Here’s how it works.
A columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Carlton, writes a column critical of Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla.
The following week his column begins thus:
It is a ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby. Write just one sentence even mildly critical of Israel and it lunges from its lair, fangs bared. ”I rejoice every time a f—ing Palestinian dies, f— them!!!! Israel should flatten Gaza with a nuclear strike and be done with it,” said one of hundreds of Jewish emailers this week. ”How dare you insult Israel you over priviledged [sic] racist white moron, f— you and your stupid article. I wish I could smash your dumb face in.”
The stupid article was last week’s column, which suggested that Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla was lethal idiocy and that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was an unprincipled thug addicted to the use of military force.
Few of the emails were as brisk as that one. Many, though, were nakedly racist, such as this from a man named Schwarz. ”Do Jews do drive-by shootings every other day like in Sydney’s south-west? Do Jews or Arabs make up a large proportion of the Australian jail population? Do Jews gang rape young girls in Sydney?” he mused.
Others like to threaten. A travel agent from Double Bay drafted an apoplectic denunciation and circulated it to his friends. ”The more of us write with a copy [sic] to The Sydney Morning Herald, the more chance we may have that the Herald will change its one-eyed view of the situation and give us a more balanced reporting and maybe even sack Mike Carlton,” he said hopefully. One of his chaverim mistakenly forwarded it to me.
It’s standard operating procedure for the lobby to hurl accusations of anti-Semitism with that peculiar Israeli blend of paranoia and belligerence. ”That you are happy to indulge in hate-mongering makes you quite the sadist,” wrote a man from Melbourne. ”Your article gives you away as an anti-Semite and as much as you may hide behind the guise of a pro-Palestinian humanitarian, your Holocaust revisionism in comparing the conflict of the modern era to the systematic extermination of the Jews shows your true colours.”
That is just plain dumb. My Jewish friends would confirm that I am not a sadistic, anti-Semitic, hate-mongering Holocaust denier. But I did enjoy the sneers about my manifold failings as a journalist. ”You are a cheap hack making money out of lies,” was typical. ”Journalists are generally recruited if they have an IQ larger that their shoe size,” was another. Yuk yuk, guffaw.
None of this is accidental. The Israel lobby, worldwide, is orchestrated in Jerusalem by a department in the Prime Minister’s office with the rather Orwellian name of the Ministry for Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. Less than 24 hours after the attack on the Mavi Marmara, the ministry hit the internet with ”important talking points” for Jews around the world, the first of which was – surprisingly – that ”the Palestinian people are not under blockade”.
”Write letters to your local newspapers, comment on blogs and news websites, call in to radio programs and post links to social networking sites to help spread the real version of events,” urged the deliciously named Mr Ronen Plot, the Ministry Director-General.
This is all free speech, of course. I just wish they could be more polite.
That justified spray brought this letter:
I understand why Mike Carlton (June 12-13) was angered by the emails he received from some Jewish readers, and I deplore their rudeness. But I also deplore that he decided to blame it on what he calls ”that ferocious beast, the Jewish lobby”. What is often – mistakenly – called ”the Jewish lobby” is actually nothing more than individual Jewish people voicing their opinions. To ascribe their extreme opinions to some sinister Jewish lobby is not only incorrect and misleading, but highly inflammatory.
Diane Armstrong Dover Heights
Diane Armstrong (Letters, June 14) accuses Mike Carlton of making inflammatory claims in referring ”mistakenly” to ”the Jewish lobby”. There are only ”individual Jewish people voicing their opinions”.
This claim is sheer sophistry. Jewish organisations in Australia appear to speak, and lobby, with one voice; it appears their only concern is to defend a pariah state. With endless dissembling they blame the victims of Israeli criminality.
Jews who oppose this wretched stance, notably the courageous Antony Loewenstein, are excoriated and excommunicated. Tribalism has trounced moral principles.
The Israel lobby is the Jewish lobby and its fellow travellers. I deeply resent the hold this lobby has on Australia’s governments, which debases my integrity and threatens my personal security.
Evan Jones Glebe
Mike Carlton was right to condemn the emails to which he referred. They sound appalling. But he was wrong to use the actions of some individuals to attack what he calls “the Jewish lobby”, thus casting a slur on legitimate representative organisations. For those who know their history, the language he used also had disturbing overtones.
President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Paddington
I was one of the many Jews who wrote recently to Mike Carlton, but I was neither rude nor hysterical (”Funny, they remember their epithets but not their manners”, June 12-13). I simply asked him what he would do if he were prime minister of Israel. I suggested that the Palestinians would be better off if their militant leadership groups devoted their energies to nation-building rather than waging an unwinnable war.
I also pointed out that Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Carlton described the previous week as an unprincipled thug, correctly declared in the Knesset: ”If Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.” Needless to say there has been no response.
The truth that Carlton and most non-Jews find so uncomfortable is that, collectively, the Jews are the most peace-loving, charitable, cultured people on Earth. Jews, with about 0.02 per cent of the world’s population, have won 129 Nobel prizes, mostly for science and medicine. By contrast Muslims, with about 20 per cent of the global population, have won seven.
For those of a religious bent, Jews are often described as the ”chosen people”. This means chosen not as the favoured darlings of God, but with the awesome responsibility to set an example of morality for the rest of the world.
If, after centuries of persecution and genocide, Israelis find themselves straying from that moral leadership position in order to defend the fragile statehood they have achieved, it is with the greatest reluctance.
Mike Phillips Wollstonecraft
My question for Mike Phillips (Letters, June 15) is what he would do if he were a Palestinian leader. How would he build a Palestinian nation when the bulk of the financial and social support necessary was available only from a hostile occupying regime or radical Islamist groups offering to help you throw them out?
If the Israeli government represents ”the most peace-loving, charitable, cultured people on Earth … with the awesome responsibility to set an example of morality for the rest of the world”, can Mr Phillips demonstrate its great reluctance to throw out the two-state solution; bomb the Palestinian Authority’s Department of Education; intermittently block Red Cross access to Palestinian people; encourage the building of Jewish settlements and a wall over Palestinian homes and land; breach numerous international laws; deny the legitimate results of a democratic election in Gaza; and declare that it alone has the right to decide on the future of deprived, desperate and, consequently, angry Palestinians?
I know peace-loving, charitable, cultured Jews and Muslims who do not want conflict and hatred in the Middle East. They would be horrified at the irony of Mr Phillips’s claim that racial superiority justifies the Israeli state’s violence towards Palestinian people.
Sall Forrest Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Who could care less about Robin Margo’s allusion to ”disturbing overtones” (Letters, June 15)? I know my history and I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I do not need the Jewish Board of Deputies and its insinuations to help me.
It is usually surprisingly easy to recognise racism. Just take Mike Phillips, who suggests Muslims are inferior to Jews as they have won fewer Nobel prizes. Using the history of a Western institution to judge an entire race beggars belief. Unfortunately, it is often this sort of ignorant racist rhetoric that the Jewish lobby has no choice but to rely on. Israel has shown about as much reluctance in straying from its ”moral” position as a member of the Jewish lobby in penning a letter.
Robert McLean Annandale
Nominating Jews as the ”chosen people”’ ignores the fact that most deities have given their followers this adulation. But in an enlightened age the term is anathema, as it is so divisive and unhelpful to people living together on the same planet.
Graeme Harrison South Coogee
While Mike Phillips is disseminating data on the differences between Jews and Muslims, could he provide us mere non-Jews with some moral leadership and give us data on how many Palestinians have been killed and maimed by the ”most peace-loving, charitable, cultured people on Earth”?
Steve Sweeney Forestville
Mike Phillips, I think you left out ”modest”.
Marian Lesslie Drummoyne
Does Evan Jones (Letters, June 15) ”deeply resent” any lobby that has a hold on Australia’s government, or just the Jewish ones?
Alice Khatchigian Ryde
Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that ”If Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war”, is silent on the continuing expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
And let’s be honest. Just because a race of people defined by their religion has won more Nobel prizes than another race defined by its religion hardly goes to the moral goodness or rightness of that people. I will not be looking to warring religions for my moral compass.
Anthony van den Broek Erskineville
I am not as sanguine as Mike Phillips about the reliability of Nobel prizes as an indicator of scientific or moral quality. During my 25 years in Cambridge I came to know or worked with at least 12 prize-winners (Fred Sanger, Max Perutz, Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, Aaron Klug, Cesar Milstein, Tim Hunt, John Sulston, John Walker, Sidney Altman, Bob Horvitz, Liz Blackburn). Some were exceptional scientists, others were not. Some were exceptional human beings, others were some of the most flawed I have known.
The Nobel Prize is the outcome of the secret deliberations of an anonymous jury and is not exempt from error. Certainly, it is no guarantee of moral rectitude.
Gordon Koch Cherrybrook
Here endeth the lesson (except the important shifts in public opinion towards Israel and the bullying Zionist lobby).