The Jewish establishment is clearly unprepared or unwilling to engage honestly with the Zionist cause and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. After last Sunday’s sold-out debate at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival – and the Australian Jewish News’ blatantly dishonest interpretation of the same event – today’s Melbourne Age features a letter from one of the usual suspects:
Robert Richter, Antony Loewenstein and Julian Burnside advise the Jewish community to promote freedom of thought and speech, find its collective voice, and be prepared to criticise Israel if it disagreed with its policies ( The Age, 28/8). However, their advice is gratuitous, unfounded and based on a nonsensical premise.
The Jewish community is about as democratic as it’s possible for a religious-ethnic community to be. The Jewish Community Council of Victoria consists of representatives of more than 50 organisations, encompassing a wide range of religious outlooks and political opinions.
The principal reason why there are no loud voices against Israel is that the community sympathises with Israel and understands the nature of the threat against it. If Loewenstein, or anyone else in the Jewish community, doesn’t share those sympathies and considers the threat not worth worrying about, they are free to hold and express those opinions.
As for the premise that Israeli policies and actions are responsible for promoting anti-Semitism, this is ludicrous. Actually, anti-Semitism is caused by anti-Semites. Tough Israeli policies — sometimes necessary in Israel’s fight for survival — merely provide an excuse for anti-Semites to feel free to spout their hatred.
Paul Gardner, executive member, Jewish Community Council of Victoria
Let me get this straight. People are anti-Semitic simply for no reason, a sickness borne out of a malignant hatred of Jews. Israeli actions are totally unrelated. To believe this is as deluded as believing that anti-Americanism is unrelated to US foreign policy in the Middle East. Furthermore, the wide variety of viewpoints in the Jewish community leadership is remarkably well hidden. When it comes to Israel, the default setting is switched on 100% of the time. Such intellectual laziness is dangerous for both Israel and the Jews.
As for Israel’s “tough policies”, I suppose the illegal occupation of Palestine and deliberate targeting of civilians is something the world just has to get used to. Thankfully, Gardner knows the global community is slowing turning against a nation that somehow believes Jewish history insulates it from criticism or censure.