When is a Jew not an intolerant Zionist militarist?

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Jews are expected to blindly support Israel. From a young age, I was always told that complete allegiance to the Jewish state was non-negotiable. If I didn’t agree with any its policies, said family and friends, best keep them to myself.

But the tide is turning around the world and a growing number of Jews are speaking out and challenging the Zionist status quo. This unthinking mob has had decades to resolve the conflict and achieved little more than encouraging the ever-expanding, illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

A group of British Jews recently launched Independent Jewish Voices – including comedian Stephen Fry, Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter and filmmaker Mike Leigh – and demanded “that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty.” They feared that Israel’s militaristic path was endangering its future.

This week Independent Australian Jewish Voices launched, and I am one of its founding members. Our aims are similar to the British group, and we have attracted over 210 signatories (rising very fast), including Professor Peter Singer, Robert Richter QC, publisher Louise Adler, Ian Cohen MLC, Eva Cox, Professor Dennis Altman, former Whitlam minister Moss Cass, Professor Ivor Indyk, publisher Henry Rosenbloom, Dean of Monash Law School Professor Arie Freiberg, UNSW academics Dr Peter Slezak and Dr Jim Levy and the Socialist Zionist Youth Movement Hashomer Hatzair.

Our group does not hold any particular position on the Israel/Palestine conflict and nor do we claim to speak for all Jews. We came together at this time to argue that alternative Jewish opinions should be heard and respected. Moreover, a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians will not be achieved through Israel’s colonial mindset. Israel has never been more internationally isolated.

One of the group’s co-founders, Peter Slezak, received a death threat last week after an article appeared about IAJV in the Australian Jewish News. Islamophobe Melanie Philips accused the British group of “paving the way for a second genocide” and labelled them “Jews for genocide.” Local Zionist mouthpiece Colin Rubenstein was equally disingenuous by falsely claiming we were against Israel’s right to exist, when in fact our statement clearly states “that Israel’s right to exist must be recognised and that Palestinians’ right to a homeland must also be acknowledged.” In such a toxic environment, it’s unsurprising that some Jews express their frustration through intimidation.

I’ve lost count of Jews and non-Jews who have contacted me in the last years and suffered accusations of anti-Semitism and disloyalty and received hatemail and slander for daring to articulate the need for a just solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. My publisher, Louise Adler, tells similar tales simply for publishing books that favour debate over conformity.

True friends of Israel and Palestine are those who encourage free and frank discussion, rather than those who simply mouth the latest press release from the Israeli foreign ministry.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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