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John Pilger’s bizarre attack on Frank Lowy

September 27, 2011 – 11:53 am30 Comments

A previous cover of the New Statesman, also featuring Pilger, and described by many as anti-Semitic

Australian journalist, John Pilger, 2009 winner of the Sydney Peace Prize, has launched a bizarre attack on Australian Jewish businessman and philanthropist, Frank Lowy. New York writer, Adam Holland, does his best to make sense of it all.

John Pilger is not one to miss an opportunity to point an accusing finger at Israel, regardless of the wrong he’s addressing. Pilger has a column in the New Statesman (Sept 22) which focuses on a newly opened shopping mall in London’s East End to decry consumerism, ill-treatment of workers, and bad shopping mall design. He’s also upset that he couldn’t find a bookstore that he was looking for.  Pilger chose to headline this column:

“War and shopping – the extremism that never speaks its name: The Westfield Stratford centre, backed by a former Israeli commando and touted as the future face of London by the likes of Boris Johnson, makes a mockery of the East End’s history of productive work.”

Apropos of nothing else in the column (other than that headline), he includes the following paragraph, focusing for some reason on one of several co-founders, whom Pilger oddly calls “the” co-founder.

The co-founder of Westfield is Frank Lowy, an Australian-Israeli billionaire who is to shopping what Rupert Murdoch is to media. Westfield owns or has an interest in more than 120 malls worldwide. Lowy, a former Israeli commando, gives millions to Israel, and in 2003 set up the “independent” Lowy Institute for International Affairs which promotes Israel and US foreign policy.

Pilger may feel strongly about protecting the rights of workers and raising the standards for the design of shopping malls, or he may merely be using those good causes as an excuse to bash Israel on the most tenuous of bases. You be the judge.

(Read here: New Statesman – War and shopping – the extremism that never speaks its name)

From Wikipedia (grain of salt alert) I reprint the following thumbnail sketch of Frank Lowy’s early life:

Lowy was born in Czechoslovakia, and lived in Budapest, Hungary during World War II. He made his way to France in 1946, where he left on the ship Yagur, but was caught en route to British Mandate of Palestine by the British and deported to the detention camp in Cyprus. After a few months, Lowy was allowed into Palestine and was brought to the Atlit detainee camp. Lowy then moved to Sde Yaakov a small yeshiva school [sic] near Qiryat Tivon [and] eventually joined the Haganah and then the Golani Brigade, fighting during the Arab–Israeli War in the Galilee and in Gaza.

Those who oppose Israel’s existence, as does Pilger, view the role played by the Golani Brigade in repelling the Arab invasion of the newly formed state to be an evil one. That a brave young man who barely escaped the death camps of Europe and survived British “Displaced Persons” detention camps in Cyprus and Palestine would choose to defend his new homeland from aggression should, in Pilger’s view, forever ban him from the development of shopping malls in London. Pilger, forever the would-be freedom fighter, would have it that a small part of London’s East End is now Zionist occupied territory and the workers there are Britain’s Palestinians. If Pilger was standing on a soapbox at the Westfield shopping mall spouting this rubbish he would be regarded by most passersby to be a madman. Because he instead publishes it in the New Statesman, he’s considered a pundit.


This article was originally published on Adam Holland’s blog and he has kindly given us permission to republish for our readers


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  • Grandma C says:

    I am just very sorry that John Bilge(r)is considered to be Australian. He is a downright embarrassment to this country (along with a number of other colourful epithets I will refrain from using).

  • ThePostman says:

    Isn’t (virtually) every Israeli a “former Israeli commando” of some description?

  • ariel says:

    The biggest and most obvious question here is a yiddish one:
    vus hot eynem tsu teen mit’n andern?

    What does Pilger’s opposition to Westfield’s industrial relations practices have to do with the price of fish in china (ie Lowy’s experience as an Israeli “commando”)?

    He can only be trying to suggest that Jews/Israelis are evil capitalists. Sorry John, we’ve heard this before – we’re all capitalists and communists, wealthy and parasites, etc.

    The irony is of course that if Pilger had a speck of integrity he would know that Israel has one of the most influencial and active labour union movements in the world and that it was founded as a “workers’ paradise”.

    John, you’re nothing more than a Jew hater and I’m embarrased that this website has even acknowledged your sorry existence.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Pilger has gone overboard on this one.

    Lowy migrated here in the 50s. Plenty of people served in the Israeli army and migrated elsewhere, big deal.

    As for his shopping mall capitalism. Well, I don’t like it, but mixing up his background in a kind of causal chain with British poverty is well, off the planet. Look at the responses on the New Statesman site to set how the nuts have joined in, slagging of about ‘Lowy and the Zionists’.

    And as for the Lowy Institute, unlike the claim in Pilger’s article that it acts as a front for US/Israeli interests, it appears pretty independent and has little on the Middle East.

  • Guido says:

    Lowy saved soccer in Australia. I will always be grateful for that.

  • ariel says:

    Guido – you da man!

  • Sol Salbe says:

    Pilger is a has-been he did some terrific work in the past. But that was at least a decade ago. These days he is better known for lousy fact-checking [Evan Hamas has contradicted one of his rubbishy allegations.]

    In terms of his writing her: Not only is what he says about Lowy the Person totally irrelevant – my local HPW shopping centre is not owned by Westfield but suffers from all the same faults expounded upon by Pilger], he get both Lowy’s commando status and political placement of the Lowy Institute wrong.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Well, it’s good I checked that.
    The sewage-laden water pumped out of a ship’s hold is called bilge. It’s spelt with a “b”. And there’s no particular word for someone who pumps out bilge; he’s certainly not called a bilger. Now, I wonder what got me confused?

  • Reallity Check says:

    And what terrific work has this piece of rubbish done ? The prick is a downright anti-Semite and they gave him that rubbish Sydney peace prize. I suspect he will receive the Admadinajad peace prize next.

  • Philip Mendes says:

    Fairly predictable in terms of Pilger’s track record. See the following extract from my earlier article
    “John Pilger on Israel/Palestine: a critical analysis of his views and sources by Philip Mendes, Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, Volume 22, 2009, pp.97-112

    Presenting false or contentious arguments as fact

    On occasions, Pilger appears to have deliberately bent the truth to suit his political agenda.

    For example, he completely distorts the peace negotiations that were held at Camp David in July 2000 by claiming that the Palestinians were only offered less than half of the West Bank – what he calls “a group of colonies with borders patrolled by military bases” (Pilger 2002a; see also Pilger 2006a: 107-108).

    Yet even strong critics of Israel acknowledge that Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David was unprecedented including significant concessions around accepting a division of Jerusalem, agreeing to eventual Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, endorsing the principle of swapping Israeli territory for annexed areas of the West Bank, and recognizing Palestinian rights to an independent state. The land offered comprised 91 per cent of the West Bank, although this figure didn’t include the annexed suburbs of East Jerusalem (about four per cent of the West Bank), or the 10 per cent area of the Jordan Valley which would be held by Israel for another 10-25 years (Lustick 2002; Mearsheimer and Walt 2007: 104). At the very least, the Israelis made a reasonable proposal which went some way (but perhaps not quite far enough) to meeting minimum reasonable Palestinian aspirations.

    Pilger also claims that Hamas is committed to recognizing Israel despite its founding charter calling for the abolition of the Jewish state (2006b; 2007a; 2007b). But he ignores substantial evidence to the contrary including detailed research by a leading Palestinian journalist which suggested that Hamas would never recognize Israel, or agree to make peace with Israel (Chehab 2007: 36-37, 203).

    Pilger distorts the context of Israel’s invasion of the West Bank cities in April 2002. According to his version, the Israeli government were simply looking for a pretext to take action, and implicitly welcomed the Palestinian suicide bombings that provided their public justification (2002b; 2003: 146-147; 2006a: 73-74). This argument ignores the horrendous impact of the bombings on Israeli society. Nowhere does Pilger refer to the gruesome details of the suicide bombings in March 2002 that killed over 60 Israelis including the major attack on the Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanyah that killed 22 people and injured over 140 (Horowitz 2004).

    Pilger also repeats allegations of a cold-blooded massacre of Palestinian civilians in the refugee camp at Jenin (Pilger 2006a: 70-71) despite significant evidence to the contrary (Horowitz 2004: 177-181), and claims falsely that half the Palestinians killed in the intifada are children (Pilger 2007b). In fact, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem states that only about one-fifth of the Palestinian civilian deaths in the last eight years (4462) are children (878).

    In addition, Pilger grossly exaggerates the level of British support for an academic boycott of Israel. For example, he claimed that the boycott proposal was supported by the Independent Jewish Voices group, a UK group whose founding statement calling for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Territories and a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians, was signed by 528 signatories. He also alleged that the membership of the National Union of Journalists had voted for a boycott, but that the vote had been overturned by an unrepresentative National executive Council (Pilger 2007c). In fact, IJV do not collectively support the boycott, and many of the signatories of their founding statement including the statement author Brian Klug are strong opponents of an academic boycott. In addition, the NUJ vote in favour of a boycott involved only a small and unrepresentative delegate meeting. This vote provoked a negative outcry from hundreds of members (Pike 2007).

  • letters in the age says:

    Germaine Greer has gone loopy in her old age, it happens to the best of them peeps!

  • Reality Check says:

    Letters in the age, Don’t compare Germaine to Pilger. Pilger is a hateful, nasty piece of work while Germaine is intelligent balanced and, I love her.

  • Ari says:

    Maybe if Lowy was involved the eruv in Sydney’s north would have been up and running many years ago – stealing and annexing real australian territory for the purpose of training Jewish terrorists and building even more Israeli controlled shopping districts in the occupied Australian territories.

  • TheSadducee says:

    My favourite part of the piece is his prediction concerning the “likely” event of a fascistic military coup occuring in Greece*.

    (*Sourced from an alleged and unverified CIA report as detailed in Bild – a newspaper which has a special distribution deal with the much beloved corporate icon of the left – McDonalds…)

  • letters in the age says:

    Yes, Germaine is a feisty, intelligent woman and trailblazer that i admire as well reality check.

    my reference to “loopy” is that she is in her own little world at times and loses a sense of reality. that’s all.


  • PETER SM says:

    Most of the “Peace prize” recipients are Israel bashers.
    The University of Sydney claims to have nothing to do with the so called “Peace foundation”,yet continues to provide premises for these messengers of hate who have precious little do with peace or reality.
    They are in total denial of actions or statements from the Arabs past or present.How this is consistent with open discussions and free exchange of information as is to be expected in a first rate University in a democracy,is beyond my understanding.
    Next peace prize recipient is Professor Chomsky :- “Personally I’m very much opposed to Hamas’ policies in almost every respect. However, we should recognize that the policies of Hamas are more forthcoming and more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel…”
    Interview on LBC TV, May 23, 2006 [125]

  • Philip Mendes says:

    Even worse, see what he said in 2002 about American Jews and anti-Semitism:

    “Jews in the USA are the most privileged and influential part of the population. You find occasional instances of anti-Semitism, but they are marginal. There’s plenty of racism, but it’s directed against Blacks, Latinos, Arabs are targets of enormous racism, and these problems are real. Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98 per cent control”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Philip, you have cut off a discussion by Chomsky, giving your use of a selective quote the WRONG meaning to what was intended, that he believes in a Jewish conspiracy.

    He was not talking about Jewish total control (of it seems, everything) which is what you clearly imply.

    He is talking about he debate over Israel and the real history of antisemitism in the US in his own lifetime.

    The first section from http://www.variant.org.uk/16texts/Chomsky.html should be read in full and as well, later on in the article, Chomsky downplays the influence of the Israel lobby [something I find weird] and he then goes on to condemn the theological anti-Semitism of and political influence of Christian Zionists.

    “Anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Palestinians
    Noam Chomsky

    It’s useful to mention a moral principle that’s so trivial it’s embarrassing – the reason for doing so is it’s near universally disregarded. It’s easy (and not even gratifying) to criticise and condemn the crimes of others. It’s a little harder to look in the mirror and ask what we’re doing because it’s usually not very pretty, and if we’re minimally decent we’re going to try to do something about it. When we do, depending on where you are in the world the problems can vary. In some countries it can mean prison, brutal torture, or getting your brains blown out. In countries like ours its condemnation, the loss of job opportunities, or something mild by international standards. It’s much harder than to just talk about how awful the other guy is. For example, there’s a US literary genre developing with many books, articles and passionate discussions about a flaw in our character: ‘We don’t react properly to the crimes of others’, and ‘What’s the matter with us that prevents us from doing this?’ There are obviously much bigger problems – like why do we continue to participate in massive atrocities, repression, terror, but we don’t do anything about it? But there’s no literary genre on that. All of that shouldn’t be necessary to say, but I’ve said it. Beginning with anti-Semitism. In the US when I was growing up anti-Semitism was a severe problem. In the 1930’s depression when my father finally had enough money to buy a second-hand car and could take the family on a trip to the mountains, if we wanted to stop at a motel we had to check it didn’t have a sign saying ‘Restricted’. ‘Restricted’ meant no Jews, so not for us; of course no Blacks. Even when I got to Harvard 50 years ago you could cut the anti-Semitism with a knife. There was almost no Jewish faculty. I think the first Jewish maths professor was appointed while I was there in the early ’50s. One of the reasons MIT (where I now am) became a great university is because a lot of people who went on to become academic stars couldn’t get jobs at Harvard-so they came to the engineering school down the street. Just 30 years ago (1960s) when my wife and I had young children, we decided to move to a Boston suburb (we couldn’t afford the rents near Cambridge any longer). We asked a real estate agent about one town we were interested in, he told us: ‘Well, you wouldn’t be happy there.’ Meaning they don’t allow Jews. It’s not like sending people to concentration and termination camps but that’s anti-Semitism. That was almost completely national. By now Jews in the US are the most privileged and influential part of the population. You find occasional instances of anti-Semitism but they are marginal. There’s plenty of racism, but it’s directed against Blacks, Latinos, Arabs are targets of enormous racism, and those problems are real. Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control.

    That’s why anti-Semitism is becoming an issue. Not because of the threat of anti-Semitism; they want to make sure there’s no critical look at the policies the US (and they themselves) support in the Middle East. With regard to anti-Semitism, the distinguished Israeli statesman Abba Eban pointed out the main task of Israeli propaganda (they would call it exclamation, what’s called ‘propaganda’ when others do it) is to make it clear to the world there’s no difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. By anti-Zionism he meant criticisms of the current policies of the State of Israel. So there’s no difference between criticism of policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism, because if he can establish ‘that’ then he can undercut all criticism by invoking the Nazis and that will silence people. We should bear it in mind when there’s talk in the US about anti-Semitism.”

  • PETER SM says:

    @ Larry Stillman
    Support for the Arab cause,translates into support for the vicious antisemitism and racist lies about Jews that is regular fare in their state controlled media
    I have yet to come across their Jewish supporters condemning their Nazi style propaganda and imagery
    Failure to condemn this racist evil is acquiesce!
    The silence of the so called human rightists is deafening!
    שנה טובה

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Larry: do you think Jews control 98% of everything? Do you think that antisemitism does not exist; that its spectre is merely raised to silence debate? That’s what Chomsky believes, and it’s a nasty, vicious, morally-blind sort of belief.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Joe, no, I don’t believe Jews control 98% of ‘everything’. What a stupid question to even pose. What are you trying to prove? That I am antisemite or that I don’t think there is such a thing as antisemitism? That I am both? What are you trying to prove?

    However, Chomsky is raising a fair point about the use of the spectre of antisemitism being used politically to stop critique of Israeli politics, whether it is by progressive Zionists such as people involved with NIF or J-street, or much further to the left outside of the Zionist or Jewish ‘camp’. I think he as well is critical of the convenient co-option of Christian fundamentalists into the Zionist camp despite their essentialist antisemitism.

    At the same, time, there is a problem with elements of the left, without a doubt. Thus Chomsky does not approve of what has been going on in local BDS campaigns. In a recent interview, he hoses down BDS protests as a divisive tactic to the amazement of the starry eyed interviewer [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5hY-gffV0M]. If you don’t know in fact, I’ve been involved in some recent fractiousness in hosing down ultraleftists who have been playing with the memory of antisemitism (consciously or not), and AJDS has been condemned by some for even daring to raise the issue.

    Thus Harold Zwier and I wrote on behalf of AJDS in the Age:

    The Point is Lost (in BDS noise).
    taste of palestine

    [This letter appeared in the Sunday Age, 25 September 2011]

    THE report in The Sunday Age exposes a fundamental truth of propaganda campaigns – the level of ignorance that drives them.

    The protesters chanting outside Israeli-connected Max Brenner chocolates display little understanding of the complexity of the conflict about which they gather, and are apparently unaware of the way in which their aggressive confrontation taps into the collective memory of many in the Jewish community, who inevitably associate back to the picketing of Jewish businesses in 1930s Europe.

    Melbourne in 2011 is not comparable to that dark period, nor can the protesters be remotely compared to people back then. But they need to be aware of why some Jews are so incensed by tactics that try to link locally owned Israeli shops with allegations against the Israeli military.

    In reality, Max Brenner is not in the war business. The parent company provides ”care packages, sports and recreational equipment, books and games for soldiers”, to quote the protesters.

    The consequence of their polarising tactics is that many people who support Israel vent their disgust at the protests, and ignore the oppression of Palestinians, the reality of 44 years of occupation and the brutalisation of generations of Israeli conscripts since 1967. This point is completely lost on the protesters.

  • Akiva says:

    sidenote – Germaine Greer is my cousin, and while she is very very intelligent (and belligerent about her remarkable intellect being misunderstood and denigrated for much of her life), she is as mad as a cut snake. totally bonkers.and increasingly so. interestingly, it doesn’t seem to affect her scary ability to be always right.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry – I know you don’t think that Jews have “98% control” – so why defend Chomsky when he says that?

  • Philip Mendes says:

    Interesting to read the response by Australians for Palestine to the recent AJDS statement by Larry Stillman on the BDS.


  • Larry Stillman says:

    Mandi, I suggest you read what he is saying — 1) he is clearly engaging in deliberate hyperbole when talking about ‘98%’ (it is a transcript of an oral interview so if might have sounded differently in speech 2) look at the context which is in the entire article, the context is how the debate over Israel is conducted-he is referring I think to the what we can call ‘the Lobby’.

    3) I do think it is fair that he refers to the privileged position of American Jews compared to other minorities in the US. The victim argument carries less weight. They are no longer the victims of endemic discrimination. To believe or claim otherwise is being paranoic, particularly when such pride is taken in the position of Jews in American life by Jews themselves (to take one example, the number of Jews in prominent positions in American leading universities).

    But of course there are instances of traditional antisemitism as well as politically motivated anti-semitism but that is not the reality of day-to-day life. The debates over pros and cons of antisemitism in the US are covered by that source of all wisdom, Wikipedia @http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_United_States/

    Separately–I don’t know what Phillip is implying by referring to the AfP response to the AJDS statement, which was not MY statement in any case, but an AJDS Exec statement ie a group statement I do not own or run AJDS. I believe you elsewhere said the statement was OK.

  • R B says:

    Anti-Israelism is the anti-Semitism for intellectuals. It replaced the anti-Catholicism.

    And John Pilger? He is a cartoon of himself.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Larry, Chomsky is a highly privileged person, although I wonder what he imagines happened to all the antisemites who populated Harvard fifty years ago and Boston thirty years ago. Perhaps he rarely or never experiences discrimination today, but most Jews outside
    the cloisters of academia have experienced it, even if only at second hand. When he pre-emptively dismisses and trivialises the concerns of less-privileged people he makes it that much harder for them to have their concerns addressed.

    As for your allegation that “the spectre of antisemitism [is] used politically to stop critique of Israeli politics”, would you care to give some examples? Because I can show you many examples of the opposite technique: people who use their their position as critics of Israel as a figleaf covering their antisemitism.

  • letters in the age says:


    Germaine is your cousin… wow that is so cool, would make some lovely dinner party conversations!!!

    I only wish she was my grandma but please don’t tell her that ;)


  • letters in the age says:

    Germaine Greer is critical of her own culture and that’s another attribute i admire about her!!

  • Those who oppose Israel’s existence, as does Pilger, view the role played by the Golani Brigade in repelling the Arab invasion of the newly formed state to be an evil one. That a brave young man who barely escaped the death camps of Europe and survived British “Displaced Persons” detention camps in Cyprus and Palestine would choose to defend his new homeland from aggression should, in Pilger’s view, forever ban him from the development of shopping malls in London.

    Zionist criminal Frank Lowy was a member of the Haganah terrorist group which was partly responsible for the deaths of 92 people in the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946, but Adam Holland disingenuously portrays him as some sort of hero.


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