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Name: Antony Loewenstein
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Speaking in Tongues

Following my appearance on SBS TV this week [now available online, select "Episode 11: Monday 16th January" and here], it's worth offering some reflections (for further background reading, check here.)

I was moderately happy with my performance. I remained calm throughout, explained why Jews shouldn't be Zionists due to its racially exclusionary doctrine and that present-day Israel is on a path to oblivion unless it undergoes a fundamental shift. As Israeli historian Ilan Pappe said in 2002: "I think the de-Zionization of Israel is a condition for peace."

My debating opponent, "comedian" Austen Tayshus, preferred the tactics of bullying and arrogance. Tayshus served a useful purpose in exemplifying the ugly bigotry of the mainstream Jewish community. On the other hand, sadly, it reinforced very unfavourable opinions that have been created in the wider community - through the 2003 Hanan Ashrawi affair - of the intolerance of many Jews towards dissenting opinions and Palestinian voices of reason. Jews are often their own worst enemies. It also might help if Tayshus didn't look so much like those awful caricatures we know from the 1930s!

After the screening, a friend reminded me of a passage by Marc Ellis, University Professor of American and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University. In his book, "Out of the Ashes", he describes his participation in a panel on Israel/Palestine in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was up against Yossi Olmert, brother of Ehud [current Israeli Prime Minister]. He writes, parroting Olmert's paranoid style:

"After all, isn't every violation of order and decency in the Middle East a violation by Arabs who, if they had the power, would drive the Jews into the sea? Isn't that the aim of every Arab on the street and every Arab government from now until the end of time? Aren't moral arguments made on behalf of the Palestinians actually hypocritical, veiled attacks that carry the ominous prospects of another Holocaust? Am I, with others who criticise the Jewish state, contributing to a gathering storm of violence and retribution that might result in a catastrophe for Jews approaching or even surpassing the mass death of Jews in the twentieth century?

"As it turned out, my fears for the integrity of the panel discussion were unfortunately realized. Olmert dominated the discussion as if it were a solo lecture. Not only did he speak far longer than his allotted time, he resisted any attempt to stop him. As his orations grew longer, his vehemence increased.

"Olmert seemed obsessed with the era before the 1967 Israeli-Arab War when Jordan occupied east Jerusalem...With the evening ended, I returned to the home where I was staying. I reflected on the discussion and felt almost as if I had been physically violated...In the morning I had another sense of the previous evening. Rather than by debating skills or truth telling, Olmert had dominated me and the audience with bully tactics. This understanding of Olmert as a bully, remembering that bullies, absent their entourage or, in the case of Israel, an overwhelming arms advantage, are essentially cowards, forced me to a deeper level of sadness with regard to Israel and its future...I view this encounter with the 'bully of Christchurch' as a window into the Jewish world as it has evolved over the last decades. With the evolution and expansion of state power in Israel and the accelerated empowerment and achievement of elite influence in the United States, Jewish life around the world has been mobilized and militarised."

Tayshus tried to steer the conversation away from the Middle East and highlighted the shameful subjugation of the Aboriginal people in Australia. He asked whether I felt ashamed living on occupied land and whether I was campaigning for the country's rightful owners. I have spoken out on such matters and indeed used to work for a Victorian state government unit dedicated to increasing understanding between white and indigenous Australia.

Zionist adversaries will talk about everything other than Israel's illegal behaviour and human rights record: Aborigines, Native Americans, Rwanda, life on Mars even. It is a telling tactic. Israel's behaviour is so indefensible that even in a debate about the Middle East, Zionists prefer to talk about other matters. Indeed, his point was actually in my favour. Tayshus was acknowledging the problems created by an occupied state and showing what happens when that occupation continues unabated - genocide.

Within minutes of the program going to air, I received many emails from complete strangers, keen to learn more about the true situation in Israel and Palestine and engage on a rational level. A small selection of these messages follow:

"I'm sure you will get plenty of emails re: tonight's show. Just a quick message to say that I thought you came across as sensible, intelligent and balanced. You kept your cool and were not an irrational bully – unlike Austen Tayshus. He embodied the aggressive intolerance that is present on a larger scale that make peace in the middle east so difficult to achieve. Keep up the good work."

"Watched SBS tonight (Monday) and wondered whether Gutman realises that he does his cause more harm than good by his attitude and approach. It really was an appalling display of ignorance and prejudice. He didn't give you much opportunity to say a word, and I know it was cut from its original half hour or whatever, but if it was all rant and rave, it is just as well it was cut."

"You behaved with great restraint and dignity in the presence of a right bully. Whoever edited the piece, though, should be whipped."

Edward Mariyani-Squire, a regular commentator on this blog, wrote:

"Gutman gave the impression of being a mannerless ranter due to his constant talking over the top of both A.L. and Safran. (I'd hate to say Gutman was living the stereotype of a dogmatic apologist for the occupation, but I think I just did.) Loewenstein, on the other hand, came across as fairly polite and reasonable. Of course, weaker minds who are not across the issues, think yelling over the top of people constitutes civilised debate, and mistake dissembling apologetics for solid arguments, are bound to be impressed by Gutman."

It never ceases to amaze me that many vocal supporters of Israel are incapable of arguing with anything other than venom, and as my profile increases (and the release of my forthcoming book, speaking engagements and the like), so does the personal abuse. Perhaps it's because they realise that Zionism's sheen has been rightly blackened in the last two decades. Or maybe it's due to the fact that Israeli supporters would rather a brutal occupation remains hidden to the world. Either way, it's a damning indictment on the desperation of a people long known for suffering degradation and isolation.

Ami Eden, national editor of the leading Jewish publication Forward, challenged this Jewish establishment view in the New York Times in early 2005. "It is time Jews recognise that the old strategies no longer work", he wrote. "Jewish organisation and advocates fail to grasp that they are no longer viewed as the voice of the disenfranchised. Rather, they are seen as the global Goliath, close to the seats of power and capable of influencing policies and damaging reputations. As such, their efforts to raise the alarm increasingly appear as bullying."

It is still far too politically and morally convenient for Zionists to portray Israel as "disenfranchised" rather than a global power.

I am a Jew who believes in the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. And as a Jew, I believe it is my responsibility to speak out when abuse occurs, especially when perpetrated by fellow Jews.


Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

I see myself as culturally Jewish, as many Jews do. I don't celebrate any Jewish holidays. Like most religions, people make it up as they go along.
My interest in Israel is certainly due to my Jewishness. What, now we have to prove our Jewishness to a certain body?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 5:00:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Both parents are Jewish, as is my entire family, going back generations.
Hard to imagine a Jew might actually question Zionism?
Get used to it, there are many like us...and growing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 5:46:00 pm  
Blogger Jozef Imrich with Dragoness Malchkeon said...

Most of us don't like risk and uncertainty. That's too bad, because there's no shortage of either. Thanks for taking the risks. It is not easy to debate complex issues, but air them we must ...

Keep your cool head, but share your warm heart far and wide, Ant...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 10:41:00 pm  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Antony Loewenstein said...
Both parents are Jewish, as is my entire family, going back generations.
Hard to imagine a Jew might actually question Zionism?
Get used to it, there are many like us...and growing.

By your own definition, you are not a Jew who questions zionism. You are merely someone who has renounced and denounced your heritage. You don't then get to use it as a source of identity.

You're just Jewish enough for Hitler. But we don't use Hitler as a yard stick.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 12:18:00 am  
Blogger Rob said...

Zionist adversaries will talk about everything other than Israel's illegal behaviour and human rights record

For example, at the moment they're talking about whether AL is really Jewish.

And what a fascinating, if irrelevant, chat that could be.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 1:19:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Because at the moment, she doesn't need to live there.

But shmucks like you have allowed moments to arrive when she will need to live there.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 2:56:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

You've given many incorrect statements. Normally those statements are only spewed by antisemites.

The vast majority orthodox Jews,on theological grounds, are implacably Zionists.

It is a canard, often used by neo-nazis, islamofascists, and others of eddie's ilk, to use such statements to further their agenda.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 3:52:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

You demonstrated nothing but a showing of your antisemitic agenda, to those who might have questioned your point.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:42:00 am  
Blogger James Waterton said...

Tayshus is clearly not the most credible or persuasive Zionist spokesperson out there. In fact, he strikes me as a total loon. Anyone who is dim-witted enough to sum up the Zionist case by the embodiment of Austen Tayshus is in a serious case of denial.

Of course, Tayshus aggressively shouted down both Loewenstein and Safran. Point is, Loewenstein was heard to a degree, and what he said wasn't particularly new or interesting.

Whoever put this debate together at SBS could have chosen two significantly more interesting and edifying characters to argue this highly relevant topic. The whole debate was a complete fizzer, thanks to a poor choice of combatants. Nice work, SBS.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 5:40:00 am  
Blogger Easycure said...

You're a fucking idiot.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 7:48:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

But he's an ape. So you can't really hope for him to be anything but.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 8:04:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

No. He just seems like a newby who saw the addamo on the wall and responded accordingly.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 9:18:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

That he makes it by lying and using addamo in a reasoned manner seems to be all that is important to you.

That the facts are undermined by abusive writing is not a reality based way of thinking.

I wish you joy as you march to your grave, led by an arab who speaks to you reasonably as he sharpens the knife with which he cuts your throat.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 10:12:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Please stick around.
This subject certainly gets people all worked up but alternative readings of the conflict are essential, in my view, to move forward.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 11:27:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Sure thing.
Check out Alan Dershowitz's 'Case for Israel' and 'Case for Peace'. I strongly disagree with both, but they are admired and liked by many Zionists.
Once finished, check out Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah, a demolition job on Derhshowitz.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 11:41:00 am  
Blogger Jono said...

Zionist adversaries will talk about everything other than Israel's illegal behaviour and human rights record: Aborigines, Native Americans, Rwanda, life on Mars even. It is a telling tactic. Israel's behaviour is so indefensible that even in a debate about the Middle East, Zionists prefer to talk about other matters.

Actually this point does show a lot about where you come from. The left is still insanely obsessed with one tiny democratic nation, whilst in other places, there are real atrocities, racism and aggression that go unmentioned by ultra-leftists such as yourself.

Rather than put forward moderate debate where the actions of Israel are placed in perspective, you continue to harp on as if it were the most destructive force on the planet.

Oh yeah, and the phenomenon of palestinian terrorist groups and suicide bombings is not worth discussing either.

Even us Zionists who support Israel's right to exist will all have varied criticisms of Israeli policy.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 1:13:00 pm  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Jon, check out Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah, and don't forget that its publication was delayed while the Publisher forced Fink to remove some lies.

Dershowitz's "Case for Israel" and "Case for Peace" are well reasoned and fairly outline the failings of both sides.

Antisemites and self-hating Jews can't stand it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 3:20:00 pm  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

You certainly can be a zionist and still find fault in the Israeli government. You can be neutral towards zionism and find fault with the Israeli government.

But most antizionists are also antisemitic. And seeing that Zionism is an integral part of Judaism, it is not hard to see the connection.

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:00:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Thanks smiths,
The banning strategy is a tough one. I've reccently introduced a 'comments' policy - you can read that under my profile on the home page - but outright banning seems problematic for me, despite the ongoing abuse. In probably proves my points on this subject, no?
The only way many of these people are able to argue is through aggression. And they wonder why more and more people question Zionism?

Thursday, January 19, 2006 4:37:00 pm  
Blogger Ice Gavin said...

...I throw out a challenge to you: recommend to me some sources to read who defend the Zionist, pro-Israel perspective. Even if you don't agree with them.

John, I'd recommend Honest Reporting- its a pro-Zionist site which usually proves most of Antony's links false, or at least points out the media's double standards. I'm guessing to him and his fans its an extremist what-not, but hell, so is Playschool for not showing gay parents.

I'd also recommend The Other War for some more analysis on Israel in the media.

Friday, January 20, 2006 3:06:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

i myself am saddened and disgusted by much of what is written here by various regular posters and have even asked antony to ban some of them which he fairly rejects as a strategy, but
theres also lots of gems in amongst the posts and some great regular posters who discuss calmy and eloquently and actually use factual information to back up their claims

in fact if you want to stop a degenerating thread historical facts and history are a great way,
just yesterday, in response to bullshit about palestinians i posted the month and year that arafat accepted the right of israel to exist and i got two responses, one that said there was no source, (it was historical fact so i figured easily checkable) and a second that said it was false but failed to explain how or offer any alternative history

Here is the truth regarding Arafat's recognition of Israel.

More than 11 years ago now, on September 13, 1993, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, shook the hand of a reluctant Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn. A culmination of the negotiations in Oslo, the Declaration called for putting an end to “decades of confrontation and conflict” and stated that the parties would “strive to live in peaceful coexistence.”

Within 24 hours Arafat had gone on Jordan TV and explained his position (in Arabic) with remarkable candor:
“Since we cannot defeat Israel in war; we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel,” he said.

Which is why most of us are sick of antisemites posting addamo about Arafat accepting Israel.

Friday, January 20, 2006 3:35:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Antisemites love them because they can parade them around as the only 'real' Jews. That's why so many Arab Muslims love them too.

As long as they are useful.

Friday, January 20, 2006 5:36:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Clearly what you think, and what is, are two separate items. And the fact that you are uncertain does not change the fact that you are an antisemite.

Saturday, January 21, 2006 12:25:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Since you've been made into a laughingstock here, your opinion in that regard is hardly worth caring about.

At the moment, you're an antisemite who happens to be a an object of ridicule.

Saturday, January 21, 2006 9:14:00 am  
Blogger Ibrahamav said...

Are you talking to yourself again?

Sunday, January 22, 2006 5:25:00 am  

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