This article was written exclusively for HonestReporting by Emily Gian, the Israel Advocacy Analyst for the Zionist Council of Victoria in Australia and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature.
There are two major sources of international news in print form available on the more populous eastern seaboard of the Australian continent – the increasingly far left leaning Fairfax Media newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Age) and The Australian newspaper, a Murdoch publication.
The difference between each media outlet’s reporting of the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors, particularly since the commencement of the Second Intifada, has always been stark, with the former taking a generally anti-Israel position while the latter is more balanced and nuanced with a wide range of reports on the conflict, some complimentary and some otherwise on each of the parties. It should be added that the Fairfax stable also includes the Canberra Times which often outdoes the SMH and Age, as well as The Australian Financial Review, also known for its elements of bias against the Jewish State.
The difference in attitude between the two was never made more clear to me recently than in the way in which each treated the recent emotional story of the arrival and burial in Israel of the bodies of the four victims of the Toulouse killings in March of this year. Whereas The Australian produced a very moving piece on the funeral by its Middle East correspondent John Lyons, readers of the Melbourne Age received the news in a one-line footnote to an AFP story. It would appear that either the Jerusalem based head of the Age Middle East Bureau or her editors did not consider it necessary to file their own report on the funeral or even have someone attend even though, over the years, Fairfax Media has covered the deaths of Palestinian terrorists (or “militants” as it prefers to call them) with sympathetic stories about grieving families.
It should be added, that a week earlier, the same newspaper provided its readers with a soon to be discredited Fiachra Gibbons’ Op Ed (taken from the Guardian) which speculated that the killer was a right winger who was neither an anti-Semite nor a jihadist. When the emerging facts exposed the Gibbons piece as being shockingly flawed, the Age remained outrageously silent in much the same way as it has, over the past decade, shunning stories on many of the major issues surrounding Israel and its warring neighbours.
I was in Israel during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and I was shocked at the malevolence and venom of the British media when Israel was falsely accused of committing a massacre in Jenin. The local Fairfax press was not far behind. There was no apology or explanation for the dishonesty of the reporting of the time and, on my return to Australia, I was in for some further shocks after joining the Zionist Council of Victoria at the end of that year. The Age Middle East Correspondent at the time was one Ed O’Loughlin who, in his five years with the Fairfax Media stable would constantly remind his readers where his sympathies lay.
At the end of O’Loughlin’s term and in his very last piece for the Age (which in the 11th hour was pulled from the Sydney Morning Herald), he came out swinging and stated of one incident, “And we knew from long experience that, whatever had happened, the Israeli Defense Force would deny responsibility”. There was of course, no credible evidence to support claims that the IDF was in fact, responsible. O’Loughlin added his own familiar footnote, “Since the present uprising began in 2000, close to 5000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli action… Slightly more than 1000 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. In the first three months of this year, 11 Palestinians died for every Israeli citizen (see more)”.