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July 25, 2007
Murdoch, son, differ sharply over Israel
BY JOSH GERSTEIN
Staff Reporter of the
THE pro-Israel outlook of the
Wall Street Journal and many News Corp.
outlets could waver if one of Rupert
Murdoch's sons, James Murdoch, takes the
helm of the publishing and broadcasting company, a
new book suggests.
The just-published diaries of a communications
director for Prime Minister Blair,
Alastair Campbell, indicate that James
Murdoch launched into a
that suggested that the behavior of Palestinian
Arabs was justified by their poor treatment by
Israelis. The outburst occurred at a private dinner
with his father, his brother, Lachlan, Mr.
Blair, and others at no. 10 Downing St. in January
elder "Murdoch was at one point putting the
traditional very right-wing view on Israel and
the Middle East peace process and James said
that he was 'talking f-- nonsense.'
[Rupert] Murdoch said he didn't see what
the Palestinians' problem was and James said
that it was that they were kicked out of their
f-- homes and had nowhere to f-- live," Mr.
Campbell recorded, adding that the News Corp.
chairman was "very pro-Israel, very
The prime minister's aide said James Murdoch's
outburst drew a rebuke from his father, who said
"he didn't think he should talk like that in the
Prime Minister's house."
"James got very apologetic with [Mr.
Blair], who said not to worry, I hear far worse
all the time," Mr. Campbell wrote.
James Murdoch, who heads News Corp.'s BSkyB
satellite broadcasting division, has been
intimately involved in the firm's $5 billion bid to
take over Dow Jones, which publishes the
Journal. The elder Murdoch brought James to
a critical meeting last month in Manhattan at which
the pair sought to win over members of the
Bancroft family, which controls Dow
The takeover talks have
been difficult in part because members of the
Bancroft family have demanded assurances that
there would be no interference with editorial
practices at the Journal.
It is widely assumed in financial and publishing
circles that James Murdoch would have ultimate
responsibility for overseeing operations at the
Journal if the takeover bid is successful. James
Murdoch, 35, is also seen as the most likely heir
to chairmanship of News Corp. when his father, 76,
Advocates for Israel expressed
distress yesterday at
the report of James Murdoch's stance on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Certainly, it's
troubling," a spokesman for the
Committee for Accuracy in
Middle East Reporting in America,
Alexander Safian, said. "It's a little
upsetting to hear that perhaps a son who might
eventually have a lot of power is not favorably
inclined towards Israel."
Mr. Safian said several News Corp. properties,
including the New York Post and Fox News,
usually present a positive image of Israel, though
some British outlets have a more mixed record. He
said the Wall Street Journal's editorial
page is presently "very pro-Israel," but the news
pages are not.
A spokesman for News Corp., Andrew
Butcher, and a spokesman for BSkyB, Robert
Fraser, declined to comment on Mr. Campbell's
diary entry or on how the Murdochs' views on Israel
could affect the press and broadcasting
A former editor of the Jerusalem Post who
now works as an editorial writer for the Wall
Street Journal, Bret Stephens, said he
expects an agreement being worked out between the
Bancrofts and the Murdochs to insulate the
Journal from any interference. "If the
Murdochs are intent on preserving our editorial
independence, as they profess to be, neither
Rupert's apparent pro-Israel bias nor James's
reported anti-Israel bias should make any
difference," Mr. Stephens said.
A pro-Israel activist in London, Jonathan
Hoffman, said he was not aware of other
instances where James Murdoch had expressed views
on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "It's clearly
interesting," Mr. Hoffman said.
While Mr. Safian criticized Israel-related
coverage by Sky News, the service James Murdoch
currently oversees, Mr. Hoffman said he had no
issues with Sky. "I've never had any cause for
complaint about their coverage on Israel, in
contrast to the BBC," he said.
Mr. Hoffman, an economist, said he considers
James Murdoch's views on Israel fairly typical in
Britain, particularly in younger circles. "The
generation that remembers World War II and the
Holocaust, that generation knows why Israel was
created as a Jewish state and appreciates it," the
activist said. "I think that makes a huge
While many Europeans are steeped in anti-Israel
sentiment at universities on the Continent, James
Murdoch attended Harvard University for about three
years before dropping out to start a rap music
A pro-Israel lobbyist in Washington, Morris
Amitay, said family dynamics may explain James
Murdoch's exuberance but that the outburst did not
reflect well on the young executive. "For a son to
say his father was talking 'f--ing nonsense,'
that's a little bothersome
While Rupert Murdoch generally hews to a
pro-Israel line, he maintains business contacts in
the Arab world. A Saudi prince who is a major
investor in News Corp., Alwaleed bin Talal,
has expressed confidence in the elder Murdoch, as
well as James and Lachlan, as future leaders for
the company. In 2005, Prince Alwaleed reportedly
complained to the elder Murdoch that Fox News was
labeling disturbances in Paris as "Muslim riots."
The graphic was later changed to read "civil
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