Lyons' Dateline Jerusalem purports to be an exposé of how Australia's pro-Israel lobby bullies the media into self-censoring its coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Mercifully slim, Dateline will test the patience of anyone expecting extraordinary claims to include proof. Despite six years as Middle East correspondent for The Australian, Lyons' observations on Israel and the Jewish world are often shallow, reflexively critical, and conspiratorial.
His core claim: while the lobby claims that "Israel's dispute with the Palestinians is complicated ... It's not. It's blindingly simple." In 1967, Israel occupied land set aside by the United Nations for a Palestinian state and refuses to leave it. Lyons ignores anything contradicting this reductionism. He does not mention, for example, the Oslo accords, let alone the century-long Palestinian Arab rejection of Jewish statehood and successive Israeli offers to create a Palestinian state. He also airbrushes the intifada, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and Hamas's subsequent takeover.
Lyons insists that "the claim of anti-Semitism is frequently made against critical reporting of Israel," resulting in censorship of news, without citing one bona fide example. He also gets wrong the alleged examples of major news events the Australian media refused to cover.
His spurious claim that pro-Israel lobby groups—smeared by the author as "far right"—pay lip service to the two-state solution while secretly dreaming of a "Greater Israel" is similarly almost evidence-free. Ignoring decades of statements and op-eds to the contrary, he largely relies on a single throw-away line to that effect from a non-Jewish journalist for proof.
Factual errors abound. For instance, Lyons claims that an unnamed "prominent U.S.-based, pro-Israel lobby group" labelled former New York Times Middle East correspondent Jodi Rudoren a "Nazi bitch." Asked to confirm this, Rudoren said she did not remember any such incident. The book's footnotes often contradict its claims, including a canard that Israel used white phosphorous as a "chemical weapon" against Gazans during the 2008-09 war.
Unsurprisingly, the usual anti-Israel suspects showered the book with praise. However, two veteran Australian newspaper editors, Michael Gawenda and Peter Fray, challenged Lyons' portrayal of a supine media subservient to the pro-Israel lobby and chastised his failure to offer basic supporting evidence.
Dateline Jerusalem—poorly-researched, self-absorbed, and factually inaccurate—serves only as a case study in anti-Israel obsession.