Watch this space for more developments in the coming weeks/months.
Last Friday Crikey ran a story about a letter Federal Labor MP Michael Danby wrote to the Australian Jewish News calling on the Jewish community to boycott a book by journalist Antony Loewenstein. Today Danby responds:
Your story is headed “Danby's silly attempt at censorship.” This is very misleading. I have made no attempt to censor Mr Antony Loewenstein, or anyone else. Mr Loewenstein is entitled to his opinions, and to publish them.
What I have done is to exercise my right to criticise his views, which I find abhorrent, and to urge people not to reward those views by buying his book. Readers are free to reject my advice.
I don't need to read Mr Loewenstein's book to know what he thinks. He has described himself as “a Jew who doesn't believe in the concept of a Jewish state,” which he calls “a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era.” He has described the Australian Jewish community as “vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic” and as “incapable of hearing the true reality of their beloved homeland and its barbaric actions.” (These quotes appear at Mr Loewenstein's own website.)
As a representative of mainstream, moderate Jewish opinion, who supports both Israel's right to exist and defend itself and the right of the Palestinian people to a viable state, I find such opinions disgusting, and I did no more in my letter to the Jewish News than express that disgust. The response from the Jewish community to my comments has been overwhelmingly positive.
Finally, I am curious to know why Melbourne University Press thinks it is appropriate to be publishing two anti-Israel books at a time when Israel is making such a painful withdrawal from Gaza, when we have a new and more moderate Palestinian leadership and when the prospects for peace are improving. I can only conclude that someone at MUP has an axe to grind on this subject.
UPDATE: Phil Gomes offers insights into the latest Danby letter:
"How does Danby know how many books about Israel MUP has in development? Why is it inappropriate for a publisher to have them in the pipeline? And what do Israel’s moves in Gaza have to do with when a book is or is not published?
"Danby still has not really given us any answers or insights on any of this or the supposedly offensive questions Loewenstein originally posed to him, and continues to attack the publishers with a veiled reference of “an axe to grind” at MUP, which, in this fight, is a seriously coded term that might be interpreted as an accusation of anti-Semitism."