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Magid’s Lawless Refugees, R’ Moss Warns Against Reform, and Lynched: The AJN Roundup

August 9, 2013 – 10:14 am14 Comments

From the editor:

refugee4Robert Magid, publisher of the AJN, has written yet again – in the lead opinion piece this week – about the inherent lawlessness of boat people and how keeping them out of Australia is a national priority.

On the bottom of the next page, Rabbi Raymond Apple is given a couple of hundred words in which to express the opposing view.

Last year, Magid wrote a piece about the contrast between the genuine Jewish refugees post-Holocaust and the asylum seekers of today who, he claims, are primarily economic migrants. The piece, titled, “Curb Your Compassion,” is available in PDF form here. (Hat tip to Marika Shoshana Stein for finding the link).

Rabbi Ralph Genende’s response to that article appeared in Galus.

At the time, Magid’s article attracted much non-Jewish and international media attention. It was big news. Many Jews, including Michael Danby, were not only angry about the piece, they also felt they had to declare publicly, “not in our name.”

Do you feel that Robert Magid damages the community’s good name when he writes articles that are, in Michael Danby’s words, “not factually based,” and are widely reported as representative of a lack of Jewish compassion?

Do you believe Magid should be more circumspect in his writing?

Or do you believe he has been unfairly targeted by a media thoroughly unsympathetic to Australian Jewry?


In other Australian Jewish News news, Rabbi Richie Moss tells a long story about cheese blintzes that somehow demonstrates the inauthentic nature of Reform Judaism.

Someone supposedly writing to R’ Moss for help about not feeling very Jewish, basically gets told by the Rabbi that attending a Reform synagogue was always going to lead to disaffection. R’ Moss implores the questioner to avoid, “cheap imitations,” of our religion.

Do you think it’s appropriate for rabbis to write about other denominations in this way? Do you think such pieces have a place in a newspaper that seeks to serve the whole community?


Following on from our report last Friday on Shurat HaDin’s official complaint to the Human Rights Commission against Sydney University’s Jake Lynch for Lynch’s vocal support of the BDS campaign, The AJN reveals that Lynch is threatening to bring a defamation suit against Shurat HaDin for their assertion that Lynch’s actions are racist.

Do you think Shurat HaDin, an Israeli group, is right to take action here?

Do you think it will help Israel’s cause?

What impact – if any – do you think such action will have on the Australian Jewish community’s relationship with wider Australia?

Do you think Lynch’s threat to sue has any legs?

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  • frosh says:

    “Or do you believe he has been unfairly targeted by a media thoroughly unsympathetic to Australian Jewry?”

    I would argue that it’s not so much Magid who has been unfairly targeted – it’s the Jewish community.

    Groups like Jewish Aid Australia do all this great work with asylum seekers etc and, as far as I am aware, that doesn’t receive any mainstream media attention; but one barely prominent Jew (yes, I know he made some AJN list of prominent or influential Jews, but he’s their publisher!) writes an op-ed piece in his own newspaper, and it receives considerable mainstream media attention on the ABC and Fairfax (if I recall correctly).

  • Sol Salbe says:

    It’s nice to endorse my erstwhile Member of Parliament in pointing out that Mr Magid’s views are not factually based.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I endorse Sol, and also using the AJN for fish’n chip wrap. And make a commercial/moral decision. Instead of buying the AJN, support an asylum seeker charity and donate goods [http://www.asrc.org.au/make-donation/donations-kind/].

  • Benseon says:

    Rabbi Raymond Apple’s original article on asylum seekers (that the AJN reproduced) appears on his OzTorah blog:


    Note that it was not written as a response to Magid’s piece – it appeared on Rabbi Apple’s site over a week ago.

    Readers can subscribe to Rabbi Apple’s weekly email list at http://www.oztorah.com/contact-us/

  • Rod Kenning says:

    Oh Larry,

    I assume you only use our paper as fish and chip wrapping (have you made a career move into the traditional fast food industry? – if so, good luck to you!) after you read one of the many letters we publish that you submit.

    Bob does ask us (note “ask”) to run articles from time to time – but he in no way censors us as far as running other opinions that represent the community.

    He’s pretty good like that.

    Our reporting on the appalling child abuse cases within the Jewish community is a case in point, despite huge pressure from various interest groups to Bob that we remain shtum (remember the “Enough” cover?), as is the back and forth between Rabbis Ingram and Roebuck that is planned to continue in next week’s paper.

    Remember, we cater to a very diverse community …

  • Reallity Check says:

    Rod Kenning, the point is that the owner of the AJN has almost editorial rights here, when he shouldn’t. Owning a newspaper should not give him such right, purely by the perception of conflict of interest. As far as him paranoid and fear mongering views of asylum seekers, I find them highly objectionable. If you cater to a very diverse community, where are the articles by the anti-Israel mob?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    First off disclosure – my husband Ashley Browne was editor of the AJN between 2007 and 2009 – appointed before Magid bought the paper and then sacked by Magid. (Disclosing because I was once criticised for not disclosing) and second disclosure – we still buy the AJN just about every week.

    That out of the way – I can’t think of a single person I know who reads the AJN with any kind of expectations that its editorials will shape opinion. People read it for information about local Jcom events and news – in paid advertising and coverage of local events.

    I don’t believe anyone in the organised Jewish community regards Magid as relevant in shaping opinion. He does not represent any organisation except the one he bought (ie the AJN) and paying too much attention to the stuff he writes (as I think Larry’s comments do) gives it more authority and influence than is justified.

    Overall the AJN does a decent job at representing a broad range of local views (within parameters – as is its prerogative) and publishes letters from a broad range of views including letters critical of the paper. Those matter far more than Magid’s pieces.

    More and better locally generated op-eds would be good – but I suspect that’s about budget. There are some good ones but it would be great to hear more and more often from people like Julie Szego, Deborah Stone, Arnold Zable, Leon Gettler, Raphael Epstein – all properly trained journalists or skilled writers involved in public life in various fields but who would probably and rightfully expect to be paid for their work.

    unger voices

  • Mandi Katz says:

    That last line was a comment I started to make about younger voices – would be nice to hear more of them too.

  • TheSadducee says:

    No problem with Rabbi Moss pointing out his own opinion on various issues in the publication – avoiding controversy and creative and different expression is a sure way to inhibit open and critical engagement and certainly differs from the open and critical discussions that have occured historically in the Jewish world. If people don’t want to read his piece, turn the page.

    Re. Lynch and Shurat – instead of talking about litigation he should go ahead and do it if he feels aggrieved. Litigation is expensive though and one has to wonder how much the university will tolerate in terms of the associated bad PR/press?

    Re. Magid – he can write what he wants and should expect disagreement. I think he is mature enough to handle the blowback. If people don’t like what he writes, turn the page.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    With all due respect (and disclosing here conflict of interest as I am related to Mr Browne), I think that Robert Magid’s views do have influence albeit within a certain segment of the community and then, further outward.

    Or perhaps I am wrong. Today’s Haaretz has a report on Jews’ discomfort with both parties’ stances on immigration–and it doesn’t even mention Mr Magid or other jeremiahs though it quotes a letter by Henry Herzog. Of course the fact that it doesn’t quote my letter is also bias : ) by Dan Jacobsen , (but did he work for the AJN at one point :) .

    As for the budget issue and opeds. People like myself or Harold Zwier don’t get paid when we write…opinions are not just the purview of writers who need income. In fact, they shouldn’t just come from journalists.

    Which leads to another point. It’s no longer adequate to pump out the JNF-ZFA-hasbarah invective-filled there is no partner for peace line. There are plenty of viewpoints on the left in the diaspora and Israel (and this includes myself ) that are deeply concerned for Israel’s future as a democracy and local issues as well. To think that Israel can go it alone and to keep on repeating the same old stuff, is a total fantasy. To keep on pumping out trash from e.g. Shurat ha-din is the old tactic of always crying wolf.

    It would be better to have another publication ‘in town’, though of course, Jwire is a sort of version for that, but it appears that those who have the resources on the right get the space on that site as well.

    There is also a growing and alternative community on what is now called ‘northside’, but you would never think it existed from the AJN.

    You can see the diversity in e.g. Forward, The Tablet, Jewcy, 972.com etc, not to speak of Haaretz and even the Jpost (a ghost of its past),–of course, that is where a lot of people get their news now anyway.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry – the Ha’aretz writer’s name is Dan Goldberg. And he was editor until 2007 and stayed on to develop the website but resigned when Magid bought the paper, if I recall correctly.

    Of course lot so people write for free for the AJN – it’s a community paper and it should (and does) have views from non professionals.

    But as a reader, it is enjoyable to read a particularly well crafted piece and those are more likely written by professional writers.

    Also op-eds from people involved in organisations have a very clear and obvious bias and are often also partly about generating support for their organisation.

    It’s good to read the views of professional journalists who are independent from political organisations. That used to be a hallmark of journalistic integrity – and journos would decline to join political parties or organisations to avoid perceptions of bias. Of course bias is more complex than that but a good starting point for a paper is to have a number of independent people on payroll who are willing to criticise the hand that feeds them.

    Of course fewer and fewer papers do these days…

  • Larry Stillman says:

    woops, I am daft–Dan Goldberg correct.

    But I disagree on opeds. of course people advocate, but they can do so intelligently. That is why their affiliation is usually named as well.

  • TheSadducee says:


    How much of the community do you think your org’s and your personal views represent? Would you like to see the AJN content reflect approximately that amount? I’m curious to see what you think.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    That’s the million dollar question. Most people don’t speak out or do much. We are natural couch potatoes. Most people aren’t writers or amateur spoke persons and there is a culture against speaking out (look at the sex-abuse issue for example, or fear of breaking rank on Israel). What’s that line “you shouldn’t mix in”. It is as if there is a fear of the Cossacks turning up at any moment.

    But I suspect that a lot of people are puzzled by the situation in Israel/Palestinians and its profound contradictions, and the traditional answers have gone nowhere. But it is scary and upsetting to come to a conclusion that something might be wrong and then, to actually use or state things in critical language. It can seem to be a betrayal and even a family argument can turn into something very nasty.

    If you compare the situation to say the US (where the numbers are greater and of course the community different and more diverse), there appears to be an explosion in out-there diversity, though a lot is combined to more religious activities–perhaps paralleled by what is going on here with some religious groups. The old scripts and fears don’t mean much any more or, alternatively, people just drop out and completely disengage which of course entrenches the status quo.

    Furthermore, the vociferous voices of condemnation and political games by full-time political operators (the recent attempt to get condemn the AJDS from JCCV with some nifty procedural manipulation as a case in point), or the resources behind other organisations such as ECAJ, AIJAC or the Zionist Councils and associated national-religious organisations mean that dissenters are always at a huge disadvantage. It’s a contemporary form of red-baiting (the language proves this).

    Thus we have a situation where there are professionalised political and community organisations are able to wield their muscle against poorly resourced groups and organisations such as AJDS and play shtadlannut at a state and federal level. Other organisations say nothing through fear of funding being cut off.

    But I know that people will say “of course, privately….”

    So should the AJN or let’s say “a more intelligent publication” offer other viewpoints. Certainly. Particularly when these viewpoints are more of less derived from what people in Israel are themselves saying. On the “big issues” offer equal space.

    On other social issues, what AJDS members and many other people in the community think are probably much the same (environment, refugees, social policy, economic and social justice), but whether or not they are a majority in the community, who knows these days in the post-modern political vacuum.

    Finally, whether or not a weekly newspaper is an adequate means of communication (much less a daily ration of recycled trees) for an increasing proportion of the population is an issue facing many press barons, including Baron Magid.

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