One last point. I received an unexpected call this morning from the Jewish “comedian” Austen Tayshus. He demanded to know why I was writing my book – though, hilariously, thought I had written The Question of Zion – suggested Israel was a poor, defenceless Middle Eastern state threatened with annihilation, compared me to a German Jew who collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War and asked why I had the right to air the community’s “dirty laundry.” I explained that he was clearly so insecure in his position that he felt the need to call and abuse me. I soon ended the call.
I smell desperation.
[UPDATE: A few minutes after posting this entry, I received another call from the Jewish “comedian” above. He said he would keep on calling me because I was an “ignoramus” and an “asshole.” He suggested we have a public debate, which I declined. He suggested Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi as a moderator (after telling me this morning that she was a “terrorist.”) The point of debating a man like this is negligible, for the simple fact that he doesn’t want to debate me – “a sad and lonely man”, in his words – nor actually discuss the issues. He wants to shout and rant. It may make him feel good about himself. He clearly needs it.]
The following news story appears in the AJN (the full version is only in the print edition):
Danby launches pre-emptive strike against Voices of Reason
FEDERAL MP Michael Danby has launched a blistering attack on a book about Australian Jewry’s responses to the Middle East conflict. But there’s a catch: the book, by Sydney-based journalist Antony Loewenstein, has not yet been published, and won’t reach bookstores until next May.
Danby, who declined to contribute material for the book, first slammed the book in a letter to the AJN (26/8) and this week reiterated his call to the Jewish community to “not spend a dollar” when the book is released because of the author’s track record.
“[Loewenstein] is completely alienated from the left, the right, the religious, the non-religious,” Danby said.
Loewenstein, a Jewish journalist and commentator, former Melburnian and onetime project leader for Victorian B’nai B’rith’s Courage to Care exhibition, has described himself on his web log as “a Jew who doesn’t believe in the concept of a Jewish state”.
The paper editorialised about the issue:
Voices of Reason
WERE the furore over the forthcoming publication of a book about Australian Jewry’s responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not so serious, it would be comical. As it is, MP Michael Danby’s withering attack on Antony Loewenstein’s as-yet-unpublished book has triggered a deluge of letters to this newspaper, and reports of the peculiar brouhaha have unsurprisingly been picked up by the mainstream media.
If Danby’s aim was to urge a boycott of the book, or at least shun it to the margins of the literary world, his efforts appear to have backfired. The spat has cast the spotlight on the author, the publisher and the Australian Jewish community, and has therefore given what should have been a fairly-inconsequential book the oxygen required to court centre stage. Of course, Danby’s warning not to buy this book may be heeded by the majority of Australia’s Jews, but equally, the public’s curiosity over the stoush, as well as the media publicity, will no doubt elevate its prominence.
This newspaper unequivocally rejects Loewenstein’s view of a Jewish state as “a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era” and his allegation that the Australian Jewish community’s reception to his views is “usually vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic”.
We also question the judgment of the publisher, Melbourne University Publishing, which has just released Jacqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion, a book which metes out the same harsh treatment for Israel as we expect from Loewenstein. It may only be a coincidence, but the virtually back-to-back release of two anti-Israel books by the same publisher raises concerns.
But we also take issue with a federal MP, especially a Jewish federal MP, who calls for a boycott of a book whose only “crime” appears to be that its author does not subscribe to the mainstream Jewish-Zionist narrative of Israel. Loewenstein’s book may well be flawed — many leaders of the Jewish community, Danby included, refused to be interviewed for it — but we should, at the very least, await the published version before we decide to consign it to the garbage heap of literature. That is the least that can be expected from the “People of the Book”.
The following letters appear in the Melbourne edition of the AJN:
I FIND Michael Danby’s call to boycott a book that is not even published very disturbing. Particularly as his decision was based purely on the basis that he didn’t like the questions which Antony Loewenstein asked him.
Maybe what Danby feared most was exposing his answers to an Australian public unsympathetic to Danby’s uncritical support of Israel’s illegal settlements.
If Danby wants the freedom to express his ideas, objectionable to many, he must support, not oppose, the rights of others to express their ideas, disturbing as they may be. To suppress free speech is foolish and dangerous especially for a politician.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
I SUPPOSE I should be flattered that Louise Adler of Melbourne University Publishing (MUP), two members of the Loewenstein family and the socialist left’s Larry Stillman have all denounced me (AJN 2/9) for my comments on MUP’s decision to publish two anti-Israel books. No-one can say now they weren’t warned!
Let me tell readers of the AJN what Antony Loewenstein thinks of them. At his blog, where he describes himself as “a Jew who doesn’t believe in the concept of a Jewish state” (“a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era”), he describes the Australian Jewish community’s response to his views as “usually vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic” and as “incapable of hearing the true reality of their beloved homeland and its barbaric actions”.
This is the person Adler has commissioned to write a book about the Australian Jewish community and its attitudes to Israel. He is of course entitled to his opinions. But I am equally entitled to say that his opinions stink, and to urge Australian Jews not to put money in his pocket by buying his book.
Then we have Professor Jacqueline Rose, author of The Question of Zion, which MUP is also publishing. Writing recently in the London Review of Books, Rose discussed the psychology of Palestinian suicide bombers. Discussing two Israeli teenagers killed by their bombs, she writes: “In fact these young Israeli women are living in, and acutely suffering from, a society that encourages them to be blind.”
One of the young women Rose sneers at in this way is Melbourne-born teenager Malki Roth, killed in the Sbarro restaurant bombing in 2001. Rose writes of her: “In a letter addressed to God on the occasion of the Jewish New Year, Malki Roth ended with the hope ‘that I’ll be alive and that the Messiah should come’. (Is this wholesome?)”
I showed this passage to Malki Roth’s father Arnold. He wrote to me: “Poor refined Ms Rose is unable to look innocence in the face without vomiting. All of us can see a murderer and a victim, and tell the difference. But not Rose. Right and wrong for her are simply issues to be sliced, diced and agonised over until they figure a way for it to fit in with their global outlook… She leaves me very cold.”
Contrary to the rather overwrought complaints of Adler and Loewenstein, I am not trying to have anyone’s books banned or censored. [ed: Danby conveniently omits the fact that he initially called on MUP to “drop this whole disgusting project.”] I am pointing out the fundamental hostility of these authors to the beliefs and values of the great majority of the Jewish community — of most Australians, in fact. In other words, I am doing what I was elected to do: speak up for the people I represent.
MICHAEL DANBY MHR
Federal member for Melbourne Ports
LOUISE Adler (AJN 2/9), the CEO of Melbourne University Publishing (MUP), fails to understand the inference which many Jews will draw from the decision of MUP to publish Jacqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion and Antony Loewenstein’s Voices of Reason.
Professor Rose is one of the most visible anti-Israel activists in British academic life, who has sought and received enormous publicity for her efforts to boycott everything Israeli and then to destroy the State of Israel and replace it with a so-called bi-national state in which Palestinians would have an automatic majority. Her book, The Question of Zion, which was published in the UK and has now been published by MUP, fully reflects her efforts to demonise the Jewish State.
I have only occasionally read Antony Loewenstein’s blog. Probably 99 per cent of the readers of this newspaper would describe him as the Chomsky-Pilger type.
Of course both writers espouse a viewpoint which should be published and which should not be suppressed. My concern is whether MUP, probably the most respected and best-known academic publishers in Australia, should be publishing two tendentious works whose aim is to demonise Israel, with nothing whatever in the way of balance.
Professor Bill Rubinstein
University of Wales-Aberystwyth, UK