Reply to my critics who wrote to Overland

I wrote the following comment, in response to a controversy over at Overland over my essay worth checking out

I think the attempt by Mendes et al to prevent publication of esssays similar to mine in future is remarkable, but by no means surprising. Anyone who read my essay could have seen it coming, and I would recommend to those who hadn’t that they do so, and compare what I’m alleged to have written to what I actually wrote. For example, I advocate a two state agreement: the six signatories of the letter claim I advocate the creation of a single Arab state of Greater Palestine, which is a fabrication, just like the allegation that I essentialise Jews in Israel and Jewish supporters of the Israeli government.

Even if I did hold the position they attribute to me, there would be no empirical basis for the claim that 99% of the Jewish community would oppose what was written. One of them in particular, and more than one, played various roles in the recent survey which established some 13% of Australian Jews are anti-Zionist. Presumably, they hold that even this 13% of Jews would be outraged at my advocacy of a two-state agreement, and my opposition to Jewish organisations supporting anti-Palestinian racism in my name.

It is useful to put this in some context. The Cambridge University Israel Society cancelled a talk by Benny Morris because “the intention of the Society was never to give racism a platform”. This plainly doesn’t apply to ECAJ and the NSW JBD. And apparently, the 6 academics who were offended at my writings, which they consider so outrageous, were not offended by the support given to Benny Morris. If they are right, that there are only two perspectives in the Jewish community, those expressed by me, and the other 99%, it would surely reflect poorly on our community. Fortunately, there is no reason to believe this is true. Though these academics purport to speak on behalf of Jews, the Jewish left, and the left, there’s little reason to take that seriously either. They are simply indistinguishable from the Jewish organisations I criticised, which they take pride in, siding safely with the imaginary 99%.

When Hannah Arendt caused a storm of controversy, she said that it would not have surprised her if she made one or two people angry. That she encountered a flood of criticism made clear to her that her offence was not to individuals, but to vested interests. The sad thing is that whilst the bullying characteristic of Michael Danby, or the (alleged) Anti-Defamation Commission, or AIJAC is more or less predictable by institutional interests, the herd of independent minds who have written in to complain do not have this excuse for their behaviour. One can only hope that given their failure at censorship, they – and others like them – might finally decide to stop trying to stifle debate, but instead try to engage in it.


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