The Jewish News October 2 2009

What’s new? Stephen Smith is paraphrased as talking “tough on Iran”. He called Iran’s missile tests “inflammatory” and “provocative” (in the other order). Apparently, Australia also boycotted Ahmadinejad’s UN speech. Oh, and Rudd is quoted as supporting Obama’s “plans” including halting construction in the West Bank settlements. This is comical. How can one describe this? Lip service to lip service?

They provide the text of some of Netanyahu’s speech at the UN. They’re particularly impressed by a quote they enlarge and redden. It says that the Goldstone report “is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?” This sort of idiotic rhetoric can only impress right-wing fanatics who bought into Bush’s war on terror, and are simultaneously right-wing Zionists. Netanyahu in his speech rails against “extreme fundamentalism” that fuels the Iranian government and is sweeping the globe. Plainly, Bibi and his admirers think there’s little different between Khomeinism and Wahhabiyah. Netanyahu talks about civilisation vs barbarism.

The editorial – of course – refers to Iran’s “dangerous quest for nuclear weapons”. True, they have no actual evidence this is true, “but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming”. They conclude: “If the world can’t settle this peacefully, Israel will have no choice but to confront the threat militarily – an outcome that everyone would prefer to avoid.” That is, the AJN thinks Israel would be completely justified in bombing Iran if they are unhappy with the sanctions put on Iran (or if there are no sanctions). Indeed, more than justified: they would have no choice. Note how they support a war before it even may happen, and that it’s transparently based on racism: Israel feels threatened by Iran, which might attack them if they had WMDs, so Israel should bomb Iran. The exact same argument could be made for Iran bombing Israel. Why don’t they advocate it? Because Israel has rights that Iran doesn’t.

In the letters, four South African lawyers wrote a letter complaining about the Goldstone report. They note that Goldstone was “highly respected as an honourable and fair-minded judge who sought the truth without bias.” It’s funny that they did not say something similar about themselves: do they not realise that being lawyers in Apartheid South Africa hardly gives them moral credentials?

Larry Stillman and Les Rosenblatt wrote a letter as AJDS representatives (perhaps on behalf of it, it’s not clear, but AJDS is listed below them). I’m underwhelmed. They say it’s not satisfactory to have the word “disgrace” and so on. But do they think the report is actually justified? Do they think Israel committed war crimes? I almost want to scream. It’s not a “cause for serious reflection”. Israel killed over a thousand civilians. There was ample evidence at the time that Israel was committing war crimes. Days after it ended Amnesty went in and complained of “indiscriminate” bombardment. There were scores of testimonies by civilians in Gaza, there were already testimonies by soldiers about their orders, there was evidence of white phosphorous being used. There were the simple facts of things bombed repeatedly, like UN shelters, ambulances and so on.

Rosenblatt and Stillman go on to call for “international intervention and compromise”. Compromise? Who should compromise? The Palestinians? They conceded 78% of Palestine decades ago – unilaterally – and have yet to receive any benefits at all, in contrast to Israel which went on to colonise even more of the West Bank, to carve it up more severely not only with twice as many settlers, but increased settler infrastructure, the checkpoints, the apartheid roads, and now the apartheid wall. What compromise should the Palestinians make now? Should they leave Palestine altogether, to make life easier for Israel? Should they all become Zionists? Should Palestinians inside Israel leave their homes too?

And what international intervention do they want? There has been plenty of it: supporting Israeli crimes and apartheid. Perhaps they want the US to send more arms to Israel and veto more UNSC resolutions. Or perhaps they think more countries should support the blockade on Gaza.

I’m sorry, but if this is the best the “progressive” AJDS can do, they might as well join AIJAC.

John Bear writes a letter asking how the bombing of Germany and Japan would be viewed today. Badly!! They were war crimes too! It is wrong to bombard civilians!

Steve Brook writes another insipid letter saying that Goldstone refuses to take sides. He even says that if Jews were in a similar situation to the Palestinians, we would also “have our crazies” and might have “people prepared to blow themselves up”. I don’t get it. Is this meant to be progressive opinion? Israel killed some 1400 people, Hamas killed a dozen (perhaps less), and even still, in an attack where Israel had to first reject the ceasefire it was offered, and still, progressives are saying that hold on, these Palestinians aren’t complete savages. I don’t get it.  I wish I could find the right wing press during the Moro Massacre. I imagine you could find similar apologetics. Mr Brook, if you can’t think of any “crazies” we might have at such a time…

A letter writer called Fred Zartz has a decent letter.

Dvir Abramovich -I can’t be bothered linking to his unbelievable history of ignorance, but this article is a good example of him – says that the BDS campaign is based on the 2008 Bilbao Initiative. Yes, o distinguished expert, the campaign is a year old. It’s amazing how ignorant critics (except me) of the BDS campaign are. And Zionist lobbies more generally. ECAJ and ZFA think there are less than 20 checkpoints in the West Bank, Abramovich thinks the BDS campaign started a year ago, those 6 Jewish academics specifically claimed a union supporting BDS wasn’t (I can probably go on at length). They would embarass themselves if Zionist fanatics cared about reality, which they don’t. Abramovich says BDS “calls Israel’s actions in Gaza genocide”. Uh, Dr Abramovich… BDS is not a person. People across the world sign up to it. Some of them may hold that the attack was genocidal. Some of them may not. (I would assume many of them do not). He goes on to say BDS calls for a right of return, with a future Greater Palestine ruled by a Hamas or Fatah government. Is he insane? Put aside the unlikelihood that any leftist around the world would support a Hamas government. What possible legitimacy does he think Fatah has outside Tel Aviv and Washington? Does he think Salam Fayyad excites anyone anywhere?

Abramovich goes on to express his dismay that someone thinks the “Bible did not happen and the land of Israel is not holy”. There there Dr Abramovich, I’m sure it’s very holy to you. In fact, the funny thing is, he seems to regard every criticism of the Israeli government or Zionism as part of the BDS campaign. The BDS even singled out scholars “based on their nationality, religion and ethnicity”. Look how casually people can be called anti-Semitic. He even quotes Elie Wiesel saying academic freedom should never be challenged. Like South Africa?

15 Responses to “The Jewish News October 2 2009”
  1. Steve Brook says:

    Mr. Brull, if I had wished to write a letter about the obscene disparity in casualty figures, with the violent deaths of Palestinians outnumbering those of Israelis by twenty or thirty to one, I would have done so. I would not have been “insipid” about it. I wanted simply to explain the hostility to the Goldstone report on the part of the Israeli government and its local mouthpieces. So now I am accused of not taking sides violently enough to please Mr Brull. Supreme irony! When will people stop yelling at each other?

  2. What’s up with you Michael?

    I’m surprised you now now attack the AJDS on the basis of our letter (which was cut –that’s the editor’s discretion. It’s not like blogging where space is not the issue.

    If you looked at our website you’d know our positions. If you looked at our newsletter, you’d know our position/s. To asaociate us with somehow compromising with apartheid, arms, the blockade? Do I beat my children as well? Just nonsense.

    Please don’t pick on the AJDS in ignorance. It’s silly. You loose credibility.

  3. michaelbrull says:

    Okay, let me explain. Your paragraph reads: “I cannot imagine that Jews or Israelis, if placed in a similar position to that of the Palestinians, would behave much differently. We would have our crazies too, people prepared to blow themselves up to make a political point, as well as those more level-headed – hopefully the majority – who do not believe that collectively punishing your adversary will get you anywhere.”

    In this rendition – there are all these crazy Palestinians, but we shouldn’t judge them too harshly, because after all, if we were in their shoes, we would behave similarly. You don’t seem to understand my point: it is not the crimes of the Palestinians that need explaining. It is *our* crimes that need explaining, because next to the things Israel does to the Palestinians, Palestinian atrocities are virtually undetectable. The “crazies” are Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Avigdor Lieberman, Binyamin Netanyahu and so on.

  4. michaelbrull says:

    Larry: I regard it as utterly unsatisfactory to call for “compromise”, “international intervention” and various other neutral, even handed expressions. Which is what you called for in your letter to the SMH too. You say here that obviously you do not support the things that I attributed as possible meanings for “compromise” and “international intervention”. Fine, but these *are* meanings of these terms. If you think “concessions” or “compromise” is not an accurate term to describe Israel ceasing torture of Palestinian prisoners held under military law, or ending the blockade, then you might have chosen different language. It seems to me that you write to the AJN in very diplomatic language. Furthermore, I think this kind of language allows for a pretense of balance, as though blame should be shared evenly, when under any rational evaluation, the Palestinians are overwhelmingly the victims of Israeli crimes and Israeli intransigence.

  5. Les Rosenblatt says:

    I don’t know if you saw my letter in the Age yesterday congratulating Amin Saikal (ANU politics professor) for his excellent opinion piece on Wednesday in which he describes the international interventions and compromises necessary to achieve a nuclear-free middle east region?

    The letter to the Jewish news which Larry and I wrote, and of which you are so dismissive, acknowledges that international intervention (such as the Goldstone investigation) and compromise are also necessary to provide a way out of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Our letter actually takes the AJN’s customary commentariat to task for its attempt to deny and evade the seriousness of Goldstone’s findings and the implications of his report.

    Your writings have reminded me of the title of a novel which won a French literary prize half a century ago titled ‘The Last of the Just’ by Andre Schwartzbart.

    The main character was posited as the one remaining ‘just’ Jew of the 36 just men attributed by Jewish mysticism to bearing the burdens of worldy injustice.

    Let me hasten to assure you that you are not a lone Jew in your yearning for justice, and that the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the playing out of international jurisprudence in the Balkans and Rwanda (in which Goldstone played such a significant role)demonstrate this fact.

    Larry and I were supporting Goldstone and decrying the irresponsible denial of his findings by the AJN in our letter.

    You seem to have difficulty identifying this and I worry about your your perspectival acuity. It seems that in your concern to shine as as much light on injustice as you can you lose some important depth of field in your focus. It’s a problem photographers are familiar with.

    We all imagine our readers whenever we write publicly. Writing a letter to the Jewish News requires some imagination of its readership and I think we succeeded in that. You may not think it’s worth much, but I beg to differ and know that the AJDS has both depth and breadth in its appreciation of just paths to peace.


  6. michaelbrull says:

    Les: two things. One, your defence of Goldstone was pretty cautious. You did not say, for example, that his charge of war crimes against Israel verges on truism. Even the Jewish News said we should take his charges seriously, and couldn’t just dismiss them. They reversed themselves the next week, but for one week, their perspective was more explicitly in favour of the report than your letter.

    But put that aside. I cannot understand how you can call for international intervention and compromise. As I said, there is *lots* of international intervention in Palestine. The US, EU and so on support the Israeli government, often its military, and the blockade. Iran and Syria support Hamas, and the Arab League increasingly supports Israel. Calling for international intervention is therefore confusing. Perhaps you think the international community should respond in a different way to what’s happening in Israel and Palestine. Fine, but then why call for it in the first place? It seems to me you choose the most diplomatic and inoffensive language possible when addressing the Jewish community. I can understand compromising on tone: not on substance. If anything, I think messages should be tailored to confront the audience one faces. If anyone should be told that Israel committed, and continues to commit, barbaric acts in Gaza, it’s our Jewish community.

  7. “If anyone should be told that Israel committed, and continues to commit, barbaric acts in Gaza, it’s our Jewish community”

    You obviously haven’t been reading what I, and others have been saying for years, not just in Gaza, but in Lebonon, in the West Bank, and elsewhere.

    Unfortunately, you appear to be deliberately misinterpreting what we say for the sake of controversy and hyphothesizing.

    Thus, “If anything, I think messages should be tailored to confront the audience one faces” what do you think we are doing? When I said at the start of the second lebanon war in the AJN that the war was wrong and would be a disaster, was I compromising? Was the fact I was roundly attacked fake? That I and others were called supporters of terrorism? And there are many other examples of this.

    Please think before tipping at windmills.

  8. michaelbrull says:

    No, look. I didn’t say you’ve never criticised the Israeli government. I said calling for international intervention and compromise is so meaningless and euphemistic that I can’t understand why you’d write that. Anyone can say they support international intervention and compromise. They could say the international community needs to get tough on Iran, and the Palestinians need to compromise by recognising Israel’s right to exist, and surrender the right of return, and maybe take more Hebrew lessons and learn to become patriotic Zionists.

    As far as I can tell, you’ve made this dual call a few times. Why not say: Israel should stop oppressing and killing Palestinians. If necessary, the international community should act to protect Palestinian rights. Or perhaps: Israeli (and Palestinian) war criminals should face rendition (of the non-extraordinary type) to face charges for their crimes, which may have been crimes against humanity.

    It obviously has a very different meaning to what you called for. I still have no idea what international intervention and compromise (IIC for short) means. Perhaps Israel should give up some settlements, and Palestinians should give up hopes of a complete return to the Green Line. There is nothing progressive about that formula at all. I don’t see why you feel the need to change the subject or talk about other things you’ve said. If you disagree, explain why you think it is reasonable to call for IIC. Moreover, I thought your attack on Loewenstein, practically calling him anti-Semitic, was entirely unjustified.

  9. You say I should say” Israel should stop oppressing and killing Palestinians. If necessary, the international community should act to protect Palestinian rights. Or perhaps: Israel (and Palestinian) war criminals should face rendition (of the non-extraordinary type) to face charges for their crimes, which may have been crimes against humanity”

    Eh, haven’t I been saying at least the first sentence for the past 10 years and pretty much the second?

    As for the last sentence, by saying that we need to take the Goldstone report seriously aren’t we also taking his recommendations very seriously? You are just splitting hairs.

    As for my difference with Lowenstein, I didn’t say he was anti-semitic, I said that he has been deliberately far too loose with his language and it eggs on nasties.

    I think calling people Zionist whores is a bit too much. Its just like calling people Palestinian whores. It does no good.

    And I think, if you can’t see any potential in international intervention, then I suppose you have no alternative but continuing war.

    I am going to let others express their views. I really give up, exasperated.

  10. Steve Brook says:

    So what’s your answer, Michael? Unrelenting armed struggle until victory? Let the Palestinian/Israeli masses settle it through class struggle? Raising ever higher the Great Red Banner of What’shisname’s Thought?

    Where’s Jesus when you need him?

  11. michaelbrull says:

    I found this comment a little amusing. I’m not sure how you would justify it, given that my point was simply that opposition to the Gaza massacre should be uncompromising. This is hardly a simple question, yet I would advocate disappointingly moderate measures. Things like raising consciousness of the crimes of the occupation, swaying public opinion, advocating an end to support for the occupation and so on. I think this is really all that would be needed to force a moderate two state agreement.

  12. Steve Brook says:

    It boils down to this:

    According to you, when the Goldstone report talks about Israeli war crimes, that’s OK.

    When it talks about Hamas crimes, it’s not OK.

    It’s called polarization.

  13. David Zyngier says:

    Is anyone else reading this school yard “donny [and les] brook”? Where are the Palestinian voices – where are the voices of the Jewish community – how does this kind of vitriol reflect on the Jewish left I wonder? It seems to me like a typical case of that infantile disorder that Lenin so brilliantly attacked 90 years ago!

  14. michaelbrull says:

    I’m a little surprised how angry I’ve made people with comments that generally aren’t particularly sharp. Mr Brook seems particularly devoted to attributing views to me that bear no resemblance to what I’ve written here, and that actually contradict what I’ve written elsewhere.

    Mr Zyngier: I’m happy to be considered “ultra left”, if the positions of AJDS, such as calling for international intervention, are considered left. Moreover, I don’t think name-calling is the same thing as a brilliant attack. In fact, just about every left critic of Lenin (and Trotsky) was right, as were the left critics of Marx. Not just the left Marxists, like Luxemburg and Pannekoek, but Russell, Malatesta, and a bit later Goldman and Berkman, and Voline, and Makhno and on and on. And as dreadful as the historical Lenin was, I doubt there’s a Leninist group in Australia which would be impressed by the letters I criticised.

  15. Steve Brook says:

    There’s an elephant in the loungeroom — or if not an elephant, a sacred cow. The name of the cow is “Armed Struggle”. Now, when a poorly-armed group of oppressed people takes on one of the most powerful military forces in its region, however justified the cause, what chance does it have of victory, even of denting the armour of the oppressor? Just to ask this question is to answer it.

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