Antony Loewenstein’s excellent piece (“Don’t let any lobby shut down debate“, Opinion, 18/4) on the political storm triggered in the US by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s study of the “Israel lobby” will no doubt cop the same kind of hysterical abuse from Australia’s own version of the lobby.
Sadly, given past orchestrated attacks on people as diverse as Sydney Peace Prize recipient Hanan Ashrawi, the ALP’s Julia Irwin and The Age cartoonist Michael Leunig, all of whom were brave enough to speak up in their own way in defence of Palestinian rights, we can expect Loewenstein, and indeed The Australian itself, to come under fire from those used to exercising a virtual media monopoly on the subject of Israel/Palestine.
The extent to which such voices as Loewenstein’s are heard in the Australian media is in fact the extent to which we enjoy freedom of speech in this country.
Antony Loewenstein likes to claim that the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council – AIJAC – does not represent the views of the Jewish community. Now, in his article, he contradicts himself by complaining that when some ALP backbenchers dissented from the AIJAC view, they were slammed by “a raft of Jewish leaders”.
Loewenstein seems as confused about AIJAC’s role as he is about the true insidious nature of the piece by Mearsheimer and Walt. He also takes comfort from the fact that 347 British Jews wrote to the Board of Deputies of British Jews asking it to distinguish itself from Israel. That’s 347 out of about 300,000 British Jews. Those figures reflect the support Loewenstein would find for his anti-Zionist views among Australia’s Jewish population.
Contrary to Loewenstein’s claims, the vast majority of Jews want peace and accept the need for Palestinian self-determination, but understand that Israel has no partner for peace, and must act accordingly.
Antony Loewenstein argues that the unfavourable response to Mearsheimer and Walt’s paper represents an attempt to muzzle anti-Israel opinion.
Really? Aren’t the respondents engaging in debate – the very position Loewenstein purportedly endorses – by their critiques? Or does Loewenstein believe only anti-Israel views can legitimately be aired?
Council of Australian Jewry,
Caulfield South, Vic
I had despaired of ever seeing anything like Mearsheimer and Walt’s study, let alone an airing of it in Australia. But the fresh air I felt had a touch of chilliness as I read of the predictable response of the same lobby in the US and the threat to freedom of speech in academic institutions. How can my 16-year-old son make an honest appraisal of the situation in the Middle East, which he is trying to do, without hearing this discussion?
I’m hoping the Australian response will be more measured.