‘Age’ columnist apologizes for Israel jibes

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A columnist who said Israel’s actions brought about the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the bombings in Bali and London apologized to the Australian Jewish community.

Michael Backman’s January 17 column in The Age newspaper in Melbourne was withdrawn from the newspaper’s website two days later following a personal protest to editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge by Jewish community leaders.

The following day an apology was published in the newspaper for the  “distress” the column caused to the Jewish community.

In his column, Backman, who is based in London, had argued that young Israelis are “rude, arrogant and argue over trifling amounts of money”.

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.

On Thursday, Backman wrote to Jewish Community Council of Victoria  president John Searle and State Zionist Council of Victoria president Dr. Danny Lamm, who had threatened legal action, apologizing for “any hurt and distress” his column caused.

In the letter – seen by JTA – Backman said he wanted to “demonstrate how Israel’s military action in Gaza was playing out in Muslim communities, particularly in Asia”.

But he conceded that  “an injudicious use of words and themes” resulted in “sentiments that I did not intend, and which I do not  believe”.

Backman also countered accusations of anti-Semitism. “I believe that Israel has the absolute right to exist and … I have a deep interest in  and respect for Jewish culture,” he wrote.

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