Andrew Bolt responds to Michael Gawenda's column (Why Andrew Bolt's distress is truly uncomfortable, April 2):
An open response to Michael Gawenda, and any Jewish paper is free to reproduce it.
Your column today is a grotesque misrepresentation of me and of my argument with Jewish leaders supporting the Racial Discrimination Act.
To claim I simply presented an IOU to the Jewish community in return for services rendered -- services I could now withdraw in a pique -- is not only untrue but vicious.
May I suggest your cartoonish antipathy towards me has made you write something unfair?
You overlooked -- or deliberately omitted -- the central point of my argument and one I’ve made several times, finally prompting Mark Leibler to address the matter this year in an open letter for which I am deeply grateful.
I was accused in court by a Jewish barrister before a Jewish judge of sharing the thinking of the Nazis in drawing up the Nuremberg race laws, which, the barrister didn’t need to add yet did, led to the Holocaust.
This was not simply manifestly untrue and, in the circumstances, highly inflammatory. It was an insult so vile that I am enraged again simply to repeat it to you.
What so deeply disappointed me is that half a dozen Jewish leaders I knew -- and who knew what I’d done for the community and therefore knew the slur to be false -- privately assured me variously that Merkel’s comments were a disgrace, the law had been misapplied or the law was too broad in scope, if this case was the consequence.
Yet not one of those leaders, until Mark this year, publicly defended me against one of the most vile smears you could possibly dream up in this kind of debate. Not one, until Mark, publicly acknowledged that mine was not the kind of case this law should have applied to.
So why this long silence, only briefly broken? For the reason, I believe, that it was felt more important by those leaders to maintain the myth that the law was perfect than to acknowledge an injustice was done and my reputation unfairly and vilely trashed as a consequence.
This is the source of my disappointment. I also pointed out the danger in this for the Jewish community, that in allowing this trashing of me they were also allowing the marginalising of one of their most dependable media supporters, in a country with distressingly few of them.
All this is on the public record, and I cannot believe that in writing about this issue you could have overlooked the argument I actually put. Here is just one iteration of it, from last December:
- Several prominent Jewish spokesmen had privately told me they disagreed with the verdict and even the breadth of the Racial Discrimination Act, if used to silence even me, yet not one of those spokesmen had ever said so publicly. It was as if though by conceding an injustice, they risked losing a law they thought useful. I was, in my phrase, “collateral damage”.
- Not a single Jewish spokesman had publicly condemned Ron Merkel QC for telling the Jewish judge in my case that my thinking in the article was of the kind that the Nazis had in drawing up the Nuremberg race laws, (Danny Lamm, however, did offer to speak on my behalf.) I thought this vile slur, explosive in the context of my case, was not just a gross misuse of the victims of the Holocaust, but was false and known to be false by the many members of the Jewish community, who knew me to be one of the most prominent media defenders of Israel and the Jewish community generally. It seemed to me, again, that my reputation was collateral damage in a fight to preserve (unjust) laws.
- I was alarmed that my personal reputation was further being attacked by people who should know better. One very prominent Jewish leader (certainly not Leibler) had even suggested I believed in the “Jewish conspiracy”. I warned that phrasing the debate over the RDA as between racists and non-racists was not just false and offensive, but would damage the standing of someone many Jews felt was useful in defending them publicly.
- These laws would eventually be turned against Jews and those who criticised Islam.
You could have quoted my real position. Instead, you substituted your own version: falsely claiming that because I’d scratched Jewish backs, I felt Jews should scratch mine, particularly if they wanted more favours:
"For a start, this suggests that Bolt indeed sees himself as powerful, able to ‘do things’ for the Jews and, it must be assumed, for others who would benefit mightily from his support. In return, he expects support when he gets into a spot of bother. This is the way players in politics sometimes operate but not, I would hope, someone who calls himself a journalist."
Needless to say, your version is not just false and completely at odds with what I’ve written and said privately to several leaders, including Danny Lamm, Yuval Rotem and Colin Rubenstein. It is also extremely offensive, crude and untrue -- a play to a racist stereotype of the unreliable goy, a secret anti-Semite, after all, despite all that smiling and backclapping:
If there were a shred of truth to such a spiteful reading you might then be able to go on to note how I’d switched positions on issues involving Israel and attacked what I’d once supported. I warrant you could not find a single such case, or a single case of my failing to speak up as I used to. I would draw your attention to, for instance, my blog comments on the discussion on Q&A only last Monday of Pamela Geller’s signs, or my criticism on The Bolt Report last Sunday of the BDS protests.
I do not need favours from anyone to speak up for Israel as I have done, and for you to now imply I am such a man is shameful. Shameful and very, very wrong.
A real journalist would acknowledge this mistake – this gross injustice - and apologise.
Michael Gawenda responds today:
You do not address the issues I raised. They are:
1/ The idea that you are owed something because of your support for the Jewish community.
2/ That the Jews should be careful lest they be seen to be lobbying for their own interests in opposition to the interests of the general community.
Nothing in your response addresses these issues. And I still don't understand what you mean when you say ' what I have done for the community'. Does it not suggest you are owed?
There was nothing on the blog which I was referring to about Merkel, and the case he mounted in the federal court.
I thought the Nazi reference was more than unfortunate but was beside the point in the context of my article. And anyway, you are asking more from the Jewish leaders than a repudiation of Merkel's argument in the court case. You are asking them to repudiate Bromberg's judgment and tone down -- if not abandon -- their opposition to any change to section 18C.
As you must know, I have publicly disagreed with Bromberg's judgement. I have said that what you were guilty of was bad journalism. And I have several times advocated the need for amending if not eliminating section 18C.
The fact that you have not changed your position on Israel is also beside the point. I'd be amazed if you had done so.
Finally, your suggestion that my piece implied that I consider you an unreliable goy and a closet anti-Semite is hysterical.