ALP MP advocates ban on anti-Zionist book
In a letter to the August 25 Australian Jewish News (AJN), federal Labor MP for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby launched a “pre-emptive strike” on a yet-to-be published book, Voices of Reason, which explores the pro-Israel lobby in Australia and is critical of Israeli government policy. Danby called on the publisher, Melbourne University Press, to “dump the whole disgusting project” and for the Jewish community and the AJN to boycott the book should it be published.
The author, Jewish anti-Zionist journalist Antony Loewenstein, told Green Left Weekly that Danby’s attack was “typical of people who are blindly supportive of Israel. There is no room for dissent or questioning that official orthodoxy.”
“These sort of people don’t want discussion, because discussion is threatening. Discussion means that more people are aware, or might become aware, of what actually does go on over there: What does occupation mean, what does it mean that Palestinians often have to wait hours at checkpoints in searing sun, what does it mean that women often have to give birth at checkpoints and often die? They don’t want people to know that, for obvious reasons, because it’s shameful. And they know if more people find out that kind of stuff, their view about Israel and the relationship between Australia and Israel could change.”
In a letter to the online journal Crikey, Danby defended his attempt to censor Voices of Reason, despite it not being published for another nine months. Danby said that he didn’t “need to read Mr Loewenstein’s book to know what he thinks”.
This isn’t the first time Danby has attacked, sight unseen, work whose author or ideas he finds disagreeable. According to the September 5 Age, Danby slammed David Hare’s acclaimed play, Stuff Happens, which criticises George Bush and the invasion of Iraq, despite not having seen it. In 2004, Danby also slammed Margo Kingston’s Not Happy John, to which Loewenstein contributed.
Louise Adler, CEO of Melbourne University Press (MUP), criticised Danby and the AJN, saying, “I am dismayed that a fellow publisher such as the AJN gives space for proposals to boycott ideas”. Adler also said that comments attributed to her in Danby’s letter were “pure invention and palpable nonsense”.
With the controversy growing, Danby now denies he attempted to censor Loewenstein. His rewriting of events is similar to that of Alan Dershowitz, who outraged the American academic and publishing industry earlier this year when he launched a campaign to stop the publication of Beyond Chutzpah, the latest book by American Jewish anti-Zionist Norman Finkelstein. Dershowitz has since denied he asked California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to stop the University of California Press publishing the book.
From Green Left Weekly, September 14, 2005