Loewenstein Responds To News Ltd

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Last week, New Matilda published a story by me about the Greens and the NSW election campaign. The loud response it attracted from the corporate media was marked by misrepresentations and outright falsehoods. My story has been quoted extensively in Murdoch outlets across the country, usually without attribution. The context about which I was writing has been deliberately skewed.

The NSW election produced a stunning Labor defeat, a massive Liberal victory and an impressive Greens vote. After 26 March, the mainstream media focused largely on the decimation of Labor and supposedly poor Greens showing, reportedly due to the NSW Greens and Sydney’s Marrickville Council backing the global justice movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel to force it to abide by international law.

My piece analysed the failures and successes of the Greens campaign and the complex political realities of BDS both within the party and the wider community. Since the piece was published, the inner city seat of Balmain has been claimed by the Greens, the first lower house seat in NSW ever won by the party.

For my story I interviewed NSW Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon, Galaxy Polling head David Briggs, NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge, just retired Greens MLC Ian Cohen and now Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker. I took detailed, accurate notes of all the interviews. In the case of Parker, I read back his quotes to confirm what he said. He was happy for me to publish them.

You can therefore imagine my surprise when I read in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph a piece by union leader Paul Howes that claimed Parker had denied making this quote, which I had attributed to him in my original piece:

"These Jews provide cover for extreme actions if they occur. If there’s a sniff of you being critical of Israel, such Jews will attack you and cut you loose."

Again, context is important (and Howes doesn’t provide any). When Parker said this, he was referring to the silence among the local Jewish community when the Greens suffered death threats, hate calls and Nazi swastikas on their signage during the campaign because of BDS.

I stand by my article and Parker’s quotes and I have the notes to back this up.

In the days after my New Matilda piece on the Greens ran, Parker called me a few times to discuss the Middle East and BDS and did not dispute the accuracy of my article. In fact, he said he liked it and wanted it to be widely read.

In a statement to New Matilda today, Parker says:

"An article published in New Matilda last week by independent journalist Antony Loewenstein outlined my experience during the recent NSW election campaign. Certain quotes are attributed to me which do not reflect the language that I have always used in relation to the conflict in the Middle East."

Parker does not deny the quotes. He is, however, clearly keen to distance himself from the issue. And who can blame him? News Ltd is now using it as ammunition in its stated mission to "destroy" the Greens. Again today the Australian mentions my article and the Parker quotes and tries to undermine the credibility of both the new Greens MP and me.

Parker further explained his position that was articulated in my story:

"The [New Matilda] article does reflect my belief that there is no place for bullying or intimidation in Australia’s political process, encouraged by either interested players or certain sections of the Murdoch press. The level of rhetoric and vitriol directed against the Greens — such as swastikas on our posters, hate calls and death threats — needs to be addressed and I have raised my disappointment with a range of people including members of the local Jewish community.

"I have the utmost respect for all of the groups with which I have been working but I strongly believe that there should have been a very clear condemnation of the hate-filled language which included the Daily Telegraph comparing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) motion by Sydney’s Marrickville Council with the murderous rampage of Kristallnacht across Austria and Germany in 1938. We have seen this inflammatory and extremist language continue yesterday with comments by Murdoch columnist Andrew Bolt on ABC’s Insiders which compared my election in Balmain to the rise of the Nazis in 1933. It is time to end the extremist language and focus on peaceful initiatives that will promote justice for all."

Witness the lack of corporate media outrage when a senior Murdoch columnist suggests that the Greens are akin to Nazis. And then consider the manufactured debate over Parker’s claims that some Jews are happy to let Nazi-analogies go to the keeper because BDS and the Greens are the bigger enemy. Far too often Jews give supposed Israel-backers a pass despite their often dubious alliances with racist elements.

It is not anti-Semitic to talk about Jewish power, the Zionist lobby and overwhelming pressure from the political and media elites to not discuss Palestinian rights or Israeli racism. Do so, though, and you will be smeared and defamed.

The last few days has seen an avalanche of stories in Murdoch’s Australian attacking the Greens and Lee Rhiannon and the supposed "extremism" of the party. These have all been opinion pieces dressed up as news. They are an attempt to send a message to anybody thinking of speaking critically of Israel to expect intense bullying. I have experienced this for years myself but the attacks have only made me stronger. I don’t envy Jamie Parker’s new job as the state’s first and only Greens MP.

 

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