SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Australian Jewish leaders are roiled over the awarding of the country’s only international peace prize to a staunch critic of Israel.
John Pilger, an award-winning Australian-born journalist and filmmaker living in London, will receive the Sydney Peace Prize in November.
Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said it was a “sad day.”
“Pilger has done nothing to promote peace but has only promoted one side of the [Mideast] dispute,” he told J-Wire, a local Jewish Web site. “He lacks objectivity and his pronouncements are often replete with factual inaccuracies and distortion of history. His uncritical acceptance of one side’s narrative is made at the expense of Israel’s position.”
New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies president Robin Margo said the decision was “a disgrace.”
The director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Stuart Rees, said of Pilger, “His commitment to uncovering human rights abuses shines through his numerous books, films and articles. His work inspires all those who value peace with justice.”
Pilger said he hoped the award would inspire young journalists “to break the silences that perpetuate injustice both far away and close to home.”
Previous winners of the prize include South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi, whose award in 2003 sparked a storm of protest from the Jewish community.
In 2007 Pilger wrote that Israel and America had agreed to a “final solution” to the problem of the Palestinians. Earlier this year Pilger said that “Today’s holocaust-in-the-making … is in its final stages. The difference today is that it is a joint U.S.-Israeli project.”