The right to challenge Sharon

Following the continued campaign against cartoonist Michael Leunig – and false claims that he is anti-Semitic for daring to suggest Ariel Sharon is a war criminal – I wrote a letter to daily newsletter Crikey and defended the beleaguered man. It has not been published, so I reproduce it here:

“The various accusations against Michael Leunig – he’s anti-Semitic, anti-Western, anti-Australian, anti-everything this government stands for – are both predictable and intellectually dishonest. His recent cartoon depicting an ailing Ariel Sharon directing a military strike against a Palestinian ‘terrorist’ is a case in point. Many in the world may have been seduced by the myth recently created around the Israeli leader – a ‘man of peace’ etc – but the reality is far different. His mission is clear. Sara Roy of Harvard University recently observed that the ‘Gaza Disengagement Plan is, at heart, an instrument for Israel’s continued annexation of West Bank land and the physical integration of that land into Israel.” Haaretz newspaper reported last week that imprisoning 800,000 Palestinians in the northern West Bank was little more than collective punishment.

“Leunig’s cartoon is a brave demonstration that Sharon was an aging war criminal who never believed in peace with the Palestinians. Furthermore, Leunig is able, unlike many others, to separate Jews and Israelis. They are not the same thing. As an anti-Zionist Jew myself, I have received hate mail from individuals who simply refuse to accept an alternative reading of the Israel/Palestine conflict. I have experienced increased vitriol during the writing and editing of my forthcoming book on the subject.

“Dissenting historian Norman Finkelstein writes: ‘The real enemies of Jews are those who cheapen the memory of Jewish suffering by equating principled opposition to Israel’s illegal and immoral policies with anti-Semitism.’

“I’ve never met Leunig but share his position that Sharon represents a bigoted and racially exclusionary Israel. This kind of Jewish state will never prosper long-term and will, in fact, inevitably fail. Perhaps Zionists would care to think about this, rather than heaping vitriol on Leunig. But I’m not holding my breath.”

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

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