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Letters to Editor – Responses to Mendes

April 3, 2011 – 8:15 pm86 Comments

Below are two slightly abbreviated versions of two lengthy responses we received in regard to the latest article by regular Galus contributor, Prof. Philip Mendes , Advocating Peace or Promoting Conflict and Discrimination? The Strange Case of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.  The first is by Prof. Jake Lynch, and the next is by Prof. Stuart Rees. We have published them here as feature letters. Finally, we have published Prof. Mendes‘ response to Prof. Lynch.

Mendes an assiduous contortionist

“There was enormous confusion over what the Occupation means. A large number of people believed that the Occupation meant simply that the land was occupied by somebody, so many people thought it was the Palestinians who were occupying the Occupied Territories, in the way that a bathroom is occupied or something like that. They just thought it meant people were there”.

So says Professor Greg Philo of the Glasgow University Media Group, interviewed for my film, News from the Holy Land, in an excerpt featured in the recent launch edition of News Goo, my media analysis program for New Matilda. Philo interviewed hundreds of British television viewers in the early Noughties, for a study titled Bad News from Israel. There were, he found, direct correlations between gaps in public understanding, and patterns of omission and distortion in the way the conflict was represented in news on television, in particular.

Both have changed to some extent, in the period since, in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Journalists have become more savvy, and news organisations more responsive to increasingly determined and well-organised social movement activism around Israel-Palestine and the media. One of the fruits of such campaigning and lobbying activity was an independent review of BBC news on the conflict, carried out by the Corporation’s Board of Governors. BBC journalism was failing to spell out the realities of the Occupation, this found, being caught, as it was, “in a strait-jacket of ‘balance’”, and therefore constrained from explaining the imbalance between an occupying power, in control of events, and an impoverished, occupied people, whose lives are effectively being controlled.

BBC News viewers subsequently became much more likely to witness scenes of Palestinians queuing at military checkpoints, with commentary making it clear that this was to move around within their own territory; to hear that settlements were considered illegal under international law and that the Occupation meant Israelis living on land internationally recognised as Palestinian. And, according to a major recent poll by ICM, people in the UK and six other western European countries are now much more likely to identify Israel correctly as an occupying power: 49% of them can do so, compared with just 9% at one stage in the Philo study.

Daud Abdullah of the Middle East Monitor, which commissioned the poll, connects this increased level of understanding, in turn, with what he calls “a growing rejection of Israeli policies”, after a long period in which Israel enjoyed a “high level of support… because it was perceived as a progressive democracy in a sea of Arab backwardness”. It accords with so many eyewitness testimonies, as from Anna Baltzer, the American Jewish woman who spoke, gently but powerfully, at an event we organised in the University of Sydney last year: that she had been brought up with all the usual pro-Israeli certitudes, only to see them replaced, when she journeyed to the Holy Land to see the realities for herself, with a more clear-eyed picture.

The vast majority of us rely, of course, on media reports for information, and the poll figures suggest there has been sufficient explanation and analysis, in coverage of Israel’s assault on Gaza; its murder of aid convoy workers on board the Mavi Marmara; its land grab through construction of its illegal apartheid wall, and so many other excesses, to equip readers and audiences to discern some of the essential distinctions. The well-worn Israeli propaganda lines flourish only in the dark: when exposed to the light, they shatter, then the pieces gradually fade away.

This is why pro-Israeli lobbyists in so many countries try to pressurise media into maintaining strategic silences on key elements of the conflict, and to limit the range of public debate. One of them here even succeeded, a couple of years ago, in getting SBS News to issue an edict to its journalists, prohibiting the use of the phrase, “Palestinian land”, on air. However, “flak” – identified, in Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s famous “propaganda model” as one of five key filters on media content – usually relies, for its effectiveness, on its disciplinary power, internalised by its targets. The very prospect of having to defend one’s reporting against well-resourced and well-connected critics induces what Antony Loewenstein – my studio guest in the News Goo program – called a “pre-emptive buckle”.

Contortions are necessary to fit reports of the facts within the borders of what the media researcher, Daniel Hallin, called “legitimate controversy”. So considerable effort goes into consigning inconvenient truths and heterodox perspectives to what Hallin called the “sphere of deviance… exposing, condemning, or excluding from the public agenda those who violate or challenge the political consensus. It marks out and defends the limits of acceptable conflict”.

Assiduous in such efforts here in Australia has been Philip Mendes.  When the Sydney Peace Prize was awarded to the journalist, author and film-maker John Pilger, Mendes was quick off the mark with criticism of the decision, drawing attention to a scholarly essay he had published in the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, titled “John Pilger on Israel/Palestine: A critical analysis of his views and sources”.

Notable in what I called the “Mendes method” was a habit of ignoring “even prominent and clearly important evidence which flatly contradicts the claims being made about the target of the attack” – in this case, John Pilger’s journalism.

Mendes labeled Pilger as “an anti- Zionist fundamentalist [who] regards Israel as a racist and colonialist state which has no right to exist, and should instead be replaced by an Arab State of Greater Palestine”. But he completely ignored Pilger’s best-known piece of journalism on the conflict, the TV documentary, Palestine Is Still The Issue, in which the closing, in-vision commentary says: “Israelis will never have peace until they recognise that Palestinians have the same right to the same peace and the same independence that they enjoy. The occupation of Palestine should end now. Then, the solution is clear. Two countries, Israel and Palestine, neither dominating nor menacing the other”. (Elsewhere in the same film, Pilger makes it clear that “occupation” refers to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories since 1967).

To refute every mendacious and/or tendentious claim in Mendes’ latest missive would require more attention than can reasonably be expected from even the most patient reader, so I will concentrate on just two. Just as his foray into critical media studies, in his article on John Pilger, revealed what I called, in my own article, his “misunderstandings of key concepts and debates in journalism”, so his attack on CPACS displays his ignorance of conceptual issues in Peace and Conflict Studies. “Those who genuinely want to promote peace”, Mendes declares, “need to find some way of mediating and achieving a mid-way compromise between… polarized perspectives”.

Locating the potential for compromise is characteristic of Conflict Resolution – an important approach to social conflict, but far from the only one for theorists and practitioners committed, as CPACS is, to a normative stance of peace with justice. Compromise has been the declared guiding principle of US-led mediation efforts, which have accompanied the gradual (and now accelerating) dispossession and subjugation of the Palestinians over many years. If, as we hope, the conflict is to be transformed into a phase marked by a significant reduction of violence – structural and cultural, as well as direct violence – then aspects of compromise will be necessary, but not on underlying justice issues because they bear upon human needs, which cannot, by definition, be traded away. That is why the concessions, which – according to the papers leaked to Al Jazeera and the Guardian – were offered by Palestinian negotiators, were untenable: they could not be enacted in practice without a massive escalation of the repression of the Palestinian population that is already underway.

The second issue is one whose intrinsic illogicality stands out, even amid Mendes’ twisted reasoning. When the BBC Governors’ report came out, in 2006, I was a presenter and reporter for BBC Television News. I wrote a piece for the newsletter sent to members of the Frontline Club, in London, welcoming its conclusions. As was, by then, the BBC rule, I had to submit it for clearance to BBC managers – who at that point conceived of themselves as being “under attack” from the Governors. It would be “very odd”, pronounced the manager who censored my article, “for a presenter to be seen to be siding with the report”. In the few months left of my television career, before taking up my position as Director of CPACS, I did no more presenting on BBC World news, although I still worked as a reporter, including a major on-air investigation from a trip to the Philippines.

Mendes claims that this incident gave me “a personal/professional grievance against the so-called pro-Israel lobby which was almost certainly known to CPACS”, suggesting that this somehow accounts for my views on the subject. As will be apparent to any fair-minded reader, this sequence of events must in fact have occurred the other way round. I welcomed the Governors’ conclusions BECAUSE I had already been critical of BBC journalism for its unintentional complicity with efforts by pro-Israel lobbyists to confine chunks of understanding to a “zone of deviancy”, thereby prolonging the state of ignorance detected in Greg Philo’s research: criticisms echoed, to some extent, in the report.

The countries whose people were polled in the ICM survey all take a more balanced approach to the conflict than Australia. Australia is one of only seven countries to have voted, at the UN General Assembly last November, against a motion which “reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli actions intended to change the status of Jerusalem…  [and] Reaffirmed [the GA’s] commitment to the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, the Assembly also stressed the need for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem”. The only other countries opposing this motion were Israel itself, the US and four Pacific micro-states whose votes have, essentially, been bought – the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.

This is connected with the narrowness, in mainstream media and political discourses here, of the zone of “legitimate controversy”. Compared with the UK, social movement activists here tend to concentrate, instead, on action in alternative public spheres such as the impressive website and media monitoring service maintained by Australians for Palestine – and indeed our own program of public talks and general community engagement here at CPACS, often in partnership with the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine. That takes longer to filter through, but there is evidence that it, too, is taking effect.

An online survey by Research Now, of 1,021 Australians in 2010, showed the lingering salience, in many people’s apprehension of the conflict, of the historically unfounded belief that the underlying cause is “ancient hostility between Jews and Arabs” – the explanation left to prevail by default in so many media accounts. However, Eulalia Han and Halim Rane, in a paper presenting the findings, also note that “The majority of Australians (55%) understand the Israel-Palestine conflict to be about ‘Palestinians trying to end Israel’s occupation and form their own state’”.

To illuminate such issues is a legitimate function of scholarly endeavour in its articulation with debates in the community at large. CPACS’ work sheds light on the conflict. The potential effect of Mendes’ contributions is to maintain the darkness.

Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. The views expressed are his own.

More accusations of mendacity against Mendes

It is tiresome to respond to the latest article by Philip Mendes. But to ignore his repetition of the same mantras that he has used for years, would be to abstain from the responsibility to contribute constructively to commentary on the conditions for peace in the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. Mendes’ arguments and his manner of mounting them should be challenged.

Two particular shortcomings characterize this latest article. (i) Reliance on inaccurate ‘I also believe’, ‘In my opinion’ arguments (ii) His assumption that derision impresses and might even be regarded as a form of evidence. There is also a holier than thou, privileged point of view which comes across as a cruel indifference to the plight of others. I’ll refer to privilege and cruelty later. Inaccuracies and derision first.

Mendes refers to the Sydney University Peace Foundation. There is no such body. The Sydney Peace Foundation’s major partner is the City of Sydney. The Foundation is accountable to a Council with diverse membership, many of whom have nothing to do directly with that university. He refers to an Arab Australia Association when I think he means the Australian Arabic Council. But who cares ?  It’s his opinion that matters.

Many of Mendes’ inaccuracies derive from his love for the word ‘binary’ and his drifting into either/or accounts of  the Israeli /Palestinian conflict. Yet he says that’s what others do, not him. He projects a way of thinking as in his polarizing language: ‘pro-Israel partisans’, ‘pro-Palestinian partisans’, ‘pro-Palestinian propagandists’, plus his claim that any  critics of the State of Israel are practising a form of anti-Semitism  and are in effect ‘demonizing all Israeli Jews and all Jewish supporters of Israel as the political enemy.’  Whose is the binary analysis ?  Who avoids  even a touch of self appraisal ?

Critics of the militaristic policies of successive Israeli governments, including Israeli commentators, distinguish between citizens of Israel and the policies of governments but such a distinction does not hinder Mendes. Critics of Israeli policies, he says, ‘seem to have labelled any and all supporters of Israel… as apologists for structural oppression’. He knows this because of his high opinion of his own wisdom: he is someone who ‘has written extensively about the links between structural injustice and social disadvantage.’

He concocts a couple of case studies to parade his ‘I’m right’ views, even if he has never observed events directly, never interviewed the participants he’s referring to. What does that matter ?  For example, he claims that those who identified the powerful campaign to stop the 2003 Sydney Peace Prize being awarded to Dr. Hanan Ashrawi were prejudiced because ‘they essentialized all Jews as comprising a powerful and united lobby reminiscent of historical far Right allegations that Jews control the world.’ He plants words in the mouths of others. Who cares as long as Mendes’ view prevails ?  Yet many of the most outspoken supporters of the choice of Dr. Ashrawi were prominent Jewish citizens of Israel and leaders of diverse Jewish groups in Australia. Such courageous individuals refused to be lumped together as ‘all Jews’, a homogeneous group which would always have commitment to pro Israel views.

His determination to recreate a sort of Mendes Maginot line separating ‘them’ from ‘us’ becomes clearest when he refers to the world wide campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, a campaign which would not have been conceived if Israel had not denied Palestinians their basic human rights. That campaign gained world wide support  in reaction to the Israeli government’s ‘don’t care’ attitude to international law and the brutalities committed in the 2009/2010 operation Cast Lead in Gaza. Mendes also ignores the recent revelations that Israeli leaders’ commitment to the peace process has been a sham and that Palestinian negotiators have been regarded as letting their people down. But that sort of analysis does not fit with his views that all supporters of the BDS campaign, which includes significant Jewish leaders, see ‘all Jewish Israelis as oppressors..’

The derision in his writing leads to inaccuracies, or is it that he’s aware that massive generalizations carry no weight and he should therefore fall back on derision ? Jewish critics of Israeli policies such as the continued building of settlements in flagrant disregard of international laws, are branded by Mendes as self-denying Jews. In this list he includes the highly regarded American Jewish researcher and author Anna Baltzer whom he calls a self dying (sic) American Jew. People who participated in a Sydney University meeting to discuss the BDS campaign were ‘pro Palestinian propagandists’ whereas a student group who arrived one hour after the meeting began appeared to come to protest their carefully rehearsed opposition to the  BDS campaign. Even though he was not present at that meeting, he calls these latecomers ‘moderates’ and reserves his sneer for meeting participants ‘with no links to academia’, as though his employment by Monash University automatically makes his views more credible than those of other citizens.

Mendes appears to regard himself as one of ‘those who genuinely want to promote peace’, yet he has no notion that peace with justice is the goal that could have produced security for Israel and a viable, self respecting and independent Palestine. In his own commentaries there is no reference to justice.

Peace with justice involves a struggle for human rights, for the promotion of non-violence and for dialogue about the needs of a common humanity. Such a struggle and dialogue has been the focus of my many meetings, over several years with peace activists in Israel and across the West Bank. Such objectives are also the concern of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace &  Conflict Studies as led so effectively by Dr. Jake Lynch.

Mendes does occasionally distinguish between critics of Israel, as between moderates and extremists, yet it sounds as though he’d rather not make such distinctions, it being easier to lump together all those with whom he disagrees. For example, groups which have opposed the racism inherent in many Israelis’ attitudes towards Arabs ‘arguably create an anti –Jewish discourse and the potential for an openly anti-Semitic movement by demonizing all Israeli Jews and all Jewish supporters of Israel as the political enemy.’

Stuart Rees, Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney and Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation

Response to Prof. Lynch from Prof. Mendes

Jake Lynch’s response to my original article predictably attacks the messenger, and fails to address any of the substantive issues I raised. It is evident that he has not yet transitioned from being a journalist who investigates and targets individual personalities, to becoming a serious academic who investigates and analyses broader issues and ideas.

Lynch makes no attempt to refute my substantial documentation of the extremist views that CPACS articulate on Israeli-Palestinian issues. For example, I cited a number of examples from the Centre’s own annual reports whereby they had collaborated with anti-Zionist fundamentalists known to favour the abolition of the State of Israel. Lynch does not deny this, and proudly admits that CPACS has been completely captured by the pro-Palestinian lobby, citing their ongoing collaboration with anti-Zionist fundamentalist groups such as Australians for Palestine, and the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine, which lead the so-called BDS campaign to collectively vilify all Israeli Jews as evil oppressors.

Lynch also argues that I have been unfair in describing journalist John Pilger as an anti-Zionist fundamentalist, and naively cites a brief statement from Pilger’s film Palestine is Still the Issue which implies he is a supporter of a two-state solution. The problem is that I don’t believe Pilger given that everything else he says in all his films and writings reeks of extremist opposition to Israel’s existence. For example, in his 1986 book Heroes, he describes Israel on p.365 as “Occupied Palestine”. Both Jake Lynch and I are old enough to remember that key sections of the Left in both Australia and the UK in the 1970s and 80s described all of Israel including Tel Aviv, Haifa and the other Green Line cities as “Occupied Palestine”, and called for revolutionary violence and struggle to destroy the “Zionist entity” and restore the Arab land of Palestine.

Today in an age of political correctness even far Left journalists tend to be more cautious in their language. But Pilger has regularly attempted to diminish and trivialize the extent of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust by comparing Jews with Nazis. For example in 2006 he claimed that an Israeli attack on Gaza constituted a “final solution to the problem of the Palestinians” similar to the “Nazi strangulation of the Warsaw ghetto”. In a further article published in 2009, he included eight separate equations of Israel’s actions in Gaza with the Nazi Holocaust. I really doubt he has changed his spots.

Last weekend the extremist Mayor of Marrickville, who sought to bring her hateful campaign to boycott all Israeli Jews into the State Parliament, was soundly defeated in the NSW state election. CPACS might want to reflect whether that defeat sends a message to reject their current path of conflict and demonization, and instead return to their stated agenda of promoting conflict resolution and peace.

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  • frosh says:

    Prof. Mendes has elected not to respond to Prof. Rees at this time.

    However, we’d love Prof. Rees, as Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, to respond to the following video clip:


  • Jake Lynch says:

    Interesting, Mendes is still at it with the labels.

    The enduring point is, the more opportunity people have to find out about the facts of this conflict, the more they realise the imbalance and injustice that underpin it.

    Labeling people whose views you disagree with is an attempt to hide heterodox perspectives, and inconvenient accounts of events, behind a metaphorical wall.

    It’s of a piece with the avalanche of vitriol launched over the weekend by the Australian. Interesting point about that: in all that coverage of the conflict the word, “occupation” never appears once.

    As for scholarship, well, Mendes’ piece on Pilger appeared in the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, which is rated ‘C’ under the ‘Excellence in Research Australia’ system of journal rankings published by the Australian Research Council. Ethical Space, where my article on Mendes on Pilger appeared, is rated ‘A’.

    I think I’ll leave it there…

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Regrettably, I can see this whole episode morphing into one Philip’s accounts of being martyred at the hands of the his enemies(the other case in point being the mutual antagonism between himself, John Docker and others in the 1990s about the Middle East Studies Association), and this becoming an ‘objective’ study of the left’s views on Israel.

    But a lot of what Philip presents as ‘anti-Israel’ is off the mark from a left Israeli perspective–it is familiar discourse now. Some of those who say it consider themselves Zionists, some have moved onto something else. Much of the time, it is in Hebrew–and I see a lot of it on Facebook.

    I find it interesting that both the critics above find exactly the same problems with the quality of Philip’s argument as I have had over the years: a self-serving case study method, the reliance on second-hand information with ‘implications’ that ‘arguably’ make the case for XYZ, and the use of unqualified terminology or simplistic theory that appears to be neutral but is in fact laced with ideology and that, gloved as academic analysis is used to attack all those who don’t take his position on Israel/Palestine. So Lynch ‘collaborated’ with the tiresome Lowenstein and the obscure Docker–OK, they are anti-Zionists, but is Lynch a ‘collaborator’ with all that is meant to imply. And at the rest of Mendes’ reply, to do a guilt by association number for the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies with the mess in Marrickville is another example of those tactics (and how come Philip gets the right to make another right of reply?) [In critique of his approach I wrote a long piece about 2 years ago now which some may care to read @ http://webstylus.net/?p=129.

    But I really want to object to one particular issue from Philip’s piece, because the rest is so difficult to deal with other than giving up in exasperation at trying to discriminate between the validity and reliability of the what he presents as truth–particularly when Lynch and Rees dispute almost every single point (BTW, I agree, Lynch takes a particularly hard line that causes me discomfort, and I didn’t think much of his New Matilda article). That problem is the categorization of Jews who he doesn’t agree with. I was going to ignore it until someone–who doesn’t always agree with me–quite unprompted, expressed deep annoyance at Mendes’ constant baiting by use of the term.

    It is all true to form in the tiny world of his politics which is not analysis, but polemic, and deliberate, personalized baiting. It was in that ancient period of the spat with Docker et al and AMESA, when Mendes was crystallising his thesis about the Jewish left and the left in general, when he began to attack other members of AJDS for not agreeing with him, that he began to adopt the terminology of calling those who took a critical position self-hating or ‘useful Jews’ (as in useful to Stalin or Palestinians). Latterly ‘self-denying Jew’ have been thrown around by Prof Mendes. Or in my case, he invented the term ‘Stillmanites’ (a play on Schatmanites, I suppose [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shachtmanism] , or Stalinists), as if I too, led a particular cult of evil bald lefties. He must have been talking to Mr Danby about me that day. If he only knew the truth.

    But more seriously who is Mendes to decide who is Jewish or not? Has he got a special zipper test? Sure, I don’t like Lowenstein’s politics, but I don’t call him a self-denying Jew. I just call him a jerk. Thus, Mendes, in the pages of Galus has said he is quite irreligious, but I don’t question his lack of religion–it’s great that he is so honest. In a previous piece in Galus, he also said “(In contrast to Bundists), most Jewish anti-Zionists today seem obsessed with attacking Zionism at the expense of any positive Jewish identification.” [see http://galusaustralis.com/2009/08/1458/jews-against-israel-uncovering-the-anti-zionist-agenda/. Thus, with out any qualification to the qualifiers “most”, or “any” doctrine has been established. Has he checkied inside people’s homes? In a comment to that article, I said that Jewish identity can be manifested in a huge number of rich and fruitful ways and this includes, not being a Zionist, or at least a Zionist in the way that HE appears to define it. Thus that pain-in-the-bum Lowenstein has a strong, but very different sort of identity which comes through in a radio documentary he made for the ABC about a year ago.

    Mendes can carry on his warfare with small, obscure left academic factions in Sydney, but I find his war against small, obscure factions of Jews–for who they are-rather than what they say, offensive, tiresome and immature, and I think a lot of other people do as well.

    [By the way, how come he gets titled as Prof. Mendes when is in fact Ass.Prof, and the other guys have more status as full professors–I’d like to make it a rule now in fact, that no academic on Galusaustralis gets called by pompous titles any more, including my self or I shall insist on being called Senior Research Fellow Dr Stillman, or Gostujoci profesor Univerza v Ljubljani Dr Stillman-which really shows how valueless the term has actually become].

  • frosh says:


    You write: “By the way, how come he gets titled as Prof. Mendes when is in fact Ass.Prof, and the other guys have more status as full professors”

    You’ve got some basic facts wrong. Lynch is also an associate professor (same as Mendes). You needn’t have done much research to discover this. It says so in the very article you have now commented upon!

    You got that wrong, and you dare to call yourself a “Senior Research Fellow”? ;-)

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Is said Prof. Lynch at the top. It is your fault. You are a D grade Journal!

    And I think I have more qualifications than any of them. But Rees is just a Social Worker, like Mendes.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    And I can’t spell.

    It said Prof. Lynch at the top. It is your fault. You are a D grade Journal!

    But I wouldn’t mind some comment from other people.

  • frosh says:

    That’s purely in the honorary sense, and we extended that honour to both Lynch and Mendes equally.

    Below Lynch’s response it says: Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. The views expressed are his own.

    I always thought Galus was a ג (G) rated journal

  • Michael Brull says:

    I think praise should go to Galus Australis for running these responses by Dr Lynch and Dr Rees.

    I also enjoyed Dr Mendes writing “Jake Lynch’s response to my original article predictably attacks the messenger, and fails to address any of the substantive issues I raised. It is evident that he has not yet transitioned from being a journalist who investigates and targets individual personalities, to becoming a serious academic who investigates and analyses broader issues and ideas.”

    Note the substantive issues addressed by Mendes, as he attacks Lynch for ad hominem arguments (which are not actually cited). And of course, that Lynch “naively” cites something Pilger said, rather than simply leaving it to Mendes’ faith. I also imagine Lynch will be surprised to hear of his goal to “collectively vilify all Israeli Jews as evil oppressors.”

    And Larry, I googled you. You’re such an egghead, you’ve got 6 degrees.

  • Prof. Stuart Rees says:

    Crucial questions to Philip Mendes were omittted from my reply as printed in Gallus..

    Philip Mendes needs to go away and think about the lines which were omitted. They read:

    “I wonder if Mendes has observed the cruelty toweards people evicted from their homes or whose homes have been bulldoized, or has he ever been at military checkpoints and seen women in labour or seriously ill patients denied medical help ?
    My asking these questions does not suggest that I or my colleagues condone the fearful violence against Israeli citizens. Neither does it imply that Israel should not exist in security and peace, albeiut accordingt to the rules of international law.

    I refer to these personal issues because the pri9vileged position and scholarly work of an academi8c can be enhanced by a touch of humilityt, as in standing back and refelcting on the way experienmce of class and opportunity affect views…”

  • ian katz says:

    Larry Stillman, Stuart Rees, and Jake Lynch are from a bygone era when the notion of Israelis and Jews having equal rights is seen to be unacceptable.

    Nice to see Stillman, Rees and Lynch one day defend ordinary people against Palestinian suicide bombers and rockets.

    At least Philip’s articles are credible and intelligent.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ian Katz

    Thank you for sharing your thoughtless comment.

    You are completely incorrect on my part. You are peddling a lie. Show me where I have ever defended such action. In years and years of letters to the Jewish News and online I have consistently denounced terrorist acts. But what I also opposed is indiscrimnate and disproportionate retaliatory action by Israel which only also adds to the cycle of violence.

    I will ignore your latter comment as well because it shows little knowledge of how good arguments, as distinct from polemics are written.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I also quote from the AJDS website to counter such contumely:


    ‘This News Service (as well as the Australian Jewish Democratic Society that has been sponsoring it) has always condemned those who use violence to achieve their aims in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are appalled at every death but particularly those of people who did not take part in the hostilities. The Israeli Human rights organisation B’Tselem has documented the death of 100 Palestinians between the end of the war in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead) and the end of July. These included 16 Palestinian minors and 32 people who did not take part in the hostilities. This news service didn’t issue statements on the occasion of any of those deaths and we do not see a reason to issue one now. All those who are responsible for the death, on both sides, stand condemned not only by us, but by all decent people around the world. We do not believe that those who employ terrorism should be rewarded by either us or anyone else changing their policies and actions.’

    As for :’the notion of Israelis and Jews having equal rights is seen to be unacceptable’ –absolute drivel, Mr Katz. Thus, to quote something I put in Galus some time back–

    “the absence of inclusion of the ‘other’ has been one of the faults of both sides in looking for solutions. …. it is a significant on which both Palestinians and particularly self-righteous Palestinian partisans need to take seriously. This point has in fact been made very strongly by one Palestinian group in its criticism of the ‘one state’ solution (see here), by the American Task Force on Palestine in a long, thoughtful, and dispassionate analysis of pros and cons in various Palestinian viewpoints. ….

    “.. it is some proponents of peace based on ending the occupation who have moved furthest from the traditional Palestinian ethno-nationalist narrative to recognize the validity of the Israeli Jewish narrative and take Israeli national interests seriously, as a necessary precursor to developing a workable peace agreement. It is possible that one day a discourse that genuinely transcends both Palestinian and Israeli national identities and narratives may be developed. Sadly, the literature produced by most Palestinian and Arab supporters of the one-state agenda has for the most part charged headlong in the opposite direction.”

    Now this might all sound too ‘academic’ for you but my point is, Jewish rights have to be taken quite seriously by Palestinians, and I have this argument on Face Book all the time as well. The problem that those have on the right of course is that they want to privilege Jewish rights…and that has been and will continue to be a problem.

    Do your homework Katz.

  • Ari says:

    For three pieces written by ‘academics’ and more responses by other ‘academics’ the debate here is one of the most name-calling, immature debates I’ve seen on Galus.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    And that is the problem. How do you deal with name calling?

  • Akiva says:

    thing is – I was recently flicking through “Generation” – a sort of print-edition, Galus forerunner of the ’90’s – a Journal/magazine for community commentary, some seriously amazing pieces of writing from a much more diverse pool of contributors than Galus (really, the mag in its heyday was of a superb standard and extremely impressive) – and LO and behold – there is Dr Mendes – repeatedly – writing commentary and opinion pieces which could have come straight out of your mouth, Larry. I was shocked – and had to doublecheck with the editors (friends of mine) that it was the same guy. But seriously – coming form EXACTLY the same place as you, Larry.

    So what the hell happened in the meantime?

    [and, as an aside, take note – ‘Generation’ was full of precisely the same arguments and topics for discussion that we see here, week in, week out. With longer, more thorough pieces and much better writing.Some fabulous art. It was really interesting to see the way that the internet, while blunting some of the quality, has enlivened the conversations, though. I do have respect for the medium).

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I alluded to the issue above.

    Due to child-rearing and health issues I was absent for a couple of years and not very involved, but I belive it was an eventual strong difference of opinion over the second indifadah in particular with not just AJDS, but many others on the left and this led to an abdiding ‘difference’

    If you go to the Wayback machine at http://web.archive.org and type in ajds.org.au, you can see pages from AJDS in 2000-and access all sorts of debate over these issues, including old newsletters where the debates were taken up in some detail in many letters and comments too and fro. I don’t have time to copy and paste all this.[the pages do take a while to load as the archive has billions of pages on it]

  • alex fein says:

    Akiva, I agree with you that Generation was a wonderful publication – though I am not objective:

    My mother, Yvonne Fein, was the editor for most of the magazine’s life, transforming it from a Yiddish and English small scale magazine (with co-editor, Arnold Zable) to a substantial forum for communal commentary, arts, and culture.

    She only left to pursue other interests a short time before the magazine ceased publishing.

    At that point, Mark Baker (if I remember correctly, he arrived at the magazine a while after Arnold Zable left) was the sole editor; however, as mentioned, that period was quite brief.

    When did you speak to Yvonne?

  • Akiva says:

    I didn’t – I spoke to Jacquie Seeman Charak and Alan Charak, who have the whole collection and who are listed from the first few issues as ?editors? some sort of overseeing role? my titles are probably incorrect, apologies. We attend the same shul. If I remember correctly, they were involved and then Mark Baker took it over from them and the format was changed.

    It was nice to see many of the same names as appear here – Mandi Katz, for one – and I really was thoroughly impressed by the writing. Is your mother coming up to sydney for Limmud, by any chance? I’d really like to get a session together on community commentary over past decade or so, and the way it’s changed. Maybe focusing on blogging and the way that’s changed community discussions.

  • alex fein says:

    Akiva – I don’t remember the Charaks. Either they were involved in the very early days, which were my early days too; or perhaps they were the publishers. I’ll ask mum when I speak to her.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure mum won’t be at Limmud Oz, but your idea sounds like it would make a really interesting seminar.

  • Akiva says:

    and I must say – it’s pretty apparent that Mendes is punching considerably above his own weight here. Inaccuracies such as Stuart Rees points out are unacceptable and evidence of the sort of ‘sheltered-workshop’, closed-community approach to this sort of discussion. What may reassure one’s own (already convinced and paranoid) mainstream community just may not be good enough on a wider scale. And both are much, much better writers than he.

    His refutation does little to convince, and remains inaccurate. The Mayor of Marrickville did not introduce the BDS motion, and while all 5 greens councillors voted in favour of it, so did ALL 4 Labor Marrickville councillors. If the picture he paints was accurate, he’d stand a greater chance of convincing those who don’t already agree, rather than just frightening the pants of those who are already scared. (and no, I do not support BDS in any way).

    I think comparisons with Nazi regimes and behaviours are odious. As far as I’m concerned, this is equally true of Pilger and those in the Jewish community who have loudly called the AJDS, the Greens in general, the Green candidate in Marrickville, plus assorted other people ‘Nazis’. Both are unacceptable – and more importantly – inaccurate.

  • Akiva says:

    Yes, I know that the Seeman-Charaks were involved at the very beginning – I was regaled with stories about all-nighters in order to get each volume up to meet the deadline. They were editors then, not sure how long that arrangement stayed though – although as I say, they have a complete collection and I flicked through all of it. It really was impressive.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi – Akiva is correct – Alan Charak and Jacquie Seemann founded the journal. Yvonne was a great exec editor (I think thats what the structure was) as was Sidra Kranz Moshinsky. Mark Baker was editor for much of the journal’s life although I think was living in Israel when it was first established.

    Sadly the days of such a publication are over because blogging is so much more immediate – and cheaper.

    But I think this publication is important and that its publishers do a great job. Generation had paid staff from very early on ….

  • Akiva says:

    It would be really interesting to put either the whole collection online as a thing in itself, or to put up some of the Generation pieces on Galus, if the writers would permit. They really are that ‘fresh’ – and pertinent.

  • frosh says:


    You wrote “from a much more diverse pool of contributors than Galus”.

    So the collection of (just to name a few off the top of my head) Larry Stillman, Geoff Bloch, Simon Holloway, David Werdiger, Ari Silberman, Mandi Katz, Malki Rose, Danny Brill, Lior Misrachi, Manny Waks, Sheiny New, Ittay Flescher, Kovi Rose, Keren Tuch etc are too narrow-banded for you.

    So that the editors of Glaus know what to aim for, I’d be interested in you provding a list from another Jewish publication that was “much more diverse” than this!

  • Akiva says:

    why be so tedious?

    they had more contributors, from a wider range of backgrounds, covering a far wider range of issues (politics, community, literature of varying sorts, including some fabulous poetry, visual arts – and that’s just the ones I can remember). Such is the nature of print media – when you put out one volume every few months and can carefully seek out and ‘commission’ articles which can be written in leisure – and to which replies must wait and be considered for the same period of months (at least I think it was months, might have ended up as monthly) – the result is much better, more considered writing. Just is.

    Nonetheless, the internet in general, and sites such as Galus bring an immediacy and liveliness – and a immediate relevancy – to community discussions that Generation didn’t have in such abundance, and this is much appreciated – and more suited to the times and the current nature of debate. IMO there is room by both.

    on a related note, I stumbled on an article by Alan Crown Z”L on this history of Jewish community media in australia – apparently the Australian community has always had one of the most prolific, in relation to its size.

  • frosh says:

    So by diverse, you mean “much more diverse” in the type of content (poetry, creative writing)?

    You didn’t actually mean “much more diverse pool of contributors” in terms of their political, social, and religious attitudes etc.

    Is that correct?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    oh and at risk of further sidetracking the discussion in response to Mendes, Mark Joel was also a founder and Annette Charak was involved from very early on. Mark was more recently president of Leibler Yavneh college. At one point Rabbis Betsy and Michael Torop were involved and I think Rabbi Danny Schiff too – all from the progressive movement – it really was quite diverse.
    And it was quarterly – in theory at least – :)

  • Akiva says:

    It looked – from my 2hr glance over a 10 year publication, late after a shabbat dinner – to include voices from – to translate into now – Rabbi Gutnick to Antony Loewenstein. [But really really intelligent pieces :)]

  • Larry Stillman says:

    To return to the contretemps between Mendes and Lynch. I was quite unaware of this article by Lynch (and others) which people may find interesting since it is a detailed response to an article by Mendes about John Pilger.


    Mendes, Philip (2008) John Pilger on Israel/Palestine: A critical
    analysis of his views and sources, Australian Journal of Jewish
    Studies, Vol. 22 pp 97-112 [http://www.thefreelibrary.com/John+Pilger+on+Israel%2FPalestine%3A+a+critical+analysis+of+his+views+and…-a0198354454]

  • Bemused says:

    re Lynch letter: the substantive issue entirely left out is Israel’s legitimate security concerns re having Hamas 12km from Tel Aviv and Iran in airspace over the Jordan Valley. Such facts, when left out, make the Occupation appear gratuitous, even wicked, and withdrawal straightforward. How does any intelligent reader whether academic or not, come to leave this out ?

  • Jacquie Seemann Charak says:

    And a final sidetrack: thanks, Mandi, for the historical note on Generation. Just one correction: we were ABSOLUTELY quarterly for at least the first 7 years (the period of time that I was on the editorial committee), and from memory the 3 years after that as well. We were committed to sourcing diverse contributors, none of whom were paid (we only ever had a skeleton staff that was paid, and not always), and it worked. Note that we didn’t have an internet – I think that we would have embraced it if we had – and I’m sure it would have changed and even further broadened the debate, as it does on Galus.

    BTW, copies of Generation exist in most Australian Jewish libraries,and also the arcives at Fisher (Sydney Uni).

  • frosh says:


    I see you are devoid of any concrete examples. Never mind, let’s move on.

    You wrote:
    “I’d really like to get a session together on community commentary over past decade or so, and the way it’s changed. Maybe focusing on blogging and the way that’s changed community discussions.”

    This has already been done at least twice. There were two panels that between them covered this topic at Limmud Oz 2010 in Melbourne. I see no reason why you couldn’t make it a third.

  • frosh says:

    Prof. Stuart Rees, the same question and rationale you put to Prof. Mendes in the comments section could be put to you.

    For example: Have you observed a bus bombing? Have you observed a Hamas rockets landing on a Sderot kindergarden?

  • Akiva says:

    as I said, I had a few hours to look at the whole collection – I’m going off memory. But surely it is to be expected that something which is 3 months in preparation can have a wider base to draw on? I understand that a great deal of thought went into seeking such diversity – and there was time to really plan it; again, the advantages of print, I think. seems logical to me.

    in regards to Limmud – I’m coordinating one of the streams (as a volunteer) – and such a session hasn’t been done in sydney before. (although there was a variant on this theme at the Sydney Jewish writer’s festival. I’ve had a quick look over the 2010 progamme – and assume that you’re talking about the one with soft maztah in the title. Looks interesting – although we’re going for a slightly different focus up here. I was sorry not to have been able to make it down to melbourne last year – none of the really good stuff (IMO – and except for anat hoffman) came up here.

  • Akiva says:

    do you think that the fact that these things happen so much less frequently affects your argument? (although I do think Prof Rees should consider these things in his argument)

  • Anony mous says:

    “Last weekend the extremist Mayor of Marrickville, who sought to bring her hateful campaign to boycott all Israeli Jews into the State Parliament, was soundly defeated in the NSW state election.”

    Mendes expects to gain credibility by quoting the view of the Australian Jewish News which was their selected front page absurdity for the week? The election in Marrickville was close. Primary votes and those after preferences place Carmel Tebutt (Labor incumbent) 2% ahead of Fiona Byrne (Green, mayor). A 2% loss is hardly a “sound defeat”, when Greens have almost never been voted into the Lower House. And the “extremist” mayor’s boycott policies in council were voted in by 4 Labor councillors as well as 5 Greens…

    The AJN and Yair Miller tried to argue that Marrickville voted loudly against BDS, but their argument was nonsense or mere self-indulgence. It’s a really weird position for Mendes to stand with.

  • Malki Rose says:


    Just so you know, the phrase “soft matzah” was included in the title because of its relevance as an issue of Jewish Community relevance in the blogosphere.

    Rabbi Rabi (whose “soft matzah” you will have noted has been of major discussion in the Jewish Community) was on the panel to discuss the shift away from community subservience to monolithic institutions and towards more consultative roles of Jewish leaders for their communities. There was a great discussion on the beauty of blogging in its generating of rigorous debate to form fresh thoughts on long-standing Jewish ideas.

    I would be happy to furnish you with some of the notes from our session if you feel they would be of value to your session.

  • philip mendes says:

    Sort of interesting to reflect on Generation. It seemed to have enormous potential in the beginning to provide a forum for feisty debate on topical issues, and this was why I contributed once or twice. But overall the journal seemed to take itself too seriously, and to encourage its authors to write in a non-contentious and almost boring mode. Eventually I got so frustrated by the dispassionate style of articles that I cancelled my subscription.

    In my opinion, GA is much more interesting and effective in promoting contentious and diverse debate.


  • philip mendes says:

    Thank you to everyone for their comments on the CPACS debate. I found some of the contributions highly useful – particularly the revealing comments from the two CPACS folks – which exposed significant facts about CPACS political views and alignments that I was not previously aware of. I plan to use some of these revelations in a public talk I am giving to a Jewish conference in early June.

    Three particular new developments are of interest:

    1) The capture by the increasingly powerful pro-Palestinian lobby of political and academic journals, bodies and institutions such as CPACS and the NSW Greens;
    2) The not insignificant role played by self-denying Jews – mostly from IAJV but a couple from AJDS – in legitimizing this capture;
    3) The continuing denial by anti-Zionist fundamentalists that they wish any harm whatsoever to the national and human rights of the six million Jews living in Israel.

    In the interim, I wish you all a happy pesach or easter whether you identify as religious Jews or Christians or Muslims or secular humanists, Bundists or just plain atheists.


  • Larry Stillman says:


    It is appropriate that you name here and now who you believe to be what you quite inappropriately name as self-denying Jews from AJDS rather than keeping such revelations secret until you raise them at a conference, since you proposed to deal with such serious allegations as raised by you at points 2 & 3.

    Your technique is outrageous.

    I hope that other readers of Galusaustralis believe that such a baiting technique is highly inappropriate because I assume you are dealing with the living, rather than the deal. It would be ethical to in fact check your suppositions with those people.

    If you consider for example, that I am a self-denying Jew or ant-Zionist fundamentalist, then you may wish to carefully consider my own well-documented views on the nature of Jewish identity or Zionism–including some theological speculation–before you engage in any erroneous speculation.

    And I suspect that other (unamed) members of AJDS, or many other people engaged in debate in the Jewish community, some of whom don’t share my views, would hold the same viewpoint that your narrow defintionalism on this issue is off the mark.

    You may as well accuse many people on the Israeli left (including some Zionists such as my friend Hagit Back who spents a huge amount of time in Hebrown defending Palestinians) –who people accuse of not being Zionists) as being self-denying Jews or endagering ‘to national and human rights of the six million Jews living in Israel.’ This sounds very similar stuff to that coming out of organisations like Im Tirzu in Israel.

  • Akiva says:

    I’d like to re-iterate my invitation to Dr Mendes – I’m putting together (another!) panel for Limmud on dissent in the community, how dissent is deal with, finding ways for us to disagree about some major things while still remaining in dialogue. Larry, same goes for you.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Akiva, fine with me.

    But is should be either Dr Stillman and Dr Mendes or just Mr and Mr or better still, just first names. I believe that titles are a cover for pomposity on all our parts.

    It is unfortunate that Phillip declined to come on a panel first time around.

    Just a comment about Generation–I have been moving boxes at home and low and behold, a contribution of mine for 1995 fell out of one folder this morning, along with unused scatchie tram tickets. While invited to do write an article by Generation it response to a set of questions about belief and looking at it again, it was of reasonable quality. I never received an explanation as to why my piece never appeared or in fact, any acknowledgement at all. I was very annoyed, but I began to think that the magazine was all for a small group of favoured writers. That is why one line publishing can be so powerful–you can have an ever-expanding stable at no extra cost.

  • Abe says:


    I am a member of CPACS and of Palestinian backgrounds. According to you I am immediately judged as pro-Palestinian and anti Israel. I am pro peace with justice for all. I and members of CPACS are not anti Israel/Jewish and have never been. CPACS stands for peace with justice and advocating non-violence in resolving conflicts.

    BDS is a non-violent strategy that is aimed at boycotting products from the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is not aimed at Israel per se.

    International boycotts are not a Palestinian invention. The Zionists urged its members to boycott Palestinian products and services prior to 1948 and beyond. The USA lead the boycott of the Mosco Olympics and still maintains an embargo against Cuba. The world also boycotted the South African regime.

    It is interesting to note the language used in some of the response such as the “extremist mayor of Marrickville’. I wonder if the Jews could also be labeled ‘extremists’ if they join a boycott against Cuba, North Korea, Mugabe regime etc.

    One last point – if you believe that BDS is not the way to go, what other strategies the Palestinians and ‘peace’ loving people like yourself should do to bring about a JUST PEACE and an end to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza?

    PS: 18 years of peace negotiation have produced more wars, more settlements and more agony to all.

  • Ari says:

    Your problem and that of your ilk and the same reason people find your views offensive and anti-israel is that you lump israel – a country who to our mind is under existential threat and yet acts relatively well considering that threat- with the likes of mughabi, apartheid south africa, and north Korea – as though those wishing to deny the Jews a state in their anscestral land did not exist or worse- that you identify with such people

  • Mandi Katz says:

    I agree with Michael Brull that GA is to be commended for publishing this – its important to have a platform to discuss contentious issues. But its hard to believe that these letters can be simultaneously contentious and so very boring and inwardly focussed. I share the views expressed by others commenting about the aggressive tone of these responses; for academics at a Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution I think these chaps have a lot to learn about dialogue and civil discussion . So much for light over heat. The ‘A grade journal, C grade journal’ comment by Jake Lynch for example is just unnecessary.

    On reading Philip’s original piece, I was struck by the depressingly familiar line taken in Jake Lynch’s piece in New Matilda in February this year. His letter in response here is not particularly insightful – for anyone who reads broadly about Israel/ Palestine and coverage of the conflict in the media, , there isn’t anything new or interesting and there’s a lot that is tangential and inflammatory. More importantly he hasn’t in any way rebutted the very strong contention which Philip made – that the article subscribed to unsubstantiated and prejudiced conspiracy theories about Jews and power. Hard to understand why he has not used his right of reply to defend that article against those allegations. In particular he does nothing to rebut the comment made by Philip that his (Lynch’s) view on the Jewish lobby driving the removal of Rudd from power is at odds with the informed commentators who have documented the many factors which forced the ALP to overthrow Rudd . It may well be correct that Gillard is more ‘pro Israel’ than Rudd. But to argue that that was the motive of the ALP in ditching him for her…well.what can you say?. Can only agree with Philip that it’s a variation of the nasty old line that Jews hold disproportionate financial power and wealth and all that follows.

    One more comment – to Philip this time – which is a plea against the term “self denying Jew”. Im with Larry on this – it’s a variation of the less than constructive term “self hating’ Jew. Isn’t it better to focus on the actual comments – and credentials if relevant – but to leave the way that people identify out of it. Identity is complex and subjective, and comment which focuses on content is generally more relevant and influential.

    But of course the left play that game very aggressively – so for example, how many times do I have to read that Anna Baltzar is Jewish and about her family heritage – could it be that without that background, she’s just another one of very many anti Israel activists, and her views wouldn’t merit the extensive publicity they receive?

  • Abe says:


    Selective readings of posts is a skill I don’t subscribe to. I wonder who do you refer to by “those wishing to deny the Jews a state in their anscestral land did not exist or worse- that you identify with such people”. I have accepted and recognise Israel as a country, do you recognise that the Palestinians also should have a country in their anscestral land?

    Israel is not under threat from its neighbours. Israel has a relationship of some sort with every Arab country, except Syria, and including the Gulf States.

    Israel is grouped with Korea, South Africa and Mugabe because of its non complaince with international laws and UN resolutions. It is a choice the Israeli government made and it has nothing to do with my views of Israel. The minute the Israeli government complies with international law and with the UN resolutions then we stop grouping Israel with such countries and the BDS will be history.

  • Ari says:

    An interesting piece from Doniel Hartman which I thought is somewhat relevant to the thread in general:


  • Akiva says:

    Mandi – what do you consider to be tangential and inflammatory about Jake Lynch’s reply?

  • food for thought says:

    keep up the great work as an observer of political thought and discourse in the diaspora ,larry et al you need a show on channel 31

  • jan says:

    Love the “intellectual bloodsport” here however there are elements of the Dunnig Kreuger effect Larry with all due respect with some of the bloggers…but that’s ok.;)

    Please put egos and old arguments aside and debate with intellectual honesty and respect.

    It’s a fad to attack the greens as it’s the new black amongst some sectors of the commentariat et al.

    Kevin Rudd made a mistake and he admitted on q and a this week and The Greens will not be immune from the same syndrome.

    If that is indeed “the mistake” that has been made with the B.D.S?

    Self indulgent ethnic media is not exclusive to the jewish community also but let me assure you that there is an underground/antithesis movement with other groups that will also occur with the jewish community.

    You know what..it’s already happening guys and the diaspora will be better from it!!


  • Sam says:

    You made some interesting points however the lack of punctuation tends to obscure some of your meanings. For instance, when referring to the Dunnig_ Kruger effect are you referring to Larry? Also your point about the main protagonists forgetting their egos and just arguing the facts just isn’t going to happen, ask any psychologist. K Rudds admission on national TV that he made a mistake and takes full responsibility, will not happen with the Greens with regards to BDS, and I believe that they will not become a friend of Israel any time soon. As far your comment about an underground/ antithesis movement within the jewish community, GA is already doing quite a good job, but why the need to go underground in a country such as ours with true freedom of speech?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Some of you maybe interested to read this by a new voice


    Is Zionism still worth fighting for?

    Mira Adler-Gillies

    A new and thank goodness, younger voice.

    The vituperation from both sides shows it has hit a few raw nerves. I don’t agree with all of it, but that is not the point, there are divergent views emerging struggling to make sense of the future. And it can’t just be characterized as coming from a ‘self-denying Jews’ or someone ‘arguably’ endangering Israel or such like. It is far more complex than this.

  • Marky says:

    Abe, I have said it on other threads and I will say it again and again whenever people such as you falsly blame Israel for the lack of peace.
    When Israel moved out of Lebanon, they were rewarded with 40,000 rockets and by retreating from Gazza the response was 20,000 rockets. In 1967 the Arabs had all the territory you and others claim would be satisfactory and they still threatened and provocated Israel to war. So why the heck should I believe you or them that giving them back more land that there will be no more provocation. If giving back Gazza brought that many rockets, goodness knows how many will be awarded by more returns!

    So this has nothing to do with Korea, Mugabe or South Africa. It has also nothing to do with any decision made by Israel. Israel has many times tested the waters and were rebuffed by violence.

    As for your comment “Israel is not under threat…..” Try living with you family under a constant barrage of rockets or under the threat of family targeted bombs and murders. Then tell me your not under threat.

    And the countries surrounding Israel are in no way stable enough to guarantee any security to Israel.

  • frosh says:

    Larry, that piece you linked to is a weak piece of writing. It’s hard to find a paragraph that isn’t severely flawed in its logic. Hence I can see why it appealed to you.

    Personally, I feel dumber for having read it.

    Interestingly, the author starts off the article writing about the predictability of News Limited (i.e. The Australian).

    What this essay actually demonstrates is the predictability of the ABC-TheDrum-Unleashed website. Shamefully, it is tax-payer money that is used to publish this rubbish.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Thank you for sharing your direct comments with me Frosh.

    Try this then–http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/the-ethical-challenge-for-diaspora-jews, or is this too wet for your liking?

  • Abe says:


    Israel pulled out of Gaza and transformed it from an occupied territory to the largest prison on earth. Gaza is not liberated and still under Israeli occupation, nothing goes in or out.

    About the ‘instability’ of Israel’s neighbours – The Israeli governments have always supported dictators in the Arab countries and beyond. I am speaking here from first hand experience because I lived there.

    About “…..” Try living with you family under a constant barrage of rockets or under the threat of family targeted bombs and murders. Then tell me your not under threat” The answer is YES I lived in such environment. In 1969/70 I saw my own brother hit with Israeli rockets. I witnessed 3 of my class mates killed by Israeli rockets that landed on exam hall where we were sitting for the High School Certificate. We were bombarded daily with Israeli rockets on a city that is far bigger than Sderot. I lived and prepared for my HSC in bomb shelters. I don’t wish that sort of environment to anybody including Israelis. As you can see, firing rockets on civilians and cities was not a Hamas invention and I am not justifying it nor I condone it.

    We can go on and on about who is right or wrong, who killed more of the other etc. The issue here is how we can resolve this issue and live in peace together. Ordinary Palestinians and Israelis are sick and tired of this conflict and we all wish it to go away. Politicians, on both sides, have an interest in prolonging it and pursuing a violent path with us, Palestinians and Israelis, are the victims.

    Lets not play the politicians’ game and start talking about living together and reconnect with our inner humanity.

    Peace, Shalom, Salam

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Akiva – I have now wasted more than enough of my life on Jake Lynch. I had nothing to add to Philips original piece but wanted to comment here because I admire Philip’s persistence in exposing nasty tendencies of the hard left when it comes to Jews and Israel.

    As to inflammatory – two examples leap to mind – calling Israel the “Holy Land” in the context he did – clearly neither he nor the subject of the sentence see it that way so why use that language – provocation for provocation’s sake and this from a self styled peace activist. And this: ‘”murder” of “aid workers” on the Mavi Marmara. It aims to polarise.

    Can you imagine someone like Marc Gopin using language like this about any conflict?

    As to tangential, the thesis of Philip’s piece centred around three clear activities of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution and its staff:
    1. the award of the Sydney peace prize to Hanan Ashrawi notwithstanding that she is a self described nationalist – and Philip was at pains to champion her right to be a nationalist, he just didn’t think that made her a great choice for the prize.
    2. The award of the prize to Pilger despite his essentialist views on Israel
    3. Lynch’s article in New Matilda and how it exposed his word view

    Lynch has written hundreds of words in defence of the Centre and his work, and some of it was even vaguely interesting (although it took a bit of unravelling to understand – maybe he’s just too smart for ordinary people like me) . While he does address the Pilger issue (although unconvincingly to me – but I am admittedly very biased against both him and Pilger) he doesn’t in any way address the other issues as raised by Philip.

  • Marky says:

    “Firing rockets on civilians is not a Hamas invention”

    You don’t seem to understand the difference between specifically targeting civilians and targeting militants(terrorists). Yes, any civilian death is tragic and devastating. However, I hope you are not saying that when a countries buses are blown up, rockets landing by the thousands, families specifically being targeted, they should not go after the perpetrators, who often use civilian shields?

    If when Israel pulled out of Gazza, and there would have been no violence, then Israel would have definitely loosened the screws and pulled out completely and peace would be a lot closer. However, with violence being the response to this olive branch testing the waters, Israel would have been crazy to let it become a free for all(a free for all for the terrorists). There is only one reason they left Gazza and the Arabs did not let it work!

    I am just as sick of this conflict as you say you are. But there needs to be goodwill on both sides.

    So with all these security concerns, to compare us to Korea, South Africa and mugabe is nothing less than obscene!

  • JAN says:

    Challenging the status quo is what i mean by underground/antithesis.

    Bad computer, limited time constraints and a rushed response contributes to my messages.

    Will try to improve on this, thanks!!

    Don’t engage in pointing out and defaming individuals, it’s inappropriate and not my thing.

  • Shaun says:

    I agree with Mandi. Lynch’s responses was a bit wordy without getting to the point.

    He also takes the view that conflict resolution involves compromise as well as ensuring justice, and notes justice issues cannot be traded away, and therefore the concessions by Palestinian negotiators as leaked to Al Jazeera were untenable.

    From this, it is not entirely clear what Lynch means and it strikes me as a bit vague. What exactly is the ‘justice issue’ he is referring to? I presume he is referring to the right of return, or perhaps an expectation that the Israelis would fully withdraw to the ’67 border without land swaps – positions which will ensure a stalement continues forever, and certainly not amenable to conflict resolution.

  • frosh says:


    I think that article you linked to from Tikkun is a much better article. At least the author is genuinely committed to peace. The article on The Drum is nothing but another sub-mediocre effort at delegitmisation.

  • Michael says:

    Mandi: I think some of what you write is more reflective of your opinions and milieu (and perhaps prejudices) rather than of Jake’s writing. To say that it is “polarising” language when someone describes the murder of aid workers on the Mavi Marmara seems to me to indicate that you don’t understand that most of the world thinks Israel’s version of events was ludicrous. If not aid workers – what? Terrorists? And if not murdered, what? Five of them were accidentally shot in the head? The UN investigators are anti-semitic extremists too? For people who are not devoted Zionists in the Jewish community, you have to realise that every independent and neutral source portrays a picture radically different to that of Israeli army spokespeople.

  • Marky says:

    Michael writes “every neutral and independant source portrays a picture radically different to that of Israeli army spokespeople”

    Yep! Perfect example is the Goldstone report….

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hello Michael – if not “aid workers’ – how about “political activists”? If not “murdered” how about “killed in a military conflict” – perhaps its the lawyer in me, but murder has a meaning that simply isnt applicable here. The deaths of these activists was horrendous and should have and could have been avoided but Lynch’s language is still inflammatory. The question isn’t whether more people agree with Israeli army spokespeople, with Jake Lynch or with me or you – the question is whats closest to the truth.

    I wasn’t there but I’ve read widely from a range of sources and reports and I stand by my understanding which of course brings me to your comment, that what I write reflects my opinions.

    Ermmm…. of course it does and I said as much earlier in this discussion when I admitted a bias against Pilger and Lynch.

    We all have biases and prejudices based on all sorts of things – positive things like loyalties and affiliations and negative things like racism . Mostly though people cant see or admit their own biases.

  • Sam says:


    You said “the question is what’s closest to the truth”. In a moral sense this is what really matters, however in practical terms it is relatively unimportant. Palestinians are easily winning the propaganda war and tie this in with anti semitic sentiments from significant number of people who support the underdog in this conflict anyway, then many don’t give a rats about any explanation coming from an IDF spokes person.

  • Michael says:

    Mandi: The point isn’t your substantive opinion on the issue. It’s that you describe as “polarising” language which simply reflects a different understanding to yours. And an understanding that seems obvious to most people. For example, autopsies showed that several of them were shot repeatedly in the head, mostly at close range. You might not believe they were murdered – its hardly surprising most people do. You might believe they were “killed in a military conflict”. Certainly, that’s what the Israeli army claims. That is not what most people believe. When you say polarising, what you really seem to mean is “holds a different opinion to me”, even when yours is the minority POV. I mean, in a sense its true that it’s polarising, in the sense that it does not avoid taking a side in something disputed by the Israeli government. But it seems to me to preclude as valid any writing which expresses an opinion contrary to yours.

  • frosh says:

    Michael, you write:

    “…most of the world thinks Israel’s version of events was ludicrous.”

    There are two major problems with this statement.

    a) I doubt you or anybody else knows what most of the world thinks – have you done some research? Perhaps you are extrapolating from your friends and favourite media sources.
    b) Even if the statement were true (which there is no compelling evidence for), a majority does not make right (although your comment implies that it does). For example, it is likely (again, I say likely, as there wasn’t a survey) the majority of the world used to consider the Indigenous Australians to be part of the fauna of Australia, rather than human deserving of equality. Did that make it correct? Of course not!

  • Michael says:

    Frosh: My point wasn’t whether its right or wrong. It’s that I find it strange to dismiss as “polarising” someone holding and expressing an opinion that most people hold.

    As to what most of the world thinks: look, I’m sure every Zionist indoctrination group you’ve ever been in, heard of or had a friend in will tell you, the vast majority of the world is on a different page to Israel on most issues relating to it. Every year, votes on Israel/Palestine issues at the UNGA go something like 155-5, on things like a two state solution (Israel against, with US, Micronesia, Tuvalu, sometimes Australia etc), on settlements and so on. Throughout the third world people sympathise with the Palestinians, it’s only in places like US, Australia, and Western Europe that people don’t mainly sympathise with Palestinians. I don’t have polls at hand, but I believe that’s shifting. As to the Mavi Marmara, take UK as an example (which has close ties to Israel and is one of, if not its strongest supporter in Europe). If you followed the media there, you’d know it was generally pretty hostile to the attack.

    Even in the US one could find people opposed to the attack in relatively mainstream circles. I mean, I’m surprised you don’t understand how isolated Israel is internationally. Israel’s only other friends historically have been right wing dictatorships who it sold arms to.

  • frosh says:


    You’re making it too easy for me to rip your arguments into shreds.

    Most of those UNGA countries aren’t democracies. I can’t believe you still use the UN as basis for anything! This is the UN that until very recently had Libya on the human rights council! And Libya wasn’t even the worst of the human rights council members!

    As it happens, the less democratic a country is, the more likely it is to vote against Israel. So you can’t extrapolate much from that.

    As for the British media, well, it depends what you read – people tend to read media that agrees with them, and you’re probably no exception. Since you hate Israel, you read media sources that pander to your hatred.

    Finally, you say this rubbish about Israel’s friends. Most of Israel’s best friends are tend to be the most democratic countries in the world, many of them don’t have any military of any significance. A classic example was when Costa Rica went so far as to have its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem (a rarity). Costa Rica at this time did not even have an army (also a rarity!).

    But let’s look at Israel’s worst enemies (and by extension, your best allies). The governments of Iran, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, as well as the Taliban, Al Qaeda… You’re in good company Michael;-)

    Michael, please tell me this isn’t your A-game!

  • Marky says:

    Most of the world(China, India, Philipines etc.) don’t have an opinion of the middle east conflict. Most of those who do, are Muslims, so of course the great majority are anti Israel, no matter who is right or not.

  • Michael says:

    Dear Frosh,

    I don’t think you understand public opinion in the third world.

    I also think your understanding of middle east politics may leave a little to be desired. Iran and Syria I can agree are probably Israel’s worst enemies (excepting perhaps Lebanon, which is more complicated, due to the combination of Hezbollah and collaborationist elements in the government). To suggest Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Israel indicates you don’t know much about the region. I would certainly agree that Saudi Arabia is anti-semitic. However, Saudi Arabia and Israel have had a tacit alliance for a long time. Syria’s hostility to Israel is mixed at least – it has been begging Israel to negotiate with it for years.

    However, the point is – what is public opinion? And if you just want to look at the Arab world (not, say, Africa, Latin America, China, India, Pakistan and so on) – if you knew anything about the region (and I feel condescending saying it, but really this is no secret), you’d know public opinion overwhelmingly is very very hostile to Israel. Far more hostile than Arab governments (ie, dictatorships, which mostly are Arab client states of the US, and so occasionally make some noises to please their populations, but really have no problems with Israel at all). I mean, AIJAC calls Saudi Arabia a moderate government. Moderate!

    Also, by your logic, there are about 5 democratic countries in the world: the US and a few small islands in the Pacific. Ok, that’s one possible explanation for opposing (say) settlements.

    Also, I think it’s a little juvenile to say I hate Israel. Really, when I write articles criticising things in Australia, people write comments saying that people who hate Australia like me should go back to Israel. I understand critical thought can trouble fanatical nationalists who identify themselves with the state, but I can only suggest that I don’t consider myself a hater of Israel, or any other country.

    Finally, I just want to respond to your claim that my “best allies” are the governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban, al Qaeda. I think this is a little absurd, and wonder how you can suggest that in good faith. Firstly, the US has a ring of client dicatorships in the Middle East, all of whom are tacitly allied with Israel, but don’t openly come out as such because their populations oppose this collaboration (the closest ties have been Egypt and Jordan, but also others). Ok, so your best allies are Middle Eastern dictatorships. Israel lobbied Obama to preserve Mubarak. So did Saudi Arabia. Okay, so your best allies are Saudi Arabia and Mubarak, whereas I oppose every government in the region.

    But put aside this kind of game. I’ve written in support of the Iranian protesters, against the various dictatorships in the region, against Mubarak specifically and so on. My views are well known – so well known that I took part in a debate on political Islam and the left (to be published in a few months. Dare I say, in an A grade journal). I’ve never made a secret of being a secularist, a leftist, and a civil libertarian. That you think that makes my agenda the same as the Taliban’s, in my opinion, says a lot more about you than about me.

    And why I think I’ve wasted enough time arguing here. Feel free to respond though.


  • Michael says:

    Oh and I just want to add – your claim that Israel’s best friends are democracies is almost startingly ignorant. I mean, volumes have been written on this. But perhaps you regard Guatemalan death squads in the 80s (for example) as democratic.


  • frosh says:


    You wear an Israeli flag on a shirt and walk down the street in Saudi Arabia, and see what happens to you!

    It is moronic to suggest that a state can virulently anti-Semitic but not anti-Israel.

    Oh, and thanks for reminding me- I left out Hezbollah from my list of Israel’s worst enemies (another fine piece of company!)

    The only thing I agree with in your comment is that you have indeed “wasted enough time arguing here.”

    Good night and good luck.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh, with all due respect, I think editors need to stand back a bit.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    I see I missed a bit of fun by having an early night. Michael I’m not sure whether to respond as you said you were done but then you came back for a little bit more – twice – so I suspect you’re not done.

    Of course its not a matter of my view of the substance of the issues. But I have delved into substance to argue that this is not as black and white as you see it. Wanting things to always be simple doesn’t make it so. Its also telling that you assumed because I don’t like Lynch’s language, that I accept the IDF version or some other propagandised understanding – of “terrorists” and “accidental death”. Those are the only two possibilities?

    There are many people who do not accept that the activists were “aid workers’ – their primary goal was political, that’s not necessarily right or wrong – but its not the same as being an aid worker. And there are many people who would say that the soldiers, placed in the position they were in, used force in response to the actual and perceived threat they faced. Did they use disproportionate force? The UN thinks so, the Turkel commission didn’t. But either way, it doesn’t constitute murder which is intentional killing without provocation.

    Lynch could, without compromising his view, use language that acknowledges the possibility of other views, rather than politically loaded language. Thats why its polarising.

    Your view is that Im wrong, thats it’s not polarising, because “most” people simply don’t accept what I have said in the preceding two paragraphs.

    First, it is impossible to establish what “most” people think.

    More importantly it’s likely that most people reading this article – who presumably Lynch wrote for – and likely that many of the people whose welfare the readers of this blog are affiliated with, Jewish Israelis, don’t see it the way Lynch sees it. And that why its polarising. And thats why it shows that Lynch doesn’t write to build bridges and try to influence for a changed understanding or an outcome to the conflict that will cause least pain to the least number of people. It demonstrates that Lynch doesn’t care what supporters of Israel think, even though the Jews who live in Israel are the people who, with Palestinians in Israel , the OPT and Gaza, are most affected by his conflict and who with Palestinians are the most able to influence its outcome.

    Which goes back to Philip’s argument that Lynch is very much a journalist with a specific target, and not so much about peace. Even if he works for a Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

    Anyway I really am done because I have a lot to do at work today and because this discussion and its focus on what “most people” think as a useful way of determining whats right, brings to mind a passage in Howard Jacobson’s novel, The Finkler Question. Have you read it Michael? You should – you’re in it. We all are.

    “But mainly what he saw was humanity trapped in conviction, like rats in rat traps.
    Those who saw what he saw, saw what he saw. Those who didnt, didn’t. And the didnt had it.”

  • frosh says:

    Larry, with all due respect, I think you need to learn to be able to distinguish between a water polo ball and a jaffa gimmel.

  • frosh says:

    Michael and Larry,

    You both should really read this article. Don’t worry, it’s very short, so it won’t waste much of your time.


    Oh, and just in case you don’t realise it, it’s satire.

    Actually, I’d recommend this short article to Profs Lynch, Rees, as well as ‘Akiva’. It’s aimed at all of you too.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh, I gave up on Imzy years ago (we went to uni together, and I will try to find my best ever satire on him, somewhere in my files). Of course the Jewish conspiracy stuff is crap.

    But believe it or not, I think there are some seriously ontological issues which stop there being an effective discussion between people like Lynch and Rees and proponents of ‘the other side’.

    Lost? Read Habermas on communicative speech acts. But it is the same sort of stuff I think that for example, prevented people on either side in Ireland being able to talk to each other. Until you share some common understanding–even of assumptions that aren’t always expressed but tacit and unrealized, it is hard to get anywhere. It’s the stuff that happens in a much less critical way in almost everything we do and much of life is spent in clarifications.

    Even more lost? http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~kbach/spchacts.html

    Continue to make fun of me or tell me to get lost.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Larry – I agree with you. Its nice to do that – second time in three days.

    That’s exactly what I mean when I say Lynch is not much chop at peace talk – how can he influence people on the ‘other side’ if he approaches this with antagonistic language and no concern for the emotional stake of the ‘other side’?
    There are powerful communicators who make you think and listen even as what they say confronts and pains you, and conflicts with deeply held beliefs, because they acknowledge the different beliefs and emotions that people bring to these discussions – Marc Gopin does that really well.

    At your best, you do too – :)

    Its about where it comes from – heart wise – and I don’t think it can be faked.

  • letters from the age says:

    Sociolinguistics and labio-dental semantics were the only thing i remember from university.

    I use the above to analyse on occasions and it does help!!


  • frosh says:

    Oh dear, Larry. Here is an article by someone I’m pretty sure you did not go to school/uni/cheder/junior-footy with.


    By the way, the author is apparently not Jewish and does not identify as such, although he does have some Jewish paternal ancestors, hence his surname.

  • food for thought says:

    Could you kindly get Barry Kosky to write something for this blog Mr Stillman?

    Very outspoken and controversial pertaining to Jewish matters.

    Have a great weekend!

  • Akiva says:

    Oh, I LOVE the idea of getting Kosky to contribute. Thing is though, he’d never do it. should it be tried, though? I might see what I can do.

  • food for thought says:

    *bows* profusely

    That would be awesome Galus et at!!!

  • letters to the age says:

    Kosky reminded me of so many people that went to non-jewish schools.

    Pretentious but at times brilliant, funny, self-loathing with a love/ hate relationship with Australia and their past.

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