One of the ripple effects from the phone hacking scandal that has gripped Britain is concern over whether the Rupert Murdoch media empire’s strong support for Israel would continue if the founder of News Corp. loses his clout.
The 80-year-old media baron has been humbled in recent days, apologizing for the scandal that has prompted outrage in Parliament and among many in Britain for its wide and nasty reach, illegally probing the private lives of royalty, celebrities and even a young murder victim, and spreading to charges of bribing the police for confidential information.
Murdoch, his son, James, and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of the shamed and shuttered News Of The World, testified before Parliament on Tuesday. They said they had no knowledge of the illegal hacking.
While Murdoch may be deeply resented in England, his longtime and outspoken support for Israel has made him a respected figure there and in the U.S. Jewish establishment.
“My own perspective is simple: We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews,” Murdoch said last October at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in his honor.
In 2009, on being honored by the American Jewish Committee, he noted: “In the West, we are used to thinking that Israel cannot survive without the help of Europe and the United States. Tonight I say to you, maybe we should start wondering whether we in Europe and the United States can survive if we allow the terrorists to succeed in Israel.”
Now Jewish leaders are wondering if the pro-Israel stance of Murdoch’s media empire, including, in this country, the Wall Street Journal, New York Post and Fox News, can survive a post-Murdoch era.
Truth is, the above news organizations and others in the Murdoch fleet have long been pro-Israel.
The more pressing question of the moment is whether Murdoch can succeed in distancing himself from a scandal for which he has apologized and expressed humility but refused to accept responsibility. In the meantime, a seamy side of tabloid journalism has been exposed. But it should be noted that it was the press – not Parliament or Scotland Yards – that brought the scandal to light, underscoring the influence, for good or evil, the media can wield.