The Australian journalist John Lyons has recently produced a small book titled Dateline Jerusalem: Journalism’s Toughest Assignment, an excerpt of which was recently published online. Here, Lyons—whose portfolio includes a wholly fictional report on the abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers—accuses “hardline supporters in Australia of Israeli settlements” of unleashing a “propaganda fatwa” against him. He goes on to accuse “Australia’s pro-Israel lobby,” of attempting to “scare the media away from reporting without fear or favor” on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. And by no means is this problem unique to Australia: Lyons reports that the New York Times, which he describes as “traditionally one of the newspapers most supportive of Israel” has been “targeted” as well.
Michael Gawenda, a veteran of Australian journalism, responds:
Surely, the [book’s] title was not to be taken literally, that reporting from Jerusalem where most foreign correspondents in my experience live comfortable lives, are well paid, their children go to good schools, and the restaurants are not too bad in most places if not quite as good as in Tel Aviv, was journalism’s toughest gig?
I read the whole booklet. It turns out that the title is no joke. And the title sums up what’s so strange about this booklet, because what Lyons means is that Jerusalem was so damn tough because of a bunch of Jews in Australia, most of them middle-aged or elderly, that he calls “the lobby.”
But no, this booklet is not about the challenges of reporting the Middle East. What Lyons is on about is how the so-called lobby made his life miserable—mostly it’s about that—and how the lobby has managed to reduce editors and executive producers and even journalists to mountains of jelly, threatening them on the one hand—with what is not clear, though surely not physical harm—and on the other, seducing them with junkets to Israel and lunches at the best restaurants in Jerusalem and the best wine from the Golan Heights even and accommodation during the junkets at the best hotels. Lyons knows this because he has taken one of these junkets, which he now regrets, of course.