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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Antony Loewenstein

A few days ago, the group Independent Australian Jewish Voices was launched. Founded by anti-Israel, Jewish “freelance journalist” Antony Loewenstein, the group was inspired by the British group Independent Jewish Voices (or Jews for Genocide, as Melanie Phillips refers to them).

The group set up the following petition:

The Declaration

Statement of Principles: A Call for an Alternative View

We are Jews with diverse opinions on the Middle East who share a deep concern about the current crisis in the region.

We are committed to ensuring a just peace that recognizes the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians with a solution that protects the human rights of all.

We condemn violence by all parties, whether state sanctioned or not. We believe that Israel‚Äôs right to exist must be recognized and that Palestinians’ right to a homeland must also be acknowledged.

As Australians we are privileged to live in a democratic state that embodies the principles of tolerance and free speech. We feel there is an urgent need to hear alternative voices that should not be silenced by being labelled disloyal or “self-hating.”

Uncritical allegiance to Israeli government policy does not necessarily serve Israel’s best interests. Our concern for justice and peace in the Middle East is a legitimate opinion and should be met by reasoned argument rather than vilification and intimidation. In particular, we are concerned that the Jewish establishment does not represent the full range of Jewish opinion. Contrary to widespread concerns, anti-Semitism is not fuelled by Jews who publicly disagree with actions of the Jewish State.

Jews understand what it is to suffer racism and victimization and therefore we are not only concerned about anti-Semitism but also the demonisation of all other minorities.

We call upon fellow Jews to join us in supporting free debate to further the prospects of peace, security and human rights in the Middle East.

We invite you to keep informed and add your signature here.

Needless to say, the Australian mainstream media has welcomed this new group which “takes on Jewish lobby.”

I was going to prepare a lengthy critique, but I think Dr Colin Rubenstein, the executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, has essentially done the work for me.

The publicity surrounding the issuing of the “Independent Australian Jewish Voices” statement appears out of all proportion to the petition’s significance. After all, why wouldn’t a community of more than 100,000 include a small percentage who disagree with positions adopted by elected and other representative bodies advocating the viewpoint of the substantial majority?

Of course, the originators and signatories are free to do as they wish, but so are critics from the wider Jewish community free to highlight their flaws and distortions. For example, despite language apparently calling for a two-state solution to satisfy the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians, the group’s prime movers are on record as being opposed to Israel’s existence, seeking to replace it with yet another Arab-majority political entity. This not only abuses the trust of those who signed the petition in good faith, but also gives the lie to the IAJV claim that it wants to be Israel’s “true friend”.

For instance, initiator Antony Loewenstein says Israel is a “fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era” and calls for Israel to be replaced by a “binational state”. Loewenstein is on record not only as accusing Israel of implementing “apartheid-like policies”, but damning all past Israeli leaders as displaying “a disdain and virulent racism towards the Palestinians” and stating that when Israeli leaders publicly declare they want a two-state solution, he doesn’t believe them (here’s one example of his comments- ed).  A number of other signatories, including Sol Salbe, Avigail Abarbanel and Ephraim Nimni, have similar views.

Additionally, the petition’s claim that voices critical of Israel are being “silenced” or subjected to “vilification and intimidation” is absurd. When the petition had garnered less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of the Jewish community it was featured on the front page of The Australian Jewish News, and widely reported in all the broadsheets and on TV and radio. Robust debate about the Middle East occurs all the time in the letters and opinion pages in the Jewish News and at community meetings.

Further, with anti-Semitic violence on the rise globally, it is hardly surprising that many in the community disapprove of untrue claims about “Zionist” control over debate that can be seized on by anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists.

Also, contrary to the implications of the IAJV statement, our community leadership reflects the view of the vast majority of the Australian Jewish community, shared by both the elected Israeli leadership and the majority of the Israeli public, that Israel’s long-term security must ultimately come from a lasting peace based on a democratic Palestinian state co-existing peacefully alongside Israel.

It amazes most of the community that some signatories insist on seeing Israeli policies as solely to blame for the present impasse at a time when the existential threat to Israel has never been more explicit. Among the many facts ignored by IAJV are: that Iran’s leadership, which is building nuclear weapons, says the Holocaust never happened and Israel must be destroyed; the Iranian-funded Palestinian leadership says it can never accept the existence of Israel for religious reasons nor renounce violence as a way to achieve its destruction; and the record of Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution, from Camp David and the Clinton plan in 2000 to unilateral disengagement from Gaza and plans for the same in most of the West Bank. Additional concerns are raised by the IAJV’s comments condemning equally all “violence”. All violence is to be regretted, but to suggest that any and all Israeli acts of self-defence against rocket attacks, suicide terrorism, kidnappings and other violent war crimes emanating from the Palestinian side are just as condemnable as the original acts is morally blind. Therefore, there is little sympathy for those who insist it is primarily Israeli policies ‚Äî rather than Palestinian rejectionism, terrorism and lack of the rule of law, plus the flow of outside support to extremists‚ that are blocking peace. Finally, there were some people who signed the statement who have little or no engagement with the Jewish community, but identify themselves as Jewish to deflect criticism when they malign the organised Jewish community and Israel. It is hardly surprising that other members of the Jewish community are annoyed when individuals who have made no effort to contribute to our communal life and institutions complain those institutions do not represent them.

We already have a vigorous debate about the Middle East both in Australia and in the Australian Jewish community. But the thin-skinned plea that one-sided critics of Israel be entitled to special immunity from scrutiny, because this is inanely alleged to constitute censorship, is an attempt to stifle constructive discussion. Joining a debate is not silencing it, and this claim is simply intolerance disguised as victimisation.

Let’s continue to have an empirically based debate on the crucial question of advancing genuine Middle East peace, instead of such fruitless theatrics.

Despite watering down the petition to attract naive lefties,  Loewenstein and Co’s petition has so far only attracted 467 signatures. But that’s including the obviously fake names which are cropping up, such as:

  • Goa Tse
  • Ezer Shtuyot (Hebrew for “what rubbish”)
  • Al K. Hallick
  • Mia Retrich (Omri would be proud)
  • Lech Lazazel (Hebrew for “go to hell”)

Another fake name made its way in to the petition – Ben Zonar- and the Australian Jewish News (see right) was there to point it out to its readers…and Loewenstein.

I think the point is clear – Loewenstein is not only dishonest about his intentions with the petition, but he is also embarrassingly ignorant.

I would also like to remind you all that he truly is a self-hating Jew. I say this on the basis of comments he made about fellow Jew, comedian Austen Tayshus, and not solely on the basis of his hateful views on Israel.

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

Classy guy.

Update: I’ve found this fabulous picture of Ant. Not sure, though, why he’s making that “L” sign. Hmmm..

Update: An anonymous Israellycool reader has started a worthwhile petition of his own: Australians who Reject Antony Loewenstein

We are Australians, of all religion, colour and creed, who find Antony Loewenstein completely offensive and are tired of his incessant whining.

We know that Tzipi Livni is a woman, not a man.

We are honest enough to say what we think, and not water down a petition, concealing our true beliefs to con well-meaning lefties into signing it.

I encourage you all to sign it.

Update: Speaking of bogus names:

Note: I realize that this post may actually fuel Loewenstein’s ego, but I think it is important for those who read about the group and petition to fully understand Loewenstein’s motives, and not be duped by the media’s coverage.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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