Community Safety

'ABC has shown a lack of curiosity': National broadcaster under fire for criticising Sky News' coverage of antisemitism spike

June 6, 2024

Thursday 06 June 2024
Laurence Karacsony

Shadow home affairs minister James Paterson and a prominent Australian Jewish leader have strongly rebuked the ABC for having chided Sky News Australia for its frequent coverage of the rise of antisemitism across the nation.

In late May, ABC host Paul Barry jibed Sky News host Chris Kenny for discussing the crisis with Robert Kennedy from the Australian Jewish Association.

"On our count it’s around the 30th time discussed on Kenny’s show since the war began," Barry said.

Earlier in May, former ABC director Joe Gersh spoke to Sky News host Sharri Markson and said he was concerned it was left to Sky News and former treasurer Josh Frydenberg to cover and televise the mounting antisemitism in Australia, a “crisis” the national broadcaster had not “fully understood”.

“It is a matter of deep concern to me, as a member of the Jewish community, as a former ABC director, and as an Australian citizen, that our national broadcaster has not fully understood and dealt with, what I believe, has reached crisis proportion which is antisemitism in this country," Mr Gersh said.

Speaking to Markson, who is Jewish and has extensively covered the crisis on her program, Mr Paterson and Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Executive Director Colin Rubenstein examined the ABC’s apparent jibe which downplayed the extent of the anti-Jewish sentiment gripping the nation.

“I thought it was a very bold call by Paul Barry and the ABC to attack Sky News for being too focussed and too concerned about antisemitism,” Mr Paterson said.

Senator Paterson said it had become an “unprecedented crisis” in Australia and over the last eight months Jewish entities such as the Executive Council of Australian Jewry had tracked a 700 per cent increase in antisemitism

“When Victoria Police report that massive increases in antisemitic incidents ten times the frequency of anti-Islamic incidents, I think we should all be concerned about that,” he said.

“We should all be focussed on it. But the ABC has shown a lack of curiosity, a lack of interest and a lack of concern about this issue.”

Mr Paterson said it was a “national disgrace” the ABC had not focused on the “mainstream” sentiment of the Jewish community and instead produced a documentary on Jewish anti-Zionist activist and journalist Antony Loewenstein.

“When we have Holocaust survivors say they've never felt less safe in their own country, in Australia, that's a national disgrace. And the fact that a national broadcaster is so uninterested in that is a great shame,” he said.

Mr Rubenstein said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s “history” on his support for Palestinians was “no secret”, and although he accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, he did not understand the “realities of the situation of the last two decades”.

Senator Paterson said the Prime Minister had a “deep-seated sympathy” for the Palestinian cause which went “far beyond a genuine humanitarian sympathy” and into an anti-Israel “bias and hatred”.

“Over a long period of time, some of his statements in the House of Representatives have been filled with bile, have been shockingly biased against Israel, have been totally unbalanced, and I think that has really impacted his ability to stand strong as Prime Minister against a moral crisis in our own country of antisemitism,” Mr Paterson said.

On the point of Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong’s refusal to rule out supporting a Palestinian state, even if Hamas continued to play a role in governance in Gaza, Mr Rubenstein said it showed a “lack of moral clarity” and a “complete contradiction” of the government’s position.

Mr Rubenstein said on one hand Labor accepted the “abhorrent” terrorism committed by Hamas against Israel, as Mr Albanese had recognised on Wednesday, but on the other had they had voted in favour of Palestinian recognition in the UN resolution a few weeks ago.

“It represents a complete contradiction that Hamas will continue to be governing in Gaza and calling for a permanent cease fire. So, there's a lack of moral clarity, and there's a lack of recognition of what the facts are,” Mr Rubenstein said.

He said early recognition of Palestinians “might increase” the possibility of moving towards reconciliation, but the “tragedy” of the situation was it “reinforces” and “rewards” terrorism.

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