Colin Rubenstein responds to me

At ABC Drum, Rubenstein of AIJAC responds to my article. I think most people wouldn’t be interested in the squabble between me and him. As it happens, he ignores the vast majority of what I wrote, and instead restricts himself to two points. Firstly, that the loyalty oath I mention in my article isn’t quite what the Cabinet passed. Secondly, that AIJAC didn’t defend Lieberman’s policy, but merely supports “accuracy” about it.

Ok, on the second, what did I write about AIJAC?

Some of those who claim to support Israel have responded to Lieberman by defending him. Like AIJAC (“Is that much different than the oath new citizens of Australia and other countries must take when granted citizenship?”).

This is not a factual disagreement. This is a moral one. And let’s quote more fully:

First, Rundle’s claim that Lieberman favours “a loyalty oath for Israeli Arab citizens” is only partially right. In fact, Lieberman has called for all citizens of Israel to take a loyalty oath, not just Israeli Arabs. Is that much different than the oath new citizens of Australia and other countries must take when granted citizenship?

Okay. So then the question is – is this much different? The answer is yes. And in my article, I quoted Lieberman a few months previously in his Ha’aretz interview

Your proposal is completely undemocratic. It denies Israeli citizens not only their rights, but also their citizenship.

“Even the Geneva Initiative allows for the revocation of citizenship. One can revoke citizenship as well as moving a population and expelling people.”

Are you recommending transfer, Mr. Lieberman?

“First of all, there is a line equating citizenship and loyalty. The second equation is between national security and national service. But there is also a third component. Just as they have the audacity to demand the right of return, there must also be the right of expulsion. For instigators.”

The point is – Lieberman plainly favours a process by which Palestinians can be expelled from Israel. This can be expected to have practically blanket effect on Israeli Palestinians, who are not Zionists. During the Gaza massacre, Yisrael Beitenu was briefly able to ban the Arab political parties. It is plain that Lieberman wishes to disfranchise Israeli Palestinians. Is this different than oaths new citizens take in England, or Australia? Yes, and it is also different in that someone born in Australia does not have to take a loyalty oath, but Lieberman wants the indigenous population of Palestine to do so.

This is not a factual disagreement. It is a moral one. Rubenstein – the head of AIJAC – thinks this proposal is not a big deal, and went on to complain that Rundle was practically “hyperventilating” over it. That the oath would be applied to Israeli Jews hardly makes it more just or less discriminatory. Indeed, the funny thing is, Rubenstein defended the racist loyalty oath then by saying it also applied to Jews. Well, this one doesn’t. But funny that – Rubenstein doesn’t think it’s important to mention when he wrote this column, but in April 2009 it was. And we should remember – Rubenstein was defending that loyalty oath – not the current one.

Ok, so what about the current loyalty oath bill?

I wrote

When the Israeli Cabinet voted to support the loyalty bill – and we know what it entails – 100 Israelis protested. This is indicative of current Israeli politics – small bastions of liberalism, in an overflowing tide of chauvinist nationalism.

Firstly, my link indicates what this loyalty bill is about. It is true that the current law is not the same as that which Lieberman proposed a year ago. So what is this one? New citizens – who aren’t Jewish – would have to declare loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. What about those who don’t want to declare loyalty? Well, no loyalty, no citizenship.

AIJAC doesn’t actually object to this proposal. They are just angry my article didn’t explicitly say the two proposed laws are not the same.

Well, it is true that it didn’t. Readers could discover from my links what the laws were. The point of my article was not about this law. It is where Israel is going. If Israel passes this law for new citizens – why should we expect it to stop there? I noted those who want Jewish traitors stripped of citizenship next (Ne’eman). Or Yishai, who hates Haneen Zoabi. If new citizens have to be “loyal” – that is, hold the correct ideology – why shouldn’t old citizens also be “loyal”? And if new would be citizens who aren’t loyal can be kicked out of the country for their “disloyalty”, why shouldn’t we expect that next of disloyal citizens?

Rubenstein doesn’t have any answers to these questions. Once again, he says “This oath, not dissimilar to oaths or pledges required as part of naturalisation in many other countries”. Yes, it is. That is not a factual dispute, it is a moral one. Rubenstein doesn’t see this – evidently, he thinks the draft law so obviously reasonable that anyone who disagrees is motivated by bad faith. Which explains some of his personal attacks on me, despite the slender basis discussed above:

Michael Brull appears to believe in mixing half-truths and ignorance in service of his political views.

Once you understand this difference, most of Brull’s hysterical claims about the proposal’s implications are instantly shown to be baseless.


Perhaps he believes that when you dislike a politician or disagree with him, it is acceptable to contrive claims about him, or completely misrepresent what he says?

one should adhere to normal standards of truth and accuracy in doing so. It is interesting, especially in light of the confusions in his own article, that Mr Brull apparently thinks this is such an indefensible principle to espouse.

I mean, firstly, Rubenstein writing about my “hysterical claims” is a fabrication. And a funny one, considering how devoted Rubenstein claims to be to truth and accuracy. The critics of the bill are all quoted – my only comment is that Israel is going in the wrong direction – which is about broader trends, which Rubenstein ignores. And it is telling that he ignores them. But put that aside. I enjoy being accused of “mixing half-truths and ignorance in service of [my] political views” by a paid propagandist for the Israeli government, who here argued for the war in Iraq. (“Aside from the existential threat Saddam Hussein presents to US and Middle Eastern interests, his rogue regime threatens Australia as well.” “He supports an al Qaeda-linked group in northern Iraq.” etc) And he did and does so whilst purporting to represent the Jewish community.

I think Rubenstein’s article is a pretty sad work. I think it is revealing enough about what happens when Israeli propagandists have to compete in the marketplace of ideas out in the open. These sorts of exchanges surely can’t work to Israel’s benefit for long.


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