Israel the aggressor must accept reasonable and unbiased criticism

My following piece is the lead letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

Supporters of Israel write as though the Jewish state is isolated and reviled around the world for no other reason than irrational anti-Semitism.

Nothing could be further from the truth. [Professor at York University, Toronto and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute] Anne Bayefsky (“Australia must boycott the next racist hatefest“, July 22) continues this unfortunate trend. She paints Israel as a poor, defenceless nation in the heart of the Middle East that is likely to be devoured by the Arab world’s uncontrollable racism. In fact, it is Israeli actions that have led it to become an international pariah. Do Zionists really believe expanding illegal settlements in the West Bank can continue without paying a high diplomatic and military price? Bayefsky criticises Durban I as “a notorious anti-Semitic hatefest”, a view not shared by many Jews.

The Palestinian peace activist Hanan Ashrawi told the conference its aim was “to give voice to the silenced, to give a reality to the invisible, to give recognition to the denied, and to give credence to the victimised”. The Palestinians are the eternally demonised people, occupied, starved and killed with impunity by Israel.

Although Durban focused excessively on the Jewish state to the exclusion of human rights abuses elsewhere, some Jews seem to think even raising the issue of Israeli rights violations is anti-Semitic. Participants focused on Israeli “apartheid”, much to the consternation of Western powers.

Earlier this month, a group of veteran South African activists visited the West Bank and concluded the situation there was worse than life for black South Africans under apartheid. Bayefsky, and Zionists like her, know that opinion polls across the world view Israel as the aggressor in the conflict. Since when does an occupier ask for sympathy?

Durban II offers the possibility for dialogue with the world’s powers over key issues of human rights. Australia, like other Western powers, should participate, but leave their pro-Israel grandstanding at home.

The Jewish state is clearly not the only nation worthy of condemnation, but it should not be excluded from the debate due to Zionist pressure or Holocaust guilt.

Israel is hardly in a position to dictate what constitutes democracy. After all, it actively discriminates against non-Jews and continues to expand settlements. Where is the Jewish outcry over that?

Antony Loewenstein Petersham