Jewish Media Watch

As is the case with the general media, the Australian Jewish press of the past few days has contained discussion about the plummeting popularity of Kevin Rudd. 

Mr Rudd is not popular in Western Australia.  His proposed resources super tax removes the incentive for prospectors to research and develop business, and has the potential to economically cripple the WA mining industry, the engine room of Australia’s financial boom.  Incredulously Kevin destroyed whatever remaining credibility he had with WA voters last week when he stood up in Perth and dangled the carrot of infrastructure funding (already provisioned through the forward estimates of the Government budget) as a reward of the Super Tax.  It showed clearly that he had not heard the message of WA industry – that if his mooted tax proceeds, the overall revenue take which he has already committed to spend won’t exist the first place.

Within Perth’s Jewish community, there is a second reason to be very upset and disillusioned with our current Government. Certainly the majority of the Jewish community has been uncomplimentary about the Australian Governments immediate condemnation of Israel following the attack on Israeli soldiers by the mis-named “humanitarian activists” on the Mavi Marmara.  This came hot on the heals of the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat in Canberra, regarded by most as an unnecessary over-reaction.

Recognising the damage of these events, Kevin Rudd, amidst the domestic crisis over his personal popularity, took the unprecedented action of taking time out to invite senior Jewish community leaders to the Lodge for dinner (including the JCCWA Director of Public Affairs).  The meeting was followed by plenty of publicity and a number of statements that were aimed at rebuilding the crushed reputation of the Rudd Government with the Jewish community.

In editorial analysis by the Australian Jewish News, Zeddy Lawrence included statements such as “Rudd understands the Jewish community’s strong ties to its homeland, and has always insisted on his affection for the country”….. ” For whatever reason, the community seems to matter for him”.  The AJN also dedicates its editorial to this issue “A walk with Rudd”.  The editorial lauds the Labour trio Rudd, Gillard and Smith for being supportive friends of Israel, implying even handedness, whilst attributing blame to the media for selectively reporting the Governments actions regarding Israel. The AJN takes the middle ground through its commentary.  It concludes, more fairly, with the suggestion that “it is up to Rudd and his team to now show that their support is more than personal and that they are prepared to stick to one side of the street when it comes to Israel.”    

The Maccabean editorial stance is less diplomatic, and as far as the actions of recent history are concerned, is closer to the raw truth.  The Maccabean reminds the Labour leadership that their support of Israel is “all very nice.  But to be honest its not enough”….“So what if, instead of a cosy dinner with us, you appeared on national teleision and said that having reviewed all the evidence, you realise that you got this whole Gaza Flotilla story very, very wrong… wouldn’t it be nice if you said that to the whole nation?” 

So what is the better editorial line given the events of the past few weeks?  Is it the AJN with its editorial stance aimed at befriending our Government, or the Maccabean for castigating our Government?   

I for one side with the Maccabean and would like to congratulate the Maccabean for calling it straight, and moving past the “nice talk”.  It is not the responsibility of the Jewish media to be a tool of diplomacy for Jewish community leaders.  On this occasion, the softening of the Australian Government’s disgraceful record towards Israel over the past few weeks by the AJN is clearly out of step with the majority of the community sentiment.  If this coverage is motivated by the desire of  the communities senior leadership to “rebuild” its bridges with the current Government after it has shafted Israel onto the raft of political expediency, then the impartiality of our own community’s national Jewish press must be called into question.  Certainly the Jewish press in many places adopt a political bias through their editorial (as seems to be the general media trend).  Are we now seeing this more visibly from the AJN?        

It should also be noted for the record that the AJN editorial claims that the electorate of Perth is Western Australia’s most Jewish.  This is factually incorrect.  Although the Federal seat of Perth does have a number of Jewish voters, the highest number of Jewish electors in Perth is concentrated in the seat of Stirling held by Liberal Michael Keenan.  It is typical of an Eastern States media mentality to make assumptions about the changing demographics of Western Australia without checking the facts. 

Which is a nice segway into the redeeming element of coverage in this week’s AJN.  This blog has often lamented that the Perth Jewish community does not receive sufficient exposure or coverage in the AJN, and at times hardly seems to be on the radar of the AUSTRALIAN Jewish News.  As the third largest Jewish community in Australia, and as a dymanic Jewish Centre, the activity and accomplishments of Perth Jewry are missing from the annals of history on the pages of the AJN.

This week, the Religious Affairs Editor Yossi Aron writes with great enthusiam about his experience in Perth.  He also articulates what so many others skip over, that the Torah observant section of the Perth Jewish community have built learning and religious infrastructure that is as good as (if not better than) what can be found anywhere else in Australia.  His comments about  out-movement (young Perth Jews leaving for Perth larger Jewish centres) is correct and fairly articulated, however I would counter argue that in recent years this trend has been arrested.  There are more young married couples settling and making their home in Perth, even in anticipation of Aliyah further down the track.  Whereas these families may have previously left due to the attraction of Jewish education in other places, options to remain in Perth that until a few years ago did not exist, are now very much available to consider.

A copy of the superbly written article by Yossi Aron is available here:

Yossi Aron article

As a matter of interest, Yossi Aron also notes the anti-Rudd mentality of Perth as a sideline in his commentary.  We should only add;  if things continue the way they are we will have to start talking about political succession.  One can imagine that President Colin Barnett would love to establish defence ties with Israel aimed at protecting the WA coastline from flotilla’s of migrants.  He would also gladly open his borders to Jewish migrants, and it would not take much to secure thousands of Jewish citizens from the eastern Commonwealth of Australia.