Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Vice interview about Ben Zygier, Israeli spying and Western acceptance

I was recently interviewed by Lily Jovic for Vice magazine:

Last month, Israel struck a 1.2 million dollar deal with the parents of Melbourne-born Mossad agent Ben Zygier, as compensation for his death in prison 3 years ago. The payout seemingly marks the end of the Prisoner X case, a case which despite having serious national security implications, did little to capture the attention of Australia’s government or the people it protects.

We had a chat with Antony Loewenstein, author of My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution, to help us understand why an Australian man turned Israeli spy, jailed without trial and eventually found hanging in a cell while under 24-hour watch, didn’t become the news story of the year.

VICE: Hi Antony. What did you think of the payout?
Anthony Loewenstein: The payout is unsurprising; it’s something governments do pretty commonly as a way to bring silence to the family, who in this case are principally based in Melbourne. They’ve pretty much said nothing the whole time, and generally speaking, members of the Zionist community/lobby have remained silent the whole time too. Countless journalists have tried to speak to them and gotten nowhere. Israel investigated itself and they essentially found that they have no responsibility over what happened, but here’s a million dollars to shut up; it’s a payoff to buy silence.

That’s probably what is most peculiar about this case, the absence of any public discourse, particularly from the Jewish community in Melbourne.
What needs to be understood here is that the Zionist lobby works within the shadows. So when a story like this happens, which is rare, about something that has the potential to embarrass them and Israel, their response is either to say nothing or to deny there is a problem in the first place. It’s a “nothing to see here, move it along” situation, and a damage control approach that is very much supported by both sides of Australian politics. In terms of Zygier, the response of most people in power is: bury it, don’t respond, don’t give it oxygen and hopefully it will go away. Israel’s payment to Zygier’s parents is yet another attempt to make that happen.

What are some questions which, in your mind, the Australian government could press Israel with? If not to bring closure to the family then to at least address security concerns.
How many Australian Jews are going to Israel, taking citizenship and working for the Mossad? What are they doing with the Mossad? The enemies that Mossad sees are the enemies Australia sees, because Australia is a client state of America and Israel. That’s how it works, that’s what real politics is about. How does the Australian government feel about Israeli Australian citizens who undertake potentially illegal behaviour? That’s an important question, the Australian government had no interest in finding that out, they didn’t really care and evidently don’t care because they turn a blind eye and support it.

I think we really have to separate between public statements and private realities. The assassination of a Hamas weapons dealer in 2010 obviously got exposure because the Israelis, in a remarkably stupid manner, were caught on CCTV cameras. The Australian government was publicly pissed off with the fact that Australian passports were used, but I understand privately that this sort of thing happens all the time.

So, Australia isn’t privately concerned with what happened to Zygier or Israel’s austere censorship measures?
Well there’s been a remarkable lack of curiosity, in fact a ridiculous lack of curiosity. The report that the Australian government released after the Zygier incident, was complete bullshit, whitewash. Basically saying yes there were some issues with overall security but Israel behaved fine.

Publicly when something of that nature happens, they have to say something. The idea that Australian passports are being forged for the use of assassination and covert operations is a pretty bad look. Privately, that’s not seen as a major problem and I understand the relationship between both countries is largely unaffected by it all.

In the case of Zygier, the relationship between the two governments has certainly worked more in Israel’s favour. In your opinion, is it more mutual than it appears?
Ultimately the relationship with Israel is fundamentally based on a question of intelligence sharing over issues like Iran and Hezbollah. Bob Carr’s comments in past six months expressing that all the Israeli colonies in the West Bank were illegal, has caused apoplexy. The Jewish community was incredibly pissed off with that, and the result was that they would much rather have had an Abbott government, and here we are. Not to say that was because of them of course, but they are much happier with that kind of governance.

One that props up the image of Israel?
Precisely. The Zygier case feeds into that image paranoia the Jewish establishment has. It looks as if Israel essentially abused or assaulted Zygier in some way, and when Israel is already perceived to be under attack for its countless, daily human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza, this is merely one more stake in the heart. If there’s a sense somehow that there beloved Israel could end up killing one of us, either through suicide or murder, that’s not a good look. It’s led to the shift of Israel’s image from this wonderfully social, left wing country to an occupier and brute.

There’s a real sense that the Zygier case, for a lot of people, was very clarifying and actually confirmed the belief that Israel is a rogue state that treats its own citizens badly. Zygier was an agent, yes, but with dual citizenship.

That’s all we really know about Zygier, could more information ever emerge?
Obviously a lot has emerged this year, and he was probably involved in some kind of covert action in relation to Hezbollah, and potentially monitoring in Europe what Iran was doing in relation to its nuclear program. It appears that he may well have committed suicide, and it’s far from impossible that he did so, we just don’t know. That information may come out at some point, but not for a long time.

Any information you could divulge from your own research that tells us of Zygier’s involvement in Mossad and his apparent suicide?
In terms of the actual details of what he was doing and how he died, I don’t know. That is far too difficult to discover from here. What I have investigated is the constipation of the Zionist establishment towards this kind of case. They’re embarrassed that it will be seen that an Australian citizen has essentially become a traitor to his own country and undertaken activities by a foreign country, which in Australian law could well be illegal, that is the fundamental point.

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Beware slam dunk “intelligence” over Syria

The rush to war against Syria is gathering pace. But beware slimy politicians offering certainties (or the Zionist lobby). The truth is murky.

One of the finest dissenting US journalists is Gareth Porter. His latest is essential reading (via TruthOut):

Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration’s summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.  

Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate’s deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and “confirmed” a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence “consistent with” a nerve gas attack.  

But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don’t really mean what they appear to say at first glance.  

The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.

That pattern was particularly clear in the case of the intelligence gathered by covert means. The summary claims, “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.”

That seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence intercepted such communiations. But former British Ambassador Craig Murray has pointed out on his blog August 31 that the Mount Troodos listening post in Cyprus is used by British and U.S. intelligence to monitor “all radio, satellite and microwave traffic across the Middle East … ” and that “almost all landline telephone communications in this region is routed through microwave links at some stage [and] picked up on Troodos.”

All intelligence picked by the Troodos listening post is shared between the U.S. and British intelligence, Murray wrote, but no commmunictions such as the ones described in the U.S. intelligence summary were shared with the British Joint Intelligence Organisation.  Murray said a personal contact in U.S. intelligence had told him the reason was that the purported intercept came from the Israelis. The Israeli origin of the intelligence was reported in the U.S. press as well, because an Israeli source apparently leaked it to a German magazine.

The clumsy attempt to pass off intelligence claimed dubiously by the Israelis as a U.S. intercept raises a major question about the integrity of the entire document. The Israelis have an interest in promoting a U.S. attack on Syria, and the authenticity of the alleged intercept cannot be assumed. Murray believes that it is fraudulent.

But even if the intercept is authentic, the description of it in the intelligence summary appears to be misleading. Another description of the same intercept leaked to The Cableby an administration official suggests that the summary’s description is extremely tendentious. The story described those same communications as an exchange of “panicked phone calls” between a Syrian Defense Ministry official and someone in a chemical weapons unit in which the defense ministry official was “demanding answers for [about?] a nerve agent strike.” That description clearly suggests that the Syrian senior official’s questions were prompted by the charges being made on August 21 by opposition sources in Ghouta. The use of the word “panicked”, which slants the interpretation made by readers of the document, may have been added later by an official eager to make the story more compatible with the administration’s policy.

But the main problem with the description is that it doesn’t answer the most obvious and important question about the conversation: Did the purported chemical weapons officer at the other end of the line say that the regime had used chemical weapons or not? If the officer said that such weapons had been used, that would obviously have been the primary point of the report of the intercept. But the summary assessment does not say that, so the reader can reasonably infer that the officer did not make any such admission. The significance of the intercept is, therefore, that an admission of chemicals weapons use was not made.

The carefully chosen wording of the summary – the ministry official was “concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence” – suggests that the official wanted to make sure that UN inspectors would not find evidence of a nerve gas attack. But it could also mean precisely the opposite – that the official wanted the inspectors to be able ascertain that there was no use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta. The latter possibility is bolstered by the fact that the regime agreed within 24 hours of the first formal request on August 24 from UN envoy Angela Kane for unimpeded access to eastern Ghouta. As late as Friday, August 23, the UN Department of Safety and Securityhad not yet decided to give permission to the UN investigators to go into the area because of uncertainties about their safety.

The intelligence summary makes no effort to explain why the regime promptly granted access to the investigators. Another anomaly: the fact that the UN investigators were already present in Damascus, having been initially requested by the Assad regime to look into a gas attack the regime had charged was carried out by the rebels on March 19. The two-page assessment by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation released August 29, pointed to this question:”There is no obvious political or military trigger,” it said, “for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”

Another obvious case of a misleading description of intelligence in the summary involves information from US geospatial and signals intelligence purporting to show that the Assad regime was preparing for a chemical attack in the three days prior to August 21. The intelligence summary describes the intelligence as follows: “Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.”  

That seems like damning evidence at first glance. However, despite the use of the term “operating,” the US intelligence had no information about the actual activities of the individual or individuals being tracked through geospatial and signals intelligence. When administration officials leaked the information to CBS news last week, they conceded that the presence of the individual being tracked in the area in question had been viewed at the time as “nothing out of the ordinary.”

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Australian Jewish heads love Zionist colonies, conservatism and remain lost cause

Australia has a federal election on 7 September. We’re looking at a change of government to Liberal leader Tony Abbott; a period of neo-conservatism awaits us. I agree with Wikileaks head Julian Assange who argues that one of the key issues is liberating ourselves from genuflecting towards Washington on every issue.

Israel/Palestine has barely featured in the campaign though the Zionist lobby is upset the ruling Labor party talks about West Bank colonies as “illegal”. They want obedience to the Likud line, that Palestinians are a) evil b) violent and c) anti-Semitic. A sign of the paranoia and ignorance of the lobby came this week when Zionist lobbyist Albert Dadon (a man with a background of embracing Israeli apartheid) banned a film critical of Israel from the Israeli Film Festival. Comical, tragic and pathetic.

Here’s a feature in Haaretz by Dan Goldberg which reflects the constipation, ignorance and racism amongst the Zionist elites. Here’s hoping younger Jews are far more enlightened:

Jewish community leaders in Australia have virtually abandoned support for the governing Labor Party, with most privately hoping the conservative Liberal Party wins the federal election next weekend.

The near consensus in favor of Tony Abbott to replace Kevin Rudd as the nation’s next PM comes as the Liberal Party reportedly plans to upgrade relations with Jerusalem, make visa applications easier for Israelis, ban more terror groups and stop financial support to any organization that supports the boycott Israel campaign.

According to a report in The Australian newspaper on Monday, an Abbott-led government would add Israel to the growing list of countries that can access fast-track visas for short-term visits to Australia.

The latest polls predict the Liberal Party will win the September 7 election by 53 percent to Labor’s 47 percent. Voting is mandatory and Orthodox Jews have started to pre-poll because all Australian elections are held on Saturdays.

If the polls are accurate, it would spell the end of a bitter battle between Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Jewish leaders, who were infuriated in January when he joined British Foreign Secretary William Hague in stating that all Israeli settlements are “illegal under international law.”

Carr, a founder of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel group in the 1970s, reignited Jewish angst last month in a speech outside Australia’s largest mosque. “All settlements on Palestinian land are illegal under international law and should cease,” he said. “That is the position of Kevin Rudd, the position of the federal Labor government, and we don’t make apologies for it.”

It prompted fellow Labor lawmaker Michael Danby to take out a full-page advertisement in last week’s Australian Jewish News reminding Carr of Labor’s “carefully calibrated even-handed policy on peace.”

Danby, one of federal parliament’s most vocal advocates for Israel, added: “Foreign ministers have come and gone but Australia and our Australian Jewish community’s bond with Israel is as solid as Jerusalem stone.”

But Albert Dadon, the founder of the Australia-Israel-UK Leadership Forum, who first took Rudd to Israel a decade ago, told Haaretz: “An old tradition in Australian politics was bipartisanship when it comes to support for Israel.

“Unfortunately it is evident that it’s Labor that broke with that tradition and attempted to use Israel as a political football,” said Dadon.

Another senior leader said there is “no question” the leadership of the Jewish community favors the Liberal Party.

He claimed some Jewish leaders felt “betrayed” by the Labor Party after Julia Gillard, who he described as “an unwavering friend of Israel,” was dramatically deposed as prime minister at the end of June.

During Rudd’s first stint as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 he led a successful campaign for Australia to win a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, but was accused of sacrificing support for Israel in a bid to woo Arab votes.

Gillard wanted to oppose the vote to upgrade the status of Palestine at the UN last year but was thwarted by a campaign reportedly led by Carr, who preferred to abstain.

The Jewish vote in Australia is neither uniform nor influential given its relatively small size, and most Jews generally vote primarily on economic and social issues, and not based on the party’s Middle East policy.

But the Liberal Party’s strong economic credentials, coupled with its unapologetic support for Israel, are understood to have attracted increased Jewish support in the last decade.

One Jewish leader said Labor’s wavering posture on Israel would affect some Jewish voters. “I know there are a lot of Jewish people who feel strongly about it,” he said.

Abbott, a London native who once enrolled at a Catholic seminary before abandoning plans for the priesthood, has wooed Jewish voters since his first public speech soon after being elected leader of the Liberal Party in December 2009.

“I’d like to think that nowhere in the world [does Israel] have more stauncher friends than us,” he told Dadon’s Leadership Forum in Melbourne.

Dr. Ron Weiser, a former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, told Haaretz: “It is not uncritical support that we seek; it is the support of a friend who understands that Israel is a moral entity that behaves morally and with that understanding is more likely in the first instance to assume that Israel is correct rather than incorrect.”

In an apparent swipe at Carr, he added: “We seek the support of a friend who understands the complexities of the Middle East and the fact that the obstacle to peace is not the legality of settlements but rather Palestinian intransigence and Palestinian unwillingness to accept a two-states-for-two-peoples solution.”

But some Jewish leaders fear a Liberal government could “open the door to Holocaust denial” by amending the Racial Discrimination Act. Abbott has mooted the possibility of diluting section 18c of the RDA, which makes it illegal to commit an act that could “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people … because of their race, color or national or ethnic origin.”

It was precisely this section that was cited by Federal Court judge Catherine Branson in 2002 when she ruled that Adelaide’s Dr Fredrick Toben must stop publishing Holocaust denial material on the Internet in a landmark case brought by Jewish community leaders.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, another Jewish MP alongside Danby in the Labor government, argued in an open letter to Abbott recently that his preference to limit section 18c to acts of “intimidation or harassment” is inconsistent with his support for the London Declaration on Combatting Anti-Semitism.

“Section 18c is precisely the kind of legislated protection against anti-Semitism and discrimination that the London Declaration calls on its signatories to enact,” Dreyfus wrote.

The best outcome for the Australian Jewish community would be a narrow victory for the Liberal Party, added one senior Jewish leader.

“That would mean Australia would revert to its historic position regarding Israel but they will not be able to ram through badly thought-out amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act.”

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Tony Abbott’s foreign policy would be as clueless as George W. Bush

My following article appears today in the Guardian:

In April 2010, as the war in Afghanistan was raging and US president Barack Obama “surged” 30,000 more troops into the country, Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott suggested that under his leadership, a Coalition government would have considered increasing involvement. “The government should explain why it’s apparently right that Nato countries should commit more troops, but not Australia”, he said.

Abbott remained silent on the catastrophic civilian toll since the 2001 invasion, evidence of US incompetence, and failed Western policy in the nation – all of which were revealed in recently deceased journalist Michael Hasting’s blistering 2012 book The Operators.

Instead, Abbott’s commitment was to Washington and a war that had helped, in his own words, to bring “universal decencies of humanity” to a “country which has been pretty short on decency for a very long time”. He was also noticeably silent on Australia’s collusion with the notorious warlord and multi-millionaire Matiullah Khan in the Oruzgan province. Independent reporting from the country, away from embedded journalism on the military’s drip-feed, reveals a damning assessment of 12 years of Western occupation leaving the Afghan people exposed to rampant corruption and rising tensions between India and Pakistan.

As Australia approaches a federal election and with the re-appointment of Kevin Rudd as Labor leader and prime minister, it’s worth considering the similarities and differences in foreign policy between the two major parties. In short, there aren’t many. Although foreign minister Bob Carrrecently told the National Press Club that Labor had bravely opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq while in opposition – “there’s no way we would have supported that war” if in power, he stated – there are few precedents for a government in Canberra resisting the overtures from America when war is in the air. I believe Labor would have been seduced by the Bush administration’s sweet whispers just the same.

The war, still costing thousands of Iraqi lives every month, is barely discussed today. Without any apparent regret about the massive loss of life, Abbott claims it “advanced everyone’s interest” – except, presumably, the innumerable Iraqis no longer alive. At least in 2008, Rudd rightly blamed a craven Liberal government for taking Australia to war in Iraq based on an intelligence “lie”.

It’s remarkable how little has been examined about Abbott’s view of the world. There’s a coterie of former advisers to prime minister John Howard and foreign minister Alexander Downer, some of whom are now rising Liberal politicians, who have learned nothing from the disastrous conflicts since September 11, and who still influence Abbott today.

Liberal MP and former Howard adviser Josh Frydenberg has supported the bombing of Iraq since 1998, and claimed in 2005 that a “vibrant, tolerant and democratic Iraq” was possible. The Australian columnist Chris Kenny, a former adviser to Downer, bleats about “anti-Americanism” to anybody questioning the wisdom of bombing and monitoring Muslim countries. In 2010 he was still talking about a US “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan, willfully unaware of the reality for locals away from the Green Zone.

Abbott seems to retain a Bush administration style perspective – you’re either with us or against us. He told Washington’s right-wing Heritage Foundation last year that, “Australia’s foreign policy should be driven as much by our values as our interests”. It isn’t clear what values he cherishes when he told the Central Synagogue in 2012 that, “[Israel is] a country so much like Australia, a liberal, pluralist democracy. A beacon of freedom and hope in a part of the world which has so little freedom and hope.” He made no mention of Israel occupying millions of Palestinians under brutal military rule. He went on: “When Israel is fighting for its very life, well, as far as I’m concerned, Australians are Israelis. We are all Israelis in those circumstances”. It’s a comic book reading of the Middle East (at least foreign minister Carr, along with British foreign secretary William Hague, now rightly calls Israeli colonies “illegal”).

When I met Abbott in Sydney in 2010 and challenged him to learn more about Israel’s flouting of international law, he reverted to familiar, right-wing Zionist talking points. Both the Liberal party and Zionist lobby remain upset that in 2012, Australia didn’t reject Palestine’s statehood at the UN. Foreign affairs spokesperson for the Coalition, Julie Bishop, haspledged to return Australia to an uncritical stance towards Israel, placing us in a very isolated position globally. (The Greens, especially senator Lee Rhiannon, condemns Israel’s destruction of aid projects in Palestine,some of which are funded by Canberra).

Abbott would probably rely less on UN scripture – there’s already talk of removing Australia from the Refugee Convention. Private contractors would continue to benefit from bloated “boomerang” projects through AusAid, and rogue nation Sri Lanka would surely be as warmly embraced as it has been during the Labor years. Indonesia’s brutish military, especially in West Papua, would probably remain unchallenged.

If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s virtually identical to policies under a Labor government. This bipartisanship, shared by major parties in most Western nations, inhibits independent thought. It’s beyond time for Australia to embrace a different path, one not tethered to the whims of Washington’s entrails.

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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.

91 comments ↪

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Noam
***

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.

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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:
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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:

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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.

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