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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Secular Party

Australia has a new political party, The Secular Party of Australia. They believe in:

- Separation of Church and State
- Individual Freedoms and Choices
- Progressive Economic Policies
- A Fair and Equitable Society
- Global Solutions to Global Problems

Check out their platform.

I particularly like their ideas for the Middle East:

"The only possible long-term solution to the Middle East problem, consistent with principles of honesty, compassion, freedom and justice, is a unitary secular state in which all people have equal rights. This will perhaps require a degree of compromise that most Jews will find painful to accept. To allay Jewish fears that a specific homeland is required for their security, the Secular Party proposes that a coalition of countries be formed that will guarantee their asylum in the event of their persecution. In the proposed unitary secular state, no religion should be presumed authentic and no rights or privileges should be granted on the basis of claimed ethnicity or religious belief.

"The primary obstacles in achieving this solution are Judaic beliefs that presume exclusive territorial entitlement, and irreconcilable Islamic beliefs that also necessitate superior claims to territory. The key to dissipating this irreconcilability is simply to put forward the proposition, which is impeccably based in reason, that the beliefs on which the conflict is based are false, unnecessary, undesirable, harmful, and based on nothing more than ancient mythology. Astoundingly, it seems that perhaps no political leader anywhere has ever put forward this proposition."

21 Comments:

Blogger smiths said...

i like their approach and have been reluctant to vote for anyone since beazley sold out labour values with tampa,
will seriously consider joining i think

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 2:15:00 pm  
Blogger Stev said...

Yeah, they'll definitely get consideration from me at the very least. But they do seem quite vehemently anti-religion. I agree with the separation of church and state and agree with their position against theocracy, but statements like these I find a little worrying:

Given the numerous contradictions within and between religions, in spite of popular sentiment, the only reasonable conclusion is that all religions are false.

I disagree that that is a reasonable conclusion to draw. All religions may be false. But the site itself says that 'religious beliefs have no basis in reason or factual evidence'. Just as there is no factual evidence for religious belief, there is also none against. Jumping to a conclusion that all religions are false is just as presumptious as jumping to the conclusion that any of the religions are true.

Policy-wise I definitely agree with the vast majority of what they stand for - just this element of their position reeks of an anti-religion agenda. They do say that 'all people should be free to hold any form of religious belief', but I see no need for society and/or government to assert a conclusion the only obviousness of which is that it is obviously flawed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 3:12:00 pm  
Blogger smiths said...

quite correct, which is why i wouldnt make the leap to pure atheism,

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 3:55:00 pm  
Blogger Progressive Atheist said...

The secularism of the American state was promulgated by its founders in their constitution. Unfortunately, the wording is sufficiently weak to allow Christians to weasel out of the requirement of secularism and to proclaim that America is a Christian nation. The only way to stop such weaseling is to state the case for secularism more forcefully.

In Australia a simple first step would be to take the word "God" out of the preamble to the constitution. But this will never happen while we have a theocrat in the form of John Howard at the helm. However, the debate would be worthwhile.

All this talk about secularism is moot. If Judge Alito is confirmed to the US Supreme Court, the US may quite quickly roll down the slippery slope into theocracy. Mark my words.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 4:58:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Ha! They talk about religions having contradictions - I see two of the major planks in their manifesto contradicting each other straight away, that is:

- Individual Freedoms and Choices
AND
- A Fair and Equitable Society

I'm not sure what they mean by "progressive economic policies", but if they mean it in a literal sense, then that contradicts "individual freedoms and choices", too.

Also, I love their ideal solution to the Israeli-Palestinian land dispute - a unitary secular state - the creation of which the Jews are holding up, what with their old fashioned religious beliefs. Unlike the uber-tolerant and progressive Muslims... I wonder how consistent Sharia law is with a secular state. Anyone?

What planet do these people come from? Are they even remotely aware of the Islamic doctrine? Have they never stopped to ask themselves why there are no secular majority-Islam states in the ME? They make it sound as though the Palestinians are all revved up for happy and free cohabitation in a greater Israel, but those nasty Jews are holding them back with all their oldfashioned religious beliefs. Absolute rubbish.

No political leader has put forward the position they mention because it's fallacious and they'd be laughed and hooted off any podium they made such a claim from. This is a party of morons, for morons.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 7:57:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Sorry, when I said

"I'm not sure what they mean by "progressive economic policies", but if they mean it in a literal sense, then that contradicts "individual freedoms and choices", too."

I meant

"I'm not sure what they mean by "progressive economic policies", but if they mean it in a literal sense, then that contradicts "A Fair and Equitable Society", too."

PIMF.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 8:56:00 pm  
Blogger Angela M said...

Antony,

On their Middle East policy, if a unitary secular state is "the only possible long-term solution", then why is there a need to "guarantee their (Jews') asylum in the event of their persecution"?

On secularism, do you think it is itself a beliefs-based system?

For example, on the page http://www.secular.org.au/policies.html:
"The Secular Party believes not only that ..."
"The Secular Party believes that ..."
"The Secular Party believes that ..."

On http://www.secular.org.au/separation.html:
"The Secular Party believes that it is imperative ..."

On http://www.secular.org.au/personalfreedom.html:
"The Secular Party believes that children should ... "

On http://www.secular.org.au/equity.html:
"The Secular Party believes that to build a better society ..."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 9:36:00 pm  
Blogger Melanie said...

This will really allay the fears of those Jews. Are they going to be using those ships they use for the live sheep trade. I mean you could hardly use the cattle trains unless they plan to transport the Jews through the Arab world one the carnage begins.
Now considering Israel is already secular and the majority of Palestinians want Sharia Law according to polls and since this is their Middle-East policy, why don't they apply it to all Middle-Eastern countries - you know the real theocracies?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 9:53:00 pm  
Blogger psydoc said...

But who actually are they? Who alerted Ant to their existence? Have you ever heard of a new political party with an anonymous leader? Seems pretty gutless to me.

Before you know it, they will have a publishing contract with MUP!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 10:45:00 pm  
Blogger Stev said...

Angela,

On their Middle East policy, if a unitary secular state is "the only possible long-term solution", then why is there a need to "guarantee their (Jews') asylum in the event of their persecution"?

Because, like anyone looking at the situation realistically, they understand there is potential for problems with any plan, long term or short.

I do have other major problems with this party though. It seems their main agenda is the dissolution of all organised religion, which - besides being completely contradictory to people's basic right to believe what they like - is completely unrealistic.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006 11:17:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Stev - Angela is quite right. You really should read between the lines. Their whole wishy washy, unspecific manifesto shrieks leftist collectivism - cloaked in the garb of libertarianism. Pity its veneer is millimetre thick.

The fact that they would allude to such an event - given their current statements - makes it quite obvious that they're cognizant of the way the scenario would unfold if their desires for that region ever came to pass.

We're talking about a political party. Stop being so naive.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 3:11:00 am  
Blogger Stev said...

James,

To look at a situation realistically is naive? I've already said that I have other problems with the party, but I really don't see how being aware of the potential problems with a single state solution and taking them into consideration is in any way naive.

Perhaps you could suggest a solution that doesn't have any potential problems? I'm sure everyone in the region, and the international community, would love to hear it. For the record I don't support a single state solution, but any solution has problems and, to use your word, being cognizant of this, is in no way naive.

I've considered the party and dismissed it. Is considering something carefully before judging it naive? I really don't see what part of my actions or beliefs can be considered naive.

To me naivety is believing that a solution exists which does not have problems. Or naivety is accepting and/or joining the party without considering its positions and beliefs carefully.

I have done neither, so please, enlighten me as to how I am naive.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 10:07:00 am  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

Waterton, are you contending that "Individual Freedoms and Choices" and "A Fair and Equitable Society" are mutually exclusive?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 12:36:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Stev - it was your analysis of the party's ME plan that made me say you were being naive. The fact that the Secular Party proffers a guarantee of asylum to the Jews and not the Muslims speaks volumes about their true allegiances and what they consider is a likely end result of their unitary state. I personally think it's very naive to take the position that such a one sided plan is evidence of merely "understand[ing] there is potential for problems with any plan". Where's their plan to resettle the Muslims if it doesn't work out? Why should the Jews have to leave if the Secular Party's great project fails? This is what I'm talking about when I say you need to stop being naive and start reading between the lines. What the Secular party is tacitly hinting at is plainly obvious to me.

DBO: yes. When leaders try to engineer a fair and equitable society, this is always done by limiting individual freedoms and choices. Think about it.

IMO a fair society is one where individual freedoms and choices are seminal.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 5:22:00 pm  
Blogger Stev said...

Fair enough James, but if you read my post, I didn't really offer my analysis of their ME peace plan. I simply answered Angela's question.

If a single state solution is the only long term plan, then a guarantee of asylum is needed because looking at the situation realistically reveals that there is a threat, whether perceived or real, of persecution against Jews. Such a guarantee would surely be needed before Israel would even consider such an option. I just think it's a realistic consideration within the hypothetical solution.

I think you may have misread my post. I neither agree nor disagree with the suggested solution, nor with the guarantee offer as part of a plan to make the solution work. Nor did I give my analysis of said solution. I simply answered Angela's question.

Truly, James, I believe the only naivety is in the suggestion that anyone, be it the Secular Party or myself, believes that what they have listed on their site is the be all and end all of the solution. One nation, equal rights, a guarantee of asylum for Jews in the case of persecution and hey-presto, no more Israeli/Palestine conflict.

And your simplicity in paraphrasing their plan as 'resettling' the Jews 'if it doesn't work out' is equally naive. The plan speaks of equal rights for both groups in this proposed nation. The fear of persecution against the Jews is specifically addressed because Jews generally seem to have a specific fear of persecution. Which is understandable given the persecution in their history. It could be argued that their fear is somewhat irrational based on the current international political climate, but I digress. The plan speaks of 'asylum' in the case of 'persecution'. It doesn't talk about booting the Jews out if things don't work out.

I'm not saying this plan is perfect, no plan is, nor am I saying I support it. But just because you infer, James, does not mean they imply.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 5:58:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Stev:

"I simply answered Angela's question."

Yes, and I don't think you answered the question adequately, thus the question still stands.

"And your simplicity in paraphrasing their plan as 'resettling' the Jews 'if it doesn't work out' is equally naive."

How so?

"The plan speaks of equal rights for both groups in this proposed nation."

Yes, but I'm not dealing with that part of their manifesto. I'm dealing with the part where they clearly state their policy of forming a coalition of nations that "will guarantee their [Israeli Jews] asylum in the event of their persecution." They're clearly talking about resettlement in the event the unitary state collapses and the Jews are persecuted. I don't see how the way I paraphrased this part of their manifesto is "naive".

"The plan speaks of equal rights for both groups in this proposed nation."

The point is that it only alludes to a contingency plan for one group (the Jews) if the plan goes awry. They also foist all the blame for the tensions in the conflict on the Jews and the Secular Party's perception of the Jews' attitude. Like I have repeatedly said, it doesn't take a genius to read between the lines to understand what these guys really think.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 9:09:00 pm  
Blogger Stev said...

Where to begin?

I don't think you're viewing the position of this party objectively. In truth I don't think any of us can ever really view anything objectively, but that's abstract and philosophical and doesn't help anything.

Yes, the language of the piece primarily addresses the Jews, at least in the first few paragraphs. But the creation of Israel is an important part of the problem (I'm not saying that the existence of Israel is a problem, just that it is part of the conflict - I know how some people in these comments like to twist words), so it's understandable that it should be the first thing addressed. Israel is also the most powerful nation being considered as a part of this plan. It's important to address them separately, because it is Israel who will most have to compromise for any plan that is to be incorporated.

I explained why the piece addresses the persecution of the Jews individually in my last post. Obviously you disagree, I don't see any way you can dispute the obvious threat, at least - in my opinion - as a perceived threat, so you must dispute that this is the reason for its inclusion in the plan. I suppose in this we must agree to disagree. But it is important for you to recognise that I am not 'naive' for believing what I believe. I am simply reading between the lines and seeing something different. If you won't acknowledge that, then you're guilty of the same arrogance of all religion in claiming that your beliefs are right at the exclusion of the beliefs of others.

But again, I digress.

"And your simplicity in paraphrasing their plan as 'resettling' the Jews 'if it doesn't work out' is equally naive."

How so?


How so? Because the plan, like any reasonable plan for the region, clearly allows for the right of Israel to exist, and the right of Israel to have, at the very least, part of that particular area of land. So does it not stand to reason that in the event of, as you say, the 'collapse' of the state or if things were to go awry, there would be a contingency in the plan that allowed for military action to retake the area?

I mean, think about it practically. Think about what it would mean for Israel to accept such a plan and for the US to back it. To think that no such contingency would be written into any plan would be truly naive. How you can truly believe that anyone with half a brain would suggest a plan which called for anything other than temporary asylum in the case of such a collapse is completely imbecilic. I'm sorry to resort to insults, but you've attacked my intelligence several times now and I think I'm well within my rights to return in kind.

In fact, one could consider this as a prejudice of the plan in favour of Israel and the Jews. If such a plan were enacted - particularly in the short term - the state would almost certainly collapse. Given the obviuous contingency, the result would no doubt be an international retaking of the region for Israel and the Palestinians would lose all legitimacy in the conflict. Personally I don't believe this is the motivation behind the plan, but I think a reasonable argument could be put forward for that case. Just an example to show that there can be different interpretations of this piece with reasonable arguments behind them.

Please provide excerpts of the language that show that they 'foist all the blame for the tensions in the conflict on the Jews'. As far as I can tell, after covering the creation of Israel, which as I said is important to address, the piece then addresses the fear of persecution - which has already been covered - the next piece that refers to Jews or Judaism is this:

The primary obstacles in achieving this solution are Judaic beliefs that presume exclusive territorial entitlement, and irreconcilable Islamic beliefs that also necessitate superior claims to territory.

Does this sentence not address both parties involved in the conflict equally? It certainly seems this way to me. Sure, part of the problem is the existence of the state of Israel, there's no denying that, but if we allow for the fact that the Jewish state has a right to exist, then how are any of us foisting the blame on Israel for existing? And keep in mind I separate myself from the Secular Party in all other aspects, only that I think there is some good worth considering in this plan.

So I've explained, I think quite adequately, an alternate interpretation of mentality behind the plan listed by the Secular Party. Neither or us can be completely sure of which interpretation is correct without speaking to the president of the Secular Party (which I have actually done about other matters though he seems unwilling to reply to my last e-mail, though I assure you it was at least as civilly worded as this is, if not more so) On some points I can see how your prejudice influences your interpretation, the same way my prejudice influences my interpretation - if you can show me some language which supports your belief that the Secular Party holds the Jews responsible for tensions in the area I will be more than happy to consider it. On other points, however, it is quite clear that your views are quite unrealistic, if not naive. I personally wouldn't have used that word about your beliefs at all, but you first used it about my beliefs, so I think it's fitting.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 12:15:00 am  
Blogger Viva Peace said...

I’m not really sure why antony loewenstein would publicize this group as they strike me as being very immature and not very educated.

Are they advocating that the entire Middle East be collapsed into one secular state? I would like to hear how they intend to convince Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Syria to agree to this. The Middle East did have one unitary state for centuries, but it wasn’t secular; it was called the caliphate.

I think they really mean “Israel” rather than the “Middle East.” I was under the impression that all citizens of Israel already have equal rights, regardless of their religious affiliations. Am I wrong? Isn’t that why there is a lot of heat in Israeli debates because a small number of very observant Orthodox Jews want the state to be religious?

How does the “Secular Party” reconcile its claims with the fact that the only theocracies in the Middle East exist outside of Israel? Presumably in their mooted secular state it would be Muslims who might need protection as many of them do not acknowledge even the possibility that the state can operate independently of religious dogma?

The “Secular Party” seem to think that the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is based on religion. It isn’t. It is based on conflicting national aspirations. At the moment the Israelis hold most of the cards because they actually have a legitimate state sanctified in international law. On the other hand the Palestinians do not have this legitimacy and are trying to achieve their state through terrorising the Israelis.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 3:42:00 pm  
Blogger psydoc said...

How can there be a party if there are no leaders and no members? All I see is a high school standard essay. Who are the ideologues? Why are they afraid to be known? Are they wearing the metaphorical niqab?

Thursday, February 02, 2006 9:53:00 pm  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Stev : that post's way too long for me to wade through bit by bit. I will say a couple of things, however.

In regards to one snippet, I partially concede the point. You're correct, I was wrong to say that the party wholly foists the blame on the Jews. Call it a fault of my skim reading - I missed the bit where they suggested the crisis over the Israeli land was also due to the Muslim outlook.

Having said that, I'll still say that if one observes the number of words dedicated to describing the issues on either side; compare the Israeli Jews, their manifest faults, the origins of these faults and what currently drives them - which are covered in several paragraphs - and the Palestinian "issues", which they briefly mention in about half of one sentence. Instructive, no?

Also, you don't deal with the seminal point - which I mentioned at least twice. Okay, it's sensible to have contingency plans for any policy. My point is; why haven't they mentioned, as part of their platform, that they will organise with the surrounding Arab countries a guarantee of a place of asylum for displaced Palestinians should the plan go awry? Why are the Jews and the Jews only targeted for an evacuation plan should the Secular Party's amazing idea that no one else has thought of (haha) go tits up?

Going by my analysis (and I never claimed anything to the contrary), this thing stinks of an anti-Israeli bent - even though it's not explicitly stated. Of course, for this kind of thing it often doesn't need to be. Look at what they're saying about the US, who just happens to be the major supporter of Israel. Once again, it's simply reading between the lines.

I don't know why we're arguing about this - we both seem to believe that this party and their manifesto constitute a pathetic joke.

Friday, February 03, 2006 3:56:00 am  
Blogger Stev said...

The reason we're arguing is because, while I believe this party is a joke, I do agree with many of their positions and, as I said, I think there is much good that can be garnered from their suggested plan.

And yes, sorry, the post was rather long. Once I get started it's hard to stop :)

I believe I did deal with your seminal point. I'm not sure whether you read the whole post, frankly you could be forgiven if you didn't given the length, but here's a summary for you.

As I see it, the plan lists asylum for Jews in the case of things going awry because it makes an assumption that 'things going awry' would happen at the hands of the Palestinian population rather than the Jews and that the result would be persecution of the Jews rather than the Palestinians.

Now this reading - whether it is correct or not - is quite obviously biased in favour of Israelis/Jews. As I say, we're both reading between the lines and seeing different things and there's no real way to be sure either of us are right about the Secular Party's intentions.

As I said, it's ridiculous to think that if things did go awry, the asylum for the Jews would be anything other than temporary and for this reason I think - if anything - the plan is biased in favour of Jews.

The other reason we're arguing is because you insulted my intelligence for reading different meaning into the language of the plan. Clearly I got defensive and probably went overboard, but I don't deal well with being insulted for the way I see things. I think it's rude and arrogant.

Tell me I'm wrong for reading it the way I do if you like, just don't tell me I'm naive.

Friday, February 03, 2006 12:35:00 pm  

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