An unusual Israel trip participant, Sky’s aversion to facts, and the ABC settles

by novellagabb

Israel Et Cetera

The now-regular Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) trip to Israel usually includes a cavalcade of journalists and politicians. But this week, Media Briefs discovered the most unlikely of names on the list of recent attendees: cricket writer Gideon Haigh. Haigh, who left The Australian last year in acrimonious circumstances after 12 years with the broadsheet, now pens a Substack called Cricket et al alongside former Cricket Et Cetera podcast co-host Peter Lalor and The Grade Cricketer’s Sam Perry. 

Haigh’s latest piece, a 6,000-word long read titled “Highways to a War“, told the story of his recent AIJAC-sponsored trip to Israel, which he says “engaged [his] long interest in trauma and its consequences”. Haigh said until getting back from the eight-day trip he had no intention of writing anything, but that on his return he felt compelled to do so.

Writing that “no journalist could resist an opportunity to … be there, at this crossroads of the world, at this crossroads of history”, Haigh concluded from his trip and in his writing that “for a reckoning, Israel is too busy expiating its failures”, while “Israel’s detractors are loath to acknowledge the company they are keeping”.

Haigh told Media Briefs he had received a “mixed” response to the article, including “some apoplectic abuse, but mainly from people who show no evidence of having read it”. Media Briefs understands a number of Cricket et al readers have unsubscribed over the article. 

Asked what his views on the conflict were and whether they had changed over the course of the trip, Haigh said his views “were worth very little before I went … they were no better informed than anyone reading the daily media”.

Asked what his response would be to those who would criticise the trip as unethical, Haigh said: “AIJAC are not a government, political party or corporation. There is nothing sinister or subterranean about their agenda; it is public and transparent, as is my acknowledgement of their involvement.”

Haigh said he was not asked to write anything and that he met “many interesting and important people in Israel” who he chose not to quote as they required “no further amplification”.

“I listened to the bereaved, the terrified, the angry, the disillusioned,” he said. “I know there are many, many more in Gaza. But sympathy is not a zero-sum game. The extension of it to one person is not the deprivation of it to another.” 

In the months since your correspondent published a running list of journalists and politicians who have taken sponsored trips to the region (many of whom did so without any sort of disclosure), Haigh appears to be the only journalist to have gone on the public record as having travelled on the most recent AIJAC-sponsored expedition. Several politicians and media figures went along with him, but the journalists in particular have been remarkably quiet about it. Some, including members of Haigh’s old News Corp stable, have continued publishing content about the region without disclosing the trip.

Sky’s aversion to facts

Sky News Australia is often forced to make corrections, but its most recent set caught your correspondent’s eye. The channel, as well as hosts Andrew Bolt and Danica De Giorgio, were forced to apologise after legal threats from lawyer Adam Houda, having broadcast a segment that Houda claimed portrayed him as a “Jew hater”. Sky said it “has since been suggested that these publications implied Mr Houda was not fit to practice as a lawyer and that he both threatens and engages in litigation against the police without proper cause. In fact, Mr Houda runs a successful legal practice.” 

Sky also apologised for commentator Bronwyn Bishop, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, who said that Sophie Scamps, the member for Mackellar (Bishop’s former seat) was “part and parcel of an antisemitic movement” for calling for federal funding to be restored to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. 

“This does not make her an antisemite,” Bishop admitted in a statement posted on the channel’s website. 

It’s the latest in a long list of corrections made by Sky News Australia — last year it was forced to apologise over a segment that claimed that then incoming ambassador to the US Kevin Rudd was against the AUKUS alliance

ABC settles with anti-trans rights activist

The ABC has settled with British anti-trans rights activist Kellie-Jay Keen over a 7:30 interview with Victorian Liberal leader John Pesutto from March last year, admitting in a statement that “some viewers may have understood the interview to suggest that [she] … has associations with neo-Nazis”.

“The ABC understands Ms Keen denies any association with neo-Nazis and the ABC does not endorse any imputation that may have been conveyed to that effect,” the statement read.

The settlement is likely to have significant implications for the ongoing defamation cases being pursued against Pesutto. He is being sued by Keen, as well as by expelled Liberal MP Moira Deeming and activist Angela Jones. Deeming was booted from the Liberal partyroom after Pesutto circulated a brief of social media statements and media reports that accused her of “organising, promoting and attending a rally where [Keen] was known to be publicly associated with far right-wing extremist groups including neo-Nazi activists”.

The defamation case between Deeming and Pesutto is currently set down for a 15-day trial in the Federal Court from September 16. 

Moves

  • ABC Radio PM host David Lipson has become the new politics editor at the ABC’s Canberra bureau, almost a year after current Nine national affairs editor Andrew Probyn was made redundant from a similar role. 
  • Karen Middleton’s replacement as chief political correspondent at The Saturday Paper has been unveiled, with Karen Barlow replacing her. Former spinner for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil Jason Koutsoukis will also join the masthead as special correspondent.

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