New York lift-off

Last night was the New York launch/event for My Israel Question.

Many showed up, young and old, Jewish and Muslim, Christian and atheist. It was a chance for me to explain the message of my book, the universality of the themes and the ways in which debate is slowing opening up on these matters across the globe. Debating the influence of the Israel lobby (evidenced here yet again) is revealing to the Western world that Israel’s military interests are rarely in line with our own, and should be shunned. This will be a long struggle, but creating doubt in the minds of citizens is the first step, and on that front, good progress is being made.

I was unsure what to expect in this city after spending the week hooking-up with any number of journalists, editors, producers, film-makers, agents, the UN, authors and fellow Jews, but the response last night, and in many meetings, has shown that Jews who speak out against Israeli policies are needed now more than ever. The coming weeks and months will reveal the fruits of these labours.

During last night’s event, guests were intrigued to hear about Australia’s craven votes at the UN over Israel – joining up with other client states such as Micronesia and Marshall Islands – and how Zionism is being challenged in the mainstream media. I talked about last year’s Lebanon war and the PR disaster that was brought upon the Jewish state. I recalled a poll in early August 2006 that found a majority felt the US and Israel were principally to blame for the conflict, not Hizbollah. It showed, yet again, that the general public was far ahead of the predictable knee-jerk worship at the Israel altar by “respected” commentators in our media.

Incidentally, I can barely think of one Australian columnist who seems capable of expressing ideas that haven’t been merely co-opted from an overseas publication, journal or magazine. Seeing the wild diversity of views in the US certainly makes me long for a more mature understanding of world events. Saluting the “vision” of the Bush administration, the life-blood of the Murdoch press, is about as relevant as endorsing torture and occupation. The Bush junta is about as popular here as the Iraqi insurgents.

As my book begins to filter through various American media outlets, blogs and forums, I’m left to wonder what kind of journalism is possible in Australia. When parochialism is promoted as bravery, and mediocrity is celebrated, America, with all its faults, allows space for real vibrancy. Of course, speaking some truths in Australia has resulted in a notoriety that is both depressing and fascinating (in its predictability.)

Attending an anti-occupation Passover Seder this week near Washington Square revealed the strong diversity of Jews in this town. Some guests were far-left, many were centrists, and some were just Jews who didn’t feel comfortable conducting a “normal” Seder that celebrates the “next year in Jerusalem” myth.

Whereas in Australia difference (and dissent) is ridiculed and obsessively analysed, here in New York it’s praised and debated.

There is also a realisation, unlike the robotic Jewish establishment in Australia, that Israel’s current path is destined to end in the country’s destruction. Asking tough questions is essential if this is to be avoided.