SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — An Australian newspaper columnist who accused the pro-Israel lobby of being “a ferocious beast” that “lunges from its lair, fangs bared” was cleared of breaching press standards.
A complaint against Mike Carlton, who writes a weekly column in the Sydney Morning Herald, was dismissed last week by the Australian Press Council after a reader took umbrage at his columns in June following the Gaza flotilla incident.
The complainant, Judy Maynard, accused Carlton’s columns of containing ”anti-Semitic elements” that “bring opprobrium on Jews through the use of racist imagery [and] factually incorrect statements.”
In his June 5 column, Carlton also described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “an unprincipled thug addicted to the use of military force.”
The Sydney Morning Herald denied allegations of anti-Semitism. The Press Council, acknowledging that Carlton’s work was strongly critical, ruled that he did not breach its principle that material should avoid placing gratuitous emphasis on a particular ethnicity, religion or nationality.
In e-mail correspondence at the time with Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot, Carlton said he was “entirely content” that Israel exists “as a free and independent Jewish homeland.”
But he added, “What I do object to is Israel’s brutal and unconscionable oppression of the people of Gaza. And the attempts, in this country and around the world by people like yourself, to silence those who speak out about it.”