More than 100 Australian Jews, including some prominent members of the Jewish community, have condemned Israel’s incursion into Gaza as “inhuman, superfluous and abominable”.
They have signed a statement disowning the military assault as grossly disproportionate and claiming it was Israel that violated the truce with Hamas after earlier creating a severe humanitarian crisis.
The 113 signatories — including former Whitlam minister Moss Cass, writers Linda Jaivin and Andrew Riemer, NSW Greens MP Ian Cohen and Professor Andrew Benjamin — belong to the group, Independent Australian Jewish Voices.
The group [Independent Australian Jewish Voices], formed in 2007, has outraged the mainstream Jewish community by trenchant criticism of Israel, suggesting Jews are pressured to support Israel, right or wrong, because it is always under threat.
In yesterday’s statement, the group said that while Israel had the right to protect its citizens, this could not be used as a pretext for the grossly disproportionate assault that had been made on Gaza. It called Israel’s blockade of Gaza and air strikes “illegal collective punishment” and urged an immediate end to attacks on civilians by both sides.
“However, since Palestinians have no means of self-defence against the most powerful military force in the Middle East, we particularly call on Israel to end its brutal assault on the vulnerable Palestinian people of Gaza and to reconsider its rejection of the UN Security Council’s call for a ceasefire,” the statement said.
“History has demonstrated that military punishment has never broken the spirit of a people or produced peace,” it said.
“It would only inflame hatred of Jews and of Israel, while doing nothing to protect the lives of Israelis. Above all, it would undermine attempts to work with peace-seeking Palestinians for a lasting, just solution.”
Group founder Antony Loewenstein told The Age he expected outrage from the loudest Jewish voices, but Independent Australian Jewish Voices had found a sizeable minority of Australian Jews who valued an independent perspective rather than a blindly pro-Israel position.
The executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Colin Rubenstein, said the statement was up to Mr Loewenstein’s “usual form — totally wrong on every fact, totally unbalanced, and totally insensitive to Israeli suffering”.
Dr Rubenstein said the comments were grossly ill-informed on the history of the ceasefire and its subsequent breakdown, Hamas’ demands, Hamas’ constitution, Hamas’ willingness to negotiate and other matters.
“They propose that the population of southern Israel must continue to live under constant rocket bombardment, opposing all practical efforts to actually invoke the right to self-defence the signatories say they recognise,” he said.
The Age published an edited version of the statement.