Our only goal as Jews is to see Israel destroyed
Posted: 03 May 2010 06:32 PM PDT

Atlantic journalist and blogger Jeffrey Goldberg, commenting on John Mearsheimer’s recent speech in which he mentions some progressive Jews like Naomi Klein and Tony Judt, alleges that these kind of people are:

part of a tiny minority of Jews who believe that the destruction of Israel will bring them the approval of non-Jews, which they crave.

Debating Zionism’s boundaries
Posted: 03 May 2010 04:23 PM PDT

My following essay appears in the current edition of Jewish, American magazine Tikkun:

by Mark LeVine
Zed Books, 2009
by Leslie Stein
Polity, 2009
by Lev Luis Grinberg
Routledge, 2009
by Avi Shlaim
Verso, 2009
The question of Israel’s democratic features is as old as the country itself. Can a Zionist state, with Jerusalem as the “undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish state and the Jewish people,” in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ever satisfy the Arab population? Is Zionism capable of understanding the wishes and needs of a Palestinian people under occupation in the West Bank and under siege in Gaza?
Expanding colonies across Judea and Samaria are only supported by a minority of the Israeli population, yet decades of an American-initiated “peace process” have led to around 500,000 Jewish settlers on occupied territory.
Opponents of this creeping trend are labeled traitors to the Zionist cause. The Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick wrote in March that protests against Jewish expansion in East Jerusalem were “anti-Semitic,” and “leftist” media had conspired to ignore the Jew haters’ “stoking violence against innocent Jews for their crime of lawfully living where they choose.”
The question of defining the boundaries of the Zionist state remains unresolved. In the beginning of Politics And Violence In Israel/Palestine, Lev Luis Grinberg — chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University and founder of the conscientious objectors’ movement Yesh Gul — argues that Jewish Israeli citizens are convinced they live in a “Jewish democracy.” However, the reality is that, “according to Israeli discourse and institutions, full citizenship is granted only to Jewish citizens, considered the legitimate owners of the entire land, and therefore they have the right to decide where they can settle and where the borders of the state lie.”
Grinberg may be stating the obvious, but it fundamentally challenges the oft-repeated claim within Israel and the Jewish diaspora that Israel is a democracy for all its citizens, Jewish or Arab. The author, after painstakingly assessing the last twenty years of failed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians — offering more analysis than investigative work — concludes that neither a two-state nor a one-state solution will solve the conflict.
It’s brave to disregard the majority opinion and increasingly vocal alternative, but perhaps it’s honesty that drives the author’s proposal for an “Israel-Palestine Union” (IPU), “some creative combination of consociation, confederation and federative institutions with two separate national governments and one shared administration.”
After dismissing the viability of a two-state solution due to the fact that roughly eighteen percent of Israeli citizens of Palestinian descent would have to accept living in a Jewish state, Grinberg moves on to demolish the one-state equation. Both communities, he says, “still prefer to remain autonomous, independent and undetermined by the other.”
The writer doesn’t acknowledge the growing move within Palestinian society itself for a unilateral and coordinated campaign for equal rights with Jews in a single, unitary state. Political differences aside, it would be difficult to dismiss the idea as impossible when numerous other nations in the twentieth century implemented an end to partition. South Africa is the most obvious example.
The viability of the one-state solution is hotly debated. Although most studies find a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians opposed to its implementation, the continued occupation of West Bank land creates a de-facto one-state reality, albeit one with one law for Jews and another for Palestinians. Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website, writes that the stated objections of the vast majority of Israelis are reminiscent of white South Africans during apartheid. What changed? “South African whites typically attempted to justify their opposition to democracy,” he argues, “not in terms of a desire to preserve their privilege and power, but using liberal arguments about protecting distinctive cultural differences.” Many Zionists make similar points.
But international pressure to force Israel to understand that its choice is either global isolation or equal rights for all its citizens is not enough. Palestinians who back the one-state proposal must suggest humane methods to comfort Israeli Jews scared of becoming second-class citizens in their own homeland.
It should be acknowledged that a transition to such a vision doesn’t come without risks. Forced attempts at unity throughout history, occurring without necessary safeguards, have been bloody. But the choice is surely no longer between the impossible-to-believe two-state solution and maintenance of the status quo. If Palestinian civil society and the political elites begin to coordinate their tactics and understand that a “one person, one vote” campaign could be highly effective internationally, how will Zionists who oppose its truly democratic nature look? We shouldn’t underestimate the power of a global solidarity movement to strip Israeli Jews of their privilege, not by force but by moral and political power.
The global shifts in public opinion toward recognizing the real state of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians have developed in two key ways. First, the frustrations over ever-expanding occupation in the West Bank have resulted in a small but growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against the perception of a belligerent Jewish state.
A leader of this phenomenon, Omar Barghouti, recently told Democracy Now! that the campaign is gathering friends across the world because: “This is about whether Israel is indeed practicing apartheid and colonial rule against the indigenous Palestinians … This is according to the UN Convention on the Suppression of the Crime of Apartheid. We don’t have to prove that Israel is identical to South Africa to prove that Israel is practicing apartheid.” BDS is seen as the only logical, nonviolent answer.
The other fundamental paradigm shift is the growing fearlessness of Israel’s critics, who are no longer willing to be silenced by the charge of “anti-Semitism.” Witness the ferocious attacks on distinguished South African judge Richard Goldstone after the release of the UN report on alleged war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. Goldstone was mercilessly smeared, but his report continues to resonate around the world.
According to the Jewish Forward, one of the real sources of the Goldstone report’s power derives from a fear that its implications on the targeting of civilians in war could be used against other states, namely America and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from New York who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, has said that Washington has killed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, “certainly a number multiplied by some huge multiple compared to the number of civilians that were killed as Israel pursued terrorists in Gaza.” If Israel must be protected from transparent investigations, logic dictates that most Western nations should similarly close ranks against a meddling United Nations.
Israel is no longer a protected species in global forums.
This argument is made throughout Mark LeVine’s small book, Impossible Peace. LeVine, an associate professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Irvine, (as well as a longtime contributing editor at Tikkun), has written a work that is refreshingly free of dogma. He destroys the inherent illusions of the Oslo years. Perhaps most significantly, he outlines the complicity of many Western-funded NGOs in the continuation of the occupation.
Although countless organizations provided essential services to desperate Palestinians during the 1990s and to this day, the “developmentalization” of the sector allowed some NGOs “to be seen by many Palestinians as an employment sector for the economically privileged. Like political parties, the NGO community was believed to have lost its popular legitimacy.”
It is therefore supremely ironic that the Netanyahu government is currently pursuing a concerted campaign against allegedly “anti-Israeli” NGOs, without which millions of occupied Palestinians, who remain second-class citizens in their own land, would be even more impoverished.
But alternative history lessons are the cornerstone of this contested subject. Leslie Stein’s The Making of Modern Israel: 1948-1967 recounts the tumultuous period before the country’s founding and provides some early indications of the post-1967 troubles between Arabs and Palestinians. Stein is a proud Zionist and never questions the murderous rampage of Zionist fighters against the British before Israel’s birth. The word “terrorism” is never used to describe Jewish actions, but Palestinian activities are routinely dismissed as “terrorism.” There is little effort to distinguish between attacks against civilians and military targets. The infamous bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 was committed “in despair” toward perceived British reluctance to allow full-blown Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Although Stein acknowledges that “it can legitimately be argued that the [Jewish] settlers exacerbated Palestinian animosity toward Israel,” he blames the Arabs for violently resisting Zionist conquest. “Islamic fascists” have taken over the struggle, he claims, “in which compromise is inconceivable and a fight to the finish is theologically mandatory.” It’s unsurprising that both Daniel Pipes and Marty Peretz have endorsed the book.
Perhaps examining the general sweep of history is the best way to treat the Middle East (something historians such as Ilan Pappé, Benny Morris, and Tanya Reinhart, among others, have at various times perfected). Oxford University’s Avi Shlaim, whose new book is a collection of two decades of work, is uniquely placed to assess the shifts and continuities in that time. He remains committed to “the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders” while also acknowledging “dispossession and dispersal” of the Palestinians in 1948. His mind is open and he clearly feels pained by the actions of the Jewish state but his dedication to liberal Zionism requires him to cling to the wreckage of a two-state solution, “the only fair and reasonable solution.”
But ideological purity tests are often futile in this debate. Shlaim has dedicated his life to understanding the motivations of key players in the region. His 1996 conversation with Arab nationalist and eventual peacemaker King Hussein of Jordan (1952-1999), which is featured in Israel and Palestine, is fascinating — especially the details about averting war between Jordan and Israel during the Gulf crisis in 1990. Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir met Hussein in London and told him that his generals were demanding the Jewish state mobilize and face Jordan, under threat of possible attack. Disaster was averted.
But something changed in Gaza in January 2008. During Israel’s war against Hamas, Shlaim’s moderation was ditched and replaced with anger. “War crimes” were alleged. “Ruthless destruction” by the IDF was condemned. He writes:
“A brief review of Israel’s record as an occupying power over the past four decades, and especially of its conduct during the 22-day assault on Gaza, makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders.’ A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practices terrorism — the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.
Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel’s real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbors but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. In Gaza it went too far: it sowed the wind and it will surely reap the whirlwind.”
It is the same point made in Norman Finkelstein’s latest book, This Time We Went Too Far, in which he outlines the “steady decline in [public] support for Israel” over the last decades and the younger, prominent Jewish bloggers who refused to offer Israel uncritical support during the recent Gaza conflict. These acts were unthinkable even a decade ago.
Shlaim’s gradual disillusionment is perhaps the most moving. A proud Zionist, his aching reminded me of Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston, writing in a widely circulated article in February entitled, “I envy the people who hate Israel.” He argued that, “unable to beat the forces who want to see Israel as one of the world’s primary pariah states, it has resolved to join them” (the rogue states) through building more settlements, shunning once-friendly allies, and turning on critical voices.
Israel and Palestine is the kind of book that reminds the reader that only blind believers don’t change or evolve their position on the Middle East crisis. It’s the sign of political maturity that events on the ground in the last years have caused profound disquiet amongst liberal Zionists, the bulk of diaspora support for Israel. When these people start to question their loyalty, the Jewish state will truly have an existential crisis on its hands.
Antony Loewenstein is an Australian freelance journalist and author of the best-selling book, My Israel Question, published by Melbourne University Press.

Afghanistan has been given nothing but misery
Posted: 03 May 2010 07:02 AM PDT

Robert Fisk on the destruction of ancient cultures while the West talks about “democracy” and “liberation” at the barrel of a gun:

Over the door of the Kabul museum today is a Persian quotation: “A nation stays alive when its culture and history are kept alive.” But is it possible to believe that even these golden artefacts from Afghanistan will survive the 21st century in their new Kabul home? The Taliban, courtesy of the Saudis and the Pakistanis, brought deliberate destruction to the physical history of Afghanistan. And to Bagram came first the Soviet army – at their base, they taught the Afghans how to use electricity rather than nail pliers to extract information from prisoners – and to Bagram 21 years later came the Americans to waterboard their victims. From antiquity, Afghanistan obtained the culture of gold and collapsible crowns. From us, they obtained the culture of torture.

The confused identity of those Jews (and fellow travellers) who rather like occupation and bombing
Posted: 03 May 2010 06:47 AM PDT

Following the publication today of Overland’s smackdown of Zionist attempts to silence alternative views on the Middle East in Australia, leading Australian academic Scott Burchillwe like him on this site – sent me the following response:

Political apostasy is rampant amongst the Australian intellectual class. Overseas too. Think of Robert Manne (former right wing conservative), Keith Windschuttle (former Maoist), Piers Akerman (former leftist), Imre Salusinszky (former Edward Said guru), Christopher Hitchens (former Trotskyist), all the neo-cons (David Horowitz (former Stalinist) in the US), etc, etc. They now strenuously oppose the positions they previously held – and do not like to be reminded of their earlier incarnation.
Your posting about [Deakin University’s] Doug Kirsner is a perfect illustration of this phenomena. Political apostates need to purge themselves of the guilt they feel for their youthful ideological crimes and indiscretions (in Doug’s case as a leading Australian opponent of the Vietnam War), so they run to the polar opposite to prove their bona fides to the ruling class, usually with Stalinist-like denunciations of former comrades. There they can be lauded by the [Sydney Morning Herald columnist and Sydney Institute head] Gerard Hendersons of the world as people who have “seen the light”, been “mugged by reality” and “finally come to their senses” – in a very real Marxist sense, they become “useful idiots”.
Many, like Paul Wolfowitz, are also opportunists who can read the political wind and know how state and corporate power can be used for personal gain. Their ideological “flexibility” suggests they actually hold their political convictions very lightly and see them merely as a means to an end.
For Kirsner and other Zionists, there is now a moral panic about increasing hostility to Israel in Europe and North America after 40 years of solid support, as well as schisms amongst pro-Israeli Jews. The tide is finally turning against them. Hence their desire to silence dissent while proclaiming themselves champions of free speech. Sadly, it’s an all too familiar story.

Privileged Australian Zionists moan about censorship while Palestine disappears
Posted: 02 May 2010 11:10 PM PDT

A sorry saga that needs no introduction.
Independent Australian magazine Overland recently received this letter from six Jewish academics. It was sent to the editors of the publication and the editorial board:

Dear members of Overland Editorial Board,
We are writing to express our grave concern about your journal’s unbalanced coverage of Israeli-Palestinian issues in recent years. We all strongly respect Overland’s tradition of providing a forum for free and open discussion of democratic and progressive ideas. But the recent biased and prejudiced coverage of Middle East affairs has the potential to bring Overland into serious disrepute.
We can all agree that the Australian Left has no consensus on this issue. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that a wide majority on the Left today support a two-state solution which encapsulates recognition of both Israeli and Palestinian national rights. It is also fair to say that those fundamentalists who advocate the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Arab State of Greater Palestine represent a small, if sometimes vocal, minority.
Yet it is precisely these marginal views, which demonize Israel and infantilize the Palestinians, that seem to have captured Overland’s agenda in recent years. We note, for example, the three recent articles that appeared in issues 187 by Ned Curthoys, 193 by Antony Loewenstein, and 198 by Michael Brull.
What is common in all three of these articles is the collective essentialising of all Israeli Jews and all Jewish supporters of Israel’s existence, whether supporters of the Israeli peace movement or supporters of a Greater Israel, as inherently evil oppressors. Equally there appears to be a concern to promote miniscule groups such as the Committee to Dismantle Zionism and the Independent Australian Jewish Voices group as in some way representing a significant Jewish dissenting voice. This is a complete nonsense. In fact, they represent a tiny minority even within the wider Jewish Left, and their simplistic viewpoints are overwhelmingly rejected by progressive Jews. Highlighting their views means implicitly excluding the perspectives of 99 per cent of Australian Jews from your journal.
Brull’s particular contribution is rambling, repetitive and contradictory, and of a standard that one might expect to find on a blog devoid of editorial oversight, not as an article chosen for publication in a refereed intellectual journal. It is also overtly defamatory in a manner that is both embarrassing and shameful to Overland. His comments totally misrepresent the views and opinions of one of us (Mendes) who has been publicly commenting on these issues for 25 years. Mendes has consistently argued for a complex analysis of the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. His views are the precise opposite to those described by Brull.
And yes Overland did publish Dennis Altman in issue 196 who presented a more subtle and sophisticated overview of this debate. But Altman did not directly critique the fanatical position presented by Curthoys et al.
Yet there are many left-wing Jews (and far more leftist non-Jews, see for a start, www.tuliponline.org) who support two states, strongly oppose Israeli settlements and expansionism, but also totally reject the simplistic “Israel oppressor, Palestinians victim” argument presented by Curthoys et al, and seek to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation rather than continued violence and enmity. Their views represent the majority of the Left, but seem to have been deliberately excluded from the pages of Overland magazine.
Our principle question is why Overland has chosen to highlight these vexatious voices who contribute only fanatical polemics and represent nobody in either the Jewish community or the Left, and chosen to ignore or actively censor the large group of Jewish (and broader Left) voices who are able to present serious contributions on the complexity of the conflict. We also specifically question why the editor published the article from Brull without taking a basic duty of care to ensure that his arguments were free of falsehoods and libel.
Yours Sincerely,
Bernard Rechter (Professor)
Douglas Kirsner (Professor)
Andrew Markus (Professor)
Dr Bill Anderson
Dr Nick Dyrenfurth
Philip Mendes (Associate Professor)

Overland has responded brilliantly (see below), skewering the increasingly desperate tactics of a Zionist community that less people are listening to. As Palestine burns and the occupation deepens, these dinosaurs are complaining about their poor views being marginalised. I look forward to the same passion being spent on condemning the illegal settlements in the West Bank and siege on Gaza:

A few days ago, we received a letter signed by six Australian academics: Professor Bernard Rechter, Professor Douglas Kirsner, Professor Andrew Markus, Dr Bill Anderson, Dr Nick Dyrenfurth and Associate Professor Philip Mendes. They were, they said, collectively writing to the board of Overland and to its patron, Barry Jones, about ‘recent editorial bias on Israel/Palestine’.
We cannot speak for the OL Society. But editorial decisions are the responsibility of the editorial staff. We make the allegations against us public, partly because they are too serious for closed-door insinuations, and partly because, by seeking to exert organisational pressure on editorial policy, the letter illustrates, in a small way, the obstacles to debating Israel/Palestine in this country.
Let us begin with the obvious point that accusing an overtly political journal of ‘bias’ makes no sense whatsoever. When Overland launched in 1954, it proclaimed its ‘bias’ (literally) with a famous phrase borrowed from Joseph Furphy. That slogan was meant to signal that the journal gave a voice to the Left, just as Overland does today.
But we suspect that by employing words like ‘bias’, ‘prejudic[e]’, ‘demonise’, Mendes and co. intend to imply something rather darker – that the Overland editorial team is anti-Semitic. If that is what they mean, they should come out and say so. For the record, any allegation that Overland publishes, accepts or otherwise endorses anti-Semitism or any other form of racial discrimination is utterly scurrilous, and we reject it entirely.
In relation to our coverage of Israel/Palestine – which consists, it might be noted, of a debate over three years between four Jewish writers, some of whom uphold a two-state solution and some of whom do not – Mendes and co. write:
“We can all agree that the Australian Left has no consensus on this issue. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that a wide majority on the Left today support a two-state solution which encapsulates recognition of both Israeli and Palestinian national rights. It is also fair to say that those fundamentalists who advocate the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Arab State of Greater Palestine represent a small, if sometimes vocal, minority.
“Yet it is precisely these marginal views, which demonize Israel and infantilize the Palestinians, that seem to have captured Overland’s agenda in recent years. We note, for example, the three recent articles that appeared in issues 187 by Ned Curthoys, 193 by Antony Loewenstein, and 198 by Michael Brull. […] Our principle [sic] question is why Overland has chosen to highlight these vexatious voices who contribute only fanatical polemics and represent nobody in either the Jewish community or the Left, and chosen to ignore or actively censor the large group of Jewish (and broader Left) voices who are able to present serious contributions on the complexity of the conflict. (emphasis theirs)”
Here, our critics entirely misunderstand the Overland project, which is not, and never has been, to present the ideas of the majority. On the contrary, almost by definition, our small magazine provides space for views that do not receive a hearing elsewhere. In Overland’s case, those views are inevitably political. As its website makes clear, Overland has
“a tradition of publishing dissenting articles with a political and cultural focus. […] Overland is the only high-profile Australian literary magazine that sees the publication and advancement of new and marginal writers as part of its charter. (emphasis ours)”
The notion that publishing minority views constitutes ‘censorship’ is truly bizarre. Let’s put the question specifically. Are Mendes and co. silenced? Do they or their co-thinkers lack forums in which to expound their ideas?
No, not so much. 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. (At that point, our patience began to wane somewhat.)
Given this record, we might equally ask Dyrenfurth and Mendes whether, with their avowed commitment to representation, they organise similar open letters to the Australian’s editorial board, urging that Murdoch provide space for, say, environmental activists alongside his regular quota of climate change denying columnists. After all, to borrow a phrase, those who want action on global warming ‘represent the majority of the population’ – but, oddly, they seem to have been deliberately excluded from the pages of the Australian!
Think for a moment about what Mendes and co. are arguing. The signatories to this letter are, as they take pains to remind us, all professors or academics of one variety or another, ensconced in well-paid jobs at universities around the country. Many of them are widely published; most have, as we have seen, regular access to the mainstream media. Yet, when Overland prints an article by Michael Brull, a young writer with none of the resources or institutional backing that they enjoy, they complain to its governing body that they are being excluded!
In that respect, the whole episode is sadly typical of how debates about Israel/Palestine are conducted. Mendes and co. urge the OL Society not to permit Overland to ‘highlight the views’ of anti-Zionists like Ned Curthoys, Antony Loewenstein and Michael Brull who, we are told, are irrelevant, marginal figures and as such not worth worrying about. Yet in their writings for the mass-circulation Australian, Dyrenfurth and Mendes attack these ‘irrelevant’ and ‘marginal’ views, over and over and over again. Indeed, they single out John Docker, Ned Curthoys, John Pilger and a variety of other named individuals for public abuse – and neither they nor the Australian offer these people any opportunity to reply.
So it comes down to this. Mendes and co. assert their right to berate their political opponents in the most vituperative fashion. But they also want – in the name of ‘free speech’– to deny those opponents any platform whatsoever, even in a tiny literary magazine.
The politics underlying this dispute should be understood.
The signatories present themselves as friends of Overland, writing more in sorrow than in anger about its current editorial decline. ‘We all strongly respect,’ they proclaim, ‘Overland’s tradition of providing a forum for free and open discussion of democratic and progressive ideas.’
Really? Let us look at what one of our correspondents actually says about ‘democratic and progressive ideas’.
On 2 April 2008, Douglas Kirsner appeared in (of course!) the Australian. There, too, he complained of ‘bias’ – but, on that occasion, he directed his ire towards the ABC:
“Why is it that the only intentionally liberal-conservative program on Radio National is titled Counterpoint? […]
“In 1968, German student leader Rudi Dutschke, drawing on the idea of hegemony of Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci and of Marxist critical theory, suggested “a long march through the institutions” of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of it; as critical theorist Herbert Marcuse put it, “working against the established institutions while working in them”.
“The countercultural capture of cultural institutions meant the emergence of what Swinburne University sociologist Katharine Betts calls a “new class” whose object was not old wealth. Instead, Betts writes in her 1999 book The Great Divide, “the attack was concentrated on the Australian mass and its materialism, racism, sexism and insularity”.
“A noticeably homogenous class of inner city, tertiary-educated social professionals, often referred to as the chattering classes, has an identity that developed together with mass tertiary education. While the old Left emphasised economic reforms to help the working class, the new class focused on issues such as refugees, multiculturalism, reconciliation, civil liberties and so on. This new class of social professionals includes teachers, academics, public servants and welfare workers who adopt distinct ideological positions and values that serve as social markers for the new class.
“The “knowledge class”, which includes ABC journalists, is an important segment within the new educated class that has more distinct values that increasingly set them apart from business and the general community.
“I mention this not because I think the ABC has no diversity at all but because it’s a trend embedded within the institutional culture that will take another “long march” to reverse, this time in the opposite direction towards the centre. It’s a march that has begun from the top but needs to infuse its way to the bottom.”
Thus it does, indeed, seem that Professor Kirsner holds strong views about ‘democratic and progressive ideas’. He opposes them – and advocates a reactionary ‘long march’ to counter the influence of those concerned about ‘refugees, multiculturalism, reconciliation, civil liberties and so on’.
What does that mean in practice? Well, when MediaWatch caught Janet Albrechtsen distorting quotes to demonise Islamic youths, Kirsner weighed in:
“Janet Albrechtsen reveals the entrenched and blind bias in the ABC very well indeed. It’s a very sad story, especially about a program that claims the high journalistic ethics ground without fear or favour.
“Often defenders of the ABC claim that it compensates for right wing commentators such as Alan Jones, thereby admitting the endemic bias of “everyone’s ABC”.
“But yesterday I almost fell over when I heard a US conservative commentator on The World at Noon on Iraq. The ABC must have been desperate – though the anchor did point out that this commentator’s views on Iraq needed to be understood in the context that he was a conservative. I don’t hear such caveats when left wing commentators are introduced.”
Keep it up, Janet!
Dr Douglas Kirsner
Melbourne, Vic
We understand that Kirsner did, at one stage, belong to the Melbourne University Labour Club, back in the days when Leftism enjoyed a certain fashionable cachet. Since then, however, he has evidently picked himself up and returned, more or less unscathed by his radical experiences, to the more traditional Toryism of the professoriate.
Of course, Professor Kirsner’s political evolution is a matter between him and his conscience. But are we seriously to believe that a man who sees in the ABC a tide of radicalism that should be ‘reversed’, a fellow who shouts ‘Keep it up, Janet!’ in support of an Islamaphobic far-Right columnist, really ‘respect[s] the Overland tradition’ and wishes the project well?
We think not.
Why then does his name appear on this letter? Why have these ‘Leftist’ academics made common cause with an avowed reactionary? It is because, as we have seen, the signatories are not concerned with responding to articles with which they disagree, so much as with applying institutional pressure to ensure the offending pieces don’t get published at all. They think that the OL Society board might be more susceptible to names with a historical association with the Left – and so they are prepared to enlist to the cause a former radical who now enjoys hearing pro-war conservatives on the ABC!
Our ‘Leftist’ critics – some of whom, it is true, have made real contributions to the progressive movement in the past – need to ask themselves where, politically, they are heading. Kirsner is merely one on the long list of former radicals transformed into arch-reactionaries by an aggressive and uncritical identification with conventional wisdom about the Middle East.
Dyrenfurth and Mendes, those self-proclaimed partisans of the Left, might wonder why the Australian, Murdoch’s ferociously conservative flagship, consistently offers them space alongside the climate change deniers, religious bigots, warmongers and Islamophobes whom it pleases that paper to promote. Is it, as they seem to think, because they present ‘serious contributions on the complexity of the conflict’? Or is it because self-proclaimed Leftists who devote themselves to smearing others on the Left as lunatics and racists serve a useful role for a conservative newspaper?
As to the specific merits of the Overland articles in question, we, unlike our critics, have faith in the ability of our readers to make up their own minds. We would, however, point out that Michael Brull’s piece, which our correspondents single out for particular opprobrium, maintains, for the most part, a remarkably civil tone – particularly when contrasted with the work of his critics.
Compare, for instance, Brull’s writing to a typical Nick Dyrenfurth effusion in the Australian, in which the ‘socialist jihadists’ of the University of Sydney are abused as ‘anti-Semitic’, ‘imbecilic’, ‘maddies’ and ‘hatemongers’ – all without the reader learning anything whatsoever about the actual arguments that they uphold.
Michael Brull concludes his essay with the suggestion that issues around Israel/Palestine be opened ‘to free debate, without the usual flood of hysterical name-calling’. That seems to us, the editorial staff at Overland journal, an eminently reasonable proposal, and one to which we are also committed. Precisely because the misery in the Middle East shows no signs of abating, the discussion over Israel/Palestine needs to be broadened beyond simple reiteration of the conventional wisdom.
More generally, in an increasingly homogenised mainstream media, emerging voices that don’t parrot Murdoch talking-points often struggle to be heard. We believe that by providing a platform for ‘marginal’ writers – even if those writers occasionally scandalise a conservative or two – Overland performs an important function. That is the policy the journal has followed since 1954. It is one we will continue to uphold.
Jeff Sparrow
Jacinda Woodhead
Rjurik Davidson
Kalinda Ashton
Alex Skutenko
John Marnell

How the Palestinian Authority is building the Israeli roads that kill their future
Posted: 02 May 2010 10:58 PM PDT

This is the kind of story that should be read by anybody who actually believes that the US-backed Palestinian Authority will bring freedom to its people in 2011. Or ever.
The article in The Nation shows how the PA is actively killing its own chances of statehood and entrenching the Zionist occupation. Perhaps the long list of Western reporters who visit Ramallah and praise its leadership (Roger Cohen in the New York Times is but the latest) would like to actually get past the talking points:

For decades Israel has carried out its own infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. These include a segregated road network that, together with the separation wall Israel began building in 2002, divides Palestinian areas from each other while bringing the settlements–all of which are illegal under international law–closer to Israel.
Now, armed with information from United Nations sources and their own research, Palestinian nongovernmental organizations are raising the alarm. Their evidence spotlights the extent to which PA road-building is facilitating the Israeli goal of annexing vast areas of the West Bank–making a viable Palestinian state impossible.
Roads currently under construction in the Bethlehem governorate are a prime example, as they will complete the separation of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which includes some of the earliest Israeli settlements, from the Palestinian West Bank, swallowing up more pieces of Bethlehem on the way. The PA is building these roads with funding from the US Agency for International Development and thus ultimately the US taxpayer.

American Radical: Norman Finkelstein documentary screening in Sydney
Posted: 02 May 2010 10:32 PM PDT

Isolating Iran is part of the “great energy game”
Posted: 02 May 2010 10:18 PM PDT

Here’s my interview with Foreign Policy Journal by Kourosh Ziabari:

The Middle East is witness to continuous developments these days, such as Iran’s active diplomacy to attract the indispensable 118-member bloc of non-aligned countries to support its nuclear program, the growing isolation of Israel in European countries and within academic circles in the U.S., Arabs’ fears of losing the power game in the Persian Gulf region, and the expansion of illegal settlements of Israel in the West Bank and its unremitting disobedience to United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Such developments have turned the Middle East into the center of international attention. Iran, as the Persian Gulf region’s only non-Arab nation, Israel, as the world’s sole Jewish state, and a host of fragile Arab countries, who are being immersed in the waves of the West’s economic turmoil, find their destiny intertwined, with each party trying to surmount the other. All this makes for an interesting, yet worrying, rivalry in the Middle East.
In order to investigate the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict and explore the prospect of Iran’s nuclear standoff, Foreign Policy Journal has interviewed Antony Loewenstein, an Australian journalist and political activist who is a co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices. Loewenstein’s articles on Iran, Israel and Middle East current affairs have appeared on the Guardian, Washington Post, Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. He has also written two books, My Israel Question and The Blogging Revolution.
The Israeli aggression against the people of Palestine is going on incessantly. The White House hasn’t taken any serious step to signal its willingness to prevent Israel from expanding the illegal settlements in the West Bank. What will happen eventually? Will Israel go on with its expansionistic approach in the occupied lands?
Israeli expansion on Palestinian land has continued for decades and there is little indication that this will stop anytime soon. Successive U.S. Presidents have meekly complained about the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza but continued to fund the Zionist state. Washington claims to believe in a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians but the occupation has made this viably impossible. The alternatives are unpleasant for the Zionist mind to consider, not least a bi-national state or one-state equation, where soon Jews will be outnumbered by Arabs.
But Israeli Jews should not fear this. Like the whites in South Africa under apartheid, they have to make a choice, either more years of oppressing another people and facing global isolation or a nation with equal status for all its citizens.
President Obama has recently threatened Iran with a possible nuclear strike. Can we trace the footsteps of the Zionist lobby in the provocative remarks by the U.S. president? Will the U.S. finally stage a nuclear war in the Middle East to protect its unalienable ally against an “Iranian threat”?
The chance of Washington launching a nuclear strike against Iran is very slim, though the current concern is President Obama allowing Israel to use tactical nuclear weapons or simply a military adventure against the Islamic Republic in a misguided attempt to stop its supposed nuclear program. There is no doubt that many members of the U.S. Congress and the Zionist lobby are encouraging a military strike against Iran. But the real agenda is largely hidden.
This isn’t about nuclear weapons or even meddling in Iraq or Afghanistan but regional rivalry to the Jewish state, something not to be tolerated. Iran, after the disastrous Iraq war, has risen in stature and power in the Middle East. The country is a brutal dictatorship that represses its own people, and last year’s sham election for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad only confirmed this trend, but its oil wealth allows resistance against American and Israeli interests.
As an honorary citizen of Detroit, the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was once one of the most cordial friends of White House during the tenure of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. He was given enormous military and political support by the U.S. during the 8-year war with Iran. Finally, the United States captured and executed him once his mission was over. Is the same tragedy going to happen for Israel and its leaders?
One of the great challenges for our age is applying international law equally across the globe, to both Western leaders and others. Thus far, the Hague’s International Court of Justice and other associated bodies have largely focused on atrocities in places like Rwanda, Liberia and beyond. These are important cases that should be pursued, but there is a growing movement, especially in the UK and Europe, to hold Israeli political and military leaders to account. Witness the valiant attempt to arrest former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in London recently for her role in the criminal war against Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. She canceled her trip before the court order could be executed but more attempts will be forthcoming.
Keeping in mind the Jewish background of jurist Richard Goldstone and his affiliation with the Israeli universities and groups, which exempts him from allegations of being an anti-Semite, why did the United States denounce his elaborate report in which both sides of the Gaza conflict were held accountable and called upon to make impartial investigations into their possible violations of human rights and war crimes?
Richard Goldstone’s UN Gaza report was an important document that meticulously outlined the crimes of both Hamas and Israel in Operation Cast Lead. America and some of her allies, including Australia, rejected its findings because they feared its recommendations could be used against their own military adventures in, say, Iraq or Afghanistan. Western allies have for years killed scores of civilians in the “war on terror” and never been held accountable. The Goldstone report, when directed towards Israel and Hamas, rightly argued that international law demands that civilians are protected during war. Israel used disproportionate force against the Palestinian population in an attempt to collectively punish them for both resisting and backing Hamas.
Referring to the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a fellow Israeli member of the Likud party, the American journalist Jeff Gates has metaphorically suggested that the American President Barack Obama may be assassinated by Israel one day. Is it actually possible that Israel will finally betray its long-time benefactor, akin to what happened to Iran’s former U.S.-backed Shah?
Although there is profound anger within Israel towards Barack Obama because of his very mild comments against Zionist expansion in the West Bank, I don’t think Israel will be assassinating the American President anytime soon or leaving its warming embrace. Without Washington’s support, diplomatically, militarily, and politically, Israel wouldn’t last a few weeks.
Hitherto, Israel has refused to adhere to the U.N. Security Council resolutions that hold it accountable to its international obligations, including Resolution 487 in which Israel was urgently called upon to “place its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards”. How is it possible to hold Israel accountable for what it’s doing in the Middle East while the unconditional support of the U.S. doesn’t seem to be diminishing?
Aside from using international law for what it is intended, the growing BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is encouraging. Witness the recent great debates at leading American universities, including Berkeley, on boycotting multinationals that back the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestine is becoming one of the key issues in the activist community and beyond and is bringing disparate groups together to fight for a better future for all the citizens of Israel and Palestine. Furthermore, there is a growing debate within the American military establishment that Washington’s blind support for Israel is harming American interests in the Middle East. The Zionist lobby furiously rejects this charge but spend any time in the Arab or Persian world and Israel’s criminality is a rallying cry for anti-Western sentiment. It’s hardly surprising.
The White House is seemingly designing the whole framework of its foreign policy based on the interests of Israel. Its active lobbying in the Persian Gulf region to persuade Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait to sell their oil to China at lower prices so as to discourage Beijing from purchasing oil from Iran and thus, dragging China into the implementation of new sanctions against Tehran and weakening Iran and preparing it to be attacked by Israel is one of these examples. What’s your take on that?
The great energy game in the Middle East is certainly focused these days on supposedly isolating Iran, though it seems highly unlikely that Russia or China would support crippling sanctions against Tehran in the U.N. Washington and Israel are working together to secure their own energy interests by appealing to the Arab states’ supposed fear of Iran, which is real, though not because of human rights but a loss of regional supremacy.
One should never forget that the U.S.-backed Arab states are dictatorships largely doing the bidding of another country. They aren’t independent. Sadly, a military strike against Iran would be quietly cheered across the Arab world. Not by the people, but by the political elites. It’s vital that journalists and policy makers do not make the same mistakes as before the 2003 Iraq war, when bogus claims and lies were told about Saddam Hussein and his supposed WMD. Saddam was a brutal autocrat but he led a weak nation. Iran is an entirely different story.
During my time there and conversations with many Iranians since, the moment a military strike occurs or sanctions that harm the average people are implemented, support for the regime will increase. People in Iraq always say that the West never realize that the post-1991 sanctions, which suffocated the country, were never forgotten when Washington came to bring “democracy” in 2003.

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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