One would be hard pressed to find a non-Jew who has been honored by more Jewish organizations than Rupert Murdoch. (Yes, much to the chagrin of the proponents of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, he is not Jewish.) In 2006, he was awarded the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Humanitarian Laureate Award. In 2009, he opened his acceptance speech for an American Jewish Committee award by saying, "over the years, some of my wildest critics seem to have assumed I am Jewish. At the same time, some of my closest friends wish I were. So tonight, let me set the record straight: I live in New York. I have a wife who craves Chinese food. And people I trust tell me I practically invented the word "chutzpah." In 2010 while accepting an award from the Anti-Defamation League he spoke of the 'Soft War' against Israel, calling for an end of efforts to isolate the Jewish State, and it was at a dinner for the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, hosted by the respected Rabbi Arthur Schneier where I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Murdoch in person just under two years ago. In the Algemeiner Journal's annual list of the top 10 non-Jews that are positively influencing the Jewish future, Murdoch has consistently ranked near the top.
The organizations above that have recognized Murdoch span the political spectrum. Whilst many of News Corp's media assets have been pigeonholed as right-wing, even a largely leftist American Jewish establishment is overflowing with love for the man. The primary reason is that Murdoch's outlets have consistently handled matters relating to Israel reasonably evenhandedly, as opposed to the many other news organizations that often dole out more criticism of Israel than all of the neighboring dictatorial régimes put together.
Now, Murdoch himself is in the spotlight, due to the explosion of the long simmering phone hacking scandal in Britain that has resulted in a number of high level resignations and a string of arrests. The future of the once unassailable empire built by one of the world's most powerful men is now uncertain. Of one thing there can be no doubt, that Murdoch's woes have been significantly compounded by hounding news media competitors baying for blood, as well as opportunistic political and personal enemies, and a slew of bandwagon jumpers sailing along for the ride. The outcome remains to be seen.
For Israel and the Jewish community, however, the fading or possible fading of Murdoch's star should serve as a stark wakeup call and reminder that fair treatment of Israel by significant media outlets is never a matter that can be taken for granted. Even before this scandal, concern over News Corp's future should have given pause to Jewish leaders, as Murdoch senior is aging, his heirs apparent are of questionable competence, and the second largest News Corporation shareholder Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal may have different ideas.
Consider for a moment what would remain of media objectivity regarding Israel related matters with News Corporation's assets weakened or sold off. Likely is will be reduced to incessant clubbing from such enlightened Middle East 'experts' as Thomas Friedman, Karl Vick, Peter Beinart and others.
For too long have the Jewish people left the matter of their communication with the world at large in the hands of others, subject to their whims, manipulations and foreign agendas. Yes, the Jewish community has built a number of thriving news organizations; in fact there are more Jewish newspapers in New York than tabloids in London, but most are insular, about Jews, for Jews, by Jews. But when it comes to broadcasting Jewish ideas, positions and thoughts to the wider general public they have failed dismally. Who will assure that Israel's narrative will be told amid the cacophony of Middle East voices?
The Jewish people have rebuilt their homeland, they have drafted a defense force, they have contributed significantly to technology, medicine, science and spirituality, but in the arena of public opinion, in the battleground of ideas, they have yet to make their mark.
Israel has been fortunate in recent years to have been fairly treated by Murdoch and News Corporation. Of course as a matter of gratitude, decency and self-respect the Jewish community can only stand by him through this difficult time, offering support, if only moral, and publicly assuming his innocence until proven otherwise. In the meantime the call has gone out to fair-minded entrepreneurs to explore this market gap in Jewish communication guided by the legacy of an industry giant.