Nick Dyrenfurth vs me

Brief summary: Dyrenfurth wrote an article attacking me, in response to criticisms I made of his article on Chomsky and his Sydney Peace Prize.

Just as a reminder, Dyrenfurth was one of the signatories of a letter to Overland, complaining that it was publishing people critical of the Israeli government, singling me out for complaint. Overland published the letter, along with a response. One of the highlights was:

“For the sake of brevity, let us merely consider their access to the Australian, the country’s only national newspaper, and a publication with a circulation and reach far beyond that of Overland. A quick search through the archives reveals the following: a piece by Nick Dyrenfurth on 16 March 2009, accusing leftists of anti-Semitism; a piece by Nick Dyrenfurth and Philip Mendes on 13 May 2009, accusing leftists of anti-Semitism; a piece by Nick Dyrenfurth and Philip Mendes on 19 September 2009, accusing leftists of anti-Semitism; a piece by Nick Dyrenfurth and Philip Mendes on 11 November 2009, accusing leftists of anti-Semitism.”

So, just to try to go through the issues properly, I’ll note what I said in my article, note his replies, and then his new points last

1) I wrote:


“Characteristic of his style, Dyrenfurth wrote an article in 2009 with Dr Philip Mendes in which they claimed that an Australian call for an academic boycott on Israel “was directed at the victims of terror”. That is, those who called for a boycott supported terrorism against the Israelis civilians blown up inside Israel.”

My link to the Oz op ed is missing. It’s here. The quote was

“The higher the tide of violence perpetrated by the Palestinians, the greater the fury and blame directed at the Israeli victims. The March 2002 attacks provoked the Israeli invasion of the leading West Bank cities in an attempt to destroy the terror networks, and stop the carnage. Yet the first Australian petition for an academic boycott of Israel initiated by a small clique of Australian academics after this invasion in May 2002 was directed at the victims of terror.”

Ok, so it’s an accurate quote. What does it mean? Well, is the petition targeted at the people literally killed? Their families? Is all of Israeli society a victim? I mean, who knows. It seems to me plain the rhetorical thrust is grouping proponents of the boycott with terrorists. Certainly, they’re supposedly targeting the same innocent people.


His response: “Finally, in his defence of Chomsky, Brull makes the completely unfounded allegation that I have accused BDS proponents of supporting terrorism. Whilst I think BDS supporters are at best naive and contribute next to nothing towards practical reconciliation and peacemaking, this is simply untrue. ”

Ok, so we have the facts, as I demonstrated, and then we have his contrary assertion, without any counter-evidence.

2) I say Dyrenfurth gets even the most basic facts wrong, and note as an example his quote from an essay was actually from a private letter. Dyrenfurth admits his quote was wrong. He then says “His defence of holocaust denial on freedom of speech grounds derived from a private letter.” This is specious nonsense. He knows perfectly well that Chomsky wrote a public essay defending freedom of speech for holocaust deniers – which Chomsky considered dull, because he thought it obvious freedom of speech should apply to them. This is simply a fabrication – his defence did not derive from a private letter, and Dyrenfurth presumably knows this.

3) I say the article is full of innuendos, such as trying to associate Chomsky with Trotsky. Dyrenfurth ignores the point. Considering I barely mention Dyrenfurth in my article, it’s a little surprising he could write a whole article about me and not mention one of the only things I say about his article.

4) Hezbollah and Chomsky. I wrote:


“Chomsky is also charged with the crime of meeting with Hezbollah (and allegedly issuing uncited praise for them: perhaps properly outrageous praise will be fabricated for the next attack). Unmentioned is the fact that Chomsky also met with Walid Jumblat, who at the time was fiercely anti-Hezbollah (Jumblat’s politics swing wildly).”

Ok, so my point was to query whether he actually did issue any praise for Hezbollah. I’m unaware of any – but I said perhaps this will be fabricated. I mention that Chomsky met with a harsh opponent of Hezbollah. The point to me seems so mundane it’s depressing spelling it out. If Ms A meets with Tony Abbott, perhaps you could say that she is a Liberal supporter. If she also met with Bob Brown, the mere fact of meeting Abbott would seem poor grounds for such a claim. If a journalist sought to claim that Ms A was a notorious supporter of Abbott, on account of meeting with him, whilst studiously avoiding mention of her meeting with Brown, you would have to wonder about what kind of agenda that journalist was trying to push.

How did Dyrenfurth respond?

“Frankly I don’t care if he lunched with the Dalai Lama in Lebanon, for when he met with, and praised, leaders of the fundamentalist Shia Muslim group Hezbollah, he lent credibility to one of the most anti-Semitic and anti-democratic organisations in the Middle East, one committed to destroying Israel. As I write in the Monthly, Chomsky’s fraternisation with Hezbollah was unlikely to help foster a “common humanity”, as the jury’s citation for his award applauded.”

Ok, so let’s just get into this a bit. Firstly, his Monthly article seeks to prove Nasrallah’s anti-Semitism with a quote about Jews being related to pigs and apes. The quote so far as I could find it on a semi-reputable source is Wikipedia. It attributes it to the Israeli army. Yes, that’s a reliable and credible source. I’m sure Dyrenfurth would look to Hizbullah for accurate and representative quotes from the Israeli government.

Who is more anti-Semitic in the Middle East? Is he kidding? I mean, firstly, Al Qaeda. Secondly, read Nir Rosen’s book Aftermath and learn about what the fanatical jihadis say about Jews. Thirdly, the house of Saud is more or less openly anti-Semitic. Why not write about them? Or do you only perceive anti-Semitism in opponents of the Israeli government? Just like how Israel’s “defenders” purported not to notice the brazen anti-Semitic agitation of the Mubarak regime in its dying days. The idea that Hizbullah – which is an elected party in Lebanon – is one of the most anti-democratic organisations in the Middle East – when virtually every country there remains a dictatorship – is just astonishing. Oh, and I cannot stress enough – virtually nothing Dyrenfurth says should be believed without independent verification. He claims in his Monthly article “According to its own manifesto, Hezbollah is committed to the creation of Iranian-style theocracy”. This is another fabrication. As Assaf Kfoury notes (from the secular Left)

“The most significant perhaps, seen from a Western perspective that tends to stress Hezbollah’s narrow Islamist focus, is the shift away from the call to bring to Lebanon the unifying Islamic State (already established in Iran).  This call, as well as allegiance to the Rule of the Jurisprudent, are absent from the Political Manifesto.  Though still referring to Islam as the inspiration for the party’s ideology and action, the 2009 document makes no mention of the Umma and insists instead on Hezbollah’s identity as a patriotic Lebanese organization.[10]”

Which is consistent with the impression gained by Eqbal Ahmad, who asked a question noting that there couldn’t be an Islamist state in Lebanon.

Ok, and note that Dyrenfurth says he doesn’t care Chomsky met with Hizbullah’s opponent. Ok, that’s nice, and tells us a lot about him, but is irrelevant. If he wanted to be honest about Chomsky’s time in Lebanon, he would have included facts contrary to his thesis that Chomsky is a devotee of Hizbullah. Dyrenfurth chose not to.


Dyrenfurth’s new points

1) I misspelled his name. Ok, I did. I’m sorry.

2) I called him racist. What Dyrenfurth doesn’t mention is that the blog which he quotes from and links to no longer includes that claim. When he sent readers to it, they would read what it now says: ” They do not even notice violence against Palestinians.” This is because long ago – I don’t know when – I decided my tone was a little rash, and so removed the personal slur. Dyrenfurth ignores the change, to a blog from November 2009 (and presumably changed not so long afterwards, but really I don’t even know when), to nurse his sense of outrage. What may be worth remembering is, this was my personal blog. It contains my immediate reflections on various issues. When I want to present more considered thoughts, for wider consumption, I write an article and submit it to a publication. I virtually never tell anyone to read my blog, it is primarily for myself: to keep a record of things and so on. Yet even though my blog is mainly for personal benefit, I still thought it may lower the tone to have the word “racist” on it. So I removed it.

Dyrenfurth, on the other hand, as noted above, routinely accuses people on the left of anti-Semitism. It even gets published in supposedly serious journals for intellectuals. That he calls such a charge reprehensible… well…

3) More interesting, he writes: “But the allegations that I am a racist (Zionist) are reprehensible, defamatory and utterly false.” Why did he put Zionist in brackets? Perhaps this is his way of implying that I think Zionist and racist are interchangeable terms. Ok, well let’s turn to the facts. In the Overland article which Dyrenfurth signed a petition opposing, I noted Chomsky is a Zionist. Dyrenfurth in his article mocks me by saying Chomsky is my idol. So presumably, Dyrenfurth knows that I don’t think all Zionists are racist, or that Zionism means racism. Well, we learn more about the moral standards of Dyrenfurth.

4) Carrying on, Dyrenfurth writes:

“Brull presumably believes that as a defender of Israel in the face of relentless global campaign of delegitimisation – sometimes disingenuously branded as the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement – I am somehow anti-Arab or Islamophobic. “


As he knows that I oppose BDS too (which I argued against in my Overland essay which was attacked in his petition), by his own logic, I presumably also believe myself anti-Arab or Islamophobic. Once again, Dyrenfurth’s honesty shines through.

5) Dyrenfurth objects to being considered a Zionist, because he rejects Zionism on grounds of its premises about Diaspora Jews. Not by any consideration of what it has meant for Palestinians. Ok, I’m happy to accept the correction, but when I said “they of the responsible Zionist left”, it was me being scornful. I obviously do not consider them left-wing either.

Dyrenfurth prefers to call himself a “defender of Israel”. I do not accept the legitimacy of this designation. As far as I am concerned, those who devote themselves to libelling critics of Israel’s occupation are not defending Israel, or even the existence of a Jewish state. By assisting the occupation and helping Israel colonise the West Bank, they are effectively preventing the creation of a Palestinian state. The end result will be Palestinians giving up on a two-state agreement, and transitioning to a campaign for a one-state solution. If anything, I think I should be considered the defender of Israel, and he should be considered an opponent of Israel’s continued existence.

Let us turn to what I actually wrote, and the context he refused to give:

“(ed: from Mendes and Dyrenfurth)The higher the tide of violence perpetrated by the Palestinians, the greater the fury and blame directed at the Israeli victims. The March 2002 attacks provoked the Israeli invasion of the leading West Bank cities in an attempt to destroy the terror networks, and stop the carnage. Yet the first Australian petition for an academic boycott of Israel initiated by a small clique of Australian academics after this invasion in May 2002 was directed at the victims of terror.”

(my blog response) They do not even notice violence against Palestinians. They consider response to Israel’s massacre in Gaza another example of a high tide of violence committed… by the Palestinians. Slaughtering dozens of Palestinians in Jenin and so on is an attempt to “stop the carnage”, rather than a cause of it, because when Palestinians are killed, that’s not carnage, but dead Israelis is. We learn a lot from them about what sorts of lives are considered valuable and which ones are not. They say the Israeli government was the victim of terror (note: this was the target of protests, not Israelis).

Ok, so let’s note the facts. According to Norman Finkelstein (Image and Reality, pp xxiii) at the end of the May 2002 offensive, over 500 Palestinians had been killed, 1500+ wounded, over 8000 had been detained in mass round-ups, some of them tortured, over 3000 dwellings demolished, making over 13 000 homeless, and $350 million dollars in direct property losses to the Palestinian economy. Finkelstein also notes that Sharon pursued an assasination policy of Palestinian leaders to provoke a Palestinian response that would allow a massive onslaught on the Palestinians. Even this only begins to tell the story of Israeli brutality in suppressing the second Intifada. As noted in Ha’aretz,”during the first few days of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, soldiers in the territories fired 1,300,000 bullets.”

Dyrenfurth and Mendes in commenting on the proposed boycott of Israel not only failed to notice this: they considered it flatly irrelevant. The victims of terror in Israel and Palestine in 2002 were obviously Jewish and Palestinian. Yet Dyrenfurth and Mendes only noticed the Jewish victims. Killing Jews is carnage to them: killing Palestinians is at an attempt to stop the carnage.

6) In the quote mentioned by Dyrenfurth, I accuse him and Mendes of supporting Israeli expansionism. Why? Because they said:


“More and more Israelis and diaspora Jews understand that Israel will not only have to freeze West Bank settlements, but eventually dismantle at the very least all settlements east of the security barrier.”

If they think the settlements east of the “security barrier” should be dismantled, then they are presumably ok with the ones West of it. The fact that  according to Amnesty International some 85% of the wall is in the West Bank, and according to B’Tselem contains some 9.5% of the West Bank, presumably doesn’t trouble them. Effectively supporting the wall and the settlements it contains is Kadima’s program. Dyrenfurth and Mendes can continue to call themselves part of the Complicated non-Zionist Sophisticated Left Defenders of Israel or whatever they want. Their program seems indistinguishable from a party founded by Ariel Sharon.

How did he respond to this accusation? Again, silence. Being accused of supporting Israeli expansionism presumably didn’t trouble Dyrenfurth either. Dyrenfurth quotes himself calling for an end to Israel building settlements in the West Bank. The fact that they are there, and constitute theft from the Palestinians, and their existence prevents a two-state agreement, evidently does not trouble Dyrenfurth.

5 Responses to “Nick Dyrenfurth vs me”
  1. Kevin Charles Herbert says:

    Dyrenfurth should give it away while he’s well behind.

    This debacle must have been a major embarassment for him

  2. Carly says:

    Yes it cuts things, you just type in what you want it to cut, slide in the paper, vinyl, chrdpoaib, fabric . . . . whatever and the little blade zips along and cuts out what you need! It’s pretty awesome.

  3. Sorry sir – don’t know of any sales like this. Consider estate sales near large cities or better yet build a relationship with the clothing sorters at your local thrift shops – they see the best first and can put it to the side for you. -10Was this answer helpful?

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