Home » Anthony Frosh, Politics and Media, Rachel Sacks-Davis

Calling on all signatories

June 18, 2009 – 10:16 pm45 Comments

By Anthony Frosh and Rachel Sacks-Davis

To the 170 signatories to the petition calling on Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to cancel her planned visit to Israel, we understand that you believe that Israel is not “a truly democratic society”. That’s ok. We attribute this to the poor standard of education that you have received. It might serve you well to read a book that has not received recommendations from the Green Left Weekly.

Be that as it may, we are still curious because when Kevin 747 visited China, we do not remember seeing any petitions. In Kevin’s words, “Fair shake of the sauce bottle.” Even if we accept your views that Australian MPs should not visit Israel, we assume that there would be some other destinations that would have to be added to the strike list.

So here’s your chance to explain yourselves. We’re talking to you Miriam Margolyes, and the rest of you self-described “eminent Australians”. (We know some of you read this blog.) We welcome any explanations that you might have, but we want to point out that we are not interested in arguing with you about Israel. What we are looking for is your defence of China, and specifically, what is it about China that makes it an acceptable political destination? After all, we can see that you have high standards.

Sincerely,

Frochel

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45 Comments »

  • nyclover says:

    Agree 100% with this ‘open letter’. You’ll note, as well, that many of these self-styled Socialists don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to supporting regimes that crush women’s rights… that these self-styled eco-warriors don’t bat an eyelid when it comes to supporting oil-gushing Arab regimes… that these leftist lovers don’t bother hounding dictatorships like Chavez’ Venezuala or the Wahabbist-run Saudi Arabia. You will also notice that they haven’t said one word on the crackdown on dissident protest in Iran!

    Such writers may claim to be only ‘anti-Zionist’, but the reality looks very different from the other side of the petition’s divide.

  • The Hasid says:

    Apparently, whilst studying at ANU, Kevin Rudd supported himself by working as a cleaner. Laurie Oakes’ cleaner*. Jesus. If YOU’D scraped through a Mandarin language major** cleaning Laurie Oakes’ dunny you’d bloody well visit China as many times as you bloody well could. Human Rights be damned.

    * Info gleaned from wikipedia, could be total crap.
    ** OK, First Class Honours in Arts (Asian Studies), technically.

  • sensiblejew says:

    Frochel, what a great post!

    Hi and welcome, Nyclover. Loved your comment, too.

    The knots some leftists will tie themselves in, trying to justify the unjustifiable is quite astonishing. That this group of people so readily makes common cause with groups and individuals whose primary interests lie in repressing human rights is, at times, downright bizarre.

    If people remember the Rushdie fatwa affair, back in the day, there were so many prominent left-wing intellectuals who argued that Rushdie’s offense against Muslim sensibilities completely obscured any right he had to free speech – and by implication, to life. You’ll see the odd group of gay activists at pro-Palestinian rallies, and wonder if they know of the treatment of homosexuals in Palestine, as opposed to their situation in Israel.

    Logic doesn’t seem to play a part, and facts don’t seem to play a part.

    So what on earth can explain this tendency for people who supposedly defend the rights of others to defend the indefensible, and to denounce the places in which human rights’ records and free media/transparency are not a complete joke?

    For example, why is Israel such a focus when its entire region comprises the most unimaginable human rights abuses – particularly against women? For anyone doubting the horror of life as a Middle Eastern woman, please google, “Arab human development report UN.” Why has the US been the focus of leftist anger when the Soviets killed tens of millions? Why is Europe only relevant for its past role as coloniser, when, half a century or more after decolonisation the human rights of the decolonised countries is enough to turn one’s stomach?

    For the moment, two explamantion occur to me:

    The first is that leftism inherently values the good of the collective over the rights of the individual. So in any conflict between, say, “cultural sensitivity” and freedom of speech, the former will always win out. This is because “culture” is a pleasingly amorphous conception that can be afforded an almost religious reverance – it is the visible expression of the will and nature of the group. Freedom of speech, on the other hand, is nothing more than an individual who may pose a threat to this collective.

    The second reason has been touched on in another thread. Sadducee mentioned that Israel tends to act as a lightening rod for all political beliefs held by individuals. I extrapolated on that: basically, personal proclivities and pathologies are most easily politicised by the broad canvas that is Israel. People tend to project their personal experiences onto this canvas. For example, someone who feels disaffected, and distanced from money and power (but nevertheless perceives him/herself as intellectually engaged) will find Israel a convenient platform to express that disaffection.

    Hasid, this is the second injury I’ve sustained from laughing at one of your comments. You need to come with a warning label!

  • I’ve thought long and hard about how the left justify their stance, and expressed it in a blog post of my own a few months ago: http://davidknows.blogspot.com/2007/03/deconstructing-left.html

  • Michael Brull says:

    I’m not an eminent Australian, and do not pretend to be. I do think I’ve read a few books GLW hasn’t recommended. If I were to reduce myself to your level, I might ponder the literacy of the writers of this blog. Apparently, the only thing the letter was about was the claim that Israel is not “a truly democratic society”. This is about as honest as when SJ claimed Antony Loewenstein didn’t provided proper evidence for what he said – and then ignored the evidence that you cited in his letter.

    In this case, you make sweeping claims indicating the breadth of your reading (apparently, the left has never criticised the Soviet Union, or the governments of the Middle East.) And what you again studiously ignore is that if you’re looking for endorsements of Saudi Arabia, look no further than Colin Rubenstein, who thinks it’s a “moderate” government.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Actually considering the US’s widely documented poor track record on human rights etc perhaps Mr Loewenstein might drop by and explain his visit to that location recently? Perhaps Mr Brull might indulge us with an apologia for that indiscretion?

    Again – I would give these folks more credit if they applied their lofty standards to all – as they don’t, it seems that they come across as self-serving and hypocritical.

  • sensiblejew says:

    Hi Michael.

    I should clarify: when I refer to “leftists,” I refer to people who embrace an ideological package wholesale. There are many people with views on certain issues that fall into the “left” camp, who repudiate other tenets. I’m an example of this phenomenon. This the type of independent thinker, however, tended to be thrown out of the Australian Communist Party when Tito split from Stalin, when the former’s supporters started to question the wisdom of backing a homocidal maniac.

    As for impugning my literacy, you are more than welcome to do so if that can somehow bolster your position. The other deductions you make in the same paragraph carry equal weight.

    It’s not that no one who has held a leftist belief has never criticised a despot. My arguments centre on a broad movement and its priorities. Even the most cursory examination reveals that America has always been criticised far more often than any of her far more autocratic foes. The reams of criticism regarding Israeli actions overwhelm any similar criticsm in the rest of the Middle East.

    I have been talking about proportion and priorities. The Left’s focus is completely disproportionate when one examines actual frequency and severity of abuses in their “target” countries, as opposed to abuses in genuinely despotic regimes. Individual rights are simply not prioritised over some amorphous conception of communalist good.

    That there are rogue leftists – for example, Bernard Kouchner – who do get their priorities straight proves my point: such people are rogues – exceptions to a very ugly rule. And they tend to be repudiated by the left very, very quickly.

  • Israel is a “soft target” because it is such an open and democratic society, with a free press. A reporter is unable to tell the world of the repression and atrocities being committed by Hamas in Gaza because if they tried, it would be their last story. Same or similar applies in other autocratic regimes in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.

  • Michael Brull says:

    If you were honest, you might say “I don’t know of any leftists who criticise governments in the middle east”. Instead, you argue from solipsism (“I don’t know, therefore it doesn’t exist”).

  • sensiblejew says:

    Michael, my opinions have nothing to do with the company I keep.

    One need only be literate. One need only flick through the socialist papers and websites. With a strong stomach and iron will, one can read Pilger and Chomsky.

    Are you actually going to try to argue that the left does not disproportionately focus on the US and Israel? Have you read any Chomsky? Do you dispute he is not a figurehead of the left – a guiding light?

    For what it’s worth, Chomsky-as-figurehead best illustrates the disdain for individual life, and the supremacy of an amorphous ideological communalist entity in his defence of Pol Pot.

    Rather than look at the human tragedy of the Cambodian genocide, Chomsky’s narrative demanded that Pol Pot be portrayed as liberator after the evils perpetrated by the US in the region. Chomsky likened the conditions of “newly liberated” Cambodia to liberated France after WW2.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Brull hasn’t digested the fact that by purchasing goods made in the PRC or the USA, or UK, Vietnam and even Australia, that he himself is also complicit in supporting those states’ human rights abuses through his economic support for those regimes…

    I keenly await Brull’s next IAJV blog calling on a financial and academic boycott of the US and the PRC with appropriate divestment and sanctions…

  • Manny Waks says:

    Some of you may be interested in an oped I co-wrote with Geoffrey Winn which was published in today’s edition of the Canberra Times. Please see below. I don’t believe that it’s available at this stage in their online edition (though Joseph Wakim’s is currently available at http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/opinion/editorial/general/dangers-of-gday-visit-to-israel/1543379.aspx?storypage=0).

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Manny

    “Dialogue a better way than slogans”

    It is hard to know which dark cranny should be explored first in response to Joseph Wakim’s attack on the forthcoming visit to Israel by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard (“Dangers of G’day visit to Israel” Canberra Times 17/6/09). Resemblances between Israel and Nazi Germany? Israel as an apartheid State? Local opinion polls twisted into global propaganda? Apart from the obvious ancient canards, one is left with the impression of a rant in pursuit of nothing.

    Has existential hatred of the State of Israel reached the point that a sovereign democratic nation with strong diplomatic ties to our country should not be entitled to host a delegation of politicians, businesspersons, academics and artists? Gillard will also visit Ramallah and meet leaders of the Palestinian Authority during her stay, and despite the dismal record of failure of that leadership on behalf of its people, no one suggests that such a meeting is unwarranted. This brand of opprobrium is reserved for Israel alone.

    Like so many uninterested in the substantive dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians, Wakim cannot resist the appeal of a tired anti-Zionist tirade that adds nothing but rancour to the debate. He claims that Australians largely sympathise with the Palestinian cause, but in truth most Australians, like all reasonable people, simply want realistic responses to an issue that has plagued the Middle East for decades. What do polemicists against every aspect of Israeli life expect to achieve for their efforts? Surely not the ear of a public frustrated by ideological opponents who appear more concerned to justify their position in the commentariat than allow for a rapprochement that may put them out of business.

    In the last week we have seen the results of this type of mindset. A group of anti-Israel activists and academics urged all parliamentarians to oppose the Gillard visit and rejected “the oft-touted cliché that Israel is a democracy like Australia.” The test is simple enough – voters get to vote and every vote counts. Just as important are the institutions that marshal democracy. Trade unions, journalism, secular education, artistic expression, a thirst for knowledge and the means to fulfill it. Let Gillard and her delegation look for themselves and judge for themselves Israel’s adherence to these fundamental principles. Israelis clearly prefer to meet their critics on the ground, face to face and in the full light of scrutiny, and if judged harshly are prepared to argue with visiting delegates as diplomacy properly requires. This is how progress is made, not through cheap allegations launched from half a world away.

    At the same time we see the beginnings of dissent against theocratic Iran following the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. Whether voter fraud was rife or not, clearly the elections had at best the appearance of democracy, and even the so-called moderate Hossein Moussavi had similar views as the incumbent on nuclear weaponry and the legitimacy of Israel. Nevertheless the critics of Gillard’s delegation do not petition an end to Australia’s diplomatic efforts in Iran, nor the interruption of a substantial trade. Instead they attack the one country in the region that is manifestly democratic.

    Wakim has a catalogue of allegations stated as facts, but nothing to say about the value of dialogue and discourse in a region that cries out for both. It seems that Israel is in fact to be punished for its success as an economic and cultural beacon in a region that rarely rewards such enterprise. Gillard has a clearer view. “I know from my previous visit the intensity and diversity of Israel’s people, how their situation encourages innovation, commitment and lively democratic discussion of the issues facing the country and the world,” she said.

    Gillard is aware that political, business and cultural delegations enhance not only co-operative enterprise, but also a familiarity that will allow her to candidly express the Government’s policies for a just Israeli-Palestinian resolution. Those who oppose this type of exchange keep solutions at bay and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in an endless quagmire. Bigoted anti-Israel sloganeering has surely outlived its usefulness, unless the intention is to make Israel the mythic pariah that will forever excuse its enemies of any reasonableness.

    It is easy enough to trade blow for blow in a bout that never ends and leaves no footprint, but much harder to search for solutions in the world of pragmatic policy making and negotiating outcomes. Gillard should be applauded for her willingness to seek a better way. Pity her critics prefer to see a world without change.

    Manny Waks is the former executive officer of the Australian Jewish community’s human rights organisation (B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission) & is currently a public servant based in Canberra.

    Geoffrey Winn is a Melbourne-based lawyer & author.

  • Michael Brull says:

    I’m pleased that you’ve decided to name names. And it turns out, you think Chomsky doesn’t criticise Middle Eastern governments (except Israel). This is pretty revealing.

    You also think Chomsky defended Pol Pot, and even offer a quote to this effect. Let’s pretend that you know what you’re talking about, and are not repeating a discredited second hand distortion. Where are you quoting him from?

  • sensiblejew says:

    Michael, this is becoming tedious.

    . Why wouldn’t I “name names?”

    . Google will help you here: Compare a search of “Chomsky Israel” with “Chomsky Middle East” and see what pops up. You should read others’ comments more carefully. My previous comment was about disproportionate focus, not a complete absence of other targets.

    . I don’t “think” Chomsky defended Pol Pot, I know he did, and so does anyone with any rudimentary knowledge of the subject. Again, Google is your friend.

    . Let’s pretend that the first time I ever saw Chomsky speak (on the ABC circa 1995), he was being questioned on the Cambodia issue. Let’s pretend that a direct quote from him was permanently burned in my brain and saved me from fruitless years of on-campus leftism. Let’s pretend that he said he was sad that all those poor Cambodians died during Pol Pot’s time, but that lots died at the hands of the US. Let’s pretend that Chomsky’s exact words in defence of Pol Pot were that at least his murders were “ideologically defensible.”

    . Let’s also pretend that Chomsky regularly and willingly indicts himself in the ways I describe on znet.

    Let’s call it a day on this subject. The tedium of discussing whether Chomsky’s indeed the Messiah, or just a very naughty boy is probably not what Frochel had in mind when they posted. You’re welcome to have the last word.

  • Michael Brull says:

    Dear SJ,

    I’ve read a lot of Chomsky. I read *both* of his volumes of Political Economy of Human Rights, I read his article with Edward Herman on the Nation preceding it. I know that you don’t have a rudimentary knowledge of the subject, and that you obviously haven’t read what he’s written. It is nice that you know how to conduct a google search, but I think you agree with me: that you don’t know or understand what Chomsky said or wrote about Cambodia.

    Now as it happens, the left doesn’t like any of the governments in the middle east. This is well known (except that you don’t know this). Daniel Pipes, for example, wrote a review of Said Aburish’s book (calling for the overthrow of every government in the region) complaining that this had become a left-wing orthodoxy (that they’re all puppet states of the US, rather than religion or maybe genetic deficits being the cause of problems in the Middle East). Probably the harshest critic of Saudi Arabia is As’ad AbuKhalil, who has written a book on it. It was endorsed by Robert Vitalis and Rashid Khalidi. Vitalis’s book on Saudi Arabia was endorsed in the LRB by Tariq Ali. Chomsky’s distaste for every government in the region – especially Saudi Arabia – is pretty well known. And same for Mark Curtis. Chomsky’s support for Turkish dissidents is also well known. He was also good friends with self described “harsh secularist” Eqbal Ahmad. And Edward Said, whose book the Question of Palestine couldn’t be printed in the Arab world because of its criticisms of Arab governments (I could go on and on).

    It’s not your fault you don’t know what you’re talking about, which is why first you say the left doesn’t care about the Soviet Union or the Middle East (is it worth mentioning the vast left-wing literature of criticisms of the Bolshevik revolution, beginning with Lenin and Trotsky? It’s kind of sad that you actually think it reasonable to argue on the basis of what you don’t know about), then you say they don’t focus on it enough. I think it is quickly becoming clear that this blog is a third perspective in the sense that Fox News is fair and balanced. In the fevered imagination of the right, it is the left which has embraced the House of Saud, Saddam Hussein, Mubarak, the Hashemite monarchy, UAE, Oman, Bahrain etc etc, not the right, the US government et al.

    And for the record – probably the leading authority on the Pol Pot genocide is Ben Kiernan. He wrote probably the most serious work on the genocide, and his estimate for those who died under Pol Pot is something like 1.7 million. He also concluded that the US bombing was crucial for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. And though you apparently don’t care, the US bombing was atrocious, and killed perhaps 150 000 people. http://web.overland.org.au/?page_id=120

  • TheSadducee says:

    4 comments so far from Brull and yet he still hasn’t addressed the point of the piece…

    When are you going to speak truth to power Brull and call for BDS on Australia for its actions in Iraq, Afghanistan or even its abominable treatment of its own indigenous people?

    p.s. love the emotive “whataboutery” at the end with the last sentence. Couldn’t resist it could you?

  • michael says:

    Can a Jew be true to the ”Left cause” and all they stand for and be a supporter of Israel as a Home for the Jews ..?……I don’t think so.. The way I see it ‘True’ left wing Jews have a conflict of interest when it comes to Israel.

  • Michael Brull says:

    Sadducee: I don’t know anyone who calls for a boycott of Australia. If anyone advocated it, frankly, I’d be happy to support them, because the three issues you raise are actually very important.I suspect no one bothers because there’s little prospect of an effect bds campaign against Australia, which is perhaps too big to be effectively targetted, yet is generally not considered a very important country worth the attention.

    I myself would not practice BDS on Australia, and as it happens, I don’t support or advocate BDS against Israel either (but no one on this blog seems to be particularly concerned with finding out the actual views of people on the left, before criticising them for their alleged positions). I oppose this specific visit, by Gillard, in the particular form it has taken.

    And I’m sorry if you consider trivial or funny the carpet bombing of Cambodia. It’s just that I oppose genocide, whether it’s by Pol Pot, or by the US. And I also oppose genocide and mass slaughter in East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Saddam Hussein – and on and on, even if this is considered disproportionate or trivial, because apparently only crimes of governments opposed to the US are worth discussing or condemning.

  • James says:

    Michael Brull, I accept you do not need ‘equal time’ for all injustices – for example, someone could be a Stalin critic and never mention Hitler or Pol Pot. And that’s ok.

    However, if you’re going to say one country should be boycotted and isolated, there should be compelling reasons that they’re worse than the others. Could you explain why Israel, a democracy, is worse than Burma, China and North Korea, or the other scores of dictatorships around the world? Or are you saying they should all be boycotted too?

    James

  • Disinterested Observer says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Miriam Margolyes is Jewish. It says in the Wikipedia that she grew up in a Jewish family. Wouldn’t that explain her particular interest in Israel? Because Israel claims to act on behalf of all Jews, thus forcing Jews to examine what is being done in their name. Is this not the major issue for the diaspora that Loewenstein addresses himself to?

    BTW, how is an in depth discussion of Chomsky “on topic” for this blog?

    I continue to be amazed at the willingness of those defending Israel on this blog to attempt this defence by comparing Israel to assorted dodgy human-rights-violating countries and pleading for equal treatment. It’s not a viable strategy, as I’ve explained before.

    And in PR terms, you just repeatedly remind people to associate Israel with all those dodgy countries and their appalling behaviour. Why would you want to do that? I’m not sure that even the dreaded Colin Rubinstein makes that mistake (well, maybe he does but I haven’t heard him do it).

    The thing is, 60 years of Zionist propaganda directed at the West have convinced the hapless citizens of Western countries that Israel is just like them! A nice, civilized, human-rights-respecting pseudo-Western country. So they have high expectations for its behaviour. Thus, when they see evidence that this isn’t so, they are shocked and get upset about it.

    See, it’s so simple!

    If you say:
    “But look at all the horrible things China, Nth Korea and Sudan have done”,
    they will say
    “Well what can you expect from dodgy countries like that? Not much to be done about it, old chap”

    End of story!

  • michael says:

    “Independent Jewish Voices has voted to join the international boycott campaign ..“

    Michael as a major voice of IAJV dissident Jewish group who are supporters of BDS against Israel I don’t think your partners Loewenstein and Slezak would agree. You cant have it both ways Michael…

  • sensiblejew says:

    Disinterested Observer:

    . Margolyes is Jewish. So what? She is not speaking as a Jew in this circumstance. She is speaking as a signitory to a petition that protests relations with one country, while ignoring far closer relations with far worse regimes.

    . Chomsky is a figurehead of the left who regularly criticises Israel while excusing far more brutal regimes. He was indeed relevant as an example of selective and disproportionate interest in Israel and the US. I terminated that particular discussion as soon as it was in danger of subsuming the rest of the thread. If you are going to comment on what others write, it will serve you well to read what they have actually written.

    . You misunderstand – profoundly:
    People who believe there is something disturbingly immoral about disproportionate focus on Israeli crimes to the exclusion of other, far more heinous crimes, are not and have never asked the world to judge Israel by the standards of despotic regimes.

    This is a hoary old chestnut of an argument beloved of thhose who routinely criticise Israel and wish to justify their disproportionate focus.

    The issue is not that we feel Israel need NOT be criticised because it is better than Zimbabwe, it is that the millions of words and images and protests devoted to Israel come at the expense of any focus on places that are much more deserving of such scrutiny. But because such places don’t have the same “magic” – or whatever the hell it is that gets you media coverage – the God-forsaken people who suffer truly inspeakable fates never get he attention that might actually ameliorate their shocking conditions.

  • frochel says:

    It seems as though we may need to clarify something. Part of the reason that we are not interested in arguing with signatories about their criticisms of Israel is that we may even agree with SOME of them. However, we certainly do not agree that any of those criticisms constitutes a reason for Australia not to have diplomatic relations with Israel. You see, we understand that if they did so, by the same argument Australia would not be able to engage in diplomatic relations with any other country. In fact, Australia would probably have to cut ties with Australia!

    That is why we clearly stated that “we are not interested in arguing with you about Israel. What we are looking for is your defence of China, and specifically, what is it about China that makes it an acceptable political destination?”

    We even put it in bold.

    (Obviously, we consider China to be an incomparably less democratic and an incomparably greater human rights abuser).

    To repeat: We are simply inviting YOU people who justify the petition to explain why there was no petition from these people against Rudd’s visit to China!

    Forshteyn?

  • michael says:

    Dear M/s Fein and anonymous friends I wish to make to complaints if I may.

    1. You selectively delete or censor personal attacks , I am offended that you have not deleted or censored attacks against some of our eminent Jewish representatives … .”dreaded Colin Rubinstein ” Disinterested Observer said… If you are going to allow personal attacks like this one against people who you don’t respect you will loose any credibility you may have either you wont allow personal jibes or attacks or you do.

    2.When you started your blog you claimed your blogsite would occupy the territory between the Beth Din { what ever that is?] and Antony Loewenstein yet you are allowing [ 2] full time Anti- Zionist bloggers to take over your comments section { I wont name them for fear of my comments being deleted but you know who they are ] These virulent anti Zionists are not interested in rational discussion they are extremists and are only trying to use your blog site to further their agenda, and as it appears they are succeeding .Both these people have their own blog sites to demonize Israel , Israelis and Jews you shouldn’t allow them to use your blog site as another tool for their extremist views.

    What is amazing is these same 2 people do not allow any pro Zionist , or critical Palestinian posts , they do not allow any criticism of their views or their partners/comrades and I am not talking about abuse or personal attacks.

  • sensiblejew says:

    Michael, we generally discourage complaints about moderation in comments because
    a) they’re tedious and disrupt the flow of conversation
    b) they are more effectively dealt with via email. All complaints can be sent to sensiblejew[at]gmail[dot]com

    A general comment about anti-Zionists, however, is that they can comment here as long as they don’t deny the Holocaust, write rubbish about the Kazar theory of Jewish ethnogenesis, or engage in abusive or disruptive behaviour. Neither Michael Brull, nor Disinterested Observer are guilty of these infractions. What they choose to do on their own sites is completely immaterial. This has been our policy from the beginning and it will not change.

    Please present all further moderation complaints to our email. Further comments on this site relating to moderation will be deleted.

  • frochel says:

    Michael,

    At the risk of partially repeating what SJ just wrote, we are aware of the draconian style of moderation that takes place on blogs such as Loewenstein’s etc, but we have no wish to replicate their insecure behaviour.

    Michael Brull’s comments on this thread about Dr Rubinstein (supposedly) classifying Saudi Arabia as a “moderate” regime struck us as unlikely, unverified, but most importantly irrelevant to Brull’s own argument. Although we found it interesting that IAJV types now use AIJAC types as their regime appraisal standard ;-).

    Nevertheless, our policy, as stated by SJ, is to err on the side of free speech.

  • Disinterested Observer says:

    SJ: you write: “Margolyes is Jewish. So what? She is not speaking as a Jew in this circumstance.”

    Is there some mysterious code she must use in order to be “speaking as a Jew”? From memory, I thought she mentioned her Jewishness explicitly in interviews on this issue.

    So I am curious as to how you might back up your assertion that “She is not speaking as a Jew”.

    Michael (#24) My reference to “the dreaded Colin Rubinstein” was ironic, i.e. in the context of this blog where he (amongst others) has been attacked (by SJ) as “swill” and is perceived (as I understand it) as someone with their boot on the throat of local democracy in the Jewish community (what this blog is about, I believe). So let me assure you that I do not “dread” him even as I note his dishonesty in public discourse (a rare point of agreement between myself & SJ). If I “dreaded” every dishonest person in the public sphere, I would be quivering too violently to type this :)

  • michael says:

    to/ Disinterested Observer

    would you like to give a few examples of Colin’s dishonesty please?

  • sensiblejew says:

    Michael, this is NOT what this thread is for. Frochel has explicitly asked proponents of the petition to Gillard to explain their support for a boycott of Israel while remaining silent on relations with China.

    Disinterested Observer, there is no need to answer Micahel’s question. You have, however, completely misunderstood my position on Rubenstein. Perhaps you have not read the relevant posts or any other material actually describing his role. He is NOT part of the “representative” body, the JCCV. He directs an Israel advocacy organisation that is astonishing in its incompetence with regard to producing good PR for Israel. His “boot” and our “necks” are not at issue.

    As for Margolyes: it’s very simple: when she says she is speaking as a Jew – which she often does in the media – then she is speaking as a Jew. When she signs a petition, making common cause with Jews and non-Jews alike, in which her ethnicity is not mentioned, she is speaking as part of an non-ethnically defined group. Any “evidence” you seek is in the petition itself. Go and read it.

    More to the point, you have not answered Frochel’s central question. Have a go.

  • Disinterested Observer says:

    SJ: Frochel’s central question, which I take to be the bit in bold about China, is specifically directed to the signatories of a petition. I cannot answer for their views on China. I can only give my own, although since I’m not a reader of “Green Left Weekly”, my views may be a disappointment.

    I think China has a history of grave human rights abuses. I think Western bleating about that has little effect, although perhaps it has some effect, since the regime seems highly sensitive to such (indeed any) criticism. It seems to me that the trend over time in China is toward a more open, less repressive and thus less human-rights-abusive society. They are a long way from being a democracy, however if left to their own devices, they seem to be on a trajectory of improvement. The West has little leverage over China, since the West is now bankrupt. It is China that is in a position to dictate how the relationship will work.

    In comparison, Israel is a full democracy for its Jewish inhabitants and a repressive, violent autocratic regime for its non-Jewish inhabitants (citizens or those in Israeli-controlled areas). The trajectory there is clearly a negative one: if left to its own devices, the level of repression will progressively increase until something very dramatic happens, perhaps the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Despite the bankruptcy of the West, it is still in a powerful position to dictate human-rights improvements to Israel, since the latter remains utterly dependent on the West for direct financial and military support and also as trading partners. Therefore it is not a hopeless exercise for the signatories to sign their petitions. A fairly hopeless one, but not entirely hopeless.

    Michael, #28: it will suffice to mention that Rubenstein endlessly accuses critics of Israel of antisemitism when he knows perfectly well that antisemitism is virtually non-existent in Australia, as SJ has illustrated in her personal descriptions from childhood. Furthermore, he knows even better that the actual critics he addresses are not antisemites, but he uses the accusation as a dishonest weapon to suppress debate. SJ has pointed out that this tactic simply alienates mainstream Oz and I would add that it has now been carried out for so long and taken to such absurd extremes that all it generates is yawning and eye-rolling.

    On the question of Margoyles: since she has explicitly stated that she is speaking as a Jew on these matters, a reasonable person is entitled to make the obvious inference that her Jewishness informs and motivates her decision to sign the petition, even if (oh the shame!) there are non-Jewish names on it as well and even if the phrase “I am speaking as a Jew” has not been robotically appended to her signature (and that of all other Jewish signatories? Is that what you want?)

    The same would apply to your friend Loewenstein: he has made it plain that he *is* speaking as a Jew on these matters and I will “take that as read” *even if* he has not repeated it as a mantra on every single item he writes, signs or speaks.

  • sensiblejew says:

    Hi Disiniterested Observer.

    This is the second time you have paraphrased me regarding Colin Rubenstein, and again you have completely mischaracterised my position. Do not do it again.
    There most certainly is anti-Semitism in Australia. That you would extrapolate my little school story to represent the entirety of our community’s experience shows either ignorance or a disdain for the truth. That Rubenstein’s PR skills are poor does not in any way mean that he is always wrong. Unfortunately, his Pavlovian response to all criticism of Israel renders his statements on who and who is not an anti-Semite problematic.

    As for your statements on China and Israel: they are merely reiterations of what I called a “hoary old chestnut” – the justification for holding Israel to standards not expected elsewhere. I have dealt with this furphy in a previous comment and will not repeat myself.

    Your entire paragraph on the subject s full of unsubstantiated claims (“trajectories”), sweeping generalisations, and, frankly, a poor grasp of Israel’s political reality. You do not distinguish between the conditions of Palestinians (appalling) and Arab “citizens” or Israeli Arabs, as they are known there (not appalling).

    There are problematic elements for all non-elite sectors of Israeli society, both Jewish and Arab. Israeli Arabs often battle the bureaucracy for municipal funding in ways that Jews don’t have to. But they have full legal rights, full citizenship, and parliamentary representation. How you translate that into living under “autocracy” is difficult to fathom. There is also diversity among Arab Israelis themselves. When you talk about these citizens, do you talk about Muslims, Christians, or Druze? Would you classify the Circassians as Arabs? They speak Arabic. I strongly recommend you do a bit of (non-partisan) reading on Israel before your next comment.

  • The Goy Husband says:

    Dear Ladies,

    Wow, I spend the weekend with the kids (2 of each gender and religion) and I miss the mother of all debates as to bds, what Colin is allegedly up to and numerous deviations from the main point of your discussion. Time to revisit the main issue: honest relationship building and transparent State to State bonds.

    If I may, I suggest that the 170 signatories are very much on the wrong track here. Complaining about outcomes (the trip is happening), dialogue and government to government or society to society links (they are quite solid) or the timing (there is never a perfect time to visit any country with enemies or at least some active geopolitical presence) is not going to get them very far.

    The sad fact is that any 1700 (alright make it 17,000) person open letter applauding the Gillard led delegation is just a soft counterpunch.

    Why do commentators, bloggists or political types think that their words or pronouncements are necessarily effective or educative. The average Australian (yes we exist) is unlikely to take any notice of any of this – unless his or her direct interest is impaired. The Green Left Weekly jibe was a bit unkind – even we middle of the road types read the other side!

    Otherwise, congrats Frochel on an interesting thread!

  • Elder of Zion says:

    As Col. Frank Slade said so often in Scent of a Woman, hoo-ah!

    Oh, man! I wish I’d found this discussion earlier!

    Well done to Frochel for starting it. And equally well done to Michael Brull of the IAJV, who has, in his defence of the anti-Israel lot, so effectively and wonderfully revealed their hypocrisy! Brull (#18) writes that Australia should be boycotted, but it won’t be because it’s too hard.

    As James (#19) sort of asked, does this mean the boycotting apartheid regimes crowd are selective in their chosen targets? They pick on the Jews because..? Do they choose to ignore all those other nasty countries because it’s just too hard? Because they like oil too much, and realise standing by their principles (and boycotting nasty regimes) would create such a massive increase in their cost of living that, well, they just can’t be bothered? Is it just easier to hate and boycott Israel because it’s an agent of the US (or it controls the US – never too sure which one), and because it doesn’t produce vital commodities?

    As others in this thread have written in a more grandiose way, if you claim to have principles, but are selective in the way you apply them, you’re full of shite.

    PS – notice the cool way I brought this back to the IAJV and other Australian aspects of the debate?! Sneaky!

  • frochel says:

    Dis. Obs.,

    Firstly, we’d like to congratulate you for being the first person to actually take on our challenge. While we don’t agree with most of what you have written, we respect that you have actually made an attempt to answer our question.

    We feel that between SJ and Elders of Zion, most of our thoughts have been covered so we won’t go over that ground. We will say that the methodology that you have proposed for deciding who to boycott seems to us to be that of the cowardly bully. Where it is possible to push someone around then do so. Pick on the weaker party, but keep clear of the any stronger parties.

    We’d expect these petition signatories to try to live up to a fairer ideal than expediently resorting to a Machiavellian bullying strategy.

  • frochel says:

    Goy Husband,

    We don’t have a problem with people reading the Green Left Weekly, even though we personally consider it time that you can never get back. What we have a problem with is when people limit themselves to reading only publications written by people that they already agree with. We feel that this type of closed-mindedness is a barrier to critical thinking and debate.

    As it is, thank you for your post and kind words. We think think that you are a credit to goy husbands everywhere.

  • Elder of Zion says:

    As Beck points out, Antony Loewenstein is now claiming to be a “New York based journalist.” Leaving aside the fact that Loewenstein is not and never was a journalist* is he now based in New York? Did I miss something? Or is this another Loewenstein fiction to make himself sound more important?

    * A short stint as a cadet in Fairfax’s online department (which ends in one’s firing) does not make one a journalist…

  • The Goy Husband says:

    Dear Elder of Zion,

    Nice shooting: clear , concise and thought-provoking.

    I’m stil trying to understand where AL is coming from – a big ask maybe – he is supposedly a big time blog champion. His site has very little (to this observer) support for the Tehran based activists right now … but a lot about the IDF, Israel and the other things that are prety important to him (a Beach in New York?)

    I might just consign him to the delete bin and read my Guardian Weekly in silence.

  • Disinterested Observer says:

    To address the least significant comment first:

    Elder of Zion, #36 is a cheap shot & not worthy of your Protocols. Loewenstein’s website still announces him as “a Sydney based journalist, author and blogger”.

    Haaretz described him as NY based. Journalists make mistakes all the time. This could be one of them.
    As for the title “journalist” that you seem to think too lofty. I would instead question AL’s judgment in wanting to be lumped in with such a motley crew.

  • Luna says:

    Elder of Zion, you’re clinging to a very narrow definition of journalism there.

    Step outside the square a little? There are so many different forms of journalism. Fairfax doesn’t hold a monopoly on the profession, so IF they did fire Antony for not fitting their mould, that doesn’t prove much. He has published articles with various outlets, so yes, he’s a journo.

    If you’re going to get all bent out of shape over the man, at least attempt to challenge his arguments, instead of slinging cheap shots at his career.

    The Goy Husband, are we looking at the same site? There are countless entries on his blog RE: Tehran.

    I get that SJ doesn’t want to get bogged down in the crap that comes with debating Israel (there are multiple spaces for that already, yup, noted).

    But I don’t see how anyone can adequately support or condemn the petition without discussing Israel in detail. It doesn’t make sense to steer the focus towards China, without allowing people to compare it to Israel and the human rights abuses there. If you’re going to have threads that discuss Israel, but don’t REALLY discuss Israel – why bother?

    You don’t have to explain, it’s your blog to run how you like. I’m just saying…

  • sensiblejew says:

    Hi Luna, and welcome!

    For what it’s worth, most of Antony’s “news” from Iran comes from John Pilger. Pilger is an affront to good journalism in many respects. His writing about Iran is particularly egregious in its complete ignorance of the people and politics, and in Pilger’s reliance on regurgitating the obvious and already-written. That Antony seeks out a like mind, sticks to it, and investigates very little further makes his credentials as a journalist of the old-school quite dubious. Of course, modern media makes everyone a journalist. Even so, Antony’s still not a very good one.

    This, however, is not the thread for discussing Pilger. I’ll be writing a post in a couple of days which will touch on this subject.

    And of course you’re right that it’s difficult to negotiate a thread topic touching on comparisons between Israel and other countries without delving into the minutiae of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Most of our readers, however, understand how to tread that fine line, and why that line is so important to this blog.

  • Frochel says:

    Hi Luna,

    We accept that it would be relevant to the topic to talk about Israel, as long as any discussion relates back to a direct comparison to China. In other words, why aren’t you asking Australian politicians not to visit China?

  • Elder of Zion says:

    While I thank Looney and Not-So-Disinterested Observer for their concern about the well-being of my reputation, I can assure you nothing is too petty for me when it comes to dissing Loewenstein.

    I’d also add that calling into question Loewenstein’s character in describing himself a) as a journalist when he’s not and b) as being based in New York when he’s not is central to the whole thing. Loewenstein bignotes himself to appear more credible. If we were to let that go through to the keeper, others might actually start believing what he writes. It’s not enough to simply debunk his words – though that’s easy enough – we must put on record all his lies, to weaken his credibility.

    And why am I so fixated on his claim (and, NSDO, it’s not a “mistake”) that he’s based in New York? Because, as ol’ Blues Eyes told us so many years ago, if you can make it there…

  • Disinterested Observer says:

    Elder, I concede that your reputation may not be all that worthy of our concern. Leaving that aside, you continue to assert that AL is “describing himself” (or “claiming to be”) something, yet his own website explicitly makes a contrary claim and the simple fact is that the reference to NY was made by Haaretz. You assert this is not a mistake by the newspaper. Again, I point out that newspapers constantly make mistakes about names, places, …everything in fact.

    Do you have any actual evidence? Forgive me if I disregard the evidence of the dead singer/gangster who is advising you.

    For that matter, what does it take to be “New York based?”. Has he moved to NY? If so, that would constitute, you know, evidence.

    BTW, I second Luna’s point that AL’s site is full of references to Iran & he travelled there extensively for his “Blogging Revolution” book. He placed particular emphasis on the role of new media technologies on the work of democracy activists there.

    If Goy cares to actually take a look at that material, he might even admit that AL was rather prescient in that emphasis, in view of recent events in Iran.

    Oh wait, don’t tell me. Elder will allege that AL didn’t actually go there. It’s all fake! I await the latest from Protocol-guy.

  • Elder of Zion says:

    Elder most certainly won’t say that Loewenstein hasn’t been to Iran. Elder, if you’ll excuse him or her talking about him- or herself in the third person, hasn’t read Loewenstein’s Blogging Revolution and thus doesn’t feel he or she knows enough to comment on that aspect of Loewenstein’s work.

    As to the tag line in the Haaretz article, that would have been supplied by Loewenstein, and not by Haaretz. Do you think Haaretz would have Googled Loewenstein, to find out that he’s a “journalist,” that he’s published My Israel Question and that he’s based in New York? For a start, they wouldn’t have, they’d have asked him for his own bio. And secondly, if they had have, they’d have realised, as you keep pointing out, his blog says he’s an Australian based “journalist.”

    I asked in my original post if Loewenstein has actually moved to New York, or whether he was misleading his readers. The only answer I have is yours, NSDO, that his blog still claims he’s based in Australia.

    And to preempt any claim that Loewenstein is considered ‘based’ in New York because he wrote the article there, puh-leease!

  • Disinterested Observer says:

    Elder, to answer my own question (& yours I gather): a brief mention on Phil Weiss’s blog indicates that AL was at the “Tel Aviv Beach event” in New York, so it seems that AL is, at least currently, working from New York. This is further clarified in an AL blog entry today:

    “I’ve been in the US for the last month speaking to a range of individuals about the shifting relationship between Israel and Washington (see Tony Judt’s piece this week in the New York Times). Something is afoot and it’s worrying the establishment.”

    As for Haaretz, well, maybe (as you say) the tag was supplied by AL. Or maybe they were faxing proofs to him in NY & he explained that he was currently working in NY. Or maybe … well how the hell do I know!!??

    I do know that Haaretz has published him in the past, so they might have a file, if that isn’t too old fashioned.

    OK, so next time he writes a piece for them, he should say he’s a “Mars based writer” and see if that flies straight through to the print edition.

    So how long, in the judgement of an Elder of Zion, would you have to be blogging from NY to be able to say you are New York based? A week? Would 6 months do it? How about 6 years?

    And finally, last but not least, what makes you think NY is such a big deal? Its so passe really. Not to mention the infrastructure is crumbling away something shocking and they’ve got no money to fix it.

    Nowadays, if you want to make it, you gotta make it in Shanghai, where all the money is.

    Still, the mere fact that being New York based is no longer any kind of big deal shouldn’t get in the way of a major Sensible Jew sponsored expedition to ferret out all the sordid details.

    I propose that SJ sends Elder on a 1st class flight to Tel Aviv to personally inform the publisher that he has been played for fool of by a blogger who is … well, how to put this as tactfully as possible? OK Mr publisher, you better sit down before I tell you this. OK, now take an aspirin or maybe three would be better. Right, well, you see, this blogger is usually, you see, well, most of the time, at least up till now, he’s been … oh God its tough to deliver this sort of news, but I’ll just come straight out with it: HE’S FROM SYDNEY !!! I know, I know, the horror! Not from New York and NOT EVEN FROM MELBOURNE!!

    I think we can all agree that it’s the least that should be done in these difficult circumstances.

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