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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

The long journey

The ongoing controversy surrounding my forthcoming book on Israel/Palestine, my publisher, Melbourne University Publishing and expressing dissent in Australia continues in this week's Jewish News.

First up, a column by academic Mark Baker:

How to answer to The Question of Zion
Mark Baker

THERE is only one answer to the publication by Melbourne University Publishing (MUP) of The Question of Zion: write a book called The Answer of Zion.

Any other strategy is wrong - the knee-jerk call for boycotts, the cliched slogans of our hasbara departments, the hatchet jobs by our lobby groups, the threat to withhold charity. None of these strategies work because they avoid the real issue: the need for intellectual engagement with the issues raised.

Now one might argue that questions about Zionism do not require answers. They are no different, one might say, from questions about Jews - the so-called Judenfrage (Jewish question) - which has always singled Jews out for exceptional treatment.

To some extent this is true of Jacqueline Rose's treatment of Israel. In a world of human-rights abuses, she is an active campaigner for a cultural boycott against Israel, and the thrust of her book psychoanalyses the violent subconscious of Zionism as though other nationalisms do not have this shared history.

As for Antony Loewenstein, while MUP publisher Louise Adler is right to say we cannot review his book eight months before its publication, she is being disingenuous in asking us not to recognise the nature of the work. Loewenstein does not hide his tracks. On the contrary, he trickles his thoughts on his daily web log, which is avowedly anti-Zionist, while stereotyping the Jewish community in the most self-righteous manner.

And then, three letters:

WHAT ABOUT AUSTRALIA?

I FEEL disturbed at the publicity being given to the views of people such as Professor Jacqueline Rose and Antony Loewenstein. Criticism of Israel is one thing, but calling for the dismantling of the State of Israel is quite another.

We Jews have a long and deep connection with the Land of Israel. And yet, here we have people who suggest that we have no right to sovereignty in the land. On what basis? Because of the unfortunate suffering of the Palestinian people? Let me ask them, to which other country in the world do they apply such standards?

Consider Australia for one. Our indigenous people are deprived and suffering to an even greater degree than the Palestinians. And yet, despite the fact that Europeans have no prior connection to this land, and our settlement is of relatively recent origin, I don't hear them calling for the dismantling of the Australian nation. The same argument could be applied to New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and almost all of South America. Here we have countries colonised by Europeans where the indigenous nations are deprived. Not a word from Professor Rose or Loewenstein, or any of their ilk.

One has to wonder why Israel is singled out in this fashion. It is about time that we all stood up to the oh-so-subtle antisemitism that is behind these unreasonable demands for the creation of a bi-national state in place of Israel. Only a naive fool would imagine that the Jews are going to be welcome in such a state!

John Klein
Caulfield, Vic

DON DANBY

AT the moment, I am greatly enjoying the novel Don Quixote, in which the hero lives in a fantasy world and tips at windmills. Michael Danby MP is behaving badly, like the Don Quixote of Melbourne Ports. I am one of his windmills, and therefore a target for his practiced McCarthyism.

However, the truth of the matter is that I am not, nor have I ever been a "member" of the socialist left (I assume he means a lunatic faction of the ALP or perhaps something worse). The only sin I can think of has been siding with progressive politics and civil-rights organisations when I lived in both Israel and the US. Nowadays, I admit to being a moderate, balding, 50-ish, bicycle-riding and chardonnay-drinking non-aligned member of the ALP.

However Danby, other than using personalised vilification of poor sods like me, still hasn't explained how he justifies his call for political censorship of the opinions shared by many Israelis and their supporters abroad.

Larry Stillman
Elwood, Vic

[ed: Stillman is responding to these fanciful claims by Michael Danby.]


CUCKOO-LAND

MICHAEL Danby is being criticised for suggesting that members of the Jewish community not buy two anti-Israel books, Antony Loewenstein's forthcoming book on the Australian Jewish community's response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Jacqueline Rose's The Question of Zion, published by Australia's otherwise premier academic publisher, Melbourne University Publishing (MUP). Prior to the publication of their books (including Loewenstein's in May next year) their ideas were so preconceived as to make the animus of their books absolutely predictable.

It is especially ironic that both authors support the boycott of Israel. Loewenstein has participated in an Islamic website, Western Journalists in Support of Palestine, which advocates a general boycott of Israel [ed: I have never "participated" in this website, though I think some of my articles may have been published there without my knowledge or permission.] Rose's attitude is displayed as recently as August 18 in an interview with Open Democracy: "I think there should be economic and military sanctions against Israel, and an academic and cultural boycott as well. This is a time for deciding which side you are on, and what you can do to prevent the deterioration of the situation."

This is within the context of where the worst leader of a national movement, Arafat, has made his most positive contribution by departing the scene, and where Israel has painfully disengaged from Gaza. This progress towards accommodation brings no acknowledgement by two anti-Zionist Jews who are being given a megaphone by MUP.

To most of the Jewish community, this cloud cuckoo-land must seem absolutely crazy.

Douglas Kirsner
B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission

8 Comments:

Blogger anthony said...

I'm a noob at your blog, but is that true? You are actually calling for the "dismantling of the State of Israel" ??

What? You want to get 6m Jews to live under the ever-so liberal democratic and human rights-loving Arab nations?

...

AAAAAH HA HA HA.... heh... heh...

Classic. Your really just calling for 'reform' of Israel, right?

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:29:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I've never called for the "dismantling of the Jewish state."
I don't believe in the concept of a Jewish state, and nor do I believe in Islamic or Christian states. I'm not just focused on Israel. Religious states are from another age and have no true place in the 21th century...
A bi-national state is ideal eventually, but right now, a two-state solution is probably the best short-term solution. We've still got a long way to go...

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:32:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

I particularly enjoyed Douglas Kirsner's comparison between calling for a boycott against a couple of books and calling for a boycott against a nation state which is occupying and repressing an entire people with brutal and often indiscriminate force. Cuckoo land indeed.

I also note it is not MUP providing the megaphone for your views, but the line-up of critics that are generating the most discussion.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 4:52:00 pm  
Blogger Shabadoo said...

Sorry, you know, maybe I'm a little slow, but perhps you could parse the difference between "dismantling the Jewish state" and saying that you "don't believe in the concept of a Jewish state"?

I mean, I see you couch everything in terms of two-state solutions and everything, but really now, it's fairly transparent that you're talking about tearing down Israel as currently conceived...what happens to the Jews who remain there? (And the Christians....as well...as they say over there, "first the Saturday people, then the Sunday people").

Thursday, September 15, 2005 5:08:00 pm  
Blogger Ian Westmore said...

The quoted letter from John Klein is interesting because of the way it twists the situation of Australian Aboriginals to support the Zionist cause when in fact their plight is actually an argument against the validity of Israel's existance.

As I understand it, the first Diaspora occurred in about 670 BC, the second, final one, in 70 AD.

If you believe the descendants of the Israelites retain a right to the land after nearly 2,700 and 1,935 years then how much greater are the rights of Aboriginals to this land. In some cases they've lost land rights within the last decade!

And where do you stop? Do we hand England back to the Romans, Russia to the Swedes, most of Spain to the Moors, eastern Europe to the Mongolians.....?

Of couse the other great argument is that God gave the land to the Israelites. I understand that may not be as clear cut as claimed, but no matter, the fact is Aboriginals, and most of the native peoples of the other countries Mr. Klein cites have equally strong spiritual connections to their land.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 6:23:00 pm  
Blogger evan jones said...

Interesting juxtaposition of two condemnations of Loewenstein and Rose:
Baker: 'while stereotyping the Jewish community in the most self-righteous manner.'
Kirsner: 'To most of the Jewish community, this cloud cuckoo-land must seem absolutely crazy.'
The Australian Jewish community's attitude to Israel is both divergent and unified at the same time. One of the two above named must be telling fibs.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 6:43:00 pm  
Blogger Mannie said...

Mannie De Saxe: What is the Australian Jewish community, and who presumes to speak for it?
As with all communities, the Jews in Australia are international, and come to this country from everywhere, including - shock! horror! - Israel! Their political beliefs, as well as their religious beliefs, are as varied as they are.

Those who live in this country and attack those who criticise Israel should themselves look at criticisms they make of countries around the world, including the countries they have left to come and live here.
If they are so upset by what Loewenstein and Rose say or write about Israel, one assumes they have the freedom to join Sharon in Israel and fight the fight.
Criticism of Israel is as valid as criticism of any other country.
To quote: "There are none so blind as those who will not see."
It is obvious that Danby and the AJN and some of the spokespeople from other Jewish organsations in Australia will give Loewenstein and MUP much oxygen towards the sales of Loewenstein's and Rose's books.

Thursday, September 15, 2005 11:55:00 pm  
Blogger evan jones said...

AL is to be congratulated for disseminating the AJN handwringing.
All our scribes, Kirsner most ingenuously, have neatly sidestepped the furious pace at which the ethnic cleansing continues. Does the media, in this era of instant information, not reach North Caulfield?
Baker is right about existing strategies - 'cliched slogans of our hasbara departments, the hatchet jobs by our lobby groups', etc., yet he perpetuates a curious morality:
'In a world of human rights abuses', we have a right to continue to support our own human rights abuser.
Israel is a failed god, an apartheid state, built on racial exlusivity but inevitably nurtured on racial superiority. Tyrannies come and go, but Israel has institutionalised inhumanity.
Get over Israel.
Australia is Zion. The Promised Land is under our feet.
It's time for the Israeli lobby to get out of the ghetto.

Saturday, September 17, 2005 7:27:00 am  

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