A. Loewenstein Online Newsletter

What’s happening with the sham Bradley Manning trial? 

Posted: 06 Jun 2012


Beinart likes democracy but Jews clearly deserve it more 

Posted: 06 Jun 2012


Discussion over Peter Beinart’s recent book on Israel/Palestine continues and this long feature inNew York Magazine is symtomatic of  the problem. His main goal is “saving Israel” and although he clearly cares about Palestinian human rights, comments such as these suggest not as much as Jewish ones:

If you understand me in the larger reality of this debate, which should include Palestinian voices, you see that in that broader perspective I’m hardly radical at all. I’m a liberal Zionist who doesn’t want a ­Palestinian right of return and wants a Jewish state.

Israeli truth-telling from a man who has seen reality up close and personal 

Posted: 05 Jun 2012


The son of a famous Israeli General, Miko Peled, visited Australia last year and powerfully expressed the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace together in the Middle East. His new book, which I’m currently reading, is The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.

His op-ed in the Los Angeles Times needs no introduction. Powerful:

In early June 1967, as I cowered with my mother and sisters in the “safest” room of our house near Jerusalem — the downstairs bathroom — we feared the worst. None of us imagined that the war that had just begun would end in six days. It was inconceivable that the Israeli army would destroy three Arab armies, kill upward of 15,000 Arab soldiers (at a cost of 700 Israeli casualties), triple the size of the state ofIsrael and, for the first time in two millenniums, give the Jewish people control over the entire land of Israel, including the crown jewel, the Old City of Jerusalem.

Many believe now, as they believed then, that Israel was forced to initiate a preemptive strike in 1967 because it faced an existential threat from Arab armies that were ready — and intending — to destroy it. As it happens, my father, Gen. Matti Peled, who was the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of logistics at the time, was one of the few who knew that was not so. In an article published six years later in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, he wrote of Egypt’s president, who commanded the biggest of the Arab armies: “I was surprised that Nasser decided to place his troops so close to our border because this allowed us to strike and destroy them at any time we wished to do so, and there was not a single knowledgeable person who did not see that. From a military standpoint, it was not the IDF that was in danger when the Egyptian army amassed troops on the Israeli border, but the Egyptian army.” In interviews over the years, other generals who served at that time confirmed this, including Ariel Sharon and Ezer Weitzman.

In 1967, as today, the two power centers in Israel were the IDF high command and the Cabinet. On June 2, 1967, the two groups met at IDF headquarters. The military hosts greeted the generally cautious and dovish prime minister, Levi Eshkol, with such a level of belligerence that the meeting was later commonly called “the Generals’ Coup.”

The transcripts of that meeting, which I found in the Israeli army archives, reveal that the generals made it clear to Eshkol that the Egyptians would need 18 months to two years before they would be ready for a full-scale war, and therefore this was the time for a preemptive strike. My father told Eshkol: “Nasser is advancing an ill-prepared army because he is counting on the Cabinet being hesitant. Your hesitation is working in his advantage.” The prime minister parried this criticism, saying, “The Cabinet must also think of the wives and mothers who will become bereaved.”

Throughout the meeting, there was no mention of a threat but rather of an “opportunity” that was there, to be seized.

Within short order, the Cabinet succumbed to the pressure of the army, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Six-Day War began three days later and was over on June 10, 1967. When the guns fell silent, one general saw yet another opportunity, one that would take most of Israel’s other leaders some decades to recognize. This was my father. A 1995 newspaper profile reconstructed the first weekly meeting that the IDF general staff held after the war. When it came his turn to speak, my father said: “For the first time in Israel’s history, we have an opportunity to solve the Palestinian problem once and for all. Now we are face to face with the Palestinians, without other Arab countries dividing us. Now we have a chance to offer the Palestinians a state of their own.”

His position was well known. He argued in 1969 that holding on to the territory gained in the war was contrary to Israel’s interests: “If we keep these lands, popular resistance to the occupation is sure to arise, and Israel’s army will be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralizing results.” Over the years, he argued repeatedly that Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza would turn the Jewish state into an increasingly brutal occupying power (he was right) and could eventually result in a binational state (he may yet be right, as events are moving in this direction). Allowing the Palestinians an independent state of their own, he maintained, would lead to stability and calm.

For 45 years, successive Israeli governments have invested billions of dollars in making the 1967 conquests irreversible, and they have eliminated any chance for the two-state solution to become a reality. Cities, highways, malls and factories have been built in the West Bank in order to settle Jewish Israelis there, while a reign of terror was put in place to govern the Palestinians whose lands were being taken. From denying access to water and land and obstructing free travel, through a maze of discriminatory laws and restrictions, to full-on military assaults, Israel has dedicated huge resources to the oppression and persecution of the Palestinians.

Now once again Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.

#LeftTurn talk on Byron Bay radio 

Posted: 05 Jun 2012


I was interviewed earlier this week by Sarah Ndiaye for Bay FM in Byron Bay all about my new book with Jeff Sparrow, Left Turn:

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

On Australian Zionist establishment trying to squash any talk of pesky Israeli occupation 

Posted: 05 Jun 2012


This article in Haaretz is interesting, not least because a) the story it tells about Limmud Oz banning a session of dissident Jews was not about BDS (full details here) and b) because it calls the group I co-founded Independent Australian Jewish Voices “far-left”. I’m offended. I mean, surely further left than “far-left” would be Maoist? Please do better next time, Haaretz:

The Israel boycott movement reignited controversy in Australia this week after several anti-Zionist speakers were denied a platform at a major Jewish festival.

Organizers of Limmud Oz, a local offshoot of the international festival of Jewish learning, canceled a panel of left-wing Jewish speakers that its website had said would appear at its two-day conference in Melbourne next weekend.

The decision triggered a deluge of online debate. One blogger described it as the latest example of a “culture of censorship within the Australian Jewish community,” while another defended Limmud Oz, saying it “includes sessions on the Holocaust, but need not include sessions that promote Holocaust denial.”

The brouhaha erupted just days before 16 Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists were discharged from the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after a month-long trial. They were arrested last year during a violent rally in which three police officers were injured outside the Melbourne Max Brenner, an Israeli chocolate shop chain.

The defendants, including one Jew, were charged with assault and trespassing and face fines and prison. The ruling is due next month.

According to the defendants, Max Brenner’s parent company, the Israel-based Strauss Group, provides supplies to the Israel Defense Forces and so is complicit in the occupation.

At the opening of the trial, BDS activists protested outside the court by binding their hands with Israeli flags and taping their mouths shut.

Quashing dissent?

BDS has become a “red line” that much of the Jewish community refuses to cross. Organizers of this weekend’s Limmud Oz festival, which will feature nearly 200 presentations by 150 people, appear to have decided that a panel about “Beyond Tribal Loyalties” – a book of essays by Jewish peace activists from America, Israel, Australia and elsewhere – was on the other side of that line.

Limmud officials have refused to comment on the controversy, but the festival still features left-wing leaders, such as the president of the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network, a representative of the Islamic Council of Victoria and a Palestinian academic.

Among the proposed Jewish panelists no longer speaking are Vivienne Porzsolt, a spokeswoman for Jews Against the Occupation, who was detained in Israel last year en route to the flotilla to Gaza; Avigail Abarbanel, the editor of Beyond Tribal Loyalties, who renounced her Israeli citizenship in 2001; and Peter Slezak, a co-founder of the far-left advocacy group Independent Australian Jewish Voices.

Larry Stillman, of the left-wing Australian Jewish Democratic Society, notes that two speakers were dropped from Limmud Oz in Sydney last year for being “vocal advocates” of BDS.

“It’s another example of censoriousness in the Jewish community going right against the spirit of a conference devoted to diverse views,” he told Haaretz.

The furor comes as Jewish and Zionist officials this week claimed victory in their long-running battle against BDS.

Ron Weiser, a former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said, “The battle against global BDS in Australia has been won for the moment – inside and outside the Jewish community.”

Unresolved issues

Michael Danby, a Jewish MP from the governing Labor Party, spearheaded a counter-campaign against the Max Brenner boycotters, taking prominent Australians – including then foreign minister Kevin Rudd and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan – to patronize the chocolate shops.

Last year, Danby accused the boycotters of employing the tactics of Nazis in the 1930s.

“Boycotts of Jewish commerce like this belong in the darkest chapters of our history books, not in the shopping centers of Melbourne,” he said at the time.

James Crafti, the Jewish defendant being tried for his role in last year’s Max Brenner rally, rejected Danby’s view. He said BDS does not target Jewish businesses, but boycotts Israeli and international businesses “complicit in Israel’s apartheid policies.”

“This attempt to fool people into conflating Judaism and Zionism shows how weak their argument is,” he said.

Danby has railed against the pro-BDS faction of the Greens party, which is a junior partner in the ruling coalition his party leads. When Marrickville, a local Greens-led council in Sydney, reversed its initial vote in favor of BDS last year under mass pressure from politicians, media and Jewish groups, Danby called the victory “decisive.”

He said he doubted the BDS activists realized their position meant banning “the Batsheva Dance Company from returning to Australia and the Israeli Philharmonic from playing at the Sydney Opera House.”

His view was echoed by Israel’s envoy in Australia, Yuval Rotem, who accused BDS proponents of “always employing the language of peace and the terminology of human rights”.

Speaking to 500 high-profile people gathered belatedly to celebrate Israel’s 64th birthday in Sydney last week, Rotem scolded the hypocrisy of BDS advocates, saying they “conveniently overlook” places like Syria “because they cannot claim an Israel connection.”

BDS is as “an extremist strategy” that is “McCarthyist in intent,” said Jewish academic Philip Mendes. “BDS in Australia is marginal because almost all its key advocates are on the far left,” he said, referring to some Greens and a few trade unions. “This is unlikely to change unless mainstream western social democratic governments change their view.”

The Indian view of online revolutions 

Posted: 05 Jun 2012


Here’s another (mostly) positive Indian review of my recently released edition of The Blogging Revolution(previous Indian reviews here). This one is by Anuradha Goyal:

An Australian Jew goes around five non-democratic countries, 3 in middle east – Iran, Syria, Egypt and two others: China & Cuba, talks to limited people connected on the internet there, double checks the facts and opinions stated by the western media and then meets his fellow Jews in each of these countries and writes about his experiences and observations. The title page of the book mentions India too, but the author did not visit India, at least not for this book or related research. I think that was included for the Indian edition of the book but in my honest opinion is misleading the Indian reader.

Author has tried to find the alternate voices in the countries he visited, equally from both the genders and from people on the fringes. He talks to people who have been blogging, especially on the political scene of the country. He looks at the way their blogs have been received, if they have been accepted as voices, if they have been ignored or if they have been seen as a threat. He quotes many cases where the bloggers voices were suppressed by law, but he also shows lot of action that the blogs have generated. Chapters are structured very well, beginning with the brief history of the country and its political scenario and its relationship with the west, then moving on the few bloggers whom the author met during his visits and then a bit of himself through his visits to Jews in each of these countries. This makes me think – can you really separate religion from your psyche? Do you not always bond with those who are connected to you through a common religious thread? Many authors time and again have re-iterated this even when they publicly claim to be atheist.

He talks about the blogs in local languages and the impact of it as English is not as widely spoken in most of these countries. He also analyzes the view of western media on the blogging in these countries as they only refer to English blogs that are just a small percentage of the total blogs and may be the ones not really creating the impact. A common observation that he has is that young people in all these countries want change, want democracy but not really in the way west thinks they should have. They want their country their way. They definitely want more freedom of expression and more participation within their own countries and more engagement with the world outside. They want change but are not really as unhappy as the western media claims them to be. They have found their own little world online and offline. They are doing their bit to bring in the changes that their society needs.

He also looks at the censorship of the Internet, especially in China. I was surprised by one of the comments in the book that says censorship of Internet is increasing in India. I have not felt it. They have been talking about it but I do not know of any sites that are banned in India or any keyword filters that have been placed. An interesting counter point though is that people always find ways to work around filtered key words, they will have pseudo words which everyone seems to know except the filtering agencies, they will use proxies to access the information that is filtered. Makes you think if Internet in its present form can really be tamed? They also mention a case of Yahoo where they leaked information to government from a private conversation and how this breach was handled.

Quite an informative read, especially for someone who may not know too much about these regions. As a blogger you suddenly realize how much the community is spread out and the potential of this medium to make an impact. Read it to know the offline impact of online revolutions.

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