The central thesis of John Lyon’s new book, Dateline Jerusalem: Journalism’s Toughest Assignment, is that journalists covering the middle east are bullied into submission by an extremist “Israel Lobby” who prevents the media from fact-based reporting.
In an extract of the book published in last Saturday’s Age and Sydney Morning Herald, Lyons suggests that journalists based in Jerusalem, who “report what they see in front of them” are “trolled and abused”.
The aim of this abuse, he writes, is to “make journalists and editors decide that, even if they have a legitimate story that may criticise Israel, it is simply not worth running it because it will cause more trouble than it’s worth.”
Statement from Jeremy Leibler, President of the Zionist Federation of Australia
The notion that the Australian media suppresses debate about the Israel-Palestinian conflict is patently false to anyone who reads the newspapers, listens to the radio or watches television.
Of course, supporters of Israel call out media bias or inaccurate reporting when they see it, as they should. To suggest this is somehow improper only proves the point that there is a serious problem in reporting the Middle East, including by Lyons himself as a former foreign correspondent.
He ascribes zero responsibility or blame to anyone other than Israel for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and then uses his powerful platform as a journalist and author to scream from the rooftop that people who disagree with him are bullies, who have cowered the Australian media as a whole into silence.
The irony is palpable.
Lyons’ book argues that people and organisations like the ZFA, ECAJ and AIJAC who support Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, alongside a future Palestinian state, are not entitled to play the same role as other interest groups – groups that lobby on behalf of migrant communities, religious communities, environmental causes etc. Only John Lyons can answer why he holds that view.
Contrary to Lyons’ claim that the “accusation of anti-Semitism” is used to shut down debate, no communal group has suggested or believes that legitimate criticism of Israeli Government policies or practices is tantamount to antisemitism. That said, Lyons is well aware that his sweeping, generalised conspiracy like theories about undue influence on the media are a gift to antisemites.
Like everyone else, John Lyons is free to express his opinions, but he should not portray them as unbiased journalistic observations.
Those of us who support and advocate for Israel are all too aware that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not going to be resolved by either party attacking the other side’s right to express their views. It’s a lesson John Lyons has yet to learn but, in the meantime, we will not be intimidated by his flamboyant, one-eyed accusations.