When Rupert Murdoch received the American Jewish Committee’s National Human Relations Award last week, he felt compelled to clear up a misperception.
This story first appeared in the March 10, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“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.’ ”
Then News Corp.’s chairman and chief executive officer turned serious as he addressed the crowd of 400 at the Hilton, raising $1.6 million for the AJC. “The AJC is one of the world’s most influential organizations,” Murdoch said.
Though the AJC’s concerns “begin with the safety and welfare of Jews, these concerns are anything but parochial,” Murdoch said. “The reason for this is clear: You know that the best guarantee of the security of Jews anywhere is the freedom of people everywhere.”
Murdoch also spoke of new world threats. “In Iran, we see a regime that backs Hezbollah and Hamas and is now on course to acquire a nuclear weapon. In India, we see Islamic terrorists single out the Mumbai Jewish Center in a well-planned and well-coordinated attack that looks like it could be a test run for similar attacks in similar cities around the world.”
The “growing assault on both the legitimacy and security of the state of Israel…comes from people who make clear they have no intention of ever living side by side in peace with a Jewish state — no matter how many concessions Israel might make. Maybe we should start wondering whether we in Europe and the United States can survive if we allow the terrorists to succeed in Israel.”
He advised including Israel in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and added, “In the end, the Israeli people are fighting the same enemy we are: cold-blooded killers who reject peace. Against such an enemy, I will not second-guess the decisions of a free Israel defending her citizens.”
Bloomingdale’s chairman Michael Gould gave an overview of AJC’s mission, stating the organization works for the defense of human rights for all and sends “a powerful and much-needed message of human solidarity.”
Murdoch was introduced by fellow Australian and friend Hugh Jackman, who noted: “AJC is 103 years old this year, or as they say in Hollywood — 45.” He called Murdoch “the world’s fastest mohel” and “a titan in the industry who just happens to be my boss.”
During cocktails, Jackman was asked if he was approached to host the Academy Awards again. “They thanked me. They haven’t asked me back. I would not say no.”
Murdoch, whose media conglomerate is reeling from the economy, offered his outlook on when there might be a recovery. “Nobody knows. It just keeps getting worse.”