Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Microscope: Proudly anti-Israel Jews

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Jamie Hyams

Proudly anti-Israel Jews

We seem to be hearing more and more from an anything but silent minority of Jews who disagree with Israel or its policies, want to tell the world and, despite frequent claims that their views are suppressed, seem to have no problem doing so.

Recently 130 out of Britain’s roughly 270,000 Jews, some prominent, although generally not for their activities in the Jewish community, announced the formation of a group called Independent Jewish Voices, and published a letter in The Guardian. The Age and Sydney Morning Herald gave this event prominent coverage on February 6. The letter proclaimed, “We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole.”

Of course, if the Jewish leadership had to reflect the views of every fringe group instead of putting forward the views of the vast majority, it would never be able to say anything coherent.

The following day, Andra Jackson in the Age reported that prominent local Israel-bashing Jew Antony Loewenstein was seeking to set up a similar group in Australia. The group was not named, and it seemed likely that the announcement was a new idea designed to piggy-back off the publicity the British group received.

On Feb. 6, the Herald also carried an article by Loewenstein in which he lauded the British group, and, in a new angle, blamed Israel’s Jewish supporters for antisemitism. He wrote, “Uncritical allegiance to Israel by its ‘supporters’ is arguably a greater cause of anti-Semitism than the dissent they seek to suppress.” Again, it appears that the only one really trying to prevent debate by delegitimising opponents is Loewenstein.

Of course, it appears that for Loewenstein, any time he doesn’t get to say exactly what he wants, where he wants, or his views get attacked, someone is trying to ‘suppress’ him.

For example, after Nick Cater, acting editor of the Australian, had pulled a piece Loewenstein had been commissioned to write for the paper on Jimmy Carter’s controversial, biased and error-riddled book, Loewenstein had a whiny piece in Crikey on Jan. 31 complaining about it. He claimed that, “whenever Israel faces its greatest criticism the usual suspects in the media try and shut down debate,” and asked, “Is a debate about the Israel-Palestine conflict too hot for The Australian to handle?”

The answer to this question is clearly in the negative, given The Australian has recently run a number of pieces critical of Israel and its defenders, including more than one by Loewenstein himself. In reply, Cater explained, “We set the bar quite high, and on this occasion, Antony’s piece failed to clear it.”

In addition, The Australian ran a piece on Feb. 8 by John Mearsheimer disciple Michael Desch that defended Carter’s book and demonised its critics (see p. 36). Surely Loewenstein couldn’t have put it better himself.

However, none of this stopped Loewenstein from appearing on “Sunday Night Safran” on Triple J on Feb. 18 (where host John Safran accurately described him as “the man who goes on about how he is silenced all the time, on all networks and in all newspapers”) and claiming that Cater had canned his article because he disagreed with the opinion, as allegedly confirmed by people inside the paper. When Safran mentioned Loewenstein had said there was a Zionist influence at The Australian, Loewenstein replied, “You’re denying that are you John?”

Loewenstein also claimed that both Israel and Diaspora Jews were obsessed with being “lock step barrel” with the Bush administration, which is why Israel won’t talk to Syria, and that, “Unfortunately in Israeli leaderships one after the other…at a governmental level there’s unfortunately a mental block that says we can’t make peace with our neighbours.” Maybe he forgot the peace with Egypt and with Jordan and the offers Israeli leaders made to Arafat and Syria, to name but a few.

Speaking to Stephen Crittenden on Radio National’s “Religion Report” on Feb. 14, Professor Alvin Rosenfeld theorised that Jews who proudly proclaim their opposition to Israel are “a tiny splinter group of far Left Jews, who have problems with their own Jewish identity, and somehow feel that by dissenting radically from the State of Israel, they affirm something precious about themselves.”

Professor Rosenfeld could have added that as Jews criticising Israel, many get far more prominence than any non-Jew writing on the same topic, or any Jew with similar talent writing on any other subject, would ever receive.

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