Danby stands his ground

October 8, 2017 by Henry Benjamin
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Melbourne Labor MP Michael Danby is sticking by his advertisements in the Jewish media criticising ABC correspondent Sophie McNeill’s reporting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The ad headed “Why the Double Standards” was firstly published in the print Australian Jewish News. J-Wire ran the ad shortly but removed it on request.

Michael Danby in parliament

Danby correctly criticised Sophie McNeill for naming the terrorist who killed three members of Solomon family as they were celebrating the shabbat dinner without mentioning the family’s names. She went on to publish an unrelated graphic article on the eviction of the Shamasneh family as they were evicted from their home in East Jerusalem.

Danby’s assertion that the victims’ names were not published by the ABC in their report from McNeill is correct but the journalist did report extensively on the murders themselves.

Danby was targeted by his critics for using taxpayer funds to partially pay for the adverts. Fairfax Media reports that the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten was “deeply unimpressed” that Danby had used taxpayers funds for the ads. Media reports that Danby attempted to pull a second ad from the AJN but the paper had already gone into print.

Michael Danby has held the federal Labor seat of Melbourne Ports since 1998. There are media reports that he is under pressure to retire from federal politics.

Michael Danby told J-Wire: “Parliamentarians all receive an annual communications budget where they disseminate messages relevant to their constituents in a variety of manners, via hard mail, social media, or in local and state newspapers. All 226 Members and Senators have these budgets and do the same as I do.

We spent a small amount on an ad in the AJN whose primary circulation is in my electorate.

Using my communication allowance we have communicated far more widely over the past year on penalty rates, marriage equality, the NBN, unfair federal infrastructure spending allocation to Victoria, Human Rights and apportion our expenditure to cover all interests in my electorate of Melbourne Ports. All advertising from my office meets parliamentary guidelines. As mentioned all parliamentarians have communications allowances to communicate with constituents, each electorate these days has 100,000 people.

Yes Sophie McNeill should have given the Solomon family who were stabbed to death at their Friday night Shabbat dinner, at least the same human interest coverage she gave the Shamasneh family who were evicted after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of the properties owners. A large portion of my electorate think the coverage of the ABC consistently omits information that doesn’t align with the Palestinian narrative.

Contrary to the ABC Director of News, nowhere in the reporting of the brutal slaying of the Soloman family were they mentioned by name. Nor was there any profile of the family or footage interviewing other family members after the terrorist attack. By contrast Ms McNeill personally visited and profiled the Palestinian Shamasneh family. ”

President of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Anton Block said: “Those who have criticised Michael Danby’s use of his parliamentary allowance to pay for the advertisements made no criticism whatsoever of Senator Lee Rhiannon in 2016 when she used her parliamentary allowance to pay for leaflets and posters for a group calling for the boycott of Israel.  Michael Danby has been targeted in parts of the media because he has been a strong supporter of Israel, and because he has had the temerity to call out anti-Israel bias by certain journalists over the years.

Ms McNeill is on record as saying that she looks to the work of John Pilger as the inspiration for her journalism, so she is in no position to object when others point to certain aspects of her work as advocacy journalism.  Michael Danby was correct in saying that Ms McNeill gave more coverage to the fact that the Palestinian Shamasneh family had been evicted from their home in East Jerusalem than it did to the fact that three members of the Jewish Solomon family were murdered by Islamists during a family meal in the West Bank.  She personalised what happened to the Palestinian family and named them, but did not do likewise for the Jewish family.”

Gerard Henderson wrote on his Media Watchdog blog: “It’s understandable that the ABC’s Virginia Trioli and the ABC’s Hamish Macdonald support their ABC bestie Sophie McNeill. But it’s not news.Despite all the ABC outrage in defence of its controversial activist journalist Sophie McNeill, Michael Danby’s essential criticism remains true.   

In recent times, Ms McNeill gave more coverage to the fact that Palestinian Shamasneh family had been evicted from their home in East Jerusalem than it did to the fact that three members of the Jewish Solomon family were murdered by Islamists during a family meal in the Occupied Territories.  Moreover, Sophie McNeil named the name of the Palestinian family but not that of the Jewish family.

This was a reasonable criticism for Michael Danby to make.  And it was reasonable for ABC management to defend its reporter.  It’s called debate.

Placing an advertisement in a paper like the Australian Jewish News is no different from writing a letter or distributing a flyer to constituents.  That’s what politicians do.  The criticism of Michael Danby by Fairfax Media journalists Adam Gartrell and Broede Carmody on this issue overlooks the fact that parliamentarians regularly advertise in newspapers. Even Jewish ones, no less.”

Danby added: “None of Sophie McNeill’s apologists will deal with the content of the ads because their essence remains accurate. The ABC never mentioned the name of the Israeli family  murdered by a terrorist just dehumanised them as settlers…no pictures of the Solomon family and no ‘human interest ‘background.
By contrast all of these were part of the ABC coverage of a Palestinian family the Shamansnehs who were named and were pictured and got a ‘human interest’ story from the ABC.  Do this dehumanisation over time and you will distort Australian public perceptions”.
Dr Colin Rubenstein, AIJAC executive director added:  “In a public document we issued in 2015, AIJAC submitted that  Sophie McNeill – who had described herself and has been described by the ABC as an “activist” filmmaker associated with the Palestinian cause, and who had spoken at an event promoting boycotts against Israel – was an inappropriate choice for Middle East correspondent for the taxpayer funded ABC, with its statutory obligations of impartiality. We believe that aspects of McNeill’s reporting on Israeli-Palestinian issues since then have borne out our concerns.”“Precisely because it is an important national statutory body, the ABC, like all public institutions, must be subject to appropriate scrutiny and accountability, as well as public criticism where warranted – even if some of its supporters and employees seem to feel that it needs to be protected from, and has immunity from, all such criticism and scrutiny. AIJAC therefore believes it is completely appropriate and justifiable for Michael Danby MP – or anyone else – to call attention to any shortcomings of the ABC, including reporting by Ms. McNeill.”

We publish the reports from Sophie McNeill on the July incidents:

On Saturday 22nd July she wrote a TV news script for 7pm:

Sophie McNeill

INTRO Six people have been killed in the bloodiest spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence for years, prompted by new security Israeli measures at Jerusalem’s holiest site.

– – – – – –

Across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinians prayed in the streets…. Protesting what they see as a change in the status quo at the sensitive holy site. 

After an attack near the Al Aqsa compound last week which killed 2 policemen, Israeli security forces installed metal detectors and banned young men from entering .

The prayers quickly turned to clashes.

Three young Palestinian men killed when Israeli police fired rubber bullets and live ammunition on protestors throwing rocks and fireworks. 

ISRAELI-ARAB LAWMAKER AHMED TIBI: “It’s political, it depends only on one person, Prime Minister Netanyahu and they should learn that if something will not go well by force, it will not go well by much more force. Reasonable thinking, reasonable behaviour, and not extremism and racism, is the way to solve problems. Palestinians, at any case, will not accept any compromise on this, about al-Aqsa mosque.”

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the suspension of all official contact with Israel.

 And then a few hours later three Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian attacker who broke into their family home in an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank near Ramallah. 


we found three patients in critical condition, we immediately started life saving procedures in addition there was another wounded person who had a stabbing in her back and she was transported to the hospital in stable condition.”

For Israelis this is about security…. trying to prevent further attacks on their forces which patrol near the holy site. For Palestinians, the issue goes to the heart of this conflict… Israeli control and occupation of East Jerusalem and one of their holiest sites. There are now real fears this situation could deteriorate further and the violence will continue. The question now is who will back down first? SM ABC news Jerusalem.

Sunday Morning Weekend July 23, ABC Radio News Breakfast – she did another report about the stabbing attack at the settlement. 


Sunday July 23, ABC TV news story at 7pm, she did another story with a graphic description of the attack on the Salamon family.  

The standoff continued – Palestinians still refusing to pray in the Al Aqsa compound. 

And once again clashes broke out. 

Palestinian authorities reported another one young man died. Bringing the total number of dead since Friday to seven. 

Four young Palestinians reported killed in clashes with Israeli troops in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.. where extra troops have now been  sent in.

And a Israeli family was attacked in the home by a Palestinian attacker in a settlement near Ramallah… Neighbours had rushed to help the 70 year old father and his two children who were stabbed to death. 


Rachel Moss, mother of soldier who shot attacker:

 my son ran out with his gun, jumped up this wall here, saw the terrorist in the window and he shot through the window and the terrorist dropped immediately to the floor. My husband ran in their house with his gun, we were terrified. I was with my mother in the house, we were very frightened,

This latest violence sparked by Israel installing metal detectors at entrances to the Al Aqsa mosque..a key Muslim holy site

The government put the controversial security measures in place after two policeman were killed there last week.

Mustafa Barghuti, general secretary, Palestine National Initiative  

“They are closing eight out of ten gates completely. They’re opening only two gates that include barriers. Israel is trying to change facts on the ground. Israel is trying to impose its authority over a religious place which is an Islamic place.”

The White house is reportedly involved in negotiations behind the scenes to try to diffuse the situation and come up with a solution that is acceptable to all sides..  Israeli officials have told local media that they may consider alternatives to the metal detectors… The Israeli security cabinet is due to meet today to discuss the proposals. 

Sophie McNeill ABC news Jerusalem


12 Responses to “Danby stands his ground”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    In the meantime, we now have that disgraceful piece put together by the ABC, in cahoots with Paul Barry, aired last Monday night (09/10) on ‘Media Watch’ regarding Jewish complaints of bias in reporting of the Israel/Palestinian conflict GOING BACK YEARS. Accusations are made of’intimidation’ by Jews of journalists who ‘only want to report what they see in front of them’ (so says John Lyons of The Australian). Well, John, you do need to understand what you see in front of you by reading a bit of history and absorbing the current local complexities, before you can report it in context.

    Michael Danby is referred to as ‘a serial complainant’. The Israel Lobby is referred to, apparently an okay reference to make, when in fact it replaces ‘the Jewish lobby’ as a term with all that infers. John Lyons of The Australian and Ruth Pollard, ex-correspondent for The Age in the Middle East (the latter a terribly biased reporter to the point of unprofessionalism, as time and time again she presented melodramatic stories as heart-grabbers for the Palestinians, completely lacking fuller context), were cited as both having won Walkeley Awards for Journalism, as if that meant they could do no wrong, so we could assume the complaints against them unjustified. The AIJAC was mentioned as one of the ‘complaining’ bodies, and Executive Director, Colin Rubenstein, when asked for comment, responded with admirable, succinct and pertinent reply.

    The ‘Media Watch’ brief is to investigate media reporting and report on inaccuracies or sensationalism. So, what is it doing mounting this kind of obvious defence for the ABC and dragging other media into it to mount a big case against Jewish complaint, which is made to look insidious? That in a liberal democratic society, representatives of the minority group that is the Jews cannot actively complain of wrong-doing and bias from their own perspective without this type of reaction says a lot. Nothing much has changed.

    What a state of affairs, when for so long now the relentless propaganda campaign internationally by the Palestinians to deny Israel’s legitimacy and carve a place in the world for themselves as a sovereign state, without regard to Israel, has been so successful. Israel and Jews of the Diaspora have taken far too long to fight the rhetoric and present the facts. Now that we’re doing so, we’re not only not being listened to, but being branded with old style anti-Semitic responses in the guise of new terms to deal with it.

    Honest reporting matters enormously and now we have ‘Media Watch’ practising corruption of its own brief because an ABC journalist is involved in distorting the truth by her bias. Shame on all of them. I have submitted a post complaining of this to the Media Watch website and am waiting to see if it’s included unedited, or indeed at all. I urge anyone else who feels the same way to do so.

  2. Eleonora Mostert says:

    99.9% of all Media have Sophie McNeill problem. Has anyone noticed the 100% biase against people voting No in the Marrital Issue?? Not one of these people are giving the facts for the No vote but are pushing everybody to vote YES or be discriminated against in all aspects including violence.

  3. Jan Poddebsky says:

    Dear Adrian,
    You have a point about spheres of responsibility. Perhaps you could run it by various local councils who think it is their business to promote the BDS against Israel campaign.

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      None of the local councils within Melbourne Ports have links to BDS, as far as I know, they being Melbourne, Stonnington, Glen Eira and Port Phillip Councils.

      The Max Bremmer chocolate shop in Clarendon St, Sth Melbourne, that had a few BDS protesters outside (by chance I witnesses one when shopping), closed a few years ago.

      I think it closed as it was not competitive with the other numerous and long established cafes nearby rather than because 4 or 5 protesters on the footpath for a short period.

  4. Leon Poddebsky says:

    The “journalist’s” use of “DIFFUSE” where “DEFUSE” should have been used tells us a great deal about her work and about the ABC.

  5. Leon Poddebsky says:


    She probably re-read her first version and was horrified for reasons which we know.

  6. david singer says:

    Sophie McNeill states:
    “This latest violence sparked by Israel installing metal detectors at entrances to the Al Aqsa mosque..a key Muslim holy site
    The government put the controversial security measures in place after two policeman were killed there last week.”

    Hasn’t she put the cart before the horse?

    Isn’t this what actually happened:

    “This latest violence was sparked after two Israeli policeman were murdered at the Al Aqsa mosque last week.

    The government then put controversial security measures in place installing metal detectors at entrances to the Al Aqsa mosque..a key Muslim holy site”

    There is a big difference – and Sophie McNeill must surely appreciate it.

    She certainly did in her earlier report:
    “After an attack near the Al Aqsa compound last week which killed 2 policemen, Israeli security forces installed metal detectors and banned young men from entering.”

    What – or who – made her do an about face?

    • Rita L. says:

      What do you expect from a Media whose main “source” is Al Jazeera, to a point where I call them the Australian Branch of Al Jazeera. Personally I resent the fact that I am forced to pay, via my taxes, for the spreading of Islam (and I’m talking political islam since Al Jazeera is Qatar).
      Incidentally, same goes for the BBC and many State Media.


      You write: “J-Wire ran the ad shortly but removed it on request”. Why were you asked to do so, and who pulled you into line ?

  7. Adrian Jackson says:

    Look Michael Danby is the Member for Melbourne Ports not the Member for Israel.

    Parts of Melbourne Ports has an “ice” epidemic so he should do something about that not to mention getting a local “pedophile” school headmistress deported back to Australia from Israel to name just two matters.

  8. Jack Chrapot says:

    So says Sophie McNeil – “This latest violence sparked by Israel installing metal detectors at entrances to the Al Aqsa mosque..a key Muslim holy site.”

    Well actually Sophie … the violence was sparked on 14 July by an unprovoked attack by Arab gunmen who hid their weapons inside the Al Aqsa Mosque from which they emerged and fatally shot two Israeli Druze police officers who were guarding an entrance to the compound. The assailants ran back inside the courtyard and were killed after an exchange of fire with other officers, who had pursued them.

    • Leon Poddebsky says:


      Sophie has a formula to which all “reporting” has to conform. This is known as “the ABC culture.”

      This is the same sort of culture that led a “Guardian” journalist some years ago to assert proudly that he had deliberately lied “in the name of a higher truth.”

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