Believe the hype, BDS against Israel is growing and feared

To all the politicians, journalists, Zionist lobbyists and hacks who continually claim that BDS is irrelevant, the fact that it’s being fought at the highest levels of the Israeli government proves otherwise. Alex Kane in Mondoweiss reports:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is directly involved in growing efforts to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, according to a report on the website of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli commentator,reported June 25 that Netanyahu met with a small group of unnamed “Jewish millionaires” at the Israeli Presidential Conference last week in Jerusalem. Netanyahu “sought to raise their money and use their connections for the war against the anti-Israel boycott movement”–a movement Barnea says is “arousing great interest in Western countries, leaving its mark on the academic system, on economic decisions made by business and political organizations and on the media.”

The details from Barnea are yet another indication of how seriously the Israeli establishment is taking the BDS movement. Netanyahu’s desire to combat BDS comes about a month after Israeli businessmen warned the prime minister that without progress towards a two-state solution, foreign investments would be withheld and “no one” would “buy goods” from Israel. And in a speech this week, Netanyahu “promised to implement the recommendations of [the Jewish People Policy Institute] with regards to countering international ‘delegitimization’ and boycott initiatives,” as the Electronic Intifada’s Ben White noted.

Barnea’s story was published a day after Haaretz’s Judy Maltz broke the news that the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations was planning to launch a new campaign targeting BDS on college campuses. The campaign was announced by Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents group.

Is there a connection between Hoenlein’s announcement and Netayahu’s meeting with a small group of Jewish millionaires on the BDS movement? The meeting took place at the Israeli Presidential Conference; Hoenlein was there, and it’s where he told Maltz the news of the new anti-BDS campaign. It’s pure speculation at this point. (I’ve put in an e-mail inquiry to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, but they have not responded.)

Hoenlein and Netanyahu are considered to be “very close,” as Haaretz’s Barak Ravid put it in 2011 in a report on Hoenlein’s meeting with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Hoenlein reportedly delivered a message from Netanyahu to Assad, though Hoenlein denied he did so for Netanyahu.

Whatever the case, the reportedly direct involvement of Netanyahu in anti-BDS efforts represents the latest effort by the Israeli government to enlist Jews outside the government to take on the movement. In 2010, the anti-BDS Israel Action Network was formed by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs at the urging of the Israeli government, according to theJewish Telegraphic Agency’s Jacob Berkman.


Keynote speech at Queensland History Teacher’s Association on Middle East

I spent the weekend in Brisbane, Queensland giving the keynote address at the annual Queensland History Teacher’s Association conference. I was honoured to be asked to deliver an address on the Middle East and speaking honestly about Israel/Palestine. Over 220 teachers came from across Queensland, young and old, males but mostly females. I was warmly welcomed. I admit to being pleasantly surprised by the frank honesty expressed by countless teachers (though I think I upset the conservative politician who opened the event) about how they talk to high school students regarding the Middle East, remain unafraid to correctly explain the similarities between apartheid South Africa and today’s Israel and discuss the civil disobedience movement known as BDS

What encouraged me were the number of teachers who knew the reality of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine and weren’t shy about saying it. Here’s hoping for a new generation who remain less cowed by the charges of anti-Semitism to speak frankly about the Middle East.

Here’s my speech:

Keynote speech at the Queensland History Teacher’s Association

Brisbane, 22 June 2013

Thank you for the honour of keynoting this conference. Thank you Sandra and Adrian for inviting me and organising my visit. I’m rapt to be here.


Be brave. Don’t be intimidated. Stand up to the bullies. History is a battlefield but facts are sacred.

I’ve been writing about the Middle East for over 10 years. I’ve visited Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Palestine and Iran. Every country presented its own challenges. Language, culture, political persuasion, gender and religion. I’m an atheist Jew traveling in a region that many outsiders presume to be unfriendly, even hostile. To be sure, I’ve faced threats and challenges but mostly I’ve found warmth. This is not to ignore or romanticise the hatred, racism and violence that’s become endemic across the region, especially since 9/11. Much of this instability is fueled by Western meddling, arming the worst brutes and enabling the Mubarak’s, Qaddafi’s and Saddam’s.

We ignore our own complicity through willful ignorance. In 2013 alone, Washington signed arms deals with Israel, UAE and Saudi Arabia worth $10 billion. The only result of such agreements is to allow despotic regimes to oppress their own people. Who can forget the empty words of US President Barack Obama about supporting the Arab Spring while allowing ally Bahrain to brutally suppress a democratic uprising? Israel, the highest recipient of US aid annually, ironic for a nation that claims to be independent, uses these weapons to occupy, imprison and torture millions of Palestinians. However, none of this power translates to global public opinion, to the constant frustration of Zionist officials and their craven spokespeople in the West. A BBC World poll in 2013 once again placed Israel as one of the most unpopular nations on the planet, alongside Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.

One of the key issues when discussing Israel/Palestine is acknowledging the reality of the situation on the ground in Palestine itself and how history has brought us to this moment. Anybody who spends time involved in this environment will know how fraught it can be. What really happened in 1948, the year of Israel’s birth but also the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba? Israel, like many other colonial-settler states, such as New Zealand, America and Canada, is yet to fully accept, let alone apologise, for the ethnic cleansing that took place at its inception. The spoils of victory were too sweet, merely a few years after the greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish people, the Holocaust, an event that affected virtually every Jew on the planet including my family, most of whom were unable to leave Germany and were murdered in the death camps at Auschwitz.

It’s a quirk of history that I recently became a German citizen. Because my grandparents, escaping Germany in 1939 and arriving in a culturally background Australia in the same year, were made stateless by the Nazi regime, Germany today wants to atone for its genocidal period by helping Jews who can prove their ancestry to once again become valued members of Europe. I remember receiving my passport from the German consulate in Sydney a few years ago and being asked by an official how I felt. I told him I was moved, nearly to tears, to think that only a relatively short time after my people had been massacred in unprecedented numbers I was being welcomed back into the German fold. I wonder how my now deceased family members would feel about this, perhaps uncomfortable that anybody could forgive but not forget the past. For me, it was like the ultimate victory against Hitler. You tried to kill us all and wipe us from the face of the Earth. Well, we’re still standing. And German.

But I digress. None of this should distract us from the vital task of teaching Israel/Palestine and the Middle East to a new generation that is more connected and informed than any before it. But ignorance about the reasons for the conflict are constant. A classic study of the trend features in a book called Bad News from Israel by Greg Philo and Mike Berry from the Glasgow Media Group. The 2004 book outlined the ways in which the mainstream media distorted and often lied and this contributed to viewer inertia and frustration. The authors write:

“The study suggests that television news on the Israel/Palestinian conflict confuses viewers and substantially features Israeli government views. Israelis are quoted and speak in interviews over twice as much as Palestinians and there are major differences in the language used to describe the two sides. This operates in favour of the Israelis and influences how viewers understand the conflict. The study focused on BBC One and ITV News from the start of the current Palestinian intifada, the Glasgow researchers examined around 200 news programmes and interviewed and questioned over 800 people.

“There is a preponderance of official ‘Israeli perspectives’, particularly on BBC 1, where Israelis were interviewed or reported over twice as much as Palestinians. On top of this, US politicians who support Israel were very strongly featured. They appeared more than politicians from any other country and twice as much as those from Britain.

“TV news says almost nothing about the history or origins of the conflict. The great majority on viewers depended on this news as their main source of information. The gaps in their knowledge closely paralleled the ‘gaps’ in the news. Most did not know that the Palestinians had been forced from their homes and land when Israel was established in 1948. In 1967 Israel occupied by force the territories to which the Palestinian refugees had moved. Most viewers did not know that the Palestinians subsequently lived under Israeli military rule or that the Israelis took control of key resources such as water, and the damage this did to the Palestinian economy. Without explanations being given on the news, there was great confusion amongst viewers even about who was ‘occupying’ the occupied territories. Some understood ‘occupied’ to mean that someone was on the land (as in a bathroom being occupied) so they thought that the Palestinians were the occupiers. Many saw the conflict as a sort of border dispute between two countries fighting over land between them. As one viewer put it:

‘The impression I got (from news) was that the Palestinians had lived around about that area and now they were trying to come back and get some more some more land for themselves – I didn’t realise they had been driven out of places in wars previously.;”

Having been a professional journalist for over ten years, I regularly hear about fellow reporters and editors, in most media organisations, reluctant to criticise Israel without equal time given to damning the Palestinians. This form of self-censorship, arguably the most pernicious kind, is because of Zionist lobby pressure and ingrained bias towards a supposedly Western nation and US ally. Just think how often on the supposedly leftist ABC appears Israeli government spokespeople spouting propaganda. Isn’t it ridiculous that a media group constantly invites Israeli PR hacks when they know they’ll be do little more than issue talking points? Never under-estimate the fear inside the establishment press of the belligerence of Israel advocates. Bravery amongst journalists is a rare commodity.

The facts are important and despite appearances remain largely uncontested. Israel was born in sin with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the killing of countless unarmed Arabs. After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel almost immediately began occupying the West Bank and Gaza and messianic Zionism was re-born. This occupation isn’t on disputed land. It’s Palestinian land. Virtually every country in the world, according to innumerable UN votes, agrees with this view. It’s not an accident that the occupation has lasted for more than 45 years. It’s a plan, constantly evolving with circumstances, but determined to settle what was claimed to be empty land. Today there are over 600,000 Jewish colonists on occupied territory, all of whom are there illegally. This status-quo is backed by America and essentially endorsed by Europe and Australia. It doesn’t matter if Labor or Liberal is in power in Canberra, this love affair with radical Zionism is bi-partisan.

Teaching these facts to students requires explaining what occupation means. How Israeli and Jewish soldiers, often no older than 18 years old, humiliate and beat Palestinians waiting in checkpoints for hours. Raid homes in the middle of the night and kidnap children for interrogation. Use Palestinian kids as human shields, confirmed by yet another UN report this week. Defend Jewish settlers when burning Palestinian fields and destroying their crops. This is apartheid in all its grimy ugliness. There’s one military law for Palestinians in the West Bank and a different set of rules for Jews. Israeli soldiers are rarely chastised for abusing Palestinians. The Israeli group Breaking the Silence regularly publishes testimonies from current and former IDF forces detailing the ways in which assaulting Palestinians, physically and psychologically, is vital to survive in the IDF. Dehumanising the enemy is the only way most soldiers are able to justify a never-ending occupation.

The Israeli education system routinely denies the Palestinian connection to the land and demonises any resistance as terrorism. This is partly why racism inside Israel is rampant as Palestinians have been largely segregated from Israeli Jews. This is like apartheid South Africa with the Western world’s blessing and acquiecense. How can you humanise the other when you never see or speak to them? Palestinians often tell me that their only contact with Israelis is seeing soldiers occupying their cities and towns.

Every conflict has competing narratives but not all stories are equal. When examining Nazi Germany, it’s essential to understand the ways in which Hitler transfixed a nation for 12 years. Why were so many Germans able to commit such horrific crimes? But our focus must be on the victims of these outrages; Jews, homosexuals, the people of Europe, gypsies and a range of other peoples. Likewise in Israel and Palestine, deconstructing the Israeli and Zionist ideology is essential to see how the eternal victim has become the proud brute. Many Jews feel, especially after the Holocaust, that Jews will never again be marched like lambs to the slaughter. Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, nuclear weapons and endless backing from Washington. And yet despite all this, paranoia, often created to justify victimhood, is a constant theme in this debate. What we should be doing far more often is listening to Palestinians tell their own stories and how a proud people has suffered for the crimes of Nazism.

As a journalist and commentator on this issue, as well as being Jewish, we need to remember that the deliberate conflation of Judaism and Zionism is a modern invention. It is not natural. I am Jewish. I am not a Zionist. I am anti-Zionist. I do not believe that Jews have a right to live in a country where the rights of another people are subjugated. Jews have the right to safety anywhere in the world but not if they colonise land that belongs to somebody else.

The media, commentators and many allegedly serious people talk about the two-state solution as being the only answer to the conflict. But partition will never happen, not least because it’s now practically impossible when successive Israeli governments have pledged to expand Jewish colonies, making a Palestinian state little more than a possible rump. But morally and historically, a one-state equation is the best way, with all the inevitable challenges, to allow all peoples of all religions to live and thrive in a modern nation state. Nationalism and Holocaust trauma, the former fueled by politicians and media while the latter is used to insulate Israel from legitimate criticism, has turned Israel into a constipated country, claiming to want peace but acting in the very opposite way.

So where does this leave educators? Don’t be afraid of teaching students that colonial history is ugly. There are few, if any heroes. That denialism is a constant, as we still see in Australia today with the refusal by many to acknowledge that our policies infantilise and demonise minorities for crude, political gain. Resist parents or principals who demand “balance” when discussing the Middle East. Are there two equal sides during ethnic cleansing? During attempted genocide? Hardly. There are competing voices, and they must be heard, but there are rights and wrongs. This isn’t to say that many facts are contested and history, usually written by the victors, is selective. For example, we no longer have any excuse to not access texts translated from Arabic. Only teaching the mainstream, and therefore widely accepted narrative, is the easy option and should be resisted. In my experience, students relish a world that is beyond goodies and baddies.

However, far too often, supporters of Israel claim the conflict is difficult to explain and there are no easy solutions. We shouldn’t shy away from explaining what decades of occupation does to a country, how it corrupts and coarsens hearts and minds. Read dissident Israeli historian Ilan Pappe to understand this better. He’s been forced into exile in Britain due to ongoing threats against him and his family in Israel for daring to challenge 1948 myths that remain politically useful to this day. Here’s Pappe writing this year in The Electronic Intifada:

“The perpetrators of the 1948 ethnic cleansing were the Zionist settlers who came to Palestine, like Polish-born Shimon Peres, before the Second World War. They denied the existence of the native people they encountered, who lived there for hundreds of years, if not more. The Zionists did not possess the power at the time to settle the cognitive dissonance they experienced: their conviction that the land was people-less despite the presence of so many native people there.

“They almost solved the dissonance when they expelled as many Palestinians as they could in 1948 — and were left with only a small minority of Palestinians within the Jewish state.

“But the Zionist greed for territory and ideological conviction that much more of Palestine was needed in order to have a viable Jewish state led to constant contemplations and eventually operations to enlarge the state.

“With the creation of “Greater Israel” following the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the dissonance returned. The solution however could not easily be resolved this time by the force of ethnic cleansing. The number of Palestinians was larger, their assertiveness and liberation movement were forcefully present on the ground, and even the most cynical and traditionally pro-Israel actors on the international scene recognized their existence.

“The dissonance was resolved in a different way. The land without people was any part of the greater Israel the state wished to Judaize in the pre-1967 boundaries or annex from the territories occupied in 1967. The land with people was in the Gaza Strip and some enclaves in the West Bank as well as inside Israel. The land without people is destined to expand incrementally in the future, causing the number of people to shrink as a direct consequence of this encroachment.”

You won’t hear these facts in mainstream text books or the media. They are truths whispered by growing numbers of people globally, sick of being silenced by charges of anti-Semitism for daring to raise them. It is why the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, so effective against apartheid South Africa, is thriving. Ignore the allegations by the Murdoch empire and Zionist lobbyists that BDS is akin to Nazism. When the political process fails, citizens have a moral responsibility to non-violently resist. The history of civil disobedience will one day soon prominently feature BDS. Students will learn that we all have the power to make ethical decisions when we witness crimes being committed in our name.

Be brave. History isn’t always on the side of justice but we have a chance to correct that in our work and play.


What’s happening inside Australia’s Zionist establishment

It ain’t pretty. The last years have seen an increasingly radical and racist minority dictating that you’re either pro-settler or nothing. Nice try, old white men. As Israel officially proudly says that the occupation is permanent and Arabs can just suck it up, there’s been a recent debate in Australia that has been unwittingly led by a friend and my co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, Peter Slezak.

Here’s a feature in Haaretz that outlines the current dust-up. Note how the entire piece doesn’t mention the Palestinians. I mean, hell, what’s more relevant than arguing about who gets to speak about Israel while ignoring the main reason Zionism is about as globally respected as Qaddafi?

SYDNEY – Accusations of bullying, blackmail and “carpet bombing” by Zionist leaders, threats of withholding six-figure sums by Jewish donors, and claims of “subterfuge” and “cloak and dagger” politics against progressive voices are poisoning the debate Down Under on Israel.

“I don’t recall a time when our community has been so divided,” said Dr. Mark Baker, the director of the Center for the Study of Jewish Civilization at Melbourne’s Monash University, during a heated debate on Israel at the annual Limmud Oz conference the weekend of June 16.

Baker, who also sits on the New Israel Fund of Australia’s advisory board, savaged the campaign to “delegitimize” Jews, which he says has created a “toxic atmosphere” in Australia.

“[They are] attacking Jews who are mainstream, whose very core is support and love for Israel, and trying to marginalize them and turn them into enemies of Israel, enemies of the Jewish community,” Baker said, referring to supporters of the New Israel Fund, among others.

“The politics of power is trying to silence and to bully those voices into belonging to this so-called one tent, which is actually a right-wing tent.”

But Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, denied the allegations as “not just completely false but defamatory.”

“Spreading falsehoods and making these very personal, nasty allegations is an attempt by some to undermine or delegitimize a viewpoint they don’t agree with but that very many in our community do,” Chester told Haaretz. “Why is our conduct characterized as bullying and the other noble? I simply don’t accept that we are so divided on Israel,” he added.

The annual two-day Limmud conference drew record numbers of about 1200 people last weekend in Sydney, featuring more than 200 presentations by some 175 speakers, including a record number from overseas, among them Israeli scholar and commentator Daniel Gordis, veteran journalist Ron Ben-Yishai and back-channel negotiator Gershon Baskin.

But the controversial admission of one Australian presenter triggered a sequence of events that became the bitter backdrop to what many claim is the highlight of the Jewish calendar in Australia.

Dr. Peter Slezak, an arch-critic of Israel and a co-founder of the left-wing Independent Australian Jewish Voices, was barred from speaking at Limmud in 2011 and 2012.

But his presentation on “The Wicked Son: Confessions of a Self-Hating Jew” was allowed by the newly formed Limmud board after he pledged not to veer into Israeli politics and agreed to have a Limmud representative moderate his packed session.

As a result of his inclusion, the Limmud board said it had been subject to “a campaign of ugly bullying and an attempted boycott,” even though it did reject some presenters, including Vivienne Porzsolt, an outspoken activist for Jews Against the Occupation.

Slezak’s admission provoked several community powerbrokers to either refuse to attend or refuse to present at Limmud. Dr Ron Weiser, a Zionist stalwart and committee member of the Jewish Agency, neither presented nor attended, infuriated that organizers backtracked on “written commitments” regarding “red lines” in 2011.

“The communal leadership does not see any reason why a leading member of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices should be given a platform,” he told Haaretz.

But some critics accused Weiser, who helped spearhead an anti-NIF campaign when it launched here in 2011, of behaving like the “thought police” of the community.

One incensed Jewish leader blasted him and others, including Zionist Council of NSW president Richard Balkin, for “carpet-bombing” those who don’t toe the Israel PR line.

Weiser, lauded by some senior officials as Israel’s leading advocate in Australia, declined to be drawn on the allegations.

But Haaretz understands that he and Hilton Immerman, chief executive of the Shalom Institute, which plays a pivotal part in organizing Limmud, have been embroiled in a longstanding war of words that resulted in Weiser recently apologizing for accusing Immerman of “a form of communal vandalism.” Immerman declined to comment.

Limmud’s decision to provide Slezak a platform also prompted Stanley Roth, an honorary life president of the United Israel Appeal, to threaten to withhold an estimated $100,000-plus donation to the communal purse, although he later backed down.

Roth told Haaretz that he and several other donors were “very concerned” by the Limmud board’s decision. “It’s totally wrong for communal resources to be used to give platforms to people whose views are anathema to Israel,” he said.

By contrast, Karen Loblay, a board member of NIF, was so outraged by “thinly veiled threats” made against the Limmud board that she declined to donate at the recent community appeal function.

The maelstrom prompted Michala Lander, a co-chair of Limmud, to send a withering email to Yair Miller, president of the Jewish Board of Deputies in Sydney.

“Before today, I considered myself to be a future leader of this community,” she said in her email, which was leaked to Haaretz. “However, after this event, I have no interest in being involved with a community that practices such bullying tactics [and] blackmail.”

The executive of the Board of Deputies passed a resolution last week saying that “conduct that denigrates or defames any individual or organization in the community is unacceptable conduct, as is any attempt to pressure or intimidate others into not participating in or attending Limmud-Oz.”

NIF Australia president Robin Margo welcomed the resolution, but noted that there was no similar support when personal attacks were directed at NIF’s Australian leaders and former MK Naomi Chazan and former Haaretz editor-in-chief David Landau during their visits to Australia. (Full disclosure: Dan Goldberg helped organize media for Naomi Chazan and David Landau’s visits to Australia.)

“The Board of Deputies took no effective action when it first became aware of personal vilification,” Margo told Haaretz. “But thankfully, now that similar conduct has been alleged in relation to Limmud-Oz organizers, the executive has emphatically declared its opinion that such conduct is unacceptable in our community.”

Some accuse Limmud of being overrun by progressive, left-leaning Zionists, while others accuse the establishment of narrowcasting Zionism and muzzling dissent. Either way, Limmud appears to have been at the vortex of a deepening fault-line between conservative and progressive Zionists that dates back to the bitter feud when NIF was founded here, if not before.

In an email to colleagues amid the brouhaha, one Limmud board member wrote: “The battle for a more open, more adult, less thought-policed community is a long one and will not be won overnight. But Limmud-Oz 2013 will hopefully turn out to be a little victory that needs to be fought again until the norms are changed.”


Zionist world says BDS irrelevant yet obsesses over it daily

It’s been nothing short of hilarious watching politicians, the Israel lobby, some journalists and Zionists continually say that BDS against Israel should be ignored, it’s achieving nothing and is simply anti-Semitic. Nothing to see here. Of course, the opposite is true and it’s having a major effect on public perceptions of Israel globally. Brutally occupying the Palestinians for decades ain’t that great for your image.

Just the latest example of this cognitive dissonance disease is this:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has returned to the headlines recently. In response, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) held a Q&A session on Monday night where an expert panel discussed the history, impact and different viewpoints of BDS.


How conservatives view free speech when discussing Israel and war

Let’s not be under any illusion that conservatives who talk about a love of “freedom” (including Rupert Murdoch, for that matter) mean nothing of the sort, but only views that push a pro-US, pro-Israel and pro-war agenda. The Zionist lobby, a long-time fan of bullying opponents, is on-board. Here’s Murdoch’s Australian on the weekend:

A Coalition government would block all federal funds to individuals and institutions who speak out in favour of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.

In a move that has shocked the academic community but won praise from Jewish leaders, foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop has hardened up the Coalition’s policy, saying not only would funds be cut for BDS-related activities, but for any research, educational, or other purpose.

“The Coalition will institute a policy across government that ensures no grants of taxpayers’ funds are provided to individuals or organisations which actively support the BDS campaign,” Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian.

The policy has alarmed the National Tertiary Education Union, whose president, Jeannie Rae, said it would undermine hard fought-for federal legislation that “protects freedom of intellectual inquiry for university staff and students”.

“One of the traditional roles for universities is to facilitate informed debate about controversial topics,” Ms Rae said.

Even the University of Sydney, which vigorously opposes BDS, was lukewarm, with a spokeswoman declining to comment on “hypothetical” legislation but saying “we defend academics’ right to contribute to public debate”.

The Coalition policy is most immediately directed at Jake Lynch who, along with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies that he directs, is a vocal supporter of BDS.

Associate Professor Lynch drew the ire of Jewish groups when he rejected a request for help from Israeli academic Dan Avnon, who developed Israel’s only civics curriculum for both Jewish and Arab school students.

Professor Lynch has the backing of Sydney University’s student representative council, which passed a resolution supporting him when officials of the university, to which his centre is attached, disowned the BDS campaign.

Professor Lynch insists the federal government grants he and his centre receive are not used for promoting BDS, but for a wide range of research and education covering many countries.

But Ms Bishop told The Weekend Australian: “It is inappropriate for Associate Professor Lynch to use his role as director of the taxpayer-funded CPACS . . . in support of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign.”

This week Professor Lynch told a student forum the BDS campaign was not anti-Semitic, and said the suggestion was a “cynical smear”.

Professor Lynch described the Coalition’s new policy as “an attempt to silence me by threatening to harm me in my profession”.

“I am being told that I cannot get any government funds for my research, on topics unrelated to BDS, as long as I hold the views I do,” he said.

Australia-Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein supported the Coalition’s initiative.

“It is obviously inappropriate for publicly funded bodies to engage in BDS against Israel . . . it is the role of government to make this clear,” he said.

Australian conservative are following the lead of censorious types in the US (examples here and here).

Now there’s another disturbing example, sent to my via Melbourne academic Scott Burchill, who wrote to Noam Chomsky and received this reply:

Pretty bad, but the Libs are amateurs.  Here’s an example of Real BDS, from experts.  This is a news item from Science.  A lot of scientists and mathematicians are furious about it, but too intimidated to say anything.


Scientific journals are being asked to help tighten U.S. trade sanctions on Iran. On 30 April, the Dutch publishing behemoth Elsevier of the Netherlands sent a note to its editorial network saying that all U.S. editors and U.S. reviewers must “avoid” handling manuscripts if they include an author employed by the government of Iran. Under a policy that went into effect in March — reflecting changes in a law passed by the U.S. Congress in December — even companies like Elsevier not based in the United States must prevent their U.S. personnel from interacting with the Iranian government.

The sanctions, aimed at punishing Iran for its pursuit of nuclear technology, have been broadened somewhat from previous rules issued by the enforcement agency, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the Treasury Department.

According to a treasury official, OFAC has not changed its “general license” policy for journals; it still allows them to publish articles authored by nongovernmental scientists from Iran and other sanctioned countries. The new wrinkle is that OFAC insists that all U.S. citizens, no matter who employs them, comply with the sanctions against papers authored by governmental researchers. That apparently prompted Elsevier to issue a warning to its employees.

Elsevier spokesperson Harald Boersma explained in an e-mail that the new restrictions are expected to affect a small number of papers and that the company had implemented “more specific sanctions … over the past year or two” as a result of U.N. recommendations.

“In recent changes … U.S.-owned scientific and medical journals would violate OFAC regulations if they handle scientific manuscripts where any of the authors are employed by the government of Iran. This includes research departments of nuclear facilities as well as the various oil and gas companies which are deemed to be entities of the Government of Iran. The sanctions do not apply to manuscripts from academic and research institutes and manuscripts originating from non-governmental clinical settings, such as hospitals [or] clinical practices. This means that the sanctions only apply to a very small part of research papers coming out of Iran. Our recent communications with editors were motivated out of concern that U.S. citizens acting as editors of our journals might also be subject to personal liability.”

 In a note to editors (a copy of which was obtained by ScienceInsider), Elsevier gives advice on what a manager should do if he or she can’t find a non-U.S. person to work on a paper that requires special handling: “Please reject the manuscript outright.” According to the note, the rejection should apologize to the submitter and explain that because of U.S. sanctions, “we are unfortunately unable to handle your manuscript.”

OFAC tangled with scientific journals almost a decade ago when it proposed much harsher restrictions on communications from Iran. That led to an organized protest by the American Institute of Physics, the Association of American Publishers, and others, resulting in the current understanding: OFAC permits the exhange of scientific but not government-sponsored communications from Iran.

Several other scientific publishing organizations—including AAAS, the publisher of ScienceInsider—said that they did not see a need to change the way they handle manscripts at present.


Murdoch press kindly protects Israel from Nazism, fascism and Maoism

What would a day be without lies, slander and mad exaggeration from the Murdoch media about Israel and its critics? After running one article this week, by Stuart Rees, that explained how BDS isn’t the work of the devil, the paper is back to its usual hyperbolic self. The clear tactic is to charge anybody who advocates non-violent pressure on occupying Israel as a zealot. Unfortunately for them, BDS is growing and Israel is becoming an increasingly paranoid and violent state.

Here’s the page 3 story in The Australian with a massive headline:

Pro-Palestinian academic Jake Lynch has rejected accusations that the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign is anti-Semitic, describing such claims as a “cynical smear” by supporters of Israel.

Professor Lynch, who heads Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies which supports an academic boycott of Israel, laid into Coalition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop over her promise to cut funding to institutions that support BDS. He said such threats were “a straightforward violation of intellectual freedom” that would undermine a key pillar of democracy.

But last night Ms Bishop stood her ground, and for the first time described Professor Lynch’s campaign as anti-Jewish.

“Mr Lynch is free to raise funds from non-government sources if he requires money to fund his campaign against the state of Israel and Jewish people,” she told The Australian. “A Coalition government would seek to withdraw funding to any academic institution that used taxpayer funds for an anti-Semitic campaign.”

Professor Lynch yesterday addressed a discussion forum at Sydney University entitled “65 Years of Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing: Why you should boycott Israel today”, hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine.

After Sydney University authorities forcefully rejected Professor Lynch’s calls to cut ties with Israeli academic institutions, the student representative council last month passed a resolution supporting him and BDS.

Students at the University of NSW recently rallied against the decision to grant a lease on campus to the Australian franchise of Israel-based chocolate shop chain Max Brenner.

During that protest large numbers of fiercely anti-Semitic, and anti-Islamic, posts were placed on the campaign’s Facebook page.

In his address yesterday, Professor Lynch, a British journalist turned academic, unreservedly condemned the racist posts.

He said attempts to equate BDS with anti-Semitism reflected alarm among the pro-Israel lobby that it was losing the battle of international public opinion.

“It’s a cynical smear, it’s been ramped up in desperation,” he said.

As evidence mounted from UN investigations and other sources, Professor Lynch said, it was becoming more difficult for Israel and its supporters to deny what he claimed were war crimes, apartheid-style oppression of Palestinians, and breaches of international law. He noted the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, known as the Goldstone Report, had in 2009 accused both the Israeli Defence Forces and Palestinian militants of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

“Nothing happens to Israel as a result of these actions,” Professor Lynch asserted. “In my view the BDS campaign is not a campaign against Israel as such, but against Israeli militarism and lawlessness,” he said.

A spokesman for the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, Tzvi Fleischer, said “we believe BDS is anti-Semitic in its implications, though not everyone in it is necessarily anti-Semitic”.

He dismissed Professor Lynch’s claims of a smear as “a traditional tactic of the BDS”.

Then an opinion piece that could have been written by the Israeli press office. Columnist Cassandra Wilkinson obviously isn’t very good at using Google because Greens MP David Shoebridge, quoted in her article, denies ever having made the comment attributed to him. He told me this personally today. For the record, it was fellow NSW Greens MP John Kaye. Then again, who fact checks the opinion page apart from a pro-settler, neo-conservative “editor”?

AS MPs prepare to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism, it’s timely to speak more openly about the bonds of convenience growing between elements of the Left and anti-Semitism.

The clearest example was the Greens’ promotion of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that happily saw them come to grief in the NSW state seat of Marrickville. The BDS movement seeks to shut down militant agents of Palestinian oppression such as the Max Brenner chocolate shop. No doubt the coming revolution of their imagination will provide a politburo-approved carob alternative to Mr Brenner’s treats.

The student activists who tried to prevent the University of NSW from allowing Mr Brenner to open on campus, claimed the BDS campaign was initiated in 2005.

Such sloppy referencing and fact-checking wouldn’t pass muster on their exams, I hope. As it happens, I studied history at UNSW — something the protesters could profit from before they graduate. A basic grasp of history shows us the boycotting of businesses is a longstanding tactic in the campaign of hate against the Jewish people.

Boycotts of Jewish merchants were practised in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire and later across eastern Europe, especially in Romania, Poland and Russia where anti-Jewish activism was serious enough to bequeath us the word pogrom. In 1922, the Fifth Palestine Arab Congress called for a boycott of all Jewish businesses. In 1943, the Arab League banned the purchase of “products of Jewish industry”. Note I have passed over here the not insignificant events of 1933-45 lest I fall foul of politicians such as Greens MP David Shoebridge, who accuses supporters of Israel of “using the Holocaust for political purposes”.

The BDS presents itself as a reaction to the power of the state of Israel. In reality it is the most recent name for a centuries-old economic persecution of Jews for having the temerity to become educated and entrepreneurial despite their exclusion from many occupations, geographies and institutions.

This makes it all the more ironic that the University of Sydney’s Students Representative Council would seek to ban ties with Haifa’s Technion, the world’s most successful commercialiser of university research. It isn’t a cunning reprisal, it’s an act of pointless self-harm.

Julia Gillard, to her credit, was swift to sign the London Declaration. NSW Labor leader John Robertson has followed her lead, calling the declaration “an important step in the ongoing efforts to eliminate anti-Semitism in all its forms”. But both face resistance from members of their teams who are courting the Muslim vote or flexing their ideological credentials. During a recent visit by Israeli politicians, NSW Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane disgraced the house by accusing Israel of running torture camps and claiming Israel is driven by a, “craving to take over other people’s lands”. His actions were rebuked by Labor MLC Walter Secord, a long-time friend of Jewish people.

Moselmane is particularly guileless in his views but others in caucus apply more subtlety to their anti-Israel positions. Several ALP members of the NSW, Victorian and federal parliaments have refused to support resolutions to condemn the BDS.

The BDS and the signing of the declaration may seem marginal with an election looming and a fresh budget to critique. It matters not as an issue of scale but as one of direction for progressive politics. It matters because, as the declaration states, there has been a “resurgence of anti-Semitism as a potent force in politics, international affairs and society”.

The student protests at UNSW and Sydney University may seem trivial or childish — hardly a “potent force in politics”. However, when a significant minority of our political leaders supports these protests it begins to be possible for them to become potent. All social change, good or bad, begins at the margin, with a campus boycott, a rally or a parliamentary debate. This is when we need to take note and nurture change that is good or discourage change that is bad.

The London Left is starting to examine the consequences of having made friends with the enemies of Israel. Seeing leading Left politicians such as Ken Livingstone posing with extremists who vilify homosexuals, women and Jews has British lefties such as Nick Cohen asking how a shared hatred of imperialism can paper over the differences between the radical Left and radical Islam.

The Left in Australia can avoid this London problem by signing the London Declaration and by sticking to its own basic principles. Stand with those who educate women, stand with those who let gays serve openly in the military, stand with those who allow free speech and political activism.

Stand, in short, with the Jewish people and their state of Israel.

Finally, in the Australian Jewish News, a newspaper that receives every Sabbath the latest press releases from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, publishes an article that is the opposite of the truth. My co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, Peter Slezak, tells me that the story is a complete fabrication, that in fact he told the paper many times that he wasn’t going to focus on Israel at an upcoming Jewish festival and is happy to abide by the (frankly absurd) rules laid down by Limmud at its insider talk-fest. But the paper, and its Zionist lobby mates, don’t want a dissident like Slezak to be acceptable in their polite, Zionist fundamentalist world, hence the hatchet job. For the record, Slezak has been banned by Limmud for his views in 2011 and 2012.

Not to worry, friends, yet again we have the sorry sight of supposedly civilised Jews calling for censorship of views they don’t like. The Israel lobby must be so proud of itself:

The Limmud-Oz board was this week considering pulling a planned session with outspoken Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigner Dr Peter Slezak from the three-day education festival in Sydney next month.

A spokesperson for the board said that the co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, who wasn’t permitted to address Limmud-Oz in 2011 or its Melbourne counterpart in 2012, was this year accepted for a session, “The Wicked Son – Confessions of a Self-Hating Jew”, on the condition that he would not discuss Israel.

“The Limmud board decided that, where possible, it would ‘play the ball, not the person’ and assess sessions primarily based on their proposed content rather than the presenter,” the spokesperson said.

“Limmud-Oz acknowledges that many people in the community virulently disagree with Slezak’s views and feel antagonistic towards him.”

However, Slezak told The AJN this week that Israel would be a part of his presentation.

“I never agreed not to discuss Israel,” Slezak said.

“I’m talking about self-hating Jews and the source of my problems are problems with Israel.

“They want to make sure I don’t say something scandalous. It’s no secret I want to talk about Israel.”

In the wake of Slezak’s comments, The AJN contacted the Limmud-Oz board. The spokesperson said that if the conditions reached between the two parties were breached, then they would have to discuss how to proceed.

At the time of going to press, it was unclear how the Limmud-Oz board would handle the situation. But senior members of the community confirmed the board would be meeting to consider cancelling the session.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Yair Miller said Slezak should not be provided a ­platform.

“While everyone has the right to freely express their views, that does not impose an obligation on others to provide them with an opportunity to do so.

“If Dr Slezak has given a commitment to not speak about Israel, but now insists on doing so, it would be highly offensive to the mainstream Jewish community if his session were to take place.

“It is our view that this would not be an educational session and would therefore fall outside the guidelines of Limmud, and communal policy.”

Zionist Council of NSW honorary life president Ron Weiser said that in 2011 the Limmud-Oz organisers decided not to give Slezak a platform and they should have stuck by that policy.

“I’m extremely puzzled by this development after the issue arose in 2011,” Weiser said.

“The decisive action that the Shalom Institute took in 2011, I had assumed, ended the matter then, and into the future.”

Limmud-Oz will be held from June 8-10.

UPDATE: Peter Slezak has given me an email he sent to the Australian Jewish News a few days before its publication, confirming the lie within the piece. He clearly says he has no intention of breaking Limmud rules. The email is to a “journalist” at the paper, Joshua Levi. The publication is clearly learning its ethics from the Murdoch school of thuggery:

Dear Josh,
Thanks again for your time and concern to clarify my views and statements. I do appreciate it very much. I am forwarding here the email from Michala Lander at Limmud and my response. As I said, I do understand their concerns (however misguided), but I have no intention of undermining or in any way subverting our explicit agreement as indicated in these emails. You’ll see that I say the following key things which were the basis for Limmud’s acceptance of my presentation – given my undertaking to accept their conditions, as I do:

When Ehud Olmert again compares occupation to South Africa

In the just financed film about the Zionist lobby group J Street, there’s an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about the inability to sustain the Israeli occupation of Palestine for another 45 years. It’s been said many times before, and Olmert is a war criminal for his actions in Gaza and Lebanon, but his words are completely ignored and shunned in the mainstream Zionist community and conservative press. The occupation is welcomed:


Reporting tips for Murdoch’s Australian over Palestine, BDS and Gaza

Fair journalism is hard, isn’t it? Getting all the facts, putting them into sentences and writing them down accurately. I’m tired just thinking about it.

The following article appears in today’s Murdoch’s Australian. The selectivity of the piece is startling but unsurprising:

The NSW Greens have outraged Jewish leaders by organising a fundraiser cruise to support a plan for Palestinians to build an “ark” in Gaza and try to ruin the Israeli naval blockade of the territory.

Greens MP David Shoebridge used his office and website to promote a “sail in solidarity” voyage on Sydney Harbour last night to raise money for the “Gaza’s Ark” campaign.

“The economic situation in Gaza is desperate, with most of its land trade shut down by Israeli border guards, its airport destroyed by Israeli bombardments . . . and its fishing fleet coming under Israeli fire if it moves beyond six nautical miles from the coast,” Mr Shoebridge’s website says.

“Gaza’s Ark will challenge the blockade by rebuilding a boat in Gaza using Palestinian shipbuilders, load the vessel with Palestinian goods and products and sail to international waters with both Palestinians and internationals on board.

“The goal is to challenge the ongoing, illegal Israeli blockade and focus worldwide attention on Gaza and the complicity of the governments that support it or look the other way.”

The description of the project on Mr Shoebridge’s website is mild compared with the international Gaza’s Ark website, which focuses on alleged Israeli atrocities and what is claimed to be a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinians, as well as promoting the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against the Jewish state.

Mr Shoebridge said the Gaza’s Ark project was not a BDS campaign, though he said BDS was “one of the legitimate ways” to fight against what he said was Israeli oppression.

Prominent NSW Greens who joined Mr Shoebridge on last night’s fundraiser included senator Lee Rhiannon, who has supported BDS, his fellow state upper house member John Kaye, and the preselected candidate for a Greens state upper house seat, Mehreen Faruqi.

About 50 other Palestinian supporters disembarked after a three-hour cruise on Sydney harbour last night. “It’s an excellent fundraiser and we support it as Parliamentarians for Palestine,” Senator Rhiannon said.

Mr Shoebridge has had the occasional run-in with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, including claiming that a parliamentary visit by some state MPs other than Greens to Israel was a one-sided Israeli PR tour supported by the board.

The board’s chief executive, Vic Alhadeff, said: “The reality which Mr Shoebridge and his colleagues mischievously ignore is that all people of goodwill support the citizens of Gaza in their aspirations for a better life.

“The problem is that they suffer under the brutal Hamas regime which wages war on Israel.”

Some facts that may get in the way of a Murdoch hatchet job. Labor state and federal politicians had purchased tickets to support the event, including Laurie Ferguson, Shaoquett Moslemane and Amanda Fazio (they didn’t attend in the end, though). Union figures attending included Greg Shaw (PSA), Caroline Staples (PSA), Rita Malia (CFMEU), Ivan Simic (CFMEU), plus a number of representatives from the PGFTU and Young Labor.

Besides, since when are “Jewish leaders” monolithic and solely represented by the pro-settler and racist Zionist lobby?

Finally, opposing Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza, in a peaceful way, is wholly vital and legitimate in a democracy, unless of course you believe, as does the Israeli spokespeople who claim to be “journalists” at the Murdoch rag, that we must blindly support Israeli government policy.

I’ve attended many fund-raisers for Gaza Ark and wish I had been there last night.


BDS will continue to grow in Australia, regardless of comical attacks

The following statement was issued today by the Palestine Action Group (Sydney):

Supporters of Palestine have responded to a May 2 report in the Australian asserting that Max Brenner Israel has no direct shares in Max Brenner Australia as irrelevant to the solidarity campaign for justice in Palestine.

Palestine solidarity activists are bemused that the Australian has given front page coverage to this “scoop”. The Youtube of the rally in question, which took place on September 21, 2012, has also just been released.

The “exclusive” report quoting Patrick Harrison, a spokesperson from the Palestine Action Group, is taken from in a sarcastic Youtube made by Jeremy Moses from

The article tries to make out that Mr Harrison is undermining his own cause by “acknowledging” that boycotting the Max Brenner outlet in Parramatta will have no financial impact on its parent company in Israel.

It also alleges that Max Brenner International “has absolutely no holding” in Max Brenner Australia.

But just because the parent company doesn’t hold shares in the Australian Max Brenner doesn’t mean that the franchisee is not connected to the parent company. Often the franchise company takes a cut and charges the franchise holder fees for the name and sometimes the equipment and supplies.

In fact, the Australian just a few days ago admitted the connection.

On April 29, the newspaper stated in a report on a protest against the establishment of a Max Brenner outlet on the University of NSW campus which took place on April 30 that:

‘Max Brenner is a brand of food and beverage Strauss group, which has been a supporter of the Israeli armed forces, including ‘adopting’ a platoon in the army’s Golani brigade.’

“This is the reason that those concerned about Israel’s apartheid policies towards Palestinians have made Max Brenner a target for protest over recent years”, said Mr Raul Bassi, another member of the Palestine Action Group.

“As Patrick Harrison and other activists explain in the Youtube in question, the protests outside Max Brenner are largely a consciousness-raising exercise. They are aimed at letting people know how close the Strauss Group – the owners of Max Brenner – is to the current Zionist government of Israel.”

Mr Patrick Langosch, another member of the Palestine Action Group, said: “The protests outside the Max Brenner outlets are also about letting Australians know about the non-violent Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign which was launched 6 years ago by Palestine civil society organisations.

“In these aims the rallies outside the Max Brenner cafes have been very successful. So much so, Australian supporters of the Israeli government – including Michael Danby MP and Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union – have had themselves photographed patronising Max Brenner cafes”, said Mr Langosch.

The Palestine Solidarity Group also rejects the Australian’s efforts to argue that any protest against a Max Brenner store is “anti-Semitic”.

“Anti-Semitism is the belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. The solidarity actions in support of Palestine are not anti-Semitic; they are opposed to the apartheid-like policies of the Netanyahu government, as are many Jews and Israelis”, said Mr Langosh.

Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist and author of My Israel Question, says that BDS is a legitimate and non-violent tactic, thriving globally, that targets the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“Anti-Semitism has nothing to do with this movement; this is a convenient distraction by the Murdoch press and complicit Zionist lobby and I totally reject this as a Jew myself. Freedom for Palestinians will only come when Jews, Palestinians and others join together to demand justice for an occupied people. Universities and corporations who profit from this occupation deserve to be named, shamed and boycotted.”

The Palestine Action Group is calling on all supporters of Palestine to attend the Al Nakba rally on May 15. The rally marks the date that Israel was created by illegitimate means. Between 1947-1948, around half of the 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs were driven from their homes or fled to neighbouring Arab states.

The protest will call on the Australian government to speak up against the ongoing displacement of Palestinians from their land, and the laws that discriminate against Palestinians within Israel.


US Zionist lobby wants to codify Israeli racism against Arabs

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald writes about the latest example of Zionist “values” corrupting the concept of democracy, decency and fairness:

In order for the US to permit citizens of a foreign country to enter the US without a visa, that country must agree to certain conditions. Chief among them is reciprocity: that country must allow Americans to enter without a visa as well. There are 37 countries which have been permitted entrance into America’s “visa wavier” program, and all of them – all 37 – reciprocate by allowing American citizens to enter their country without a visa.

The American-Israeli Political Action Committee (Aipac) is now pushing legislation that would allow Israel to enter this program, so that Israelis can enter the US without a visa. But as JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports, there is one serious impediment: Israel has a practice of routinely refusing to allow Americans of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter their country or the occupied territories it controls; it also bars those who are critical of Israeli actions or supportive of Palestinian rights. Israel refuses to relinquish this discriminatory practice of exclusion toward Americans, even as it seeks to enter the US’s visa-free program for the benefit of Israeli citizens.

As a result, at the behest of Aipac, Democrat Barbara Boxer, joined by Republican Roy Blunt, has introduced a bill that would provide for Israel’s membership in the programwhile vesting it with a right that no other country in this program has: namely, the right to exclude selected Americans from this visa-free right of entrance. In other words, the bill sponsored by these American senators would exempt Israel from a requirement that applies to every other nation on the planet, for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens. As Lara Friedman explained when the Senate bill was first introduced, it “takes the extraordinary step of seeking to change the current US law to create a special and unique exception for Israel in US immigration law.” In sum, it is as pure and blatant an example of prioritizing the interests of the Israeli government over the rights of US citizens as one can imagine, and it’s being pushed by Aipac and a cast of bipartisan senators.


Australian Zionist lobby media complaint rejected as a pest

Earlier in the year, after the ABC broke a massive story about an Australian man Ben Zygier spying for Mossad and dying in an Israeli jail, there was a great deal of media coverage that questioned the ways in which some Jews saw their relationship with the Israeli state. I was interviewed on ABC Radio AM and predictably elements within the Zionist lobby complained that I was invited and allowed to breath on the air.

The ABC has rejected the complaint and it’s posted below. The fact that the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, a supposedly serious organisation, thinks it’s appropriate to try and censor perspectives that challenge Israel and its policies indicates a profound arrogance and insecurity about its role in society and how it believes its key responsibility is dedication to the Israeli government. Media groups should be well aware of this and act accordingly:

complaint to the ABC by The Executive Council of Australian Jewry following a radio interview with journalist Antony Loewenstein dealing with the activities of the late Ben Zygier has been dismissed by the national broadcaster.

In a statement released this week, the ECAJ said:

The ABC has dismissed a complaint made by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) about an interview on ABC Radio’s ‘Saturday AM’ program on 13 February 2013 conducted by presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, with commentator Antony Loewenstein.
The ECAJ complained that false claims were made about the supposed ‘dual loyalties’ of Jewish Australians, and that the interviewee making those claims was doing so without evidence, qualifications, expertise or representative status in any part of the Jewish community.

According to ECAJ Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, “During the interview, without evidence or substantiation of any kind, the entirely baseless suggestion was made that there is a relationship between ‘the Jewish establishment in Australia’ and ‘the Mossad, and indeed Israeli intelligence’ which facilitates and encourages Jews from a young age to join up and fight with the IDF and the Mossad.”

Wertheim was especially critical of the Saturday AM program. “It is supposed to be a fact-based news program, not a chat show with entire segments devoted merely to uncontested expressions of opinion. Where were the tough questions, or any questions, asking Loewenstein to provide evidence for his completely unfounded assertions? Isn’t that what fact based program interviewers are supposed to do? Isn’t it their role to elicit the factual basis of opinions expressed by their guests, if any exist?”

“The ABC’s answers to our complaints are either not responsive to the specific matters we raised, or evaded the issue, or were disingenuous”, Wertheim said. “The answers consist for the most part of simple denials that anything untoward was being implied, and irrelevant assertions that Loewenstein has a right to express his opinions”.
Wertheim does not believe there would be any point in the ECAJ pursuing an appeal to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, but noted that this would not be the end of the matter. “The ABC launched a baseless attack on Australian Jews, with insinuations of disloyalty, by interviewing someone who the ABC itself describes as a ‘provocateur’. The ABC has now demonstrated that the process whereby one section of the ABC investigates another does not work”, he said.

The ABC response to the complaint as reported in J-Wire…

Thank you for your letter of 19 February 2013 regarding the recent AM interview with Antony Loewenstein.

Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC. We have reviewed the broadcast and assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards for accuracy, impartiality and harm and offence as well as considering information provided by the program.

The program has explained that this short interview with Antony Loewenstein was intended to provide a peispective cn the highly ne.,^rs’*cfihy story cf the Australian rnan Ben Zygier”s death in an lsrae!! prison, which had broken that week. As a commentator and opinion writer who is often critical of mainstream lsraeli and Jewish organisations for their approach to issues of state security, military service and middle-eastern politics, Mr Loewenstein presented a relevant perspective on the case of the so-called “prisoner X”.

1. Given the context of the discussion was the mysterious and perplexing case of “prisonerX” and his secret detention in an Israeli prison for suspected espionage-related crimes while working for the Mossad, we believe it was reasonable that the report’s introduction referred to “the most secretive workings of the Jewish state”. Audience and Consumer Affairs note that the term “Jewish state” is frequently used to describe lsrael, and the country’s Basic Laws refer to lsrael as the Jewish State. We have concluded that the use of the term in this broadcast did not have sinister or subliminal intent as you suggest, and was in keeping with ABC editorial standards.

2. Having died in detention in Israel under mysterious circumstances and seemingly harsh conditions, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that it was relevant and a matter of public interest for the program to question why Ben Zygier’s family had remained silent on the matter.

We have concluded that the reference to the “silence from the Australian Jewish community” was in keeping with the accuracy standards in section 2 of the ABC Code of Practice.

ABC News management has advised that the program’s production team worked for several days seeking principal relevant perspectives from the Jewish community on this issue and even in the rare instances where comment was obtained, it was of a vague and non-committal nature. I have reviewed the interview with Philip Chester on Radio National Breakfast that you reference in your correspondence and note that he was unable, or unwilling, to engage with any of the issues put to him regarding this case. In virtually every instance, he clearly stated that he was not in a position, or did not have sufficient knowledge, of the issues to speak to them;

PHILIP CHESTER: “Everything that surrounds it, what actually happened to Ben,is just speculation that I can’t add to.”

Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that AM’s description of the silence as “perplexing” accurately reflected the complexity and mystery of the case.

3. The program’s introduction of Mr Loewenstein as the “Co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices” was accurate and provided sufficient context about his perspective. We are satisfied that this reference was not misleading to the program’s audience. As noted above, as a commentator and opinion writer who is often critical of mainstream Israeli and Jewish organisations for their approach to issues of state security, military service and middle-eastern politics, he presented a relevant perspective on the case of the so-called “prisoner X”. In regard to your statement that the ABC seeks Mr Loewenstein’s view “frequently as a commentator about Israel”, AM has provided the following statement;

“We could only find two previous uses of Mr Loewenstein in the AM program, one from 2010 when he was commenting on a book launched by the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, and another from 2009 when he was involved in an international protest over Israel’s a blockade of Gaza.”

4. The claim that “the journalist says the case involving Ben Zygier should be a wake-up call to the community in Melbourne and Sydney to re-examine the way young Jewish youths are educated at religious schools in Australia” was clearly attributed as Mr Loewenstein’s personal opinion and was not presented as a statement cf fact that ls beyond dispute.

In response to your concerns, AM has provided the following comments:

“Although Antony Lowenstein did not attend a religious school, many of his friends and associates did. He grew up as part of the Australian Jewish community in Melbourne and through his associates, is familiar with what is taught in Jewish schools.

Mr Lowenstein mentioned Jewish schools in an attempt to illustrate his belief that Australian Jews are taught that to be “the best Jew they can, they should spend some time in Israel. lt is Mr Lowenstein’s belief that young Australian Jews are told this in religious schools. This is the only connection Mr Lowenstein drew between the Ben Zygier case and religious schools in Australia”.

Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied this was a suitably relevant issue for inclusion within the context of the broadcast and did not, as you suggest, “feed into the propagation of anti-Jewish stereotypes.”

5. Mr Loewenstein’s view that Australian Jews ‘need to rethink the wisdom of a culture which encourages young men and women to join the Israeli military” was clearly attributed as his opinion, based on his personal experience, and we are satisfied that he is entitled to express that view about a culture of which he was a part, growing up in the Jewish community in Melbourne.

6. Please refer to our response to point 2 above.

7. In the interview Lowenstein called for public discussion about “the relationship between the Jewish establishment in Australia and the Israeli government, and indeed Mossad, and indeed Israeli intelligence and the Israeli embassy.” He did not make any accusations or suggestions of improper dealings, he merely called for public debate, in light of the Ben Zygier case. An interviewee calling for public discussion does not breach the ABC’s Code of Practice.

8. Audience and Consumer Affairs note that in November last year, the ABC current affairs program 7.30 broadcast a report on young Jewish Australians who were following a long tradition of ‘making Aliyah’ and preparing to travel to Israel. The program’s research confirmed that in the past four years more than 400 Australian Jews had made the move and most had completed compulsory military service in the lDF. Those who featured in the report spoke passionately about their active support for Israel.

Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the issue of encouragement and facilitation of young Australian Jews travelling to, living in and serving Israel was suitably newsworthy and relevant for inclusion in the AM discussion and is in keeping with the accuracy standards in section 2 of the ABC Code of Practice.

9. Having asserted his view that Jewish institutions facilitated a certain culture, we are satisfied that it was relevant for the interviewer to follow up with a question asking for more detailed information, asking Mr Loewenstein whether he believed that the culture was perpetuated in synagogues, because they are important community gathering places. This question did not invite Mr Loewenstein to “denigrate observance in synagogues generally of the Jewish faith’ or to “invite uninformed speculation by Loewenstein” as you claim. Lowenstein responded by qualifying that ‘Now this sort of stuff  I’m not saying is regularly discussed openly in synagogues in Sydney or Melbourne – it’s not. “We are satisfied that this relevant question and the response did not as you suggest “feed into the propagation of anti-Jewish stereotypes.”

10. We note your comment regarding Mr Loewenstein’s reference to Australian Jews being “sent” to Israel. We do not believe that Loewenstein was claiming that young Australia Jews are deliberately travelling to Israel with the intention of joining Mossad. He was suggesting that this is a possible outcome (as in the case of Ben Zygier) and the Australian Jewish community would do well to discuss it.

There was no editorial requirement for the interviewer to request the interviewee provide “supporting evidence” to substantiate the opinions he expressed on the issues raised in the broadcast. Mr Loewenstein’s perspective was not presented as factual content or the definitive, accepted position on the issues examined in the interview. He was introduced as the “Co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices” and we believe it would be clear to the program’s audience that he was expressing a critical, counter view to the mainstream Jewish community in Australia. As you have noted, he is known as a provocateur who has published inflammatory material and he is renowned as a critic of many lsraeli policies. We are satisfied that the program’s audience would not have taken his comments as established facts, but rather his own personal views.

We are satisfied there was a clear editorlal context in which to raise the issues posed by the interviewer and we cannot agree that she engaged in “anti-Jewish speculation”.

ABC News management has explained that AM made attempts to contact a range of representatives from the Australian Jewish community, but none were willing to participate in an alternate interview. In light of this, the program believed it relevant and newsworthy to raise the issue of why people were not willing to speak publicly on the matter, with Mr Loewenstein. Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the program made reasonable efforts to seek and include a range of perspectives and and that the broadcast did not unduly favour any one view over another. The fact that others chose not to comment did not preclude the program from discussing the matter with Mr Loewenstein.

On review, we are satisfied that it was newsworthy and a matter of public interest to question why the Zygier family chose to remain silent on the matter. There was a clear editorial context for that issue; it was not raised gratuitously and it was not in breach of the editorial requirements of 7.1 of the ABC Code of Practice.

Audience and Consumer Affairs have concluded that this broadcast did not engage in the unjustified use of stereotypes or discriminatory content that could reasonably be interpreted as condoning or encouraging prejudice. We are satisfied that it was in keeping with the requirements of clause 7.7 of the ABC Code of Practice.

I have enclosed a copy of the ABC Code of Practice for your reference.


Wait, why is Obama really going to Israel again?

Barack Obama is soon to land in Israel and only a fool believes the US President is doing anything other than appeasing the Zionist lobby, occupation backers, the arms industry and other cretins and fools. Gideon Levy in Haaretz:

Barack Obama has decided to punish the Israelis: He is talking to them as if they were ignoramuses. The U.S. president has also decided to punish himself: He is betraying his principles, those that have won him international acclaim and the Nobel Peace Prize.

There’s no other way to understand what he said in his interview with Channel 2 on the eve of his visit here. The flattery he heaped on Israel’s leader considerably exceeded diplomatic protocol and even phony American manners. His denial of his values deviated even from the opportunism one might expect from a politician. Obama said he wants to “connect to the Israeli people.” This he actually did well; he told Israelis what they wanted to hear.

But from Obama we could have expected a lot more. When Obama said he admires Israel’s “core values,” which values was he talking about? The dehumanization of the Palestinians? The attitude toward African migrants? The arrogance, racism and nationalism? Is this what he admires? Don’t separate buses for Palestinians remind him of something? Doesn’t two communities living on the same land, one with full rights and the other with no rights, “ring a bell,” as they say in America?

To admire “core values” while knowing we’re talking about one of the most racist countries there is, with a separation wall and apartheid-like policies, means betraying the core values of the American civil rights movement that made the Obama miracle possible. Too bad he can’t fulfill his fantasy of wearing a fake mustache and wandering around to have conversations with Israelis; he would hear how they talk about blacks like him. Too bad he can’t sit in a cafe and “just hang out,” as he’d like. He’d hear which “core values” really move Israelis.

Obama wants to lower expectations of his visit. Well, they can’t get any lower. During his first term they said we’d have to wait until his second. So now it’s here, and he says he’s only coming “to listen.” But his job isn’t to listen; everybody has listened far more than enough. Now it’s time for action, and it’s still being delayed.

Meanwhile back in reality, here’s a few travel tips from American-Arab comedian Amer Zahr:

Mr. President, I hear you are traveling to Israel next week.  As a concerned patriotic American citizen of Palestinian descent, I have some pointers for you.

Now, I assume you’ll be flying into Tel Aviv.  Usually, when non-Jews arrive there, especially if they are a little darker-skinned, they are asked to wait in a… let’s call it a “VIP Room.”  Incidentally, the room is quite nice. There’s a water cooler, comfortable chairs, and a soda machine.  It’s probably the only place in the world where you can be racially profiled and get an ice-cold Coca-Cola all at once.

To avoid the room, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

You may get strip-searched.  Saying you are an American doesn’t help much here.  I’ve tried.  I even sang the national anthem last time an Israeli soldier was looking down my pants.  Right after I said, “Oh say can you see,” he said, “Not much.”

To escape this embarrassment, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

In case they don’t already know, you might not want to tell Israeli security you are half-Muslim.  As a fellow half-Muslim, I can tell you they don’t really care about the percentage.  Any bit of Muslim freaks them out. And I’m not sure if you heard, but the fans of one of Israel’s soccer teams, Beitar Jerusalem, actually protested when the club signed two Muslim players.  When one of them scored in a game last week, hundreds of fans actually walked out of the stadium.  One of the fans later stated about the Muslim players, “It’s not racism. They just shouldn’t be here.” Hopefully, they don’t know your middle name is “Hussein.” Maybe they didn’t watch the inauguration.

In any case, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

This next one might be a little tough.  Maybe you didn’t hear, but lately there has been a little “African problem” in Israel.  Over the past several years, tens of thousands immigrants from Africa, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered the “only democracy in the Middle East.”  Most of them are looking for work, and some are political refugees.  Israel has recently rounded up many of them for deportation.  Oh, and by the way, they don’t call them “refugees” or “migrants,” they call them “infiltrators.”  Israelis have held numerous demonstrations in Tel Aviv, where most of the migrants live, to demand an African exodus from Israel.