Michael Danby battles the media

August 8, 2014 by Michael Danby
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“If in the past year you didn’t CRY OUT when thousands of protesters were killed and injured by Turkey, Egypt and Libya, when more victims than ever were hanged by Iran, women and children in Afghanistan were bombed, whole communities were massacred in South Sudan, 1800 Palestinians were starved and murdered by Assad (at the Yamouk camp) in Syria, hundreds in Pakistan were killed by jihadist terror attacks, 10,000 Iraqis were killed by terrorists, villagers were slaughtered in Nigeria, but you ONLY cry out for GAZA, then you are not pro HUMAN RIGHTS, you are only ANTI-ISRAEL.”

 — Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, July 15, 2014

Michael Danby

Michael Danby

Peter George, the archetypical ABC/Fairfax ideologue, argues that it is up to friends of Israel to bend Benjamin Netanyahu’s “aggressive behaviour”. However, I am just back from the Australia-UK-Israel Leadership Forum, where Tzipi Livni and Opposition Leader Isaac (Buji) Herzog expressed the social solidarity you would expect from a democratic society under attack. Rather than the insinuated aggression of the ‘Peter George hate Israel brigade’, the wall to wall support for the IDF operation in Gaza was based on a stoic understanding that Israel had no choice in resisting the Islamo’-fascists of Hamas who killed three Yeshiva students and sent thousands of unguided missiles into Israel before the operation began. Something George Orwell would understand, but surpasses the likes of the Keanes, Carltons and Ruth Pollards of this world.

Unfortunately these critics and the unceasing ‘human interest’ approach to the war not only distorts the strategic debate but they also have disturbing local consequences. The hysterical unhinged and relentless media attack on Israel has undoubtedly inspired the recent bout of anti-Semitic attacks in Australia. Since the conflict began we have seen thugs invaded a Jewish school bus in Sydney, there was an attack on one of my Jewish constituents in Elsternwick recently where the aggressors yelled ‘Jew dog’ and ‘Gaza’ and an Orthodox Rabbi has been assaulted by Palestinian youths in a Perth mall plus many more. Unfortunately, the past weeks have seen a number of anti-Jewish incidents across Australia and it is clear that some of this frightening violence is a direct result of distorted reportage.

In free and democratic countries like Australia and Israel people have a right to agree, disagree, and protest, and hold their parliamentarians to account. For sixteen years I have been answering constituents who express their concerns to me. Often I am called to act on behalf of those I represent, and where I can I do so.  But there is a difference between calling for action because I am your MP and calling for action because I am Jewish.


In an article by Sharri Markson – The Australian’s Media Editor, I outlined my concerns about Crikey journalist Bernard Keane repeatedly goading me for comment and condemnation on matters concerning Israel and the IDF.  Crikey is an independent online publication that usually focuses on national politics, business and the environment. Canberra-based Mr. Keane is their Political Editor and attracts almost 35,000 followers to his Twitter page.

As I said in Ms Markson’s article – Bernard Keane seems to fantisise I’m in charge of Jerusalem’s military operations, sitting in some secret command centre in Elwood directing Israeli commandos and air force, shifting ships and tanks across borders.
Keane’s role in this extremely serious conflict between Israel and Hamas seems to be to score cheap trolling points for some of his extremist followers.Some of his tweets include: “hi @michaeldanbyMP I think I missed your tweet condemning Israel’s killing of disabled Palestinian women could you flick me a link? Cheers.”

Another reads: “I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before @MichaelDanbyMP condemns Israel’s killing of four kids playing on a beach in Gaza, right?”

And a third: “I’m sure even @MichaelDanbyMP deplores targeting a disabled charity, even if it’s Israel that does it. Michael?”

Such comments have encouraged some of his extremist followers to join the ‘conversation’ with tweets such as: “Non-human terrorists #F**kZionism #F**k¬MichaelDanby”. 
It is important to understand why I have refused to engage with Mr Keane in a post by post slugfest. Like Mike Carlton, he is not open to rational discourse. Responding to tiresome goading only encourages another enervating round of anti-Israel diatribes from obsessiveness. His unprofessional conduct is something you would expect from an activist, not a journalist of a publication that claims to be mainstream. Not surprisingly of the Uncle Toms of the so called Jewish Democratic Society, rode Don Quixote – style to Crikey’s defence.

However, let me be clear on a few things.

Anyone who pays attention to Australian politics will be aware that few, if any, parliamentarians speak out in relation to international human rights issues: I often do.


Bernard Keane has never asked me about the peaceful struggle of the Tibetans.

Bernard Keane has never asked me about the African Muslim genocide in Darfur.

Bernard Keane has never asked me about the Syrian Presidents brother, Maher Assad, dropping chemical weapons on children in Syria (a conflict where more are killed in a week then throughout the entire conflict in Gaza).

Bernard Keane has never asked me about the network of Concentration Camps in North Korea.

Bernard Keane has however, on no less than 20 occasions, felt it appropriate to tweet me loaded questions on Israel.


One needs only to look at to the recent article by Mike Carlton that was published in the Fairfax media, with its accompanying Jew bating cartoon, to see that the media’s behaviour during this Gaza conflict is not a minor issue. When the insolent producer of 60 minutes, Tom Malone, was asked why the program didn’t tell its viewers that Hamas puts rockets in schools next to evacuation centres, he replied that “60 Minutes does not bore viewers with established and undisputed facts”. Don’t hold your breath expecting Mr Malone’s cowardly program to telecast the dramatic footage of Indian TV or France 24 which shows Hamas launching missiles from civilian areas, one right on top of a UN compound.

We have seen just recently how volatile and febrile the demonstrations for Gaza have become in Australia (http://www.jwire.com.au/news/antisemitsm-flies-high-at-sydney-rally/44547 ) and how their focus has often turned to Jews and anti-Semitic tropes, not just Israel.  One rally in Melbourne escalated with the burning of both an Israeli and Australian flag in the foyer of the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (https://au.news.yahoo.com/vic/a/24532756/students-arrested-in-pro-palestinian-protest-in-melbourne/ ).

Even more intimidating and violent have been some of the demonstrations and protests in Europe and elsewhere (http://www.vox.com/2014/7/21/5923145/gaza-anti-semitism-europe ) (http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/07/21/pro-gaza-rallies-worldwide-tainted-by-anti-semitism-calgary-organizer-to-apologize-for-violence/ ).  And who would have thought that even Germany would not be immune (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2701365/Anti-Semitic-attacks-rise-Europe-German-French-Italian-foreign-ministers-condemn-growing-hostility-against-Jews-wake-Gaza-conflict.html

Rabbi James Kennard recently concluded:

“Even the pretence that anti-Israel campaigners were not ant-Semitic (despite the inability to explain why they objected to Israel’s “occupation” but never to China’s or Turkey’s or Morocco’s, and why 100 tragic Palestinian casualties mattered so much more than 100,000 Syrian, or five million Congolese) has been dropped. Marchers in Paris barricade not the Israeli Embassy, but a synagogue; Facebook posts cry that “Hitler was right” (whilst ironically comparing Zionists to Nazis).”


There can often be a fine line between being anti-Semitic and being anti-Israel.  But whilst those who are anti-Israel are not necessarily anti-Semitic, I would suggest that all anti-Semites are anti-Israel.  Therein lies the rub.

Of course Israel should be subject to criticism where appropriate, but if that criticism is flippantly and provocatively made in the middle of a very serious conflict where emotions are running high and is directed at individuals who are Jewish and not involved, then the ‘critic’ and his motivations sometimes need to be challenged.

Similarly, when reporting a conflict with such deep roots, and with so many issues to be resolved, news organisations owe a special responsibility to their readers, and indeed to both Israeli and Palestinian people. Maybe current affairs programs can argue that they are just spinning a good story when they broadcast slanted, one-sided stories about “doll-bludgers” or “dodgy tradesmen”. But when reporting the Middle East conflict, the stakes are much higher. One-sided stories should have no place. Isn’t it odd that during virtually the whole period of Protective Edge we only saw maimed Palestinian children juxtaposed with the IDF? Where were the Hamas fighters, or missiles landing in Israeli civilian areas?

News organisations must always strive to be as objective as possible, to report on all sides of a story, and to give context. In my view, in the Australian context, Fairfax, Crikey, and 60 Minutes have failed to do this. Perhaps Fairfax’s admission of a serious error of judgement for publishing Glen Le Lievre cartoon is a turning point for that organisation. But I am yet to be convinced.




4 Responses to “Michael Danby battles the media”
  1. Ross Chambers says:

    So Mr Danby I’ll continue to never ever buy any product made in Israel and urge others to Boycott, Divest and Sanction those products and services. I can’t see anything “anti Semitic” in that.

    But it would be nice to see Australian politicians be members for Australian interests and not Israel’s, I imagine that’s what your constituents expect you to exert your energies on?

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    Miriam Feldheim, Operation Protective Edge was not restricted to a response on the three Israeli teenagers murdered, it was also a response to the increasing missile/rocket attacks by Gaza which are now capable of targeting most of Israel, as well as the necessity of demolishing the underground network of tunnels used for both storing weapons and infiltration with murderous intent. The latter proved to be far more comprehensive than originally known. There can’t be too many people left who really believe a two state solution is possible while the Hamas charter for the destruction of Israel and Jews still exists and Hamas are part of government for the Palestinian people. Why keep on and on about a two state solution when the reality as it stands makes it impossible? What’s disastrous is the Palestinian leadership, who utilise much of their extensive funding for arms and underground tunnels, educate children to hate Jews and involve them in politics, and have scant regard for the real protection of their people, preferring instead to use their plight, and their deaths, to advantage in melodramatic, self-righteous media presentation.
    Israel can’t look after its own people and survive and care for the Palestinians as well. Wake up.

  3. Miriam Feldheim says:

    Michael Danby claims Israel had ‘no choice’ but to launch Operation Protective Edge. Wrong! There is always a choice. A limited response to bring to justice the murderers of the three Israeli teenagers would have sufficed, and prevented all the consequences detailed in this article. Netanyahu was pressured into this war by Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman with threats to withdraw their parties from the governing coalition. Both represent parties committed to Israel holding on to the West Bank. They are not interested in a two state solution. Operation Protective Edge is nothing more than bad policy formulated on the run with disastrous consequences.

  4. Andrew Barak says:

    Conspicuous absence of any mention in this article of the Canberra Declaration on Gaza signed by a large contingent of Labour MPs or the ignorant comments by Bill Shorten. It is high time that Michael Danby resigned from Labour, they don’t deserve his support or the support of the Australian Jewish community.

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