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NYT, Reuters, Economist journalists self-censor reports from Israel so as not to be ‘savagely targeted’ — John Lyons

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In the U.S. the Israel lobby is rarely mentioned critically in the mainstream media. But check out this segment on the political show Drum on Australia’s ABC two days ago: veteran Middle East correspondents Antony Loewenstein and John Lyons describe the relentless pressures from Israel and its lobby on journalists who are critical of Israel.

The show’s host Ellen Fanning notes that in Lyons’s new book (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir) he recalls sitting with a leading correspondent from Agence France-Presse and asking him How many foreign correspondents censor themselves? Lyons:

He replied, “Everybody,” and he’s one of the toughest bureau chiefs around. As part of the book I interviewed The New York Times, the Economist, Reuters, AFP, and I found a common trait. Reuters even has their own special words that we’re allowed to use that won’t upset the Israelis. And I went there with the view that I’d been in Washington and New York, I would report it as I saw it. But every time I would write about settlements, something that’s factual, you get targeted, as a journalist.

If you write the truth of what you see in front of you in Israel and the West Bank, you will be savagely targeted.

Lyons is a veteran journalist. He served as six years as Jerusalem correspondent for The Australian, and is now the paper’s associate editor.

The targeting isn’t just from Israel, but from Israel’s overseas lobby. Lyons:

Well I’ve written a chapter in the book called The lobby which is about the Australian lobby essentially, it looks at the various trips that all sorts of politicians and journalists and everybody takes. Relentless caravans coming through Jerusalem, that’s the subtle part of it…. But I can tell…from my own experience, inside The Australian, which is a very strongly pro-Israeli newspaper, but my editors, the pressures upon them, which they’ve talked about for the book– the pressure is, It’s made clear that they’re not happy with your performance, and the endless complaints–

I did a Four Corners report two years or three years ago. And then you’re tied up for months and months defending it. In the end we defended every claim… Before the Four Corners even went to air, one of the groups in Melbourne was circulating it, this is the complaint link, click on it, and file an automatic complaint to the ABC.

So the trips are the “subtle” part of it!

Here is that Four Corners report from 2014: it documents the fact that the Israeli army is targeting Palestinian boys for arrest and detention, and “threatening children with rape,” in an effort to make life in the West Bank intolerable for Palestinians. These practices have of course not ended. (And remember that on 60 Minutes five years ago, the late Bob Simon called out Michael Oren for calling higher-ups in an effort to interfere with his report on Christians leaving Palestine.)

Antony Loewenstein is also a veteran journalist. He has published several books on Palestine and other global issues and lately wrapped up a year and a half in Jerusalem. He says:

What John says is correct. I’ve been writing about it for 15 years. The way it often works is a journalist who is critical– Jewish, non-Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, Christian, whatever– if you are critical of the settlements, if you are critical of the occupation, if you are critical of the Israeli government, if you are critical of the way the Israel lobby in Australian in my view perniciously and dishonestly pressures media organizations, ABC and others, and governments, you will be targeted privately or publicly.

What about the Palestinian lobby? Fanning asks. Loewenstein:

There’s a lobby that exists, it is small but growing. It has influence but it’s relatively insignificant. That’s more just the nature I think of how political power works in this country.

Anyone who spends time in Israel or the West Bank or Gaza, which as John says has been occupied for 50 years … It’s now in my view permanent. We have to ask ourselves why so many people in the media and the political elites refuse to say the reality. Occupation that is permanent is something that is ugly…

There needs to be far more honesty with politicians here and journalists who don’t give in to Israel lobby bullying, which happens all the time.

Though Loewenstein later observes that public opinion has shifted dramatically, despite the vehemently pro Israel media.

And he concludes:

The lobby has a right to exist. the point is that groups like AIJAC [Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council] are so belligerent and far right, they are supporting Israeli government policies that are pro settlement, pro occupation, anti-Arab and deeply racist

The Israel lobby in Australia has already attacked Loewenstein for his comments on the show.

It goes without saying that the Israel lobby will continue to exercise outsize power so long as journalists and politicians refuse to speak about it openly. That’s not happening in the U.S.

(P.S. Here is Loewenstein’s latest, a report on how the 1967 war led to that “Permanent Occupation.”)

Thanks to Ofer Neiman.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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17 Responses

  1. CitizenC on July 26, 2017, 1:45 pm

    It goes without saying that the Israel lobby will continue to exercise outsize power so long as journalists and politicians refuse to speak about it openly. That’s not happening in the U.S.

    Quite true, and the problem with the Israel Lobby begins with the Jewish left, where leading figures like Noam Chomsky and Joel Beinin still dismiss the argument, where Jewish Voice for Peace assassinates those who advocate it, such as Alison Weir; where the fundamental problem is conceived, not as the Israel Lobby, Jewish power, and Jewish racism, but anti-Semitism. The prevalence of this concept is of course a form of the Jewish power the concept seeks to deny.

    • annie on July 26, 2017, 2:02 pm

      citizenc, do you mean the problem with journalists and politicians refusing to speak about the lobby openly begins with the jewish left, or do you mean the problem with the Israel Lobby exercising outsize power begins with the Jewish left.

    • russgreen on July 27, 2017, 10:51 am

      Thank you Citizen C for pointing this out. I am glad more people are talking about this problem: the Jewish far left’s belief that the Israel Lobby is not very powerful and should not be viewed as a cause of US support for Israel. That is the view of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

      As absurd as that belief is, many in the Jewish far left cling to it like a religious dogma, even though all the evidence points to the contrary– points to the fact that the Israel Lobby is very powerful. The Lobby routinely intimidates journalists, congress, and presidents. It skews US policy toward supporting Israel, and has been doing that for a long time.

      But the Jewish far left refuses to see it, because they believe that US capitalist imperialism is the source of all problems. It is heresy for them to think that a special-interest group is skewing US policy to make it worse. They believe US policy is inherently bad because of US imperialism. Blaming any other entity makes no sense to them. They have a “blame America first” and “blame America only” mentality.

      This is counterproductive from an advocacy perspective, because it leads the Jewish far left to say things like: ‘The Israel Lobby only lobbies the US to do what is in the US national interest– and what the US would be doing anyway.’ and ‘The US supports Israel because it is in the US national interest to do so.’

      Those perspectives hinder our efforts to persuade Americans that support for Israel is harming America.

      The other harmful thing Jewish-far-left groups like Jewish Voice for Peace do is attack fellow activists who talk about the Israel Lobby as a powerful influence. I am convinced that is why JVP attacked Alison Weir so harshly and tried so hard to destroy her credibility.

      I think that top JVP leadership believes that anyone who says the Israel Lobby is the main cause of US support for Israel is simply repeating an antisemitic “trope.” That makes the person an antisemite in the eyes of JVP. Alison Weir says exactly that, so JVP is convinced she is an antisemite, based on that alone. That was enough ‘proof’ for JVP to spend a lot of time and money trying to destroy the reputation of a long-time, effective Palestine solidarity activist who was doing a lot of good work.

      That is what I call putting your own far-left agenda ahead of the Palestinian cause. That is what I call de-facto collaboration with the Israel Lobby to take town a Palestine solidarity activist. That is why I could no longer remain a member or leader of JVP.

      • echinococcus on July 27, 2017, 10:37 pm

        That is what I call putting your own far-left agenda ahead of the Palestinian cause. That is what I call de-facto collaboration with the Israel Lobby to take town a Palestine solidarity activist. That is why I could no longer remain a member or leader of JVP.

        Very well put. Where is the “far left” in that agenda, by the way? That of “antisemitism” witch hunt is not even to the left of Attila or Genghis Khan, imagine anyone but fakers falling for that nonsense. And the collaboration is not only with the official Zionsit lobby but the very heart of Zionism.

        You identified the agenda of these “Non-Zionist” cloud-cuckoo nationalists right on the nose. If something drives them to insanity, chances are that item is very big on their program. In this case it is the ridiculous theory they are still propagating of a po’ little “Israel” that only exists because it is the handmaiden of US Imperialists. Nowadaysthe birds know it, the bees know it and the very Zionists freely acknowledge it but our sick tribals are fighting more to keep and propagate the fairy tale that US Imperialists and the Zionist leadership are separate in their persons.

        As for prioritizing their own schedule over any Palestinian liberation needs, look at the following: it’s their undigested 1789 slogans, liberté égalité fraternité –of course keeping the Zionist invaders. Property rights and sovereignty rights over territory are canceled. International law is canceled. And they call this solidarity with the enslaved Palestinian people. Unfortunately, they are well-funded and run no risk of the source running dry.

  2. CitizenC on July 26, 2017, 6:15 pm

    The first problem is an example of the general second problem. The Jewish left, in suppressing the Israel Lobby critique, and its cognates, by setting the outer limits on criticism of US support for Israel, is the first, if not the last responsible party, for the power of the Israel Lobby, including its influence on journalism.

    The Israel Lobby has dragged the US into wars, incited terrorist attacks against the US, is the chief source of Islamophobia and anti-terrorism mentality. Zionism has radicalized US foreign policy, and domestic culture, since the creation of Israel by the Israel Lobby in the 1940s.

    Instead of this argument, the Jewish left, led by Chomsky, blames the arms and oil industries, Christian Zionists and other tertiary parties. Marxist political economy, with which Jewish radicals once incited revolution, is now used chiefly to hide the role of Zionism. This obfuscation is accompanied by militant anti-anti-Semitism, constant accusations and the occasional pogrom.

    The real defense against anti-Semitism is the classical liberal traditions that rejected Zionism categorically, which the Jewish left has also abandoned. Chomsky defends Zionism, in the form of “the Jewish people”, the “secular Jew”, absurdly cites a figure like Ahad Ha’am, and defends the kibbutz as “anarchism” despite the critical modern scholarship that has totally demolished the notion of “progressive Zionism.” Judith Butler and others reify “Jewish identity”, substituting “Jewishness” for secularism.

    The critiques of “identity” and “peoplehood”, of Shlomo Sand, Boas Evron, Israel Shahak and others, have had exactly zero impact in the US, thanks to the “left”. This dismissal of liberalism, and its condemnation of Zionism, shows how secure Jews are, how unthreatened by anti-Semitism.

    The task of the Jewish intellectuals was to de-brainwash the left Jewish public, to deflate “Jewish identity” from public, collective, social imperialism, to a private matter, an incident of one’s background, of no political import. And in its stead to recover liberal politics.

    This would be derived from modern ideals like Reform Judaism, whose champion Elmer Berger, born in 1908, fought Zionism until his passing in 1996, upholding the view of Jews as a religious minority or secular citizens; the Marxist internationalism among whom Jews were so prominent, upheld in recent memory by Isaac Deutscher, Maxime Rodinson and the Israeli Matzpen; and plain secularism, disaffiliation from organized Jewish life and from Jewish identification, which the late Israel Shahak dated from Spinoza.

    The Jewish left had the power and obligation to mount an exacting critique of the Israel Lobby, and to uphold liberalism against the cult of “the Jewish people” that drives Zionism, and thus set the tone for discussion of Israel and its Lobby, in the US and the world.

    This failure is the greatest disaster on the left since the failure of the SPD and the Communists to unite against Nazism in Weimar Germany.

    Yes, the Jewish left is the first, if not the last, party responsible for the travail of journalistic and other critics of Israel.

    • CitizenC on July 26, 2017, 8:06 pm

      In addition to blaming the usual alernate suspects, the Jewish left has also, of course, mounted a minimal critique of “the occupation” (not of Zionism), of “international law and human rights” (not of racism and genocide), of “solutions” discourse, and “strategic asset” rather than the Israel Lobby.

      The real “solution” to Zionism and the “Palestine question” is that people of Jewish background stop this pretence of being a “people”, a national group, and live like the rest of us. In Israel it means Israeli Hebrew nationality, secular and open to all, not Jewish Zionist “nationality”.

      Outside Israel it means liberal standards–secular citizenship, with freedom of religion, the standards that guarantee the rights of all, and the corresponding social and political practice.

      • echinococcus on July 26, 2017, 8:27 pm

        Citizen C,

        The real “solution” to Zionism and the “Palestine question” is that people of Jewish background stop this pretence of being a “people”, a national group, and live like the rest of us. In Israel it means Israeli Hebrew nationality, secular and open to all, not Jewish Zionist “nationality”.

        Fervently to be desired, of course, and a major step forward.
        But then, the so-called Palestine question, seen from the viewpoint of the owners of Palestine, is the problem of being illegally occupied by invaders, period. So more than just that is needed “in Israel”.

    • echinococcus on July 26, 2017, 8:37 pm

      Yes, the Jewish left is the first, if not the last, party responsible for the travail of journalistic and other critics of Israel.

      Thank you! The quote marks are always there when writing “left”, even if invisible.

      • CitizenC on July 27, 2017, 10:17 am

        Dropping the pretence of “Jewish peoplehood”, and its Jewish supremacist claims, is the first necessary step in Palestine. It’s also the first step in addressing Zionism in US and western foreign policy.

      • Sibiriak on July 27, 2017, 1:52 pm

        CitizenC: Dropping the pretence of “Jewish peoplehood”….


        Don’t hold your breath.

      • Keith on July 27, 2017, 4:09 pm

        CITIZENC- “Dropping the pretence of “Jewish peoplehood”….”

        Jewish peoplehood is not a pretense, it is an ideological construct. They aren’t pretending, they truly believe. It is BS of course, but most ideologies are. Ideologies serve to unite those who believe them, and Jewish peoplehood and kinship have served the American Jewish Zionist elites very well. Which is why so much time and effort goes into maintaining this manufactured sense of peoplehood, birthright trips, movies about the Holocaust, Zionist summer camps, etc.

      • CitizenC on July 27, 2017, 6:19 pm

        Here Chomsky and David Samuels of the conservative Tablet find common ground against the Israel Lobby argument. Samuels finds “something distinctly Jewish” in Chomsky’s thought

  3. JosephA on July 26, 2017, 6:58 pm

    I guess Australia is as backwards as the USA in terms of harassment of journalists that report in and on Israel/Palestine?

    • rosross on July 26, 2017, 11:13 pm

      The media is owned by people who have sold out to the Zionists and Jews in Australia, like the US. It is global on many counts.

  4. rosross on July 26, 2017, 11:12 pm

    What Zionists and Jews do not address is that this is not even an issue of colonisation…. most nations on earth exist because of it, but an issue of justice where the indigenous people have been and are denied their rights as human beings and as citizens.

    The reason is religious bigotry and the belief that non-Jews are inferior, if not also less than human.

    Why does a country like the US, or for that matter Canada, Australia, UK or any modern democracy tolerate such bigotry?

  5. Citizen on July 27, 2017, 6:13 am

    No informed consent, no real democracy. Stenographers, not journalists. More people need to start using the internet for something besides sports scores, shoe sales, and video games.

  6. MHughes976 on July 28, 2017, 7:14 am

    Mr. Lyons seems to be a somewhat ambiguous figure. He tells us that news organisations tell staff that their performance is unsatisfactory when they mean that Israelis don’t like it but he is himself a senior figure at a news organisation that he describes as strongly pro-Israel. How did he reach that point and how does he react when Israeli complaints about staff working for him arise? The publishers’ blurb for his book makes it sound much more like an attack on, if anyone, Iran and Hamas – maybe he has good reason for what he says about these parties, but it hardly looks like a call to face hard truths about Israel.

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