Loewenstein, Alhadeff, miscellaneous

Stillman vs Loewenstein

Larry Stillman is unhappy with Loewenstein. Really, this is a bit much. He complains that Antony says ““Ham-fisted Zionist propoganda on the Sabbath”
“whores for Israel”

Apparently, this is insensitive to Jews, and “The second phrase, referring to bloggers who are Zionists, is certainly reminiscent of Nazi propaganda and the expression ‘Jewish whore’. Even if the writer doesn’t know about WWII, it’s an insult to sex workers and I suspect, a lot of Jewish women as well.”

Really, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that a “whore for Israel” is reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, and an insult to Jewish women. What on earth does this have to do with Jewish women at all? This is so over the top, and to be frank, I expected better from AJDS, which is supposed to be at least a little progressive, and not as eager to cry anti-Semitism at the drop of a hat. How does Stillman even assume this has anything to do with Jews at all? Doesn’t he realise that lots of the Israeli government’s most ardent defenders aren’t even Jewish?

However, Stillman is right about one thing: the phrase is an insult to sex workers everywhere. The other day, I attended a talk by Scarlet Alliance, and the speaker explained that one of their slogans was “sex work is skilled work”. This is far more than can be said for Israeli state propagandists, who recycle discredited talking points endlessly. Also, sex work doesn’t hurt anyone (with occasional exceptions), and at least makes some people happy through the service they provide. Israeli state propagandists promote Israeli intransigence and apartheid, simply through repetition of what are usually lies or half-truths.

And on Stillman’s original p0int: yes, everyone should make fun of Saudi Arabia too, which is a hideous misogynistic theocracy, and not the “moderate” Arab state of Colin Rubenstein’s imagination.

There is another point to be made. Invective often becomes part of discussion of these issues. I think people on all sides need to learn to endure having their sentiments outraged (as Russell might say).  To be more precise, I think defenders of the Israeli government need to learn to hear their holy state treated like all others. It is remarkable that people can say “anti-Israel” to describe critics of Israeli government crimes, when they would never dare call someone “anti-Australian” for saying almost exactly analagous things about the Australian government and its treatment of indigenous Australians.

I should add, I appreciate that Stillman offered (in my opinion, mild) objections to Danby’s charge that Loewenstein (and I) are anti-Semitic.

Saree Makdisi and Vic Alhadeff of the NSW JBD

I went to a talk by Makdisi today at Macquarie University. I should say, I greatly admire Makdisi. I think he is a powerful and eloquent writer, and a person with an extraordinary eloquence and humanism. The introductory note at the beginning of his outstanding study, Palestine Inside Out, where he explains his sense of being an outsider, was simple and elegant in explaining his distaste for nationalism: all nationalism. 

His speech was very good. He’s a very intelligent and articulate man, who explains very carefully Israel’s system of discrimination against the Palestinians. He spoke about the West Bank and East Jerusalem in particular. I put the question to him about advocating an end to the occupation now, and leaving the issue of Zionism to the future, as a political question. I don’t think he necessarily addressed my question, but he was intrigued and thoughtful.

One person asked him about the decrease in suicide bombings since the wall was constructed. Makdisi, I think, is very well informed on the suffering of Palestinians, and has read a great deal of human rights reports, UN reports and so on. However, his position is overwhelmingly humanitarian, rather than political, and he generally avoids political analysis or discussion, and his book is thin on historical issues and scholarship (which does not detract from its excellence as a study in daily life of Palestinians and what occupation means). On the facts, it should be plain: there has been a plummet in suicide bombings: Hamas unilaterally decided to stop doing them. One can argue about why they made this decision: perhaps it was because of the wall. Yet this is hardly obvious, and certainly the construction of the wall cannot be credited with this achievement (the wall itself isn’t completed, and so which parts of the wall needed to be constructed to prevent suicide bombings?) Makdisi said Israeli army experts attributed the decline to checkpoints. If we believe them (and Makdisi should know not to, though I would be interested to know where he found this), then there’s an obvious humanitarian question: should we allow these sorts of measures, in order to guarantee the security of Israelis? Makdisi says this is the question that matters, and I think it’s true, but it’s also interesting that Makdisi largely avoids discussing political questions, even when confronted by one provocative questioner about the Palestinians “killing each other” in such great numbers in Gaza. (when will we be spared the fake humanitarian concern of fanatical right wing Zionists?)

Interestingly, Vic Alhadeff of NSW JBD fame was in attendance. Oddly for someone of his position, he was unable to maintain decorum, interrupting Makdisi at some point to yell that rockets and terrorism preceded the occupation. (when he said the former, perhaps he meant the latter). This was a little incredible, because Makdisi had dwelt at great length on what he called apartheid within Israel’s green line border, talking about discrimination, the issues relating to Israeli citizenship, as opposed to Israeli nationality, which does not exist, that Makdisi had said the origins of the conflict were not in 1967, because an end to the occupation would not address the right of Palestinian refugees from 1948 to return to their homes. Despite arguing that Israel was an apartheid state through and through, and supporting the rights of refugees to return and compensation, Alhadeff was still able to say that “terrorism” predated the occupation. It’s amazing that he could listen to someone speak for an hour and a half and not hear a word he said.

Amusingly, one person responded to Alhadeff (both had interrupted Makdisi, who was addressing something entirely unrelated) on the subject of terrorism before 1967: “Yes, the Irgun in the 1930s”.

After the speech, I spoke to Alhadeff briefly. I asked him why he had given such a warm introduction to Benny Morris, in light of his racism. Alhadeff had no idea what I was talking about. I told him that Morris had called the Palestinians barbarians, and thought Ben-Gurion’s mistake was not expelling all of the Arabs in 1948. Alhadeff said that Morris’s opinions had changed, and asked when Morris had said this (doubting that he had). I said: 2004. In Haaretz. You can find it easily on the net. Morris hasn’t changed his views: when he spoke at Central, I asked him about his views afterwards, and he stood by it. When Makdisi and Finkelstein spoke with him on Democracy Now, Makdisi put this question to him again, and he still didn’t take anything back. Alhadeff said he obviously disapproved of anyone calling Palestinians barbarians: yet it is striking that he didn’t know that Morris had said this, and appeared to have no idea about Morris’s views, or even about his intellectual changes (ie, that he publically turned right wing after the Second Intifada broke out). I asked if he would publically repudiate Morris’s views, or make any statement of regret about having so warmly endorsed Morris, and he was non-commital and managed to escape.

Having continuously written about this since it happened, I suppose I should be a little displeased that none of it came to the attention of the JBD (I believe I’ve emailed them about this at least once). Now, of course, we will find out if the JBD will continue to endorse a pro-expulsionist racist. Yet as I originally thought, none of the people who are involved in the leadership know anything about Israeli scholarship, and I doubted they’d read much of what Morris has written (especially not about half of Righteous Victims, but I also doubt they know what he has documented about the Nakba.)


A study of Iranian public opinion is interesting. But I think it’s probably unreliable. Questioning was conducted over the phone. They say that this usually has no impact on results: I doubt it. 81% of respondents said that Ahmadinejad was the legitimate elected president. 87% were very or somewhat satisfied with the Iranian system of government. 58% favour government censorship of the media: not so long ago, a vast majority favoured a free press in Iran. Oh, and 83% were confident in the election results, and the same number say it was free and fair.

Yeah, all right. For some reason, Loewenstein appears to have taken the study more seriously than it deserves.

One Response to “Loewenstein, Alhadeff, miscellaneous”
  1. Les Rosenblatt says:

    I just submitted a 300 word response to your comments on the letter which Larry and I wrote to the AJN and I can’t find it on your blog now although it was there a few minutes ago? I’m mystified as to where it’s gone?

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