Lawyer for NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane says he is suing News Corp journalist to establish whether criticising Israeli government can be called antisemitic
A defamation suit against News Corp journalist Sharri Markson by a New South Wales MP aims to test when criticism of Israel can be equated with antisemitism, according to a solicitor running the case.
Labor’s Shaoquett Moselmane will on Friday serve Markson, a senior writer with the Australian, with a statement of claim about a column published online on 2 February under the headline “ALP’s antisemitic views behind push for trip ban”. It ran in print on the same day under a different headline.
The piece highlighted a May 2013 speech by Moselmane in which he attacked the Australian’s coverage of Israel and Palestine, referring to a “political lobby group that is cancerous, malicious and seeks to deny, misinform and scaremonger”.
Markson wrote in February that Moselmane, the first Muslim MP in the state, had been referring to “Jewish advocacy groups” and said the speech was “racist commentary” that expressed “antisemitic sentiments”.
She was writing about a debate within the ALP over whether to ban study trips to Israel funded by Jewish organisations.
A letter of concern by Moselmane’s lawyer, Rick Mitry, said the Labor MP “opposes some policies of the government of Israel and some actions of the group that lobbies on Israel’s behalf”.
“But his views in this regard are entirely free of prejudice against or ill-feeling towards Jews,” he said.
Guardian Australia understands News Corp offered Moselmane a right of reply, which he declined. Mitry said the matter aimed to “test whether criticism of the Israeli government’s policies by anyone can be called antisemitic or racist, as often happens, and that’s why my client is pursuing this”.
The statement of claim, obtained by Guardian Australia, accuses Markson of saying or implying Moselmane was a racist, antisemite, “a hypocrite because he decries racism but holds racist views”, and deserved to be expelled from the NSW parliament.
Markson, the former media editor at the national broadsheet, was briefly detained by Israeli security forces in November while on a media tour of the country jointly organised by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.
She said on Twitter at the time she had been visiting a hospital where wounded Syrian fighters were being treated and was the subject of “heavy-handed” treatment for taking their contact details.
Nationwide News, the publisher of the Australian, is also named in the suit.
News Corp and Markson declined to comment.