Aussie newspaper apologizes for anti-Semitic slur

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A major Australian newspaper apologized for publishing an article blaming Israel for the 9/11 terror attacks and bombings in London and Bali.

The article, by London-based business columnist Michael Backman, was published in Saturday’s business section of The Age newspaper in Melbourne.

Titled “Israelis are living high on U.S. expense account,” the column argued that Israel’s “utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends” has resulted in a litter of terror attacks on the West.

“We have paid for Israel’s failure with bombs on London public transport, bombs in bars in Bali and even the loss of the World Trade Center towers in New York,” Backman wrote.

The article prompted a storm of protest from the Jewish community. By Monday afternoon it had been removed from the newspaper’s Web site following a personal protest to the Age editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge by Mark Leibler, national chair of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, and its executive director, Dr. Colin Rubenstein.

On Tuesday, the newspaper issued an unreserved apology on page 2 saying the column was “published in error.”

“The Age does not in any way endorse the views of the columnist, apologizes for the distress the column caused to many readers, particularly in the Jewish community, and regrets the publication of the column,” the apology said.

In a joint letter to Ramadge, John Searle, the president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, and Dr. Danny Lamm, the president of the Zionist Council of Victoria, blasted Backman’s column as “vitriolic and malicious” and described it as “nothing more than anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.”

Backman told JTA by e-mail he was unsurprised by the controversy and rejected claims of anti-Semitism.

“There was nothing in my column about Jews,” he wrote. “I absolutely support Israel’s right to exist but I feel disappointed with some of what Israel has done.”

 

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