Hands up the New Zealanders who want to hear more about Israel and Palestine?

Two weeks after the New Zealand magazine The Listener published a feature on my work and then last week two letters discussing the Middle East, more letters in this week’s edition. This is the kind of open debate we need far more of:

Antony Loewenstein was paraphrased as saying, “Israel is racist and brutal if you are unfortunate enough to be living there and not Jewish.” Joanne Black’s article (“Cry the promised land”, May 15) containing this statement was strong on anti-Israeli rhetoric but weak on facts to support such a serious charge.
Non-Jewish citizens in Israel have the same human, civil and religious rights as Jews. Their religious freedoms and sites are respected and protected by the state. Non-Jews have equal status under the law and are represented in the highest levels of Israel’s judiciary and political system.
In other Middle Eastern countries, racism and brutal discrimination have become a routine experience of religious and political minorities. In Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, Christians are harassed and intimidated by Hamas and PA officials, anti-Semitism is actively promoted and religious Jews are vilified. The persecution and “ethnic cleansing” of Iraq’s ancient Christian community has been widely reported, as has the brutal suppression of political dissent in Iran. In Saudi Arabia, public expression of Christianity is illegal and Israelis are banned.
Black and Loewenstein appear unconcerned by the systematic racism and brutality perpetrated by Israel’s neighbours against Jews and other minorities.
Although Israel has consistently sought peace with its neighbours, it has had to defend itself against hostile nations and political and terrorist organisations that have actively sought Israel’s annihilation since before 1948. Israelis have experienced brutality and racism from their neighbours, yet Black and Loewenstein seem oblivious to this.
Loewenstein should consider the appalling consequences of unleashing the extreme racism and brutality that are actively promoted among and by the Arab Palestinian leadership before calling for Israel to “give up the concept of a Jewish state”.
Kirsty Walker

Anti-Zionist Antony Loewenstein gets an indulgent platform to air his opinions. His view is held by a vocal minority, both in Israel and outside, and it is one we hear quite often in New Zealand.
Perhaps we could now have the testimony of one of the Palestinians who wants to live in peace and mutual respect with Israel, and is prepared to say so? Don’t look for them in the Palestinian Territories, because they will have been hunted down and killed by the authorities there. But there are Palestinian voices in exile who are well worth hearing and who never make the mainstream media. We could also learn a lot from the views of one of the 1.5 million Israeli Arabs who live in Israel with full civil and political rights, 77% of whom told a Harvard University survey that Israel was the country they most want to live in.
Publishing either or both these views would bring more credit to Kiwi journalism, and a better understanding to the New Zealand public, rather than just adding one more to the catalogue of Israel-bashing articles in the New Zealand media.
Chris Morey

Unfortunately, Michael Kuttner’s assertion, “Israel is a bastion of human rights for all citizens regardless of race, creed or ethnic origin” (Letters, May 22), is too long to fit on a Tui billboard.
Gail Wilson
(Northland, Wellington)

It is somewhat reassuring to know I wasn’t the only person misled over Israel (Letters, May 22). In the 1960s, I, too, gave – four years’ free labour to the “building of the state”. Had I known then the truth about the basis of the new state of Israel, I would not have been a part of it. The lies told could be called propaganda. Sadly, it has taken me many years to understand what really happened.
Only if there are more people prepared to speak out, who are not afraid to be labelled “Jew haters”, “anti-Semites”, etc, will we begin to be truly informed. Thank you, Antony Loewenstein, for helping lift the lid.
The changes in Israel since 1967 have been dramatic and unfortunately have worsened the attitude towards the Palestinians. Those who have been displaced, “strangled” in Gaza and elsewhere, have every reason to hold little hope for their future. Most distressing is that this treatment is being meted out by the generation following those who suffered so much in the Holocaust. Surely the time has come to stop hiding behind the past and face the fact that Zionism is nothing more than imperialism, theft and racism.
Gwen Whitmore
(Havelock North)

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