Israel-Gaza conflict: Journalist quits Australian newspaper after suspension over 'offensive' response to Gaza column complaints

Mike Carlton left the Sydney Morning Herald  after telling readers to 'f*** off'

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The Independent Online

An Australian newspaper columnist has resigned after being suspended for telling people abusing him over a column on Gaza to “f*** off”.

Mike Carlton was inundated with emails after his column, entitled “Israel's rank and rotten fruit is being called fascism” was published in the Sydney Morning Herald last month.

Calling Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire “out of all proportion, a monstrous distortion of the much-vaunted right of self defence”, the provocative article claimed the country was waging “a war of terror” on Gaza.

It has so far been shared more than 11,000 times on Facebook alone and as comments were not allowed on the Herald’s website, readers took to Twitter and email to air their views.

Editors said it was not the article itself that led to Mr Carlton’s resignation, but his response to people who had contacted him.

On Tuesday, the Herald’s editor-in-chief, Darren Goodsir, issued a public apology for the writer’s “inappropriate and offensive language".

“This behaviour is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“I have asked Mike to apologise for these actions. Mike regrets his behaviour and will be contacting affected readers to apologise.”

On Tuesday night, Mr Carlton was told he was about to be suspended over the correspondence and resigned, according Sean Aylmer, the group director of Fairfax Media, which owns the paper.

“We thought we needed to suspend him. I rang him last night and suspended him for four to six weeks, and he immediately said 'Well, I'm resigning,” he told 2UE radio.

Mr Aylmer said the columnist had responded “inappropriately” to at least seven or eight emails, adding it was a shame for his “fantastic” run at the newspaper to end.

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“But readers are all important, and without them we don't have a business,” he said.

Mr Carlton said on Twitter that he has been contacted by hundreds of people expressing their support and was “humbled” by the response.

“When for weeks you're called Nazi scum and a lot worse, eventually it gets to you and I told a few people where to go,” he told his former paper.

“I would have thought in this country of ours that telling a few people where to get off occasionally was not a crime, but the sad thing is to see a once-great newspaper like the Herald buckle to the bullies.”

In Mr Carlton's 40-year career in Australian journalism, he has worked in radio and television news and was an ABC war correspondent in Vietnam and the broadcaster's bureau chief in Jakarta, Indonesia

He hosted the Radio 2UE breakfast programme in Sydney and is also a naval historian, writing two books on warships.