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:
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: