A beacon of hope for progressive thinkers

The following review of My Israel Question by Lucy Clark appeared in Murdoch’s Sydney Sunday Telegraph on September 3:

The old adage that no news is good news doesn’t necessarily apply to publicity; bad publicity is often thought to be better than not being mentioned at all.

Curiosity is doubly piqued when the righteous call for something to be banned, so when ALP MP Michael Danby calls on a publisher to drop a “disgusting project”, then says, “If, God forbid, it is published, don’t give them a dollar, don’t buy the book”, what are you going to do?

What could be more alluring than The Book They Tried to Ban?

Is My Israel Question by Sydney writer Antony Loewenstein (Melbourne University Press, $32.95) really disgusting? Far from it. Rather, it’s a deeply felt plea for balance in what has proved to be the most intractable conflict of our time, a breath of fresh, compassionate air in a debate riven by hatred, propaganda and hypocrisy.

Loewenstein, a young Australian Jew, should have called his book, My Israel Questions, because the rigour he applies to the two-sided human tragedy that is the Israel-Palestine conflict seeks to answer many questions. Among them: how could a democratic state maintain a brutal occupation of another people for more than 40 years? Why do we constantly hear about Israel’s need for security, as if that justifies building walls, checkpoints and barriers?

Why is the world told to believe the Palestinians should only accept peace on Israel’s terms? Why is any criticism of Israel regarded as anti-Semitism?

Loewenstein’s quest for broader understanding comes from a very personal place: as a liberal Jew, he was brought up to question the “established historical narrative” and, after much research that has taken him to the Middle East and into conservations with experts on both sides, he now wants to know why it is almost treasonous to advocate a Palestinian state.

From his time in Israel and the illegally occupied territories, he writes about being “embarrassed to be a Jew in a country that so brazenly discriminated against non-Jews. Especially given our history, this situation was deeply shaming and morally unacceptable.”

My Israel Question is a beacon for progressive thinkers. Its very existence is testament to hope. It deserves a wide readership.