Reading is unnecessary

After my recent article in Crikey about the Zionist lobby (and the response), today’s edition of the newsletter features the following letters (including, yet again, our old friend Federal Labor MP Michael Danby, who doesn’t seem too fond of reading):

Michael Danby writes: Two can play Loewenstein’s game of selective quotations. The saying “Oh, that mine enemy would write a book!” is traditionally, but not very accurately, attributed to Job. If I might update the saying – “Oh, that mine enemy would write for Crikey!” I must thank Mr Antony Loewenstein’s for his article (31 July, item 13), since they have put on the public record a comment I made in an email to the ABC’s Tony Jones: Melbourne University Press commissioning Mr Loewenstein to write a book about the Australian Jewish community was “like commissioning Pauline Hanson to write a book about multicultural Australia.” Mr Loewenstein’s response is: “So much for an elected parliamentarian’s respect for the concept of democratic dialogue. Never mind the profound philistinism of condemning a book one hasn’t read.” It’s a pity Mr Loewenstein chose not to quote the rest of my email, in which I said: “I didn’t need to read Mr Loewenstein’s book to know what it would contain. Mr Loewenstein’s views and prejudices were well known to me before he was commissioned to write his book. They are stated clearly at his own website, where he describes himself as “a Jew who doesn’t believe in the concept of a Jewish state.” He calls Israel “a fundamentally undemocratic and colonialist idea from a bygone era.” He describes the Australian Jewish community as “vitriolic, bigoted, racist and downright pathetic,” and as “incapable of hearing the true reality of their beloved homeland and its barbaric actions.” My comments last year have been entirely vindicated since the appearance of Mr Loewenstein’s book. Since Mr Loewenstein doesn’t care for my opinions, let me quote Dr Philip Mendes of Monash University, author of Jews and Australian Politics, who says: “The majority of the text [of Mr Loewenstein’s book] is overwhelmingly simplistic and one-sided. This could have been a serious and objective examination of the role of local lobby groups in influencing Australia’s Middle East policies. Unfortunately, that book still waits to be written.”

Michael Brougham writes: Whatever anyone thought of Antony Loewenstein’s article on Israel-US relations, it’s hard to see how a Jew openly proclaiming pride in their faith can be labelled an anti-Semite simply for challenging the policies of Israel and the role of US Zionist lobby (yesterday, comments). It’s analogous to otherwise patriotic Australians challenging Australian Government policy, or to the many Christians who have over many centuries challenged the policies of their church without giving up their steadfast belief in the Christian religion. Similar to the anti-American tag frequently levelled at anyone challenging Australia’s relationship with the US, it seems that the term “anti-Semite” increasingly serves as a crude bludgeon on anyone seeking to debate Israel’s internal machinations in an open forum.

Justin Templer writes: In his bagging of Antony Loewenstein (yesterday, comments), Yosi Tal uses every weapon in the Jewish armoury of self-victimisation. Crikey is “attempting to strip the Jewish community of its democratic right to be heard”, Loewenstein has “no serious academic qualifications”, his portrayal of the Jewish lobby is “outright anti-Semitic”, Loewenstein is a “self-hating Jew” and the Jewish community is “not afraid of debate and welcome it”. Ho hum – the “dark and sinister cabal” would be proud. More debate, please.

Daniel Lewis writes: Antony Loewenstein insists he is stifled, censored and oppressed. In one month he has had an article in Crikey, a half-page op-ed and book review in The Australian, appearances on Lateline and ABC radio (to name but a few) and a fawning review from Fairfax, notwithstanding numerous factual errors in his book which he refuses to acknowledge. Other publicity seeking first-time authors could only dream of being so “silenced”. When caught out and quoted for things that might have been wrong (eg Ted Lapkin noting in his Preface, Loewenstein placed Lebanon in between Tel Aviv and Haifa), Loewenstein denies it, simply convinced the criticism is a dirty Zionist tactic, before continuing to repeat such untruths later. For one who feels his views are squashed however, Loewenstein has no problem at all censoring civil comments on his blog (such as mine) with which he disagrees or to which he cannot respond. His (now published) canard about “Jewish only roads” in Israel is but one example of many. In other words, he stifles dissent while simultaneously moaning that he is the victim of censorship, a point contradicted every single time he says it in public.

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