Australia

ABC bows to Israeli lobbyists’ demands


A campaign by Israeli lobbyists pressured Australia’s national broadcaster into dismissing one of its presenters over comments the lobbyists deemed offensive. Dr Jennifer Wilson reports.

ACCORDING TO THE Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 82 journalists and media workers have been slaughtered in Gaza by Israel since 7 October 2023.

The CPJ also reports journalists are subjected to multiple assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship and killings of family members by Israel.

It’s alarming to read that the lobby group Lawyers for Israel, with the alleged support of the Deputy President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), Robert Goot, have allegedly run a successful campaign to have ABC journalist Antoinette Lattouf dismissed here in Australia.

Secret WhatsApp messages obtained by The Age reveal that ABC chair Ita Buttrose and managing director David Anderson were targeted by Jewish lobbyists in their efforts to have Lattouf dismissed after she made a series of social media posts the lobbyists found offensive.

Some of the leaked WhatsApp messages (Source: Twitter)

According to The Age:

The campaign against Lattouf became intense in the week starting December 18, during which time she was contracted to present the ABC Sydney radio morning program for five days. Before the ABC employed her, Lattouf had made a series of controversial social media posts that accused Israeli soldiers of using rape as a weapon of war and raised questions over whether protesters in Sydney had in fact chanted “gas the Jews” after the October 7 Hamas attack.

Buttrose has enjoyed a long and successful media career, including launching Cleo magazine with Frank Packer and the top job at the Australian Women’s Weekly.

So it’s something of a disaster personally and professionally that her stellar career might well end with her being accused of breaking the ABC’s charter to be ‘Brave in reporting without fear or favour, even when that might be uncomfortable or unpopular’.

That the ABC caved to the lobbyists’ demands that Lattouf be sacked is seriously alarming. Claims that the chant “gas the Jews” was actually used are contested and the ABC sacking a journalist for questioning those claims at the insistence of a Jewish lobby group is shocking.

As reported in Crikey last month:

‘…new unedited footage unearthed by Crikey, an independent audio report and interviews with forensic audio experts have cast further doubt on whether that specific chant was captured in this footage.’

This is not the first time Jewish lobbyists have attempted to control ABC journalists and their coverage of the Middle East.

Why Israeli digital propaganda doesn't work

According to a report by Michael West and Jommy Tee, the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), which tax lawyer Mark Leibler chairs, lobbied the ABC to moderate then journalist Sophie McNeill when she was Middle East correspondent, claiming that she should never have been given the posting because she was “ideologically attached to the Palestinian cause”.

The lobbyist then claimed McNeill “undoubtedly moderated her behaviour because she knew she was being watched”.

Leibler was also behind the move to have six former Australian prime ministers sign a controversial letter supporting Israel’s actions in Gaza.

How, we might wonder, do those six former prime ministers feel about their enthusiastic support for a state that is now defending itself in the International Court of Justice against charges of genocide as a result of those actions?

In November 2023, more than 200 ABC journalists participated in a meeting about the broadcaster’s coverage of the conflict in Gaza.

According to the SMH:

‘They also raised concerns around the ABC’s unwillingness to use language such as “invasion”, “occupation”, “genocide”, “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” regarding Israeli government policy and allegations made by human rights groups.’

It’s clear from the leaked WhatsApp exchanges that the Jewish lobby has escalated its pressure on the ABC to the extent that Buttrose, and possibly Anderson, have intervened to ensure Lattouf was fired, with a Sydney lawyer stating to both the ABC and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland that ‘Anything short of terminating [Lattouf’s] position would not be sufficient’.

Israel’s argument at The Hague: We are incapable of genocide

Robert Goot then wrote:

‘I understand she will be gone from morning radio from Friday…’

The response read:

‘Friday is three days away — too long.’

The lawyer had already acknowledged that there likely was no legal threat that could be made against the ABC:

I know there is probably no actionable offence against ABC but I didn’t say I would be taking one — just investigating one. I have said that they should be terminating her employment immediately.

 

It is important ABC hears not just from individuals in the community but specifically lawyers so they feel there is an actual legal threat.

Media hypocrisy protecting Right-wing position takers

There has been a great deal of chatter about the ABC’s inadequate and allegedly biased coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict on social media. It’s easy to dismiss these concerns as “conspiracy theories” promulgated by partisan actors. However, several journalists have resigned from the public broadcaster in recent weeks, including Nour Haydar, who was explicit about her reasons as reported by the SMH.

Haydar, a political reporter in the ABC’s Parliament House bureau, has resigned over concerns relating to the national broadcaster’s coverage of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, as well as its treatment of culturally diverse staff.

It appears now that the ABC, Ita Buttrose and David Anderson have been captured by Jewish lobbyists intent on controlling information the Australian public receives about the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Israeli Government is currently slaughtering journalists in Gaza while its supporters are engaged in silencing ABC journalists in Australia with, appallingly, the cooperation of the broadcaster itself.  

Michelle Rowland must urgently address this entirely unacceptable situation. It is abhorrent that lobbyists representing the interest of a state currently on trial for alleged genocide are in control of the flow of information on this matter from the Australian public broadcaster. It is an intolerable state of affairs and not one of us should tolerate it.

Dr Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, a psychotherapist and an academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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