Media Microscope: Latest from Ramsey Street
Mar 20, 2008 | Jamie Hyams
The Latest from Ramsey Street
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Alan Ramsey has become known for writing his articles by quoting at length and endorsing those with whom he agrees – as well as for his vitriolic attacks on Israel. So the occasion of the parliamentary motion congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary could not be allowed to pass without a Ramsey classic.
He started his March 8 Herald piece, “Don’t mention the war as Israel lauded,” by reminding readers of federal Labor MP Julia Irwin’s 2002 efforts “to debate Israel’s theft of what used to be the Palestinians’ half of Palestine.” Not for Ramsey any complicated notions of Israel’s entitlement to retain land captured in a defensive war until the other side is prepared to make peace. Showing a complete ignorance of the relevant UN resolutions, he described Israel’s then-35 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as being “in defiance of the United Nations”.
He then attributed what he sees as the lack of parliamentary debate on the topic to the “easily intimidated Australian Parliament” being “ever mindful of Jewish financial support of party coffers.” Ramsey is also apparently unconcerned about avoiding classic antisemitic stereotypes, such as that Jews use their money to control our leaders. Of course it would never occur to Ramsey that Australian support for Israel could be because the vast majority of our politicians simply recognise the justice of Israel’s cause, and its right to self-defence.
He then moves into his noting and quoting, starting with Women for Palestine’s Sonja Karkar, who predictably accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and denying the Palestinians “their rights, their freedoms and their nationality” and of various breaches of international law.
Ramsey then moves on to the ironically named Australian Committee for Truth in the Middle East, which accuses Israel of “throwing a tantrum whenever the international community indicates that a bit of adult, civilised behaviour would not go amiss. The current tantrum is the killing of 126 Palestinians in Gaza in response to the relative pinpricks of [homemade] Hamas rockets fired into territory illegally occupied by Israeli settlers.”
Of course, these so-called “relative pinpricks” are deadly rockets and have been going on for more than two and a half years, making life intolerable for the residents of Sderot and neighbouring towns. The rockets are fired over Israel’s 1948 borders, so this land is only considered “territory illegally held by Israeli settlers” by those who don’t believe Israel has the right to exist. This apparently includes both the Committee for “Truth” and Mr. Ramsey.
Ramsey then goes on to quote the reaction from Ali Kazak who, according to Ramsey, is “the head of the so-called Palestinian Delegation in Canberra”. In fact, Mr. Kazak was replaced as the head of the Palestinian delegation by Izzat Abdulhadi in mid-2006. This was seemingly because the Palestinian Authority wanted someone more moderate to project its image in Australia. But while Kazak may be unsuitable for the PA, he isn’t too extreme for Ramsey. Kazak shares Ramsey’s predilection for offensive stereotypes. He asks, “Why is Israel special? Is it because of the petty cash the ALP and the Liberals receive from Jewish businesses for their election campaigns… How far are politicians prepared to go in damaging Australia’s international reputation and standing for the sake of Israel and some petty cash?”
By contrast, that day’s Weekend Australian featured a piece called “Islamists leave Israel no choice”, by Greg Sheridan. He examines Hamas’ motives, noting that it has shown “how willing it is to sacrifice its own people in order to pursue its war against Israel.” This, sadly, is a nuance that appears to escape most journalists.
He notes that Israel’s blockade of Gaza has been widely criticised, but explains, “it is inconceivable that any nation would allow endless rocket attacks on its civilians without trying to stop them. If the Gaza terrorists could do this with impunity, it would inspire other terrorists to do the same” and notes, “There is a marvelous irony in much of the international community demanding that the power station in Ashkelon supply electricity to the rocket factories in Gaza which are trying to destroy it.”
He suggests four possible motives for Hamas’ behaviour: “it wants to damage Israel internationally, radicalise other Palestinians, ensure Israel’s policy of disengagement from the Palestinians fails, and serve Hamas’ Iranian and Syrian sponsors.” He concludes, sadly, that all this, and the fact that recent Israeli withdrawals to its 1967 borders with Lebanon and Gaza “have been disasters for Israel”, makes peace as distant as ever.
Australian journalism could use far more of the type of perceptive analysis typified by Sheridan, and certainly far less of the offensive ranting provided by Mr. Ramsey.