Australia/Israel Review


Media Microscope: All Right?

Nov 29, 2022 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

By and large, the Australian media reported sensibly on the reasons for the relative electoral success of the far right in Israel’s fifth election in four years, and what the potential consequences might be for Binyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition government. 

On election day (Nov. 1), Israeli commentator Gayil Talshir told ABC RN “Breakfast” the far right parties “keep… pulling… even moderate right-wing parties to the extreme right,” noting that at the last election Netanyahu “was willing to go with the Islamic party… but [the] religious nationalist party said ‘no’.”

That same day, AIJAC research associate Dr Ran Porat predicted on Radio 2GB that “whoever wins, the main regional undercurrents will not be affected by the outcome of Israel’s polls,” listing the Iranian nuclear issue and the ongoing “stalemate” between Israelis and Palestinians as examples.

The next day on “Breakfast”, US-based commentator Ishaan Tharoor said the past five elections have all “been a referendum on Netanyahu. And each time Netanyahu has sought a different set of right-wing allies to broaden his camp.”

Australian Israel-based journalist Irris Makler told SBS TV “World News” (Nov. 2) that “Itamar Ben Gvir is the surprise success… Two years ago, he tried to get into power. He didn’t get half of 1%… joining this alliance has been very good for him… the security situation…too.” 

On Nov. 3, left-wing Israeli political analyst Bernard Avishai noted to ABC News Radio that total votes cast for left and right blocs were “almost dead even” but the “vanity” of left-wing party leaders in refusing to “join…with other parties to create larger blocs” resulted in “wasted votes.” 

On ABC RN “Breakfast” (Nov. 3), Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer said Netanyahu succeeded because he “has controlled his bloc of parties with incredible discipline… There’s no wastage of votes between them,” whereas the three Arab-majority parties “were at each other’s throats.” 

AIJAC’s Ahron Shapiro discussed the role of Palestinian and Israeli Arab terror in the election, telling ABC News Radio (Nov. 2) that the day before the election, the front-page story in Israel’s biggest selling commercial newspaper “call[ed] attention to the terror wave… Their top columnist Nahum Barnea… not a friend of the right wing… was lamenting that in the 1988 election… Likud [won] because there was a terrorist attack right before the election. Here we’ve had two terror attacks in the three days before the election.”

The Australian (Nov. 2) editorialised, “it is no surprise voters turned to [Netanyahu] again… in the face of threats posed by Iran and its proxies” and the “2204 terror attacks in Israel this year, leaving 25 Israelis dead.”

Condemning Ben Gvir’s “unacceptable, anti-Arab…extreme rhetoric,” AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein told Sky News (Nov. 3) that Netanyahu’s “challenge now” is “to trend back to the centre… And I think his speech on election night saying he’s going to govern for all Israelis, Arab or Jew, left or right, was reassuring.”

Veteran Israeli analyst and visiting AIJAC fellow Ehud Yaari told ABC TV “The World” (Nov. 3), “Netanyahu will make sure that his new partners from the radical right don’t have much say in foreign policy and defence issues.”

The Age decided that the only person who would be allowed to comment on the election for its opinion page would be anti-Zionist writer Antony Loewenstein (Nov. 13). He used the election result to smear Australia’s mainstream Jewish leadership, falsely accusing them of not expressing concern about the inclusion of far-right parties in a coalition government. Absurdly, Loewenstein seemed to suggest that Australia’s pro-Israel organisations should be advocating on behalf of anti-Zionist Jews like himself, whom he concedes are in a minority but who, he claimed, seek to “improve our multicultural society.”

Speaking on ABC Radio National “Religion and Ethics Report” (Nov. 16), David Myers, the US-based head of the left-wing New Israel Fund, called the result “a triumph of Jewish ethnonationalism.” It was only after host Andrew West asked, “isn’t it just possible to say this election was an old-fashioned law and order election and that, unsurprisingly, the left lost?” that Myers acknowledged the role terrorism likely played in the result. 

Myers even said – somewhat inaccurately – “we should just note that the anti-Netanyahu camp actually polled more votes than the pro-Netanyahu camp. Were it not for some decisions made by a number of parties on the left, it’s entirely possible that Netanyahu would not have reached 61 mandates.”

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