Australia/Israel Review


Media Microscope: Back in the Lyons den

Aug 2, 2023 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

The ABC’s global affairs editor John Lyons, a former Middle East correspondent who has written two tendentious books blaming Israel for the fact no Palestinian state exists and slamming in conspiratorial terms Israel’s supporters in Australia, demonstrated the wisdom in the old adage that it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

On the ABC’s television news station, ABC News (June 22), Lyons blamed terror attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and settler attacks against Palestinians on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. He questioned claims that the settlements on the West Bank provide Israel with “a buffer against the Arab world,” arguing, “if it’s dangerous, if you need it for security, why would you move 700,000 [Israelis] into a dangerous area?” In the early 1960s and 1970s, Israel very much needed a land buffer, given that at its narrowest the country was only 15 km wide. 

Lyons said Palestinians no longer see the US as an honest broker and suggested “in my view, someone like Emmanuel Macron is perhaps the only hope.” 

Interviewed on ABC News (July 4) during Israel’s two-day military operation against terrorist cells in Jenin, Lyons claimed that ten Israelis were killed in terror attacks in 2022, as opposed to 146 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. In fact, 24 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks last year. 

Moreover, most Palestinians who died were terrorists or engaged in fighting Israeli forces or in violent protests, whereas most Israelis killed were civilians.

He compared Israel’s occupation of the West Bank with France’s rule over Algeria and Syrian rule in Lebanon. These comparisons are wrong for so many reasons – including for example, the simple fact that the West Bank came under Israeli control during the 1967 war only after Jordan started firing on west Jerusalem. Moreover, rejected Israeli peace offers to create a Palestinian state involved offering withdrawal from the equivalent of 100% of the West Bank or something very close. 

Later that day, Lyons was interviewed on ABC Radio “PM”, where he absurdly said of the Jenin operation that “this is sort of the worst now because we haven’t seen, that I can remember, the picture of Israeli jets involved in any strikes on Palestinian villages, on refugee camps.” That’s probably because Israel did not actually deploy any jets offensively in the Jenin operation, but instead used helicopter gunships and armoured drones.

He called Jenin a place where “the Israeli army and intelligence has never really been able to get a transparency… a place that houses a lot of the most militant… Palestinian groups.”

In fact, the former claim is incorrect, as Israel-based analyst Michael Friedson explained on ABC News “The World” (July 6), saying Israel security services “feel that there was heavy intelligence work” which allowed them to understand the details of what was happening in Jenin and locate “these massive arms caches that were being created, arms manufacturing being created.”

On July 5, Lyons was back on ABC News to discuss the end of the operation and news that a Palestinian terrorist drove into a group of pedestrians in Tel Aviv. According to Lyons, “this is the history of this conflict… retaliation for retaliation, tit for tat.” Of course, what he didn’t explain was that the Palestinian Authority incites Palestinians to carry out terror attacks against Israelis and provides generous financial rewards for doing so.

Furthermore, as AIJAC’s Jamie Hyams pointed out in an article for the Australian’s website (July 18), the terrorists in Jenin “are all funded, armed and directed by Iran, as part of its strategy to encircle Israel. Iran encourages the terror groups to embed themselves among civilians, in the hope that any resultant civilian casualties will aid its diplomatic campaign against Israel.”

On July 25, Lyons was interviewed on ABC TV “News at Noon” to discuss the Knesset’s passing of a bill that would prevent Israel’s Supreme Court applying a reasonableness test to administrative decisions. 

His comments came disturbingly close to accusing pro-Israel Jewish organisations and individuals in Australia of dual loyalty. According to Lyons, “a lot of the supporters of Israel in Australia, including the Israeli lobby here in Australia, which is very powerful, sort of made the case to me that whatever problems we had as a country, we are proud of our Supreme Court.” The country of Australian Israel-supporters is, of course, Australia – except apparently in John Lyons’ head.

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