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Jews consider legal action over 'racist' article in The Age

THE Jewish community is considering legal action against The Age newspaper over "poisonous" anti-Semitic commentary published over the weekend.

The article, headed "Israelis are living high on US expense account" and written by Michael Backman, blames the 9/11 attacks and the London and Bali bombings on Israel's inability to "transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends".

Backman, a business writer for the Melbourne newspaper, wrote: "It is not true that these outrages have occurred because certain Islamic fundamentalists don't like Western lifestyles and so plant bombs in response. Rather, it is Israel or more correctly the treatment of the Palestinians that is at the nub of these events."

John Searle, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, said his community was considering legal action against the publication and predicted individuals would take action by boycotting the paper.

A joint statement from Mr Searle and Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Council of Victoria, condemned the article, saying it encapsulated "centuries of hate speech against Jews in a few hundred words".

The article stated that the historical persecution of Jews constituted punishment for the death of Jesus and suggested Israelis and Jews were uninterested in the welfare of others and did not invest financially or socially in the broader community.

"It is inexplicable why The Age would publish such a pernicious article," the statement said.

"The Victorian Jewish community's experience is that such commentary rouses violence and hatred against local Jews."

Jewish MP Michael Danby, federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports, yesterday called on Backman to apologise for using "the blood of 80 Australians for his bigoted theories".

Mr Danby said stereotypes in the article about young Israelis not paying bills in Nepal fed into primitive prejudice about "penny-pinching" Jews.

"Backman's poisonous article in Saturday's business Age has no place in serious commentary, I call on Backman to apologise," Mr Danby said.

Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said while legitimate criticism of Israel was acceptable, the article reflected "the bigotry of rank anti-Semitism" and promoted appalling stereotypes.

The Age did not return The Australian's calls yesterday.

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Tell us what you think

apology neccesery but useless, damage is done, delibarately firing antisemitic sentiments where it had no place (Business columns) misusing his position in a most inappropriate and sneaky fashion

Posted by zsuzsi on 2009-01-26 06:33:41 GMT


Posted by Gaye on 2009-01-21 13:59:52 GMT

The Age"s "apology" is another insult to Jews. How can an article be "published in error"? How can The Age say that it does not endorse the views of the writer? I bet that it vets advertisements to make sure that they are not insulting to a segment of the community. This was a deliberate act to vilify Jews and to trash Israel and Israelis.

Posted by Richard Szental on 2009-01-20 21:25:17 GMT

I"ve just canceled my subscription to the Age. Enough is enough!

Posted on 2009-01-20 14:18:50 GMT

Newspaper editors are responsible for what is published and British-based Australian writer Michael Backman"s blatantly anti-Semitic piece very likely constitutes racial vilification which is against Australian law. Legal action should be taken. In the meantime, The Age should inform Backman that his columns will no longer be published in the paper.

Posted by Zelda Cawthorne, journalist. on 2009-01-20 03:00:29 GMT

I agree!!! the community must take real action.

Posted on 2009-01-20 01:00:03 GMT

It wouldn"t hurt for the Editor to reeceive many "one-line" emails expressing disgust at their piddling, obscure apology. A genuine apology would be given the same promonence as the original rant. Go to to send a letter. Here"s a copy of my letter: Your obscure "Apology" for Backman"s anti-Semitic rant: "Israelis living high on US expense account" (BusinessDay 17.1.09) is PISS-WEAK. A genuine apology would be given the same prominence as the offending piece.

Posted by Steve Lieblich on 2009-01-19 23:57:07 GMT

There is no such thing as "printed in error". That"s why there is an editor in each newspaper - it is his/her task to see to it that such articles don"t see the light of the newspaper day! An apology is like a QC says something in court and the judge orders to strike it out - it was, none the less, said and heard - this apology is worth nothing!

Posted by Uri Palti on 2009-01-19 23:28:17 GMT

The apology is too little, too late. The article should never have been published. Our community organisations need to request that the Press Council conduct a formal investigation into this matter.

Posted on 2009-01-19 23:16:28 GMT