The games they play

As Australia’s most prominent and aggressive Zionist lobby, AIJAC feel that their important work is never done. Advocating war in Iraq, bombing Iran or praising the “great leader” Ariel Sharon, their loyalty is to Israel first and foremost and Australia’s national interests remain secondary at best.

Perhaps my favourite AIJAC article was published in August 2002 by Professor Efraim Karsh, head of Mediterranean Studies at King’s College at the University of London. He claimed that the Palestinians were mistaken for believing they were under occupation. Israel’s behaviour, he argued, was essentially benign in the West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinians should actually be grateful for their generosity and care.

Following my recent appointment to the board of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies – and complaints by Federal Labor MP Michael Danby – AIJAC are not happy:

“Antony Loewenstein is a left-wing and strongly anti-Zionist activist and ‘journalist’ who runs a weblog without, shall we say, a spectacular number of visitors. He was previously a cadet journalist at the website of the Sydney Morning Herald, and writes the odd published article mainly for various far-left international publications, such as Z magazine, Counterpunch and in Australia, The New Matilda. He wrote an undergraduate and factually challenged chapter on the Ashrawi affair for Margo Kingston’s anti-Howard book, Not Happy John!, and is supposedly publishing a book on Israeli-Palestinian affairs later this year. In the book chapter, Loewenstein, who was born Jewish but previously has not identified with the Jewish community, explained that he now seeks to realise his Judaism by devoting his life to fighting Zionism.

“Now, he’s got a new gig too. He [has] been appointed a member of the board of The Centre for Middle East and North African Studies at Macquarie University.

“This seems initially puzzling. Mr Loewenstein seems to have no formal academic qualifications or other relevant expertise to bring to the board. While he writes about the region on his website and in various far-left political magazines, what he writes are essentially polemics, and display no great knowledge about the Middle East. For instance, he recently misindentified [sic] the new Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni as a man, betraying an ignorance of both Israeli politics and Israeli first names. Almost all other members of the board fall into three categories — academics, leading businessmen, and former or current public servants or politicians, but Antony is none of these. So what is it that Loewenstein can bring that a serious academic Middle East study centre needs?

“Antony himself has told us the answer. On his blog, he says the appointment was made because ‘board members”¦ and staff’ wanted to express ‘support for my work.’ That’s right, he’s been appointed because people at the centre want to support his anti-Zionist activism and views. Unfortunately, this is less than surprising to anyone who knows anything about the situation of academic Middle East studies in this country. The field here is dominated by highly politicised post-modernist approaches to the region, which tend overwhelmingly to blame all regional problems on Western imperialism and racism, real or imagined. It is even less surprising if one know anything about the centre at Macquarie, which is led and dominated by Dr Andrew Vincent, whose own views on Israel are similar to Loewenstein’s.

“On the subject of Loewenstein’s views, he displayed them to good effect after debating the Jewish comedian Austin Tayshus on SBS-TV’s ‘Speaking in Tongues’ (Jan. 16). While complaining on his blog about Tayshus’s supposed bullying, Loewenstein wrote, ‘Jews are often their own worst enemies. It also might help if Tayshus didn’t look so much like those awful caricatures we know from the 1930s!'”

Little commentary is needed but a few words are required. AIJAC and Danby and a host of other Israel-first supporters seem to be under the illusion that dissenting views on the Israel/Palestine conflict are, by definition, biased, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and the like. It’s a predictable tactic and intentionally inaccurate. If I am so insignificant, as they constantly say, why are they always writing about me? It’s clear. Having an enemy, or ideological opponent, serves their political aims. How else can they justify their political careers or lobbying aggression if not to convince others that they are defending the good name of Israel and Zionism?

Like AIPAC in the US, AIJAC believes that hysterical over-reaction is the best way to serve the Israel cause. The number of supportive messages I am receiving suggests that an increasing number of individuals are openly questioning the West’s relationship with Israel and its cynical support for colonial aggression. Zionist groups are, therefore, prone to use whatever-it-takes tactics to stem this fundamental shift.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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