July 21, 2014
Sharri Markson

FEDERAL Labor MP Michael Danby says Crikey’s political ­editor Bernard Keane is a “troll” and a “pest” for taunting him publicly over the Middle East conflict because of his Jewish background.

In an interview with The Australian, Mr Danby said Keane seemed to have an obsession with him and had sent a series of tweets provoking him to express his views on the Middle East.

Crikey’s political ­editor Bernard Keane and Federal Labor MP Michael Danby. Source: TheAustralian

“Keane seems obsessive and determined to taunt me via social media,” the Melbourne Ports MP said.

“He is a troll and a pest. He is upset that I won’t respond to him on Twitter or subject myself to his cross-examination. He is doing it because of my faith or ethnicity.

“It’s like he imagines it’s my fault for all of Israel’s policies and any incident that involves the ­Israeli army.

“He seems to think I’m in charge of military operations, sitting in some secret command centre in Elwood directing Israeli commandos and air force, shifting ships and tanks across borders. It really is laughable.”

Mr Danby’s only tweet on the issue related to news of the first failed ceasefire, where Egypt tried to broker a deal that Hamas ­rejected.

And while Mr Danby is Jewish, he has not commented or expressed his views on Twitter about the conflict in the Middle East.

He said he felt taunted by Keane’s remarks, which were only made because of his Jewish background. Mr Danby said Keane, who has almost 35,000 followers on Twitter, was behaving more like an activist than an objective journalist.

“His role in this extremely serious conflict between Israel and Hamas seems to be to score cheap trolling points for some of his extremist followers,’’ he said.

“Mr Keane has hundreds of tweets denigrating Israelis, but rarely comments on other international affairs situations such as the continuing war in Syria where, as you know, on any one day more civilians may be killed by Assad’s chlorine barrel bombs than have died in this ‘Protective Edge ­Operation’.”

Keane has posted dozens of tweets, possibly more than a 100 times, about the Middle East conflict recently, apparently in support of Palestine.

Some of his tweets include: “hi @michaeldanbyMP I think I missed your tweet condemning Israel’s killing of disabled Palestinian women could you flick me a link? Cheers.”

Another reads: “I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before @MichaelDanbyMP condemns Israel’s killing of four kids playing on a beach in Gaza, right?”

And a third: “I’m sure even @MichaelDanbyMP deplores targeting a disabled charity, even if it’s Israel that does it. Michael?”

The tweets of Crikey’s Canberra correspondent encouraged other more extreme trolls to target Mr Danby.

One wrote “Non-human terrorists #F**kZionism #F**k­MichaelDanby”

Following the public taunts, Mr Danby wrote to Crikey publisher Eric Beecher to formally complain about Keane’s conduct but he has received no response.

“I think readers of Crikey and Mr Beecher ought to be concerned about Keane’s unnatural obsessions,’’ he said.

“Is Keane paid by him? Is he aware that he is doing this kind of thing, does he log off from ­Crikey’s payroll when he gets involved in this activism and why does Mr Beecher allow him to be obsessed with me and no other MP?”

Mr Beecher told The Aus­tralian yesterday his editors were responsible for the performance of staff, and it was up to them to respond to complaints.

“I don’t necessarily agree with everything our journalists tweet or indeed write but it’s not up to me to intervene every time I disagree,’’ he said.

Mr Danby said journalists should be impartial rather than activists, and called for online publications like Crikey to be covered by the Press Council, which oversees print and broadcast media.

“If you set up an office in Canberra in the press gallery, you ought to be subject to the same kind of rules,” he said.

He said Keane was using the Crikey platform, and the thousands of followers that come with it, to campaign for Palestine.

“I’m not trembling in my boots because Keane is trolling me. I want the searchlight of public opinion to be on what he’s doing, some of the crazy comments he is eliciting and engendering.

“It gives people an insight into the little world he has created around himself,’’ he said.

Keane did not respond to calls or tweets yesterday.