Don’t question uncritical love for Israel, says Aussie Zionist paper

A curious editorial in the Australian Jewish News that attempts to place boundaries on acceptable Zionist discussion in Australia. Any action that dares put pressure on Israel are clearly verging on anti-Semitism and don’t give the Jewish state the necessary warm hug. Because unquestioning love from the Diaspora has really worked so well. How’s that occupation coming along?

Writing in last week’s AJN, chairman of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students Liam Getreu claimed, “Publicly supporting every Israeli action and policy isn’t good for Israel; it’s not good for our community; and most of all, it can be devastating to our own overarching moral principles.”

Combined with a claim that we shouldn’t expect our political parties to back Israel at every turn – and that when they do automatically leap to the country’s defence it can be “detrimental” and “leave a bad taste in the mouth of the public” – inevitably caused something of a stir, to say the least.

Hardly sentiments one would expect to be voiced so openly by someone at the forefront of the community and at the centre of the campaign against anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism on campus.

In the face of overwhelming, widely unjustified and ill-informed condemnation of Israel, Getreu’s comments seem to question the united front we require from our leadership to defend the country against the weight of criticism stacked against it, to bring balance to the debate and to turn the tide against the global attempts to demonise the Jewish State.

That said, within our small community, we know full well that there are divergent views on the best ways to achieve peace, and that while we may back Israel to the hilt in its right to exist and to defend itself, specific policies or actions of the Israeli Government may trouble us.

Step forward the Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS), a body that prides itself on its communal affiliation while epitomising the fact that our attitudes are not homogenous, rejecting the automatic public support highlighted by Getreu. It is one thing, though, to criticise and question, quite another to take action. Yet this is precisely what the AJDS has now done, resolving to support consumer and academic boycotts, as well as military divestment.

Though it maintains such sanctions will be selective, “designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders”, and not “aimed at the breadth of Israeli economic, cultural or intellectual activity”, the resolution will nonetheless be seen as lending credence to the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and those within it who seek to delegitimise Israel and portray it as an apartheid and pariah state.

While the Establishment may be able to accommodate a broad spectrum of views, whether it can now accommodate those actions that are so anathema to its principles and so damaging to the Jewish State, at a time when it desperately needs our support, must surely be in doubt.