Les Rosenblatt Writes about Expressing Unpopular Opinions at the Ramadge Address

The following post, by Les Rosenblatt of the Australian Jewish Democratic society, has also been published at Galus Australis.

At Mr Rosenblatt’s request, I am posting it here at The Sensible Jew as well.

Mr Rosenblatt was the gentleman who spoke at the Ramadge address  on Monday night in support of The Age’s coverage of the Middle East and was shouted down.

While his political opinions do not reflect my own – I take issue with Amin Saikal, Ed O’Loughlin, and the Age’s coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and I consider myself non-ideological – I was nevertheless quite disturbed at the reception his comments received on Monday night.

No prize for guessing what the attitude was of the 150 or so attendees at the talk by the Age’s Editor- in- Chief, Paul Ramadge,  to the Plenum of the JCCV (Jewish Community Council of Victoria) on Monday night. He was the ‘roo’ in the spotlight, feeling the heat as they flung repeated accusations of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic editorial/journalistic bias as their reasons for cancellations of their Age subscriptions. They were already  indignant and vexed before being well cued by John Searle (President of the JCCV)  and Danny Lamm (President of the ZCV) who led Ramadge deftly into firing range. Searle cracked the old joke about ‘ journos not allowing the  facts to get in the way of a good story’  as a tone-setting standard.

The accusations from the floor following  Ramadge’s talk were that the Age  issued apologies and retractions reluctantly, belatedly and unprominently whenever it made mistakes in fact or errors of judgement; that Michael Backman’s material should never have been published; that the reporting of the demos over ‘7 Jewish Children’ had been fed by lies to Andra Jackson; that Jason Koutsoukis was unprofessional in exhorting Obama to take ‘a big stick’ to the Middle-East conflict; that Barney Schwartz was  a ‘lightweight’; that no one wanted to read Amin Saikal; that Colin Rubinstein wasn’t given as much space as Malcolm Fraser; that the Sensible Jew shouldn’t be given any space regarding its complaints of suppression of debate in the Jewish community; that Hamas members were being referred to as ‘militants’ rather than ‘terrorists’,  etc. etc.

Ramadge managed to maintain his equilibrium despite getting this roasting, speaking sotto vocce, ‘taking things on board’, urging complainants to write to him, describing the difficulties of editorial discretion and judgement, supporting the journos at the Age, and firmly repudiating any suggestions of  anti-Semitism amongst members of his organization. He also distinguished between the ideological bias of News Ltd’s The  Australian newspaper and Fairfax’s more objective reportage and opinion. At this point Searle and Lamm opined that ‘the problem’ was to be found in a layer of decision-making somewhere between Ramadge and the journos.  It was amongst this layer that acceptance of offensive stereo-typing and inclusion of irrelevant associations in reports were to be found. They instanced a recent article where a Jewish person deserving of sympathy was unfairly and irrelevantly associated with a Jewish female educator who had had child-abuse allegations made against her. I was in agreement with them as to its offensiveness, and Ramadge fortunately was as well, and agreed that he would look into this problem.

A Brazilian man in a suit called for a show of hands as to who in the audience thought the Age was balanced and unbiased in its coverage of matters of concern to the Jewish community. I put up my hand and then reluctantly another 2 hands went up very slowly, neither of them members of the AJDS . One of them belonged to the Meretz representative in Australia. The other hand belonged to woman I didn’t know.  He then asked for a show of hands as to who thought the Age was biased and unbalanced and every hand in  the room except for mine and the  other 2 went up.

Eventually I got to speak in the question time following Ramadge’s talk and said that the AJDS represented a significant minority viewpoint in the community and had every right to have its opinions heard as being reflective of community diversity, that I was pleased the Age had published my letter (in support of Amin Saikal’s proposal for a nuclear-free Middle-East) last Thursday, that the AJDS recognized the Age made mistakes occasionally but that we were fairly pleased with its coverage of issues of relevance to the Jewish community and that we didn’t have any problems with Jason Koutsoukis or before him, Ed O’Loughlin. There were hoots of derision  at this point from the audience and I asked Ramadge whether he’d ever experienced intimidation or personal vilification from Melbourne Jews over the Age’s coverage of events. I observed that the standards of civil discourse weren’t always high within our community and that the AJN seemed to turn a blind eye to ad hominem excesses.

He said that he thought my comments indicated that he wasn’t the only brave person present (many had said how brave he was to come and talk with the JCCV) and that he thought I’d raised some good points about minority viewpoints and the importance of their inclusion. He said that he hadn’t suffered any personal threats or vilification and that Lamm and Searle always conducted themselves very professionally whenever they came to see him (as it appears they do often).

Les Rosenblatt.

AJDS Executive member.

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12 Responses to “Les Rosenblatt Writes about Expressing Unpopular Opinions at the Ramadge Address”

  1. Blistering says:

    Poor Mr. Rosenblatt.

    He was shouted down, was he?

    That’s a pity but at least he was given the opportunity to ask a question (or make a statement) which suggests that he was at least in a democratic place to start with.

    Perhaps you should ask for the opinions of Zionists who attend functions put on by groups such as Australians for Palestine. I was present once and the questioner was interrupted as soon as her views became apparent. She was not only shouted down but it was by the person with the microphone who told her to sit down and then called for another question.

    By the way, what %age makes up a “significant minority”?

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  2. sydyid says:

    note from Alex Fein: I have allowed the following comment through, even though it qualifies as content free, and abusive, in order to demonstrate the depths to which some in the community are prepared to sink in order to shut down opinions they do not like. Enjoy.


    Splendidly put.
    What is most important is the strong emphasis on “we as a community”.
    Everywhere I go people stop me on the street chnanting with excitement:
    “Alex Fein represents the community, she IS our opressed voice, the renewal of our sense of belonging, the fair minded, psychologically divinely ballanced, democratic, devoid of idiotic excuses to rid herself of critics, intellectually desired and desirable and so on..” and all that just like that, on the street from strangers, complete unknowns, but happy.
    How do they know ?!!
    They are just as clinically pathologically psychotic as Alex Fein aka The Sensible Jew, as opposed to those moronic ones who have rejected her for NO reason.
    But she found the wheapon of communal destruction and she dominayes supreme. Nobody, this time, will stop or impose upon her their rationale, She is in control, she cuts and chops to her bipolar desire. Ahh, revenge sweet, bitter, venomous, crushing down communal edifices revenge !!!

    Frustrated reject, but most importantly, BIIIIG TIME IRELEVANT.
    Hey love if you made an impact it is the one to reveal that you need medical help.
    Blowing out of water the mental pigmees who you adorn your pittiful existence with was a pleasant sinch.
    Just gorgeous the way they were crawling back into their holes once I was finished with them.
    But Mother Worm came to reclaim her little puppies.
    As the Lady of Ridiculous Pretence and, yes, Communal Nonentity, you do provide good trainig grounds into fun while at work on things that REALLY matter.
    Get good, proffessional psychiatric treatement.

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  3. TheSadducee says:

    Oh dear – and to think that Sydyid admitted in another thread that he was a current community board member with 26+ years service on that board…read that email above and you get a very good grasp of the serious ills addressing our communities.

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  4. Morry says:

    That members od the AJDS are pleased with the Age coverage, and the position of such anti-Israeli ideologues as Amin Saikal is sad for me, but comes as no great surprise. That they are joined by the Meretz representative seems normal too. That people are intensely emotional on this subject comes as no surprise either. In a perfect world ruled by the brain alone, you’re absolutely right, people would control their feelings and never be rude. I see very little of that, whether in marriage, amongst siblings or on the blogs, or in public meetings … yet we demand it of Jews. Ahhh well. It would probably be nice … if not entirely honest, and I suppose there’s the issue of the thinness of some skins. Sorry, my world happens to be a real one, with real problems and real attitudes. If I’m wrong I would rather somebody told me, than spare my feelings and lie to me so that I am unaware, but feel good about my ignorance. The same holds true if I forgot to put my pants on. I don’t mind blunt, and controlling rude would be good, too, but I also understand that some just don’t have that level of self-control. They will settle down.

    As to the community, it is actually frighteningly easy to opt out, if that’s what you choose to do, and so very many have.

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  5. Edders says:

    To be honest, I too don’t think that The Age is balanced, but no news paper is truly balanced. The claim is just outrageous. You have both sides of the scale. We may have the Age here, but look at Fox News in America, were a large per centage get their news from Fox, who post the slogan “Fair and Unbalanced” what a joke?

    Morry, I think there would be a difference between general accepted rudeness, but it goes beyond that. It isn’t that these people keep their manners in check, which they should as well, but they should also keep their views in check. Having seen Danny Lamm and others speak at events, I know several within the community who shudder at the extremeties of their ideologies. They need to make sure their views are representative of the communities, as that is who they represent.

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  6. James says:

    What gives you the insight into young people in our community? I don’t think you’re a member of generation Y yourself, so why should we consider you an expert on their expectations?

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  7. Morry says:

    SJ, I certainly agree that there are ways to say things that are acceptable, and ways that are not, and I don’t suggest for a moment we accept unruly rude behaviour, only that we don’t tar an entire group for the behaviour of some, and that rudness isn’t synonymous with nothing of value to say.

    I had no great problem with Les Rosenblatt’s post, only his politics. Perhaps he was suggesting that there was something rude or improper in that “they flung repeated accusations of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic editorial/journalistic bias” at Ramadge who ultimately “said that he hadn’t suffered any personal threats or vilification”. Whether he was or not, that was certainly where I was going with the issue of honesty. If people feel outraged, they should say so, especially when this opportunity to do so presents.

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  8. Mohan says:

    “fair and balamnced” is when the media toes the AIJAC/ZCV line even at the cost of ding violence to truth historical and contemporary. What Ramadge should have done was challenged the questioners to a debate or third party ajudication over claims of bias. To call displacement displacement is recognising a fact. to describe it as bias is waging war on reality.

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  9. sensiblejew says:

    Blistering, I don’t think we want to be taking our cues from groups like Australians for Palestine.

    I’m glad we’re not as intolerant as they are, but that doesn’t mean that the way we currently do things is good for us as a community either.

    Please also keep in mind that AFP is a political group. One can either choose or choose not to belong to them.

    Australian Jewry, on the other hand, is an ethnic grouping from which opting out is a lot more complicated.

    It is also important to keep in mind that such a community, unlike a relatively homogenous political group, is going to comprise numerous and various beliefs, orientations, and practices.

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  10. sensiblejew says:

    Sadducee, I couldn’t have put it better myself.

    What I hope younger people remember, however, is that these are just words. Sure, some people can get nasty, but we are fortunate that in our community, aggression is limited to verbal attacks. There is nothing tangible to fear.

    On the other hand, it can be rough trying to convince those younger people that there is any point in engaging, if this is the sort of discourse that they’ll be encountering.

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  11. sensiblejew says:

    Morry, it’s not about being honest, and it’s not about thin skins.

    Look at how you conduct yourself here: you are always polite and considerate. You argue intelligently as well as passionately. You do not censor your opinions, yet you somehow manage to couch them in a way that does not come across as needlessly aggressive or cruel.

    What if your methods became the norm? Surely you can see that they are not at the moment.

    Whether younger folk are too thin-skinned or not is beside the point. We need them, if this community is going to survive. We need to hear them when they say they can’t stand the way things are done at the moment.

    It’s not a matter of honesty: these young people are plenty honest. They are honestly telling us that the shouting and invective is not something they’ll tolerate.

    Passion can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Passion for Israel is the single strongest element that binds Australian Jewry. We mustn’t allow that passion to be misdirected in ways that actually begin to tear the community apart.

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  12. sensiblejew says:

    Hi James.

    I’m Gen X myself (born in 1975). That makes me young-ish… certainly a child of Boomers.

    In previous posts, I’ve written about having extensive experience working with young Jews, both in a professional and volunteer capacity. That experience is, however, nearly a decade old.

    Fortunately, through this blog, because of this blog a number of young people have contacted me, and I’m lucky enough to have ongoing discussions with them about their concerns.

    I would never claim to “represent” them, just as I would never claim to represent any group. But as a commentator, I will write about the issues they raise.

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