Please keep changing the topic and don’t talk about Palestine

Following the speech in parliament by Labor MP Michael Danby against the supposed evils of Israel criticism (and Crikey’s Guy Rundle in response), today’s Crikey publishes these letters:

Michael Danby, the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, writes: Re. “Rundle: No wonder Danby is pissed off” (Monday, item 12). Eric Beecher, the owner of Crikey has had the decency to agree that Crikey’s poor moderation and editing allowed some comments/letters during the first three months of 2009 that were bigoted (click here read his comments). That is precisely what concerned me in my speech about “the dark and ugly recesses of the internet”.

Perhaps Guy Rundle, Crikey is hyper-keen to demonstrate he is still a loyal, plodding, knee-jerk, anti-Israel commentator like most of Crikey’s contributors; Jeff Sparrow, Antony Loewenstein, etc. That is why he insists that the focus of my remarks were a disagreement with his extreme Middle East proscriptions. They weren’t. I agree with Rundle when he correctly analyses why anti-Jewish bigots made comments on New Matilda and Crikey when he says “this happens because the anti-Zionist basis of the attack also attracts anti-Semites”.

When, in relation to online publications moderating their sites, he says “I’ve noticed this policy tends to be tightened soon after the editor in question first gets attacked and realises how creepy it is to have crazies wanting your loved ones to get cancer”, and when finally he explicitly concludes “I’d support a more aggressive comments deletion policy”, hooray, I agree.

I challenge anyone to read my speech and not understand that Beecher’s statement and New Matilda’s new policy of moderating comment to avoid anti-Jewish bigotry, are exactly what I argued for in parliament.

Michael Reich writes: Guy Rundle refers to analogies between Zionism and Nazism. Comparisons with Nazism and Hitler have long been used inflame debate rather than illuminate. This has been true for those Zionists who label their opponents with these epithets and politician slurring their opponents. In the case of opponents of Zionism, the same tactic fulfils the dual purpose of irony while is guaranteed to upset the Jewish community. It may be stating the obvious but many in the Jewish community have had much more direct experience (or indirect by one or two degrees of separation) of the Nazis. Even watching the numerous SBS documentaries on the Nazis does not necessarily provide the same insights.

Guy Rundle has, rightly condemned the traditional use of the Zionist/Nazi analogy by rabid anti-Semites while hinting disingenuously that on the other hand there maybe some basis for the analogy. He is correct that the relationship between Zionism and Nazism is complex and needs to be examined. His examination includes newspaper descriptions of storm trooper like uniforms of segments of the Israeli army and the fact that Zionist political leaders referred to their political opponents as Nazis prior to the second world war (political leaders going overboard throwing abuse at each other”‰—”‰… how unusual).

Rundle’s other supporting evidence includes the fact that some gentile anti-Semites (as distinct from the Jewish ones!) supported Zionism before the war to get rid of the Jews from their neighborhoods. The overlap of the aims of Zionists to return the Jews to Israel and the Nazis attempts to make Europe Judenrein has enjoyed a good run for rabid anti-Semites in their support for a Zionist/Nazi conspiracy. In a similar fashion, the attempts by some Zionists and Jews to bribe Nazi officials to allow Jews to escape the slaughter of the Holocaust has long been used by the same parties in support of the thesis.

In addition Rundle has pointed out the appalling ethnic cleansing that occurred during Israel’s war of Independence. If this was his sole criteria for making the analogy then there are other numerous appropriate cases for such an analogy. The ethnic cleansing in the Indian sub-continent co-incidentally at a similar period to Israel’s war of Independence comes to mind, never mind the more contemporary horrors of Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, Darfur etc. The underlying ideologies that led to these atrocities do not seem to attract the attention of conspiracy theorists as much as Zionism.

I normally enjoy Guy Rundle’s pieces for his polemics but this disingenuous piece causes disquiet for his attempt to simultaneously disown some of the traditional anti-Semitic Zionism/Nazism rhetoric while trying to imply there is a ring of truth underlying the canard.

Michael Brull writes: Daniel Lewis (yesterday, comments) says I make the “embarrassing claim in defence of Islam, that: ”˜more suicide bombings had been committed by the (secular) Tamil Tigers than any other group’. Wrong!”

If we turn to the link, my full sentence reads: “Even in the case of suicide bombings, Pape’s study showed that more suicide bombings had been committed by the (secular) Tamil Tigers than any other group.” My reference was to Robert Pape, whose study from 1980 to 2003 is described in the New York Times here. Lewis goes on to claim that this was in defence of Islam, when I am an atheist and secularist. Perhaps disputing that terrorism is somehow intrinsically Islamic seems to him contentious. In my view, this simply reflects that one can make gratuitous claims about Muslims in the media that would not be permitted to make about Jews.

This exhausts the facts that Lewis disputes in what I’ve written, but does not exhaust his extensive invective. In fact, his attack is an improvement on Danby, who did not dispute anything I have said in his latest diatribe, and even accuses me of comparing Israel to the Nazis, when I have done no such thing and have in the past publically objected to such comparisons.

Finally, I know belief in a giant Loewenstein conspiracy is fashionable among Zionist jingoists, but the claim that Loewenstein is my mentor or whatever simply indicates the sort of mentality that can’t imagine how two Jews could possibly oppose Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Daniel Lewis wrote: “The reason Loewenstein and Brull appeal to people like Guy Rundle, and other leftist groups, is not because their commentary is especially insightful (it’s not even accurate). But because they call themselves Jewish, and thus have a novel defence denied to the typical Jew-hating (sorry, anti-Zionist) obsessive.” Not so in my view.

The reason that Loewenstein and Brull have appeal is that are able to see both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and they deny uncompromising Zionists and right-wing reactionaries like Mr. Lewis the cheap and convenient out that anti-Zionists are also anti-Semites.

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