Letters, lies and Israel

The following letters appear in today’s Australian newspaper:

Louise Adler (“Driven to mute voice of dissent”, Opinion, 9/3) writes: “ . . . the important issue is that critics of Israel’s policies are reflexively characterised as anti-Semitic” and that “Criticism of Israel is not the same as disputing Israel’s right to exist.”

But the fact is that criticism of Israeli policies is an everyday occurrence in the Israeli media and nobody is accusing those critics of anti-Semitism.

Adler writes that she was proud to have published Jacqueline Rose’s book The Question of Zion. She complains that the book was met with hostility. But Rose wrote that “Jewish nationalism will come into being only if it abolishes itself.” Which means that Rose denies the right of the Jewish people to political self-determination and statehood. Rose also urged understanding for suicide bombers “without condescension”. She also compares Israel and Zionism to Nazi Germany. Rose is a typical example of a critic of Israel who advocates its dismantlement and considers its establishment a mistake. Such a critic, Jewish or not, by opposing the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, while not opposing any other nation-state, exhibits a clear racist attitude and can be rightfully called an anti-Semite. One wonders how Adler would have reacted to somebody who denies, say, the legitimacy of Canada?

The overwhelming majority of Jews in the world support Israel, just like the majority of people of Irish descent support Ireland. It does not mean that they do not criticise Israeli policies. But there is an enormous difference between criticising policies and advocating Israel’s dismantlement.
Jacob Amir
Jerusalem, Israel

Louise Adler wonders why Jewish community members have used “pejoratively” the term “Jewish-born individuals” to describe signatories to this week’s declaration by Independent Australian Jewish Voices. Perhaps because Antony Loewenstein, as IAJV’s founder, wrote that he “didn’t want a bar” of the Jewish community.

Individuals are free to distance themselves from the Jewish community. But it seems hypocritical that the only time some of them advertise their Jewishness is to use it as insurance against criticism when they vilify Israel or the Jewish community.
Daniel Tang
Coopers Plains, Qld

Louise Adler implies that only she and her fledgling Independent Jewish Voices group have been presenting a moderate and balanced Jewish voice on Israel/Palestine. In fact, many of us have been supporting a two-state solution for more than two decades. This has meant opposing Jewish right-wingers who advocate a Greater Israel at the expense of any Palestinian national rights, and similarly confronting anti-Zionist fundamentalists on the Left who favour creating a Palestinian state via the destruction of Israel. It has also meant copping abuse and threats from both the Right and Left. Adler has never previously been a participant in any of these debates. If she had been, she might have realised that the debate within the Jewish community is far more complex and nuanced than the absurd caricature she presents.
Philip Mendes
Kew, Vic

First he said he’d been gagged, but when he got more publicity than anyone, he changed the charge to the Jewish community is blind to his truths. It seems to me that Antony Loewenstein and Independent Jewish Voices have a paternalistic attitude that they are the only ones capable of independent rational thought in the Jewish community. When their ideas are rejected, they get angry and create some conspiratorial scenario. Actually, most informed Jews simply don’t agree with IAJV on the basis of the evidence.
Paul Rozental
Melbourne, Vic

Geoffrey Zygier (Letters, 9/3) says Australian Jewry and the majority of Israelis support a two-state solution, yet Israel’s settlement policy is doing everything possible to prevent it by destroying the territorial contiguity of Palestinian areas in the West Bank, thereby rendering impossible the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

The claim that Israel offered the Palestinians 95 per cent of the West Bank in 2000 is false. Check the website of Israeli peace group Gush Shalom for maps of what Israel really offered.

In contrast, the entire Arab world has repeatedly offered Israel peace based on the two-state solution. After Israel’s rejection of the Arab League peace offers in 2002 and 2005, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, decided to speak directly to the Israeli people. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post last year, he made a clear and unequivocal peace offer based on Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and Golan Heights, border adjustments and land swaps to include the major Jewish settlements within Israel, and acceptance that any return of Palestinian refugees must take into account Israel’s desire to maintain a substantial Jewish majority. So, an Arab peace offer based on a two-state solution is on the table, yet I see no sign of Israel or the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council accepting it.
Paul Dixon
Fraser, ACT

The following editorial (extract) appears in today’s Australian newspaper:

We have said from the beginning that ideologically the war on terror is no different to past ideological struggles such as that against communism. Those who criticise America’s response underestimated the ideological foundations of the enemy. The terrorists know their best friend in an ideological war against the West can always be found in elements of the Western media who will always side with the “other”. The nature of fundamentalism is to not negotiate. This misunderstanding lies at the root of the breakaway Jewish group, Independent Australian Jewish Voices, which launched its campaign this week in support of a just peace. As Geoffrey Zygier, executive director, Executive Council of Australian Jewry Inc, has indicated it is intractable Islamists whom need to sign up to a two-state solution as shown by Yasser Arafat’s rejection of Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of 2000 for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The following letter appears in today’s Age newspaper:

Colin Rubenstein claims I oppose the existence of the state of Israel and that I have called it an apartheid state (Opinion, 9/3). This is not true and highlights the argument about abuse and vilification as a substitute for reasoned debate, as put by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society to the communal plenum this week.

I am a strong supporter of the two-state solution. It is not unreasonable to assume that Dr Rubenstein , or someone from his organisation, monitors the Australian Jewish News, where he would have read my view that “Israel is my homeland and I very much support its continuing existence inside the Green Line”. Otherwise a quick Google will come up with even more information. He may also find out who translated from Hebrew the writings of Dr Ron Pundak, the head of the Peres Peace Centre and one of the best-known advocates of a genuine solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike Dr Rubenstein, I believe that such a solution requires Israel to withdraw to the internationally recognised, pre-1967 borders.

As for the “apartheid” remark, I have publicly taken a stand opposed to any such simplistic comparison. Deliberately misrepresenting my views provides a good example of the need to ensure that alternative Jewish views do not get silenced — the very point of the recent statement.

Sol Salbe, Maidstone