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Letters from Jewish Australia

The Rabin Assassination - Taking a Stand

By Geraldine Jones


Following the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin an American subscriber to the Jewish Seniors Network was moved to write;

"In some sense, I and others like me, are responsible for the murder of our Prime minister Yitchak Rabin, z"l, we who have not spoken out against the corruption of language, both here and in Israel. This use of words to injure and to incite to violence, is at the root of social malaise throughout society. Let us take this opportunity to resolve to honor the memory of our fallen hero by speaking out and acting against evil speech whenever we encounter it."

Israel is a democracy which encourages free speech. However in a country where people can hear "kill the jews" being broadcast from a mosque, where politicians and members of extremist groups make personal verbal assaults on those with whom they disagree, where posters of an outlawed rascist group were still in view to confront visitors to Jerusalem on their way to Rabin's funeral, you have a climate of violence. Today, free-versus-hate-speech is high on Israel's political agenda.

In Australia we have a generally tolerant, open society. People may have strong views on whether we should remain a monarchy or become a republic but our lives do not depend on it. If antisemites or racists deface walls with their sentiments no time is lost in removing the offensive statement or sign. Our government recently refused entry to an holocaust denier whose words would undoubtedly have been used "to injure and incite violence."

Nevertheless language is often used inappropriately by representatives of the media and biased journalism is not a rarity. Whilst what should be done about this may be obvious to some others need guidance and encouragement to voice their objections. If we ignore such statements we run the risk of an escalation in the misuse of language.

It is only a couple of weeks ago that viewers of ABC TV (Australian Broadcasting Commission - the government controlled station) were treated to a statement that Fathis Shikaki was "murdered" and innocent Israeli civilians and children were "killed. I was outraged and took the only action I could think of at the time. I then posted news of this to JOIN-TALK, the Australian/Jewish electronic discussion forum. The subject of my message was "Taking A Stand". My hope was that my actions would be helpful to others who might feel the need to take a stand and also thought we might have a discussion on this issue.

As an internet user I am also aware of the vast amount of material which has been posted from the USA encouraging Israelis to take the law into their own hands. One such article was forwarded to me from Israel, and in retrospect I am really very glad that I informed the sender that I had found the article offensive and wrong .... but perhaps I should have done more.

As pointed out by a fellow JOIN-TALKER, in my complaint to the ABC I should have stated that "I would be sharing this information with (potentially) millions of people on the INTERNET!"

Moreover another JOIN-TALKER, an Australian television journalist, has advised me that my complaint should have been addressed to the News Director and followed up by a letter. He said;

"Regarding your calls to the ABC: I can tell you that even though viewers often feel their single calls are generally ineffectual, a phone call to the News Director and/or General Manager, followed by a letter will always be registered and responded to, whereas calls to numbers such as the newsroom, especially at night, may not be recorded in any detail, unless they're announcing a useable story. It has less to do with apathy, and more to do with the specific roles of those you call.

In cases where there are complaints about the presentation, editing and wording of the news, go straight to the News Director and you will certainly receive a response. Every news director in Australia is earnestly, and often desperately, oncerned about public opinion, response and ultimately ratings."

And now I realise that my response to the inflammatory posting from the USA via Israel could have had greater impact if I had distributed it more widely.

Like myself, many Jewish networkers are not experts but JOIN takes the approach that we can learn through the sharing of knowledge and experience. Through the net ordinary people have an unequalled opportunity to work together and spur each other on to achieve common goals.

Because of the discussion on JOIN-TALK the next time I feel the need to take a stand I am confident that my action will have a greater impact. JOIN-TALK is a resource to help you voice your views.

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