Independent Australian Jewish Voices is announced merely a few weeks ago and the Australian Jewish News (AJN) writes a story last week that contains little more than conjecture and pre-emptive attacks. We launch this week, generate huge media coverage and gather over 400 signatories. We attract individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds, but a few things remain in common; dissatisfaction with the Zionist leadership, silence in the face of Israeli atrocities in Lebanon and Palestine, and constant attempts to vilify and intimidate critics of Israel in the Diaspora.
The AJN and Zionist leadership clearly expected IAJV to contain few members, led by yours truly. Imagine their surprise, therefore, to find this week that many prominent Jews in the community have joined our call for robust debate and no longer take direction from a group of ossified men – why is it always men in dark suits? – on the Middle East conflict. Independent thought has never been more needed.
Despite these developments, the Jews with much to fear launch a pathetic campaign against IAJV, issue a counter-petition – who is writing the material for these people, Borat? – and argue that the many Jews who signed the petition have clearly been tricked by me. The AJN editorial writers have a novel way of expressing their confusion:
We assume that [Monash University Dean of Law] Professor [Arie] Freiberg and other surprising signatories to the petition – such as the Zionist youth movement Hashomer Hatzair – were lured by the ostensibly “parev” appearance of the group’s declaration of principles, which, for the most part, reads like a motherhood statement.
Nonetheless, even this watered-down version of the true intentions of such dedicated Israel-bashers as Antony Loewenstein cannot stand unchallenged.
Their preposterous claim, for example, that critics of Israel are being “silenced” can be easily dismissed by a cursory glance at the letters pages of this newspaper, which – as our critics often point out – are sometimes over-monopolised by the dissidents of the political left.
Unsurprisingly, their “silenced” debate has generated extensive headlines across the country, in part because the Jew-versus-Jew story makes good news copy.
What’s disappointing, however, in the Australian initiative, is its lack of initiative. It is a virtual carbon copy of the British group of a similar name, with little or nothing original whatsoever. Like their British role models, they single out Israeli policies, without any parallel mention of the Palestinians.
“Uncritical allegiance to Israeli Government policy does not necessarily serve Israel’s best interests,” they claim, but fail to adequately explain whose interests are served by an ongoing acquiescence, implied in their omission, to decades-long Palestinian violence and terror.
This one-eyed view is telling, and reveals to all those who have decoded the ostensibly “parev” declaration the true agenda of this new group: to blame Israel for the current conflict to besmirch the “Jewish establishment” for either silencing their “alternative voices” or allegedly labelling them as “self-haters” and – for at least some of the initiators of this petition – to delegitimise the very existence of Israel.
Indeed, it is our view that many of the signatories are pampered, self-styled radicals who want their views to be placed on an equal footing with that of the Jewish mainstream – even though they are but a miniscule minority – and are seeking immunity from counter-criticism, no matter how hurtful their opinions are to the vast majority of Jews.
Contrary to their claims, the age-old axiom of “two Jews, three opinions” thankfully holds true in Australia. But the right of free speech does not apply only to these self-righteous “independent” voices it also applies to their detractors, and to their right to regard these dissidents with the contempt that they deserve.
Remember readers, you can never trust that conniving Loewenstein. The AJN and its fellow travellers cannot believe that a growing number of Jews are coming forward and willing to offer critical voices to the debate in the public arena. The days of keeping the “dirty laundry” within the community is long gone. Public embarrassment and indeed humiliation may be the only way to convince the community’s dinosaurs that their time is long past and their positions on Israel and Palestine are in fact contributing to the Jewish state’s destruction.
My personal position on the Middle East isn’t relevant here, however. I have my views and many of the other signatories to the petition have theirs, and we don’t have to agree. I suspect we often won’t. IAJV aims to provide an open space for a variety of views to be expressed, not just the Israel “right or wrong” brigade, attitudes that have contributed to Israel’s precarious situation today.
We’re only just warming up.