Responding to Bolt’s bigotry

Three days ago, Andrew Bolt published an attack on this blog in the Sydney Herald Sun in which he implicitly accused contributors to this blog of anti-Semitism.

It is clear that neither Mr Bolt nor the majority of commentators to Mr Bolt’s blog posting have bothered to read Khaldoun’s policy statement. Note that it states quite emphatically that we do not support bigotry of any kind, against race, religion or gender. Take a closer look at the site and what you will see is that at no stage do we focus on Jews, Christians or Muslims (and we have taken to task any commentators who do). What we do focus on is the way that the Middle East is shaped by particular material and discursive power relations.

Criticising the State of Israel is not a criticism of Jews. How is it anti-Semitic to draw attention to newspaper coverage of the Israeli Defense Force killing children, or to Benny Morris’ provocative call for preemptive nuclear war against Iran? We would venture to suggest that to claim so, as Bolt and several commentators on his blog do, is itself anti-Semitic because of the implication that Jewishness equates with the brutality of an occupying colonial army, or the ideology of a war-mongerer. Such is offensive to the many Jews who refuse to identify with the ideology of Zionism. One contributor to the blog, Noah Bassil, has also written strongly against the Sudanese government and military, on a number of occasions, and their role in the death and destruction occurring in Darfur. Does this make Mr Bassil a Muslim-hater? From the logic of Bolt and the letters to this page, apparently so. Yet, not one of them has mentioned Mr Bassil’s hatred of Muslims, or the Sudanese.

The simplistic and quite offensive way that our work has been depicted is just further evidence of the bigotry, narrow-mindedness and ignorance of some people and provides greater impulse to carry on with our work.

Noah Bassil
Acting Director,
Centre for Middle East Studies,
Macquarie University

Dr Lisa L Wynn
Department of Anthropology
Macquarie University

Maryam Khalid

Jumana Bayeh,
Macquarie University

Associate Professor Joseph Pugliese
Department of Critical and Cultural Studies
Macquarie University

Dr Gennaro Gervasio
Department of Politics and International Relations
Macquarie University

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39 Responses to Responding to Bolt’s bigotry

  1. Noor Hammad says:

    Any criticism of Israel is described as Anti-Semitic by Israel’s supporters. Andrew Bolt is remarkably unremarkable in his lame attempt to discredit the contributors to Khaldoun.

    One thing that Andrew fails to note is that all the crimes committed by Israel described in Khaldoun have actually taken place. He also fails to pinpoint where the contributors to Khaldoun call for the end of Israel or support anyone who opposes its right to exist.

    Bolt, like all good supporters of Israel doesn’t let the facts get in the way of a good witch hunt.

    Noor Hammad

  2. Raffe says:

    The reason that I spend so much time on this blog is not because it’s anti-Semitic but rather because the postings, in my view, spend an inordinate criticizing Israel. The weekly ‘Live From Palestine’ coverage lists a multitude of Israeli and Settler actions whilst ignoring the human rights abuses going on in the Occupied Territories by the Hamas government or human rights abuses in Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Syria.

  3. Pepe says:

    i support your right to say what you think.

    By the way, what did you expect to happen. I hope you guys remember what happened to the “mock UN” program you guys(maq uni) ran a few years ago for school kids.

  4. Papachango says:

    ok, Bolt may exaggerate a tad; he’s a Hun columnist after all! But it must be said, if it’s not anti-semitic, your blog is certainly anti-Israel.

    Indeed it’s sole purpose seems to be to document Israel’s crimes and humans rights abuses, without once criticizing anything that the Palestinians, Irainians, Syrians, etc do. The best you can come up with is that one of your contributers has criticised Sudan (how exactly does that relate to the Middle East?)

    I’ll concede you’re not anti-semitic if you concede that you present a biased, one-sided view of the Middle East situation. I don’t doubt you do want to promote peace, and your views might be ‘scholarly and informed’ as your mission statement says, but they’re certainly not balanced, and i’d argue many are narrow-minded themselves.

    I guess you don’t make any claims to be balanced, so that’s fine, but expect others to challenge your views. You can’t slate all the blame to one ‘side’ in this complex conflict.

  5. TarraRose says:

    If you were balanced, you’d present both sides. You don’t. What you state in your policy statement is not what you present in your blog.

  6. Ash says:

    Israel is not the monster you portray it to be. Academics should be far more honest.

  7. Sean says:

    As an alumni of Macquarie University, I must admit that I am not disappointed that you are speaking your mind but rather that you are disproportionately focusing on the plight of the Palestinians and not looking at all from the view of the Israelis. Had you spent equal time criticising and praising both sides, or bringing up salient points of criticism of the current direction of either government, then Bolt would not have a leg to stand on.

  8. Daryl says:

    There is no point debating the Bolter balanced debate and Andrew Bolt is an Oxymoron. Even trying to comment on his blog ends up being deleted as he or the monkeys who monitor his blog only allow those who agree to be read. Keep up the good work in provideing balance to the debate on the middle east and giving voice to those without.

  9. J.Hansford. says:

    Andrew Bolt is right to poke you with a stick. You clearly are guilty of portraying Israel negatively…. You have nothing positive to say about it.

    Just because you say you are not bigots…. Doesn’t mean that you aren’t. You think your hatred is criticism.

    Hitler didn’t wake up each morning thinking he was a mass murderer and a tyrant. He found himself to be of sound judgement and impeccable morals….

    You form anti Jewish sentiments based on nothing more than your hatred for Jews. You can no more see that, than Hitler could…..

    How you arrived at this unhappy place, I have little interest…. But we can see you for what you are. And in a free society, we are allowed to point that out to you….

  10. Adele says:

    Dear Khaldoun,

    For concerned writers who purport to be so worried about the state of the Palestinian people, it is indeed noteworthy that the killings, torture and violence committed by Palestinians, against Palestinians, is given barely a moment’s notice.

    According to Amnesty International, … “Arbitrary detentions and torture or other ill treatment of detainees by Hamas forces are now widespread”

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2007/10/200852511592749892.html

    As reported by Al-Jazeera.

    Where’s the beef?

  11. jbayeh says:

    Yes Pepe we do remember – a very good programme for high school students was cancelled. It’s amazing what one parent’s complaint to a lobby group can achieve. Lobbying (aka bullying) against the simulation to the Dept of Education produced a level of misguided hype and, in many instances, complete lies about what the programme entailed. At the time Centre members issued several public statements in a bid to set the record straight, but of course none of these were printed in the paper that accused the Centre of training high school students to be terrorists. And we’re the ones being accused of bias and manipulating the truth!

  12. The Drover says:

    Elitist Academics without an ounce of commonsense, get out in the real world !

  13. llwynn says:

    J. Hansford, I challenge you to produce evidence anywhere on our blog postings of our alleged “hatred for Jews” or our “anti Jewish sentiments.” And don’t come back with something that we have said about Zionism or Israel because Zionism does not equal Judaism (ask all the Jews and Israelis who reject Zionist ideology as racist), and Israeli government policies also do not equal Judaism (ask all the Jewish and Israeli human rights activists who reject the policies of the current Israeli government).

    We have nothing positive to say about Israel? Read any of our postings alerting readers to the excellent work of B’tselem, the Israeli human rights organization. That’s an aspect of Israel that I ardently admire. There are many other Jews and Israelis on the left who we have similarly written about positively and similarly admire. I hope that their vision of peace and respect for fellow human beings will eventually spread to become the dominant ideology within Israel.

    As for the elision you make between our criticism of Israel and our feelings towards Jews in general or individual Israelis: It is a grave mistake to suggest that the actions of any particular government (be it Israel, the United States, Australia, or the leadership of Hamas) necessarily speak for the sentiments of others residing in that nation. As an American anthropologist who did her research in Egypt, I was constantly grateful to encounter Egyptians who were critical of US foreign policy but who nevertheless were sensible and gracious enough to not blame me personally for my government’s actions. I apply the same sense and courtesy to Israelis, many of whom reject their government’s actions and the actions of violent settlers.

  14. CB says:

    Hi Khaldouners.

    Your site isn’t in the least anti-semitic.

    My advice on Bolt (and all of his fellow-travellers in the press) is simply to ignore them. As you’ve seen, he has some sway over his damaged, mouth-breathing, obsessive, malleable blog readership, but thankfully the time has passed when he has the ear of anyone especially important. Watch Insiders some time – his colleagues in the press are now openly laughing at him (I know this first-hand).

    As you’ve seen today, responding just fuels the beast, and misrepresentation and intellectual dishonesty are Bolt’s stock-in-trade. You can’t win in the sense of having him correct what he writes, but in the end it doesn’t matter very much. The country has moved on.

    Keep up the good work, and don’t be intimidated by the ignorance what is, in the end, a political and demographic rump.

  15. TonyP says:

    So Illwyn, you want to hide behind the “Jew doesn’t equal Zionist, doesn’t equal Israeli” shtick. You would (or should) know full well that Israel is a Jewish state and as such most of your readers WOULD see Israeli = Jew. In the few posts of his that I’ve read, Mustafa Ramdan(sp?) has referred several times to “Zionists OR Jews”, meaning he sees them as indistinguishable.

    Andrew Bolt has done nothing more then highlight multiple posts on this site that blindly criticise Israeli actions without any attempt at balance. For that you claim HE is bigoted? How does that logic work? Your comments policy states that this is a site ” ..that places scholarly and informed perspectives into the public realm to promote understanding, tolerance and ultimate peace in the Middle East.” Fair enough, but how does your consistent anti-Israel (or jew or Zionist) slant (as depicted by Andrew -have any hope of of truly informing people or of promoting understanding and tolerance? It seems to me to be more aimed at partisan finger pointing.

    For what it’s worth Andrew hasn’t, anywhere in his site, referred to your contributors or commenters as anti-semites. The closest he came was claiming that the posts he mentioned represented “old fashioned jew-baiting” You might see that as little difference, but if you can claim Israeli doesn’t equal jew, then I can claim that jew-baiting doesn’t equal anti-semitism.

  16. bingbing says:

    Academics such as yourselves may well feel comfortable hiding behind the distiction between Zionism and Judaism. Neat trick. However, to the layman, you blog is merely an anti-Jewish, almost pro-terrorist forum. That you continue to portray Palestine in such positive light whilst giving Israel hell is biased in the extreme.

    Of course, you don’t have to be balanced. It’s your right to publish what you want. But don’t claim to be, err provide “scholarly commentry” when really all you are doing is being a friend of our friend’s enemy. You guys obviously don’t know which side your bread is buttered on. Typical for Leftist academics who haven’t a clue about the real world and about what made the West great. You’re a disgrace.

  17. bingbing says:

    BTW. Last time I checked it was the Melbourne Herald Sun. Very scholarly indeed, guys.

  18. CF says:

    It’s even easier to pick than that, Illwynn.

    This blog talks about “Palestine” coverage. There is no place in the world called Palestine. Some people call Israel Palestine because they feel like it and they think it should belong to the Arabs.

    So when you use that word I wonder whether you use to refer to the country of Israel, or to Gaza and the West Bank. I don’t know what you’re referring to and would like clarification on this.

    As to admiring “an aspect of Israle” ie Btselem, no one says you have to like or admire anything abotu Israel. But what you do ignore is this :

    Israel is at war with the Palestinina Arans.
    the Palestinina Arabs are not citizens of Israle nor do they have a right to be.
    israel governs its own borders in the way it sees fit.
    Just becasue BtSelem does things you admire does not mean that they are automatically endowed with knowledge or anything else.
    there is way more to the Middle East than Israel and the Palestinina Arabs. Where are the postings on Egypt, Iraq, Iran, the Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula etc etc.?

    Martin Luther King knew that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, because Zionism is the self-determination of the Jews as exemplified by their presence and ownership of their ancient land of Judea and Samaria, otherwisde known firstly as ancient Israel and now as the modern state of Israel, with a long period in bewtween when it was known as palestine, so called by the Roman Emperor Hadrian who wanted the world to forget that Israel was the land of the Jews.
    It seems he succeeded very well.

  19. papachango says:

    Your stated aim of placing “scholarly and informed perspectives into the public realm to promote understanding, tolerance and ultimate peace in the Middle East” is a noble one.

    But how exactly is blaming everything on Israel and generally painting them to be the evil ones going to achieve that? The contents of your blog seem inconsistent with your aim.

  20. Mark says:

    Top work guys, looks like you are now the subjects of a senate inquiry.

    http://www.alsf.org.au/news.php?n=21

  21. llwynn says:

    Hi Mark,

    I never realized what a sense of humor you have!! Apparently by “Senate inquiry” you mean that a right-wing student group is vowing to petition the Senate to investigate this blog. They haven’t even done so yet, they’re just promising on a blog to do so. Hilarious! Last time I checked, I was still living in a democracy where free speech and critical intellectual inquiry are reasonably protected. Also last time I checked there was no law against criticizing the acts of any country, whether Israel or otherwise. But be sure to check in again here later and tell me if you discover otherwise.

    Meanwhile, I heartily welcome anyone to scrutinize the postings on this blog closely. Those who claim that it reeks of anti-Semitism might like to check out this posting: https://khaldoun.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/in-memoriam-dr-abdelwahab-el-messiri/, where I eulogize a great Egyptian intellectual who never permitted his friends and colleagues to express anti-Semitic sentiments in his presence. Or they might like to carefully read the comments to this post: https://khaldoun.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/israel-a-model-of-australia/ where I take to task one of our regular commentators for racist remarks and remind him that we don’t tolerate such simplistic thinking on this site.

    cheers
    Lisa

  22. IS says:

    President Bush Addresses Members of the Knesset
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/05/20080515-1.html
    (Watch the video)

    “…earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.”

    God bless the freest democracy in the Middle East.

  23. IS says:

    Lisa,

    You are a hypocrite. You say you “task one of our regular commentators for racist remarks and remind him that we don’t tolerate such simplistic thinking on this site”.

    You then say “Second, it’s just ridiculous to make claims about an entire group of people Like “Jews don’t learn from history.” It’s rather like some of the other offensive comments on this blog that led to the current comment policy we developed: “Arabs are dogs. Arabs are inherently violent.” Etc. I don’t tolerate either kind of comment.”

    Well apparently you do tolerate such comments against Israel Lisa. While you’ll delete comments that are derogatory about Arabs, you won’t delete comments that are derogatory about Jews.

    How can you even begin to defend the way you treat Jews on this site? It’s an utter disgrace.

  24. llwynn says:

    Israel =/= Jews.

    Iran =/= Muslims.

    Please try to exercise a bit of logical thinking, IS. There are Muslims in Iran and Jews in Israel, but all Jews do not live in (or support) Israel just as all Muslims do not live in (or support) Iran.

  25. Noah Bassil says:

    I am appalled by the comments here by the Bolt brigade but not surprised. I have come across this type of slander before by right-wing ideologues whose only response to political opposition is to resort to attacking dissent as anti-semitic. There are anti-Semites in the world, but opponents of Israeli policy (as distinct from opponents of Israel) are not necessarily anti-Semitic is obvious from the follwing letter that was written by a Jew and opponent of the current direction of Israel.

    In The Age on Sept 5, 2006 a letter to the editor titled, ” Left isn’t anti-Semitic” sums up very well my position, and those of my fellow contributors. The letter states:

    “MY GRANDMOTHER was murdered in Auschwitz and I would not have spent the past 20 years involved in socialist organisations if it were not for the fact that they are in the vanguard of the fight against all forms of racism. To oppose the Israeli blitzkrieg against Lebanon or the confinement of Palestinians to walled ghettos is not anti-Semitism. Neither is it racist to advocate that the exclusively Jewish Israeli state be replaced by a secular, democratic Palestine with equality for all its citizens: be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim or atheist.”

    This letter calls for the same sensible solution to the cycle of violence in the Middle East that we on thsi blog desire. Is this letter writer an anti-Semite? Be careful in regards to what you say, as your response has damaging repercussions. If you say yes, then you show that it is your politics not your defence of Jews that motivates you. If you say no, then i believe that you categorically absolve us of any anti-semitism. Why, because what we all desire is nothing more or less that what is stated in the letter, “that the exclusively Jewish Israeli state be replaced by a secular, democratic Palestine with equality for all its citizens: be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim or atheist.”

    So to end this farce, I would ask that everyone spend more of our time and energy looking for ways to end the violence in the Middle East and create a better future for all people, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and athesit, because as it is stated, either justice is for all or it is for none.

  26. mustafa ramadan says:

    To IS
    Sat 16-8-08
    “Well-said !” to you and the “eloquent” man who wrote those words for Bush !
    But I remind you of the last American soldiers fleeing Vietnam by helicopter from the roof of their embassy in Saigon in 1975. After the American army barbarously and ruthlessly killed about four million north Vietnamese and lost the war, the last American soldiers abandoned and left behind them their poor helpless allies crying and begging for help below them at the embassy walls. And only yesterday, we watched on TV the Georgian president bitterly attacking the West for letting him down. This is history, not myths.

    Mustafa

  27. mustafa ramadan says:

    To Tony
    18-8-08

    The few Khaldouners talk negatively about Israel, not Egypt or other countries, as you said, and criticize Zionism, not Judaism, simply because the site themes and debates are basically dedicated for the Middle East problems, and because they have human hearts and free conscience, and because they see the Palestinian sufferings on TV every day. It’s an ongoing saddening disturbing problem and tragedy. If you approve of the suffering scenes and news and don’t sympathize with the victims, it’s up to you.
    Mustafa

  28. Raffe says:

    Mustafa,

    I’m a Zionist and I sympathize with the Palestinians. I believe in the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel as I believe that an economically viable Palestine, free of extremist forces, can only help the troubled region. However I also put the conflict between the two countries in a historical context and compare Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the other governments throughout the world. I completely agree that the images that we see of Palestinian suffering is saddening and disturbing but there are so many other people suffering that don’t get nearly, or even any, media coverage and their stories are never told.

  29. Rosalyn says:

    Raffe (and others) – I love how you say “I’m a Zionist” without so much as a consideration of what that term might mean beyond your obvious use of it as a way to assert your belief in the right of Israel to exist. Being a Zionist also means you support the existence of a state that is, in of itself, religiously specific and excluding of “others”.
    Raffe you seem to love Zionism so much that maybe you should marry it as a concept, along with the state of Israel.
    For the rest please read the following interview with Jonathan Cook for further details on what Zionism also entails.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/saker07212007.html

  30. Raffe says:

    Rosalyn,

    This is the third time you’ve suggested a marriage partner for me. Nice to see there are still matchmakers out there.

  31. IS says:

    Change the word Israel to Jews in the second last paragraph then Lisa. My meaning was clear, you are trying to get into technicalities to avoid the charge that you are a hypocrite, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic. By allowing anti-Jewish comments -whether or not to respond to another person- and not anti-Arab comments, you are displaying blatant anti-Semitism. It’s interesting how your post didn’t even try to defend the way Jews are treated on this site.

    Some food for thought:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/23/world/23pew.html

    “Pew asked respondents to give their opinions of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and it found anti-Jewish sentiment to be “overwhelming” in the Muslim countries surveyed. It reached 98 percent in Jordan and 97 percent in Egypt.

    Majorities in the Muslim world, Pew said, also expressed the opinion that the victory of the militant group Hamas in Palestinian elections in January would “be helpful to a fair settlement between Israel and the Palestinians” — a view that was roundly rejected by non-Muslim publics.”

    Do you think the people in the countries surveyed who are anti-Jewish distinguish between their anti-Jewish stance and their anti-Israeli stance? I think not. You are obviously against both as well, keeping anti-Jewish comments on this site and not anti-Arab ones and constantly attacking the state of Israel.

  32. mustafa ramadan says:

    To Raffe,
    19 Aug. 2008

    It’s good to know from your last comment of 19 August 2009 that you are a Zionist but sympathize with the Palestinians. This means you realize the wrongs done and being done to them.
    Since this site is about the Middle East in the first place, so please don’t spoil your sympathy by saying that the site doesn’t cover other people suffering, simply because the Palestinian plight has been going on for the past sixty years.

    To prove that you really sympathize with the Palestinians and want action to alleviate their sufferings, how about asking the other Zionists and the State of Israel to carry out some ideas and suggestions of yours ?

    Mustafa

  33. llwynn says:

    Hi IS, we do post comments that are anti-Arab. See, for example, the comments on the “About” part of the site. And see the slew of comments above for this posting. We generally post every comment submitted to the site unless it is grotesquely racist and offensive. Occasionally we have even posted comments that are racist and offensive — both anti-Jewish and anti-Arab — but we always follow up with a comment pointing out exactly how and why they are offensive. I think that it’s useful to see different positions and points of view, even, occasionally, the deeply offensive ones. But the kinds of comments that we explicitly seek and solicit on this site are ones that are thoughtful and nuanced and not just knee-jerk reactionary. If you read the site regularly, you’ll note that we have one regular commentator named Raffe who is a very pro-Israel Zionist. Raffe and I disagree about a lot of things, but I’m grateful that he’s willing to engage in these debates in a thoughtful and courteous way and I admire him for it. That’s the sort of scholarly approach to discussing the Middle East that is in shockingly short supply in many of the comments we’ve received recently.

    I absolutely agree with you that many people, both Israeli and Arab, do not distinguish between an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish stance. But I do, and part of my mission with this blog is to make that clear. I also have real issues with the policies of a lot of governments. For example, I’m deeply opposed to current U.S. foreign policy and to Bush. But that doesn’t make me anti-Christian, does it?

    cheers
    Lisa

  34. […] recent attacks by right-wing attack dog Andrew Bolt – and the subsequent response by Macquarie University’s Middle East and North African Studies Centre, of which I am a board […]

  35. Frank says:

    llwynn

    i would hardly call Raffe a pro-Israel Zionist. He is a traitor to his people!

  36. llwynn says:

    Do you want to explain why you think that, Frank?

  37. Frank says:

    Because he is advocating the removal of Jews from their ancestral lands. Greater Israel is the dream and his belief in a Palestinian state means that is a traitor and should be ashamed to call himself a Jew!

  38. Raffe says:

    Well Frank i’m quite glad that you consider me a traitor. Your extremist ideology is one that I detest and I believe that you and the settlers are a huge barrier to peace. The majority of Jews now reject the concept of Greater Israel favoring a two-state solution and yet proudly call themselves Jews.

  39. […] recent attacks by right-wing attack dog Andrew Bolt – and the subsequent response by Macquarie University’s Middle East and North African Studies Centre, of which I am a board […]

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