raises aside, a dig through back issues of the paper reveals several documented examples of imbalance, as well as two front pages on this very topic in late 2015 – one in which we urged the broadcaster’s board to select a new managing director “to tackle the blatant bias” and another in which we noted the incumbent managing director had just been hauled over the coals in Parliament at a Senate estimates committee hearing over McNeill’s reporting.
Her coverage of one particular incident in which a Palestinian terrorist was killed after trying to stab a security officer was, in the words of Senator Eric Abetz to The AJN, a “complete failure of ethical reporting, of accurate reporting and of truthful reporting”.
Stepping aside from the hue and cry raised against Michael from certain unsurprising sections of the media, it is disconcerting to see Greens staffer Tim Beshara tweeting, “Are these actions by Danby a pattern of behaviour consistent with someone who has an allegiance with a foreign power?”, together with a tweet that reads, “I mean that is what section 44 of the Constitution is for, right?”
The ugly divided loyalty canard raises its head yet again, as it did just a few weeks ago when it was suggested that Israel’s Right of Return may be grounds not just for Danby but for all of Australia’s Jewish MPs to be disqualified from Parliament.
Incidentally, among those liking Beshara’s tweet was Michael’s Melbourne Ports Greens adversary Steph Hodgins-May. You remember her … the notorious no-show at one of the aforementioned election hustings. But let’s not get into that again.
Talking of The Greens … or rather not talking of The Greens, one might wonder where all the hoohah was from these outraged media outlets last year when Lee Rhiannon was using taxpayer’s money to print posters and leaflets backing a boycott of Israel. Not a murmur from them, no suggestion – as came from former Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton about Michael being the ALP Member for Tel Aviv – that Rhiannon was the Greens Senator for Ramallah – but that’s just the kind of double standards you’d expect.
Back to the ads, despite the defence of McNeill from the ABC and the usual suspects, a simple scan of her coverage of the Shamasneh family eviction compared with the murders of members of the Salomon family, shows the disparity Michael highlighted and the humanisation afforded to the former and denied to the latter.
As for Bob Carr’s comments on the matter, they don’t even merit consideration … save for one. He described the first ad as “wild, nasty and tinged by mania”.
It’s a great phrase Bob. Wild, nasty and tinged by mania … I wonder if any of our readers can think of a politician it might be applied to.
ZEDDY LAWRENCE is the national editor of The AJN.
Full coverage in this week’s AJN