Proud of exclusion

After Saturday’s profile in the Sydney Morning Herald, two letters in today’s paper:

When two sides go to a war of words

Ben Cubby (“The dissenter who dared to ask why“, July 29-30) suggests most of the criticisms levelled at Antony Loewenstein’s work focus on minor errors of time, date or place, leaving his broad themes unchallenged.

Far from being unchallenged, those broad themes are flawed because they are premised upon verifiable factual errors, which he has not acknowledged. Also, he uncritically accepts as fact anti-Israel polemic.

Loewenstein knows that there are no Israeli roads that may be used only by Jews, a claim he makes in his book to found a charge of racism. Israeli Arabs use them all the time.

It is equally inconvenient for him to acknowledge that Israel is a thriving democracy in which Jews and Arabs can vote and where Jews, Christians and Muslims have full freedom of religion, while Israel’s neighbours do not allow Jews to be citizens, have the vote or freely exercise their faith. (About half of Israel’s population consists of descendants of Jews who were evicted from Arab nations.)

For dissent to be credible it needs to be factually accurate and sensibly reasoned. Loewenstein fails on both counts.

David D. Knoll NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Darlinghurst

As an Australian I support the publishing of the book by Antony Loewenstein. This is what Australia is all about: discussion of a difficult subject with a definite opinion. He is to be complimented for the guts to question and add to the robust debate in Israel that he talks about.

It will be interesting to see if anyone has the same guts to publish the book in Israel. Hopefully debate will bring about change. The fact that the “armchair generals” from the Jewish Affairs Council attack the book makes it a must-read for all morally thinking Australians.

Rodney Bassetti Watsons Bay

Knoll’s letter warrants a response. His suggestion that Israel is a “thriving democracy” in the heart of a violent Middle East may comfort his Zionist heart but perhaps he’d like to reflect on the fact that Israel maintains an illegal occupation over millions of Palestinians, individuals who, without question, do not have the same rights as Jews in Israel proper. Some democracy.

Knoll should read the regular reports from leading Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Take their dispatch of July 20, alleging Israeli soldiers used Palestinians as human shields in Gaza. Such outrages are now so common in the occupied territories, it’s unsurprising Knoll fails to mention the occupation in his letter.

Many Zionists, including Knoll, has recently alleged that I am mistaken to claim “Jewish-only roads” in the occupied territories. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gain my knowledge from a variety of sources (including Human Rights Watch.) James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington, wrote in the LA Times in 2001:

As damaging as this cancerous growth of settlements has been to the Palestinians, the dramatic expansion of the network of “Jewish only” security roads – in reality, superhighways connecting the settlements to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – has been even worse. Large swatches of Palestinian land have been confiscated and declared off-limits to create these roads. Their impact has been to cut the occupied territories into pieces.

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has written about the existence of such roads. I saw them with my own eyes while I was in the West Bank in March 2005 with Israeli journalist Amira Hass. Palestinians are generally not allowed on such roads and Israeli Arabs are equally prohibited – the majority of time – to use the freshly-paved roads.

How any moral Jew or individual could defend infrastructure that is reserved for one group over another is beyond me. “Security” doesn’t justify anything.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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