Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston

Co-publisher and editor-in-chief at No Fibs
Margo Kingston is a retired Australian journalist and climate change activist. She is best known for her work at The Sydney Morning Herald and her weblog, Webdiary. Since 2012, Kingston has been a citizen journalist, reporting and commenting on Australian politics via Twitter and No Fibs.
Margo Kingston
- 6 hours ago
Margo Kingston

In the wake of Mike Carlton’s removal as a Sydney Morning Herald columnist, it’s worth recalling another instance of Zionist lobby power. Here’s the chapter by Antony Loewenstein in Not Happy, John! featuring an interview with Bob Carr. First, my scene-setting introduction to the story.

 *

I had coffee with George Brandis after his ‘Greens are Nazis’ speech to Parliament, and said a number of my Jewish friends were very upset by his remarks. He looked startled. He said that after he’d made it he’d rung Colin Rubenstein, head of the privately – and secretly – funded think-tank, the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), who’d endorsed it. On Lateline the next night Brandis said Rubenstein had contacted him to say “he supported it and he was pleased it had been given”.

“Colin Rubenstein doesn’t represent mainstream Jewish opinion,” I replied, appalled, “and many Jewish people vote Greens”. George Brandis’s mouth fell open.

I’ve avoided participating in debates on the Israel–Palestine question for the same reason that most journalists and politicians in Australia and the United States have. History professor Juan Cole of Michigan University put the reason succinctly: “Most people in public life have frankly been intimidated into just being quiet about it (including every single sitting member of the US Congress, not one of whom ever criticises any action of the Sharon government and survives the next election); this is an incredible degree of political intimidation.”

This intimidation, and the internal pressure on those in the Jewish community who do not support Zionism or the Sharon government in Israel to shut up about it outside the community, means people such as Colin Rubenstein and AIJAC chairman Mark Leibler dominate the media and politics on the matter, purporting to speak for the Jewish community. There are, however, elected community groups in each state, which join together in the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, established in 1944. The Jewish spokesman for the Council had condemned Brandis’s comparison of the Greens with the Nazis.

At the time, debate was raging about the powerful behind-the-scenes lobbying led by the Rubenstein–Leibler crowd to force NSW Premier Bob Carr not to present the Sydney Peace Prize to Palestinian Dr Hanan Ashrawi.

A Jewish friend cried out in conversation with me: “I feel ashamed to be Jewish!”

“No. Please don’t be ashamed, please,” I said. “One of my heroes is Ron Castan [who before his death ran the Mabo case for Aboriginal land rights in the High Court]. His is the true Jewish way – to struggle for human rights for all. Don’t be ashamed – get involved!”

So I gulped three times and asked the only Jewish member of the NSW Parliament, the Greens’ Ian Cohen, to write a piece for Webdiary on how he felt about the Brandis attack and the Ashrawi furore. I published it and one by my colleague Antony Loewenstein supporting Ashrawi, to find that a Jewish reader called my editor demanding immediate removal of the whole entry from the website.

However, once attempts to censor two Jewish-Australians were out of the way, the door opened to a fantastic Webdiary dialogue that included Jewish, Muslim and other Australians on both sides of the debate anxious, even relieved, to participate.

The night Kerry O’Brien interviewed Hanan Ashrawi on the 7.30 Report, I suggested to the Sydney Morning Herald ’s Canberra intern that she have a look. ‘I’ve never heard the Palestinian view before,’ she said. ‘I never knew there was another side to the story”. I then commissioned Antony Loewenstein to research the Ashrawi saga for this book.*

By the way, I sought Colin Rubenstein’s comment on George Brandis’s claim that he’d endorsed the Greens and Nazis speech. He repeatedly refused to answer my question during a lengthy email exchange. And I copped this in an article on AIJAC’s website: “Probably the worst accusation came from Margo Kingston, web diarist for the Sydney Morning Herald. She claimed on November 14 that Jewish backers of Sharon ‘seem to have the power, money and clout to dominate public debate and wield enormous political and financial power behind the scenes. The Ashrawi debacle has exposed this secret power’. A more clearly-stated racist conspiracy theory I have never seen in the mainstream media in Australia.”

* Antony Loewenstein’s subsequent book on the Israel–Palestine conflict, My Israel Question (MUP, 2006), generated much discussion and was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier’s Literary Award. He writes a column for the online magazine New Matilda and Crikey, and his articles regularly appear in local and overseas newspapers and journals. His website is http://antonyloewenstein.com/.