Blind supporters of Israel claim that "legitimate" criticism of Israel is acceptable, yet never define what they mean. This is a deliberate ploy to neuter ever-growing international pressure. The charge of "anti-Semitism" is wearing thin, and indeed is contributing to an environment where true anti-Semitism is both ignored and even excused. How can a country that claims to be a democracy maintain an ongoing and brutal occupation over another people? As leading Israeli journalist Gideon Levy told me last year:
"When you drive a road in the West Bank which is a road for only Jews, what is it if not apartheid? When you cross a checkpoint which is only open for Jews, what is it if not apartheid? If you are an Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin who tries to find in this liberal neighbourhood an apartment to rent, and you have terrible difficulties doing so because you are Palestinian, what is it if not apartheid?"
It is within this context that I will be appearing on SBS television on January 16 at 9pm, debating Israel, Zionism and the future chances for peace. "Speaking in Tongues" aims to highlight issues related to religion and is hosted by shit-stirrer John Safran and Father Bob. In this noble tradition, I'll be debating Australian "comedian" Austen Tayshus. [It should be noted that he called me many times last year and harassed me over my anti-Zionist views.]
It was an interesting shoot last week in Melbourne. Other guests on the show included a satanist, Messianic Jew and Orthodox, Jewish doctor who specialises in diabetes and stem-cell research.
Austen Tayshus and I "debated" for around 25 minutes, though viewers will only see a roughly six minute edited version. Father Bob stayed relatively silent throughout while Safran attempted to inject a moderating voice. Tayshus, aka Sandy Gutman, is a confused figure. Serious one minute and playful the next, he is perhaps the worst advocate Zionism could ever have. Long may he prosper.
He thinks that by shouting and bullying his opponents, supporters of Israel will rally to his cause. He suggested that the occupation was coming to an end - despite overwhelming evidence proving the exact opposite - and that Israelis had no real desire to occupy another people. The fact that every majority political party since 1967 has both supported and encouraged the settler movement was easily forgotten. The recent Gaza withdrawal was simply a strategic decision to maintain large blocs across the West Bank, making a truly contiguous and functioning Palestinian state next to impossible.
Gutman, not unlike many Zionists, thinks that mentioning the "Holocaust" will convince doubters that a Jewish state is essential to worldwide Jewish survival. It may explain an emotional connection to Israel - and virtually all Jewish families, including my own, lost people in the Shoah - but cannot mask what Zionism has become. Avraham Burg, speaker of Israel's Knesset in 1999-2003 and a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, put it best in 2003:
"The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.
""It turns out that the 2,000-year struggle for Jewish survival comes down to a state of settlements, run by an amoral clique of corrupt lawbreakers who are deaf both to their citizens and to their enemies. A state lacking justice cannot survive. More and more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their children where they expect to live in 25 years. Children who are honest admit, to their parents' shock, that they do not know. The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun.
"Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated. We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below - from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures" of injustice and moral corruption."
Burg's desperation was palpable. Zionists can continue defending the indefensible and justify the imprisonment of an entire people, but the world no longer believes them. And I think it is a Jewish responsibility, perhaps more than others, to speak out. I gather strength from brave Jews such as Amira Hass, Gideon Levy and Norman Finkelstein who, despite constant threats, continue revealing the true nature of 21st century Zionism.
Jews like Gutman prefer to use emotion over reason. That is their right. But they cannot be surprised when a growing number of Jews are speaking out against a nation that, despite its own tortured history, actively promotes the dispossession of another people.