The following letters appear in this week’s Australian Jewish News:
FORUM FOR DEBATE
I WAS dismayed that The AJN publisher decided that his readership was not entitled to (or capable of) making up its own mind as to events it wishes to attend (AJN 13/03). The AJN, or any other newspaper, should be a forum for debate and competing ideas, even those with which the publisher and many readers may disagree.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
AS expected, the usual suspects are bleating about The AJN’s decision not to publish details of Jeff Halper’s speaking engagements in Australia, but as usual their objections are misplaced (AJN 13/03).
From The Independent and The Guardian in the United Kingdom, to The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, the Left has a surfeit of newspapers willing to promote the ideologies it subscribes to. And together with an equally friendly electronic media and an endless supply of blogs, there is certainly no shortage of outlets available for them to share their particular view of the world.
But by the same standard, The AJN has every right to publish, or not publish, whatever it views as being connected to and of interest to its core audience, in this case, the mainstream Jewish community.
Prof Halper appeals to a vocal community of Israel-haters, both Jewish and non-Jewish, many of them virulent anti-Semites. His Jewish supporters who complain about censorship should understand that most of us don’t particularly want to hear from a handful of Jews who get their thrills by advocating for Israel’s enemies, and who also receive disproportionately more media space than they ever deserve.
St Kilda East, Vic
THE headline of your editorial in last week’s Australian Jewish News “Shul should cancel academic’s visit” brings no credit on your paper or the wider Jewish community (13/03).
It is most unfortunate that the Emanuel Synagogue has felt obliged to deny a Jewish venue for members of the Jewish community to hear and debate Professor Jeff Halper’s views.
Denying Jewish space to an Israeli voice critical of the Israeli occupation has brought down on our community only widespread criticism.
The editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald of March 13 was an example. These ill-conceived actions have given Prof Halper’s visit widespread publicity.
Let the breeze of robust debate on Israel blow through our community and drive out the atmosphere of fear. Let us rid ourselves of this malaise that is so harmful to our communal health.
For Jews Against the Occupation
SINGLING OUT ISRAEL
HOUSES in Australia that have been built without permits are knocked down every day. This is standard practice in all democracies, so one must ask: why single out Israel?
The simple answer is hatred.
With Israel it’s even more complex, as Arabs are building on land they don’t even own.
A recent article in The Jerusalem Post pointed to a huge acceleration in illegal Arab housing on unused Jewish National Fund property. Clearly these will ultimately have to be removed too.
The problem is not with Israel, but with those who thumb their noses at Israeli law and property.
I don’t think it paranoid to say these lectures are part of a strategy to unfairly delegitimise Israel by parties seeking Israel’s destruction. It’s sad that we find people who were born Jewish at the vanguard of these efforts.
You would think that one need look no further than the fact that Prof Halper believes that Israel sits at the centre of a right-wing conspiracy to establish American-Christian hegemony over the entire world.
How can any shul, seeing this irrational rewrite of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, even consider allowing this kind of bigotry to sully its halls (AJN 13/03)?
DEFINITION OF A SHUL
I ALWAYS thought that a synagogue is a house of God, a place to pray, or to meditate perhaps.
How wrong I was. It seems that it can also be turned into a venue of political debates (AJN 13/03).
To all those learned academics, who so loudly criticise Israel, I only have one suggestion: please move to Israel, preferably to Sderot, and then voice your loud accusation from there. I do not know of any other nationalities that criticise their own countries from abroad.
Being a Holocaust survivor, I wish to remind all those outspoken persons against Israel, that the Holocaust would not have happened had we had Israel in 1939.
I hope it will go on existing forever.
I ATTENDED Professor Jeff Halper’s evening lecture at the University of Melbourne on March 11, and now fully understand his value as a skilled propagandist for his anti-Israel pro-Palestinian hosts.
In front of a packed hall, he denounced Zionism and used conspiracy theories to argue that the US uses Israel as a “laboratory for urban warfare, for cutting-edge counter-insurgency and the training of police worldwide, which is a slippery slope for all our freedoms”.
He claimed Israel had no interest in peace, having rejected Palestinian offers, and used concerns about security as a tool of racist repression.
He espoused his theory of “matrix of control” to compartmentalise the Palestinians into apartheid cantons for easy control. At no time did he acknowledge any serious threats from Palestinian terrorism or Hezbollah and Iran.
Prof Halper used selective photos of Israel’s security barrier, referring to it only as “the wall”, whose purpose he stated was “to surround and lock in Palestinians”. He omitted to mention the need for the barrier, and when he did show one photo of the fence, he stated it was dangerously “electrified” rather than electronic with sensors.
While Prof Halper acknowledged that 90 per cent of Israelis had supported the recent Gaza operation, he implied that they were all either mad or morally bankrupt. He avoided discussing events leading up to and necessitating the operation.
Without any challenges to his toxic views, it was clear from the enthusiastic applause at the end, and money collected for his work, that he had succeeded in promoting his sinister anti-Israel agenda to this receptive audience.
IT is outrageous that Robert Magid, the publisher of The AJN, pulled advertisements for Jeff Halper’s talks because he doesn’t like the pro-Palestine groups that hosted him, including Independent Australian Jewish Voices, with whom I also have strong differences (AJN 13/03).
While The AJN is a private business, it presents itself as an authoritative journal and as a responsible newspaper to the Jewish and Australian community.
It should not engage in censorship of talk, i.e. free speech about Israel by people knowledgeable about Israel.
If the newspaper will take advertisements from all sorts of right-wing, pro-occupation causes, in the interests of balance, it should allow advertisements for other viewpoints.
Prof Halper has deep concerns about the land where he has chosen to live.
Prof Halper is provocative and pulls no punches in his criticism of the occupation and the current policies of the Israeli government, and believes that the population is being manipulated so as to justify iron-fist policies.
It is clear that he cares deeply about Israel’s future, though his vision is one that not all people would agree with, but it is far from the demonisation presented by “official” spokespersons.
He is also critical of the current Palestinian leadership and terrorism, and offered a detailed alternative vision for Palestinians to consider. He is a proponent of non-violence and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
I WAS disappointed to read comments by AJN publisher Robert Magid in The Sydney Morning Herald (12/03), where he disparaged members of the “dissident” group, Jews Against the Occupation.
Magid accused members of using “their Judaism to bash other Jews and issues associated with the Jewish community”.
Just how well does Magid know me? I am a member of the “dissident” Jews Against the Occupation.
I am also an elected member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the official voice of the NSW Jewish community.
I am also a member of my local synagogue and active in our social justice committee.
None who are truly familiar with me and the work I do would accuse me of using my Judaism to bash other Jews or our community.
Rather, they understand that despite alternative political views, I am fighting to have a progressive voice heard in our community.
Our community, like all others, is made stronger by our diversity, and Magid would do well to remember that.
LOVE ISRAEL, HATE CENSORSHIP
I AM a member of the small Torah class referred to in your article “Divide over shul hosting Israel critic” (AJN 13/03), whose conversation with Prof Halper was cancelled.
Please know I hold dear the existence of Israel and also hold dear the right to hear and debate a diverse range of views on a diverse range of topics without censorship. I would like to think these are not mutually exclusive.
Double Bay, NSW
I AGREE with the published remarks of AJN publisher Robert Magid in the SMH last week when asked why he pulled the advertisement by the group, Jews Against the Occupation, regarding the visit by Professor Jeffrey Halper (AJN 13/03).
Good on you, Robert. I am sure that the vast majority of the Jewish community agrees with you as well.
JEFF Halper has come to Australia making little attempt to disguise his intention to demonise and delegitimise Israel.
His views are not those of Shalom Achshav or Meretz, which offer legitimate leftist views within the Israeli camp.
He does not seek a peaceful two-state solution. He believes in and speaks regularly for a one-state solution, and that state would not be a Jewish state.
It would be an imposed solution that respects neither Jewish nor Palestinian national aspirations.
The dishonesty of this view lies in its pretence that such a “solution” would be peaceful and would not rapidly deteriorate into a bloody civil war that is in nobody’s interest. Ultimately, the two peoples would again have to be separated.
It is precisely for these reasons that for more than 60 years, a two-state solution is the only solution that has received endorsement from the international community, from Israel and, since 1993, from large sections of the Palestinian people.
Prof Halper is a polemicist, not an analyst. He certainly has nothing to say about the Jewish or Israeli right to human rights.
All that said, he has the right to be heard, but not in a sacred Jewish space.
And no-one has an obligation to provide him with a platform to express his views. As a member of Emanuel Synagogue, I am glad my shul has not lined up with the motley collection of Israel-haters who are his sponsors.
DAVID D KNOLL
THE AJN’s rejection of advertisements promoting Israeli Professor Jeff Halper’s recent visit to Australia has brought to attention the totalitarianism that has enveloped our community and its weekly newspaper (AJN 13/03).
Professor Halper is a distinguished scholar with a perspective that is at odds with many in the leadership of mainstream communal institutions.
Is that not a reason to welcome him into our community to listen to his perspective and engage in dialogue and debate? Are we to assume that Jews in Australia are somehow not intelligent enough to be exposed to views that might challenge their own?
And is it not the very role of journalists and the press to continually confront us with an array of opinions?
Perhaps rather than demonise those with whom we disagree, a more appropriate course of action would be to engage them. No doubt there will be those who will argue that Professor Halper alienates many with his language and his politics, but how would they know? They refuse to hear him out.
Whether or not you subscribe to the politics of scholars such as Prof Halper, this is indeed a dark chapter within our community. What happened to the balance that The AJN is always championing?
Clearly, this newspaper believes that freedom of expression extends only to those that agree with its nefarious politics.
Caulfield South, Vic