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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Free speech

As many of you know, I'm currently writing a book on Israel/Palestine for Melbourne University Publishing, due in May 2006.

The following letter appears in this week's Australian Jewish News. It's written by Federal Labor MP, Michael Danby. Its agenda is clear. Why is a member of parliament trying to stop the publication of my book? What is he afraid of? History doesn't look kindly on such attitudes. And we all know what other historical individuals favoured this behaviour. By the way Michael, try and spell my name properly next time. It's Antony, not Anthony:

"The graduating class of Mount Scopus of 1972 had some interesting people, many of whom made a mark on wider Australian society. One of my fellow graduates of that year is Louise Adler, the current publisher of Melbourne University Press (MUP).

"Louise was and is an intellectually engaging person, if a little predictable with her inevitable criticism that Labor is a "sell-out" and that supporting Israel, moderate democratic Israel, as I do, makes me a "Zionist right-winger". It's a badge of honour, Louise.

"However, faint praise for Adler is a sidebar to the substance of the issue. I want the entire Jewish community to know that I absolutely dissociate myself from her decision to publish a book edited by Anthony Loewenstein about the Australian Jewish community.

"In preparation for writing his book, Loewenstein sent me a number of questions, based on assumptions, which made his views so blatantly obvious that I refused to answer them or participate in his book.

"I will have no part in his and Adler's propaganda tract scheduled for publication in 2006, which will be an attack on the mainstream Australian Jewish community.

"MUP should drop this whole disgusting project. If they proceed, I urge the Australian Jewish community, and particularly the Australian Jewish News, to treat it with dignified silence. That is our best response. If, God forbid, it is published, don't give them a dollar. Don't buy the book."

Federal member for Melbourne Ports

UPDATE: I've been asked to provide the questions I emailed Danby in late 2004 (what, exactly, has taken him so long to respond?) The questions are reasonable and balanced. I was keen to have his opinions in my book. His then media flak, Dror Poleg, told me that Danby was considering the questions and would answer them asap. He gave me the same response for around one month.

It wasn't until early this year that Danby's office informed me that he wouldn't answer my questions, nor release a statement of any kind. His right. But to now suggest that my original questions were "based on assumptions" is incorrect, as you will see below. Michael, afraid of some old-fashioned debate?

1) What is your view of Labor backbenchers who express dissenting views on the Israel/Palestine question? Is the ALP a broad enough church to accommodate many views, rather than just the standard, pro-Sharon line?

2) Do you see and hear in your electorate dissenting Jewish voices critical of the Sharon government? If so, how do you incorporate them into your own viewpoints?

3) How do you explain the general acceptance in the Australian Jewish community of most, if not all, of Israeli government policies?

4) How do you explain the increasing closeness between the Australian and Israeli governments, particularly under John Howard's government? Do you think a Federal ALP government would have as close a relationship?

5) What is your view of the influence of the so-called pro-Israeli lobby in Australia? Is Melbourne the true source of this influence?

6) What is your view of the mainstream media's coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict, especially the media in Melbourne and Sydney?


Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I'm not stopping the publication of anything, nor trying to do so. I believe in the free market of ideas. Danby is actively trying to get a work he disagrees with censored. It's pretty clear. To most people.

Friday, August 26, 2005 12:16:00 am  
Blogger evan jones said...

Is Brendan Nelson examining the syllabus at Mount Scopus?

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:45:00 am  
Blogger weezil said...

Antony, onje thing I've learned about blogging in the last year and a half:

* Good blogs get commenters.

* Better blogs get trolls.

* The very BEST blogs have stalkers.

You have andjam, shabadoo... and Danby. :D


Friday, August 26, 2005 8:24:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

i asked danby, late 2004, about how the ALP dealt with
dissent re israel/palestine, how he personally dealt
with jewish dissent, view of howard on israel,
attitiudes towards israel and jews in oz. very bland questions.

Friday, August 26, 2005 10:29:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Neil.
I closely followed the debates between Danby and Liberal contender David Southwick last year. It wasn't pretty, to be sure.
Danby is probably trying to pre-empt the release but for a federal MP to be advocating such behaviour should be strongly condemned.

Friday, August 26, 2005 1:13:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Mmmm, not answering questions is one thing - and as I said, his right - but trying to get the book censored is a different story altogether...

Friday, August 26, 2005 1:26:00 pm  
Blogger evan jones said...

The vignette by Neil re his attendance at the Southwick-Danby debate pre Election October 2004 is illuminating.
Inflammatory race hatred. The support for a criminal regime engaged in ethnic cleansing not merely of a verbal nature but actively in the suppression of debate in the Australian Parliament.
Why are the opinions of maddog ZIonists acceptable when the opinions of maddog Islamists are not?

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:29:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Some of what Neil describes will be in the book. Last year's election was illuminating, to say the least.
Zionist fundamentalism OK? Of course, it's not the 'other'. We know what much of the West still thinks of the Arab world...
Ah, Edward Said's Orientalism lives and breaths daily...

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:39:00 pm  

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