Time to honestly debate Israel/Palestine

Robustly debating Zionism has existed for as long as its existence. Jews, historically a persecuted people, were unafraid to discuss the merits or otherwise of the plan to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.

Tragically, something has changed and left many elements of mainstream Judaism and its cheer-squad paranoid about even acknowledging faults may exist within the Zionist ideal. Presumably occupation and bombing refugee camps are traditional Jewish traits.

The 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 member – is systematic of this profound failing and insecurity.

Now we have the unedifying spectacle of a leading Australian politician writing to the Federal Education Minister concerned about Kaldoun’s “hate-filled and provocative attacks against Israel, the Jewish people and others who are friends of Israel.” The aim? To close this site down permanently, or at least force its contributors to subscribe to a more “pro-Israel” position.

As a Jewish author and journalist who has written about Israel/Palestine for years, published a best-selling book about it, My Israel Question, and argued regularly with the self-appointed guardians of the Jewish community, this latest ham-fisted attempt is nothing more than a desperate attempt to silence public debate about a conflict that increasingly embarrasses Israel. And for good reason.

Just this week leading Israeli peace group Peace Now announced that the illegal occupation of Palestinian land is growing at a worrying rate. Again. A recent report released by the Israel Bar at Hadarim Detention Centre and Hasharon Prison found widespread use of torture and intimidation, especially against the Palestinians, in the Israeli prison system.

Video cameras are increasingly capturing the barbarity of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, men, women and children who live without sanction for abusing Palestinians on a daily basis. A study last year by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel found that 50% of Israelis taking part said they would not live in the same building as Arabs, would not befriend, or let their children befriend Arabs and would not let Arabs into their homes.

I’ll no doubt be accused of being “anti-Israel” for daring to state such facts but this is the reality of the Jewish state today. Yes, the Palestinians commit crimes, including Hamas and Fatah, and I condemn them unequivocally, but this is not my focus. The Jewish state is racially discriminatory and destined, in my opinion, not to survive for another 60 years.

Over the years I’ve witnessed in Australia but especially in America a campaign of unrelenting pressure by the Zionist lobby against anybody, Jewish or otherwise, who doesn’t speak the “official line” on Israel.

Articulating an alternative Jewish identity and publicly calling for the separation of Zionism and Judaism quickly resulted for me in learning the “rules” of the game imposed by the Zionist establishment. All Jews must support the Jewish State. Any action carried out by the state is defensible, justified and moral. Any public criticism of Israel will be assumed to be anti-Semitic. If Israel is to be criticized, it should only be in hushed tones and in private. Dare to challenge these “rules”, and expect to be bombarded, invariably from fellow Jews, with hate mail, death-threats and public abuse.

Despite these realities, the Jewish state finds itself in a precarious position, addicted to colonisation of Palestinian territory. Ironically for Israel, its inability to remove settlements from occupied land has now made a two-state solution impossible. The alternative? A one-state environment, with Jews as a minority. Equal rights for all citizens is the only answer to Israel/Palestine conflict. “Zionism — contemporary Jewish nationalism — is unlikely to bring Israel peace, because of its failure, or inability, to accord full equality to the claims of others”, wrote New York Jewish blogger, Tony Karon, on Israel’s 60th anniversary.

A year before my Middle East book was released, in 2005, the then only Jewish Federal Member of Parliament, Michael Danby, publicly called for my publisher, Melbourne University Press, not to proceed. He supposedly worried the work would be an extremist text. Since the Zionist lobby aren’t particularly media savvy, this kind of slander, and the subsequent campaign by various Jewish groups, assisted the book becoming a best-seller that recently moved to a 5th reprint. More importantly, however, was the wider community being able to see the kinds of tactics utilised by certain elements of the Zionist mafia, so insecure in their love for Israel that any alternative views must be stopped. Sadly for them, they failed miserably (similar tactics were attempted last year when I co-founded Independent Australian Jewish Voices.)

The current campaign to silence Khaldoun is in the same sordid tradition. For decades after Israel’s formation, the heroic Zionist narrative was the primary version heard in the Western world. The Palestinians were unpeople, ignored and demonised. Today, the situation is different. Arabs are still routinely shunned and their political aspirations crushed – usually by US-backed dictatorships in the Middle East – but new voices are being heard, critical of Israel, Zionism, occupation and US policies in the region. This scares the Zionist community, hence regular attempts to try and throw the “anti-Semitic” tag against anybody who challenges mainstream Zionist thinking.

Andrew Bolt’s understanding of the Middle East is determining how many more countries the West should invade to bring “liberation” to the backward Arabs. Politicians who share this view and have campaigned against this site will inevitably fail because they’re doing the bidding of powerful forces that are using them for their own censorious ends. Is this what the Australian people believe should happen in a democracy?

A story told to me by a good friend perfectly illustrates the fundamental problem within the mainstream Zionist community. A friend of his went to Israel and Poland on the Birthright program, aimed to instil in young Jews a love of the Jewish state. After visiting Auschwitz and waving the Israeli flag in the holy place – an almost grotesque example of Holocaust porn – the men and women were shown around Israel. One night they were in the Jordan Valley and as the sun was setting one of their guides decided to role-play as a Palestinian from the West Bank (the group had not visited the Palestinian territories nor spoken to any Arabs on the trip.)

The guide, playing a Palestinian, told of certain hardships in the West Bank due to the occupation but said he understood why Israel had to implement such a tough “security” regime because his brother was a “terrorist” who wanted to kill Jews.

That’s right. The only “interaction” with Palestinians for these young Jews was with an Israeli Jew who was role-playing. After the experience, the friend said he “better understood” what the Palestinians were going through under occupation.

I can’t think of a better example of the kind of supreme delusion within mainstream Zionism towards the Palestinians. The other side simply doesn’t exist, shouldn’t exist and can’t exist for the Zionist “dream” to survive. The other side are never ready for peace and their leaders are never compliant enough.

The fear of allowing alternative voices to be heard on the Israel/Palestine conflict is really a display of deep weakness. Accusing critics of being “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic” is the perfect way to mask this disease.

31 Responses to Time to honestly debate Israel/Palestine

  1. llwynn says:

    Antony, thank you for that powerful posting. The story of the Israeli role-playing a Palestinian who suffers under occupation but understands that he must because his brother is a terrorist — for an American, it sounds rather like the tradition of ‘black face’ — that story sits like a weight in my stomach. The perversity of it…

    I admire your insistence and courage in the face of those who try to silence you and who purport to speak for you and for all Jews.


  2. Rosalyn says:

    Lisa like you I am so shocked about the Israeli role-playing thing. Could this be real?! Antony thanks for the excellent post and the coverage of the complexity of Zionism.

    Lisa you should marry Antony!

  3. Edie says:

    I have never posted to this blog although I do read it regularly. I have never found any postings extreme or calling for violence. I have only seen an honest dialogue and discussion of the issues like this post.

    Khaldoun should NOT be shut down, but sites like this one encouraged.

    Thank you.

  4. llwynn says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Edie.

  5. I support the Khaldoun website. I have watched it and participated in forums over time. It is open for all people to academically participate in. Yes, there are some who do not bring academic rigour to the forum and have made their prejudice quite evident. But I could say the same about the Australian Jewish News. There are many articles and blog comments I feel that are heavily biased and prejudice towards Palestinians, Muslims and those who are critical rightly or wrongly of Israeli military actions. But that doesn’t mean I want the AJN to shut down – far from it. AJN provides an outlet and opportunity for the community to share ideas and experiences just as Khaldoun does. Dialogue is essential for peace building and such sites are a good place to start.

  6. Raffe,

    [I wrote this back on 8 August. It tried to upload it but failed. It is not a moderating issue it is just a software glitch which I cannot explain].


    1. A positive comment

    I thank you for continuing to dialogue with Khaldoun. I admire your patience and willingness to engage and offer opportunities to bring out discussion on this important issue.

    2. The purpose of the B’Tselem’s cameras

    The primary purpose of the cameras is to record Israeli human rights abuses by Jewish settlers or the Israeli army – whilst avoiding getting beat up, or your camera stolen or killed.

    Whilst I would hope that the cameras can be used to document both Israeli and Palestinian acts of violence, it is important to sympathise that on general attention will be paid to abuses made against Palestinians.

    Israeli’s as the wealthier and militarily stronger party has more than enough financial resources and infrastructure to provide cameras to document Palestinian acts of violence.

    3. Cameras for Sderot residents

    What surprises me is how little footage there is to demonstrate the daily life at Sderot.

    There are examples (see below) but not as much as I would have imagined given the reported level of attacks. Remember as we discussed before there have been a total of 14 Israeli deaths from rocket attack (2004-2008) whilst this was the average number of Palestinians killed every week (from 30 Sep-9 Jan 2007)


    The following sites demonstrate images of rocket attacks against the residents of Sderot.

    The Sderot Media Center

    Caught on Tape – Rocket Landing in School Yard [added 22 December 2007]

    http://90210tosderot.blogspot.com/2007/12/qassam-attack.html [a blog

    Qassam missile fall in Sderot 2007 [added 3 September 2007]

    Qassam Rocket Falls Next To a Gas Station, 18 May 2007

    Qassam missile attack Sderot 2007 [added 17 May 2007]

    Qassams attack on the Israeli city of Sderot 1, [added 17 May 2007]

    Bedein, Noam. IDC Media Conference 17 December 2006

    But I am surprised at how few there are given the reported 1000s of missiles fired onto Sderot.

    4. Attacks against Palestinians and international media

    The following are other images demonstrating attacks against Palestinians and international media:

    Nobel Peace Prize Winner shot by Israeli army in Palestine, 20 April 2007

    Rachel Corrie, 23yo American killed by Israli troops, [added 17 April 2007]

    Israeli bulldozer driver murders American peace activist, 15 November 2006

    Joel Gulledge – Christian Peacemaker Team – settler attack 27 July 2008

    Fadel Shana, Reuters cameraman killed in Gaza 16 April 2008
    [GRAPHIC warning]


    Lymor Goldstein an Israeli shot with a rubber bullet during demonstation at Bil’in, 11 August 2006 [added 9 August 2007]


    Photos of other demonstrations at Bil’in


  7. Hazel says:

    I read with interest on the homepage of this blog that “Comments that are racist or discriminatory on the basis of religion, gender, sexuality, or sexual orientation are not acceptable.”

    I therefore ask why is is acceptable for Antony Loewenstein, a contributor to this blog to write things such as:

    “bombing refugee camps” is a “traditional Jewish trait” and Andrew Bolt is “a right-wing attack dog”.

    I don’t know Andrew Bolt, but I suspect that if I called a left-wing journo an “attack dog”, I would be guilty of breaching the fair rules of this blog.

    I also suspect that if I said that it was a traditional trait of Palestinians to “bomb refugee camps” I would also be breaching the rules of this blog.

    I also ask why is is okay for Loewenstein to call Jewish slef determination (Zionism) a disease”, but ask if I called Islam a “disease” would I also be breaching the rules of this blog.

    Surely rules hould apply to everybody, not just to those you disagree with.

    If it is time to “honestly debate Israel/Palestine” as Loewenstein says he wants to do — then isn’t it best to do that without the namecalling and discrimnation? Isn’t it time to give Jews a fair go and listen rather than call them names?

  8. llwynn says:

    You know you’re getting old when you walk around campus and you have this barely suppress-able urge to pull young men’s pants up so that they cover their bottoms. And you know you’re an old academic when you have this urge to respond to silly blog comments with the same notes you scrawl across students’ papers: “You need to actually read the material you’re commenting on.”

    But since Hazel isn’t my student and I can’t make her actually read the things she’s commenting on, I’ll briefly respond to her comments:

    1. Antony Loewenstein obviously did not mean that bombing refugee camps is a traditional Jewish trait. How absurd. Loewenstein’s point was an ironic one: he was saying that to call Israel’s actions Jewish is to implicitly make the obviously untenable claim that bombing refugee camps is Jewish. Obviously it is not a Jewish trait to bomb refugee camps. (Did it not occur to you that Mr Loewenstein is a Jew and that he doesn’t bomb refugee camps?) Therefore, Israel’s actions do not speak for Jews as a whole.

    2. Calling Andrew Bolt a right-wing attack dog may be a personal insult to Mr Bolt, but it is not an insult that is discriminatory on the basis of religion, gender, sexuality, or sexual orientation. It is an insult based on Mr Bolt’s individual actions and his political orientation. Attacking people on the basis of their political orientation is fair game on this blog! Feel free to call any left-wing journo an attack dog, Hazel. That doesn’t mean you are racist. It means you are right-wing.

    3. If you said that it was a traditional trait of Palestinians to bomb refugee camps, yes, that would be racist and we wouldn’t consider it acceptable for publication here.

    4. Zionism is not a religion. Zionism is a political orientation. Therefore the analogy with Islam is inappropriate. Apples and oranges.

    5. Give Jews a fair go? Good grief, that’s exactly what Loewenstein is calling for. He’s saying that we need to give all Jews the fair right to define what it means, politically, for them to be Jewish, and he rejects those who insist that because he (or any of the other left-wing Jewish intellectuals who reject the ideology of Zionism, including such great names as Norm Finkelstein, Noam Chomskey, etc) is Jewish, he must somehow subscribe to Zionism.

    Now, can I please suggest that you actually READ Loewenstein’s post? You clearly didn’t understand it at all.


  9. Britney says:

    The idea’s of blaming Jews for violence committed against them is nearly as old as Judaism itself, and this blog is a perpetuation of that legacy.

    The authors attempts to demonstrate that Jews – who are as diverse as any other religious or ethnic group – are a unified front with a set of enforced rules, is a uniquely anti-Semitic viewpoint.

    Going into lengthy discourse about the authors distortions and misunderstanding of Israel and Zionism will be quite useless because his real issues run far deeper.

    No, Mr. Loewenstein, Occupation and bombing refugee camps are not traditional Jewish traits. But hoping that those who seek to kill you will miraculously begin to love you, and then allowing them to kill you with little resistance when they don’t, is. And from your writings it is clear that you long for the restoration of that trait.

  10. llwynn says:

    What utter nonsense. Britney, I challenge you to name one place in this blog where any of the blog contributors blame Jews for violence committed against them.

    Oh, and in future comments could you please punctuate correctly? Thanks! No matter what your beliefs, it’s always nice if you can express them clearly.


  11. Britney says:

    By praising a Jewish man whose inflammatory comments have made him a pariah of the Jewish community (both Zionist and non-Zionist), you have sought to mask your own prejudices; a clever propaganda ploy on your part which fortunately will fool few people, just as Ahmadinejad fooled few people with the presence of Jews at his Holocaust revision conference.
    But the anti-Semitism than scapegoats Jews alone as the root cause of all problems, and the self-loathing that leads Jewish victims to blame themselves for the intolerance committed against them, are two distinct delusions which ought to be treated separately.
    His concoction of a mythical “official Jewish position” which he uses to fuel his own egotistic ‘hero’ obsessions will have anti-Semites around the world squealing with delight. I am sure that David Duke will find Loewenstein’s words here a vindication of his claims of Jewish control just as he did with Walt and Mearshimer’s book.
    Having read his book, I can go on and on about his misunderstanding of Judaism in general, Zionism in particular, and while these can be treated, the deep insecurities of his Jewish ancestry which he counters with his ‘hero’ antics of overzealously confronting it, coupled with his paranoia of some omnipotent Israel lobby out to get him, cannot be treated with rational discussion alone.

    I am Jewish, and I am neither a Zionist, nor religious, yet I find the comments of Lowenstein, as well as the other authors of this blog highly inflammatory. I was born and raised in Sydney, and I attended a Jewish school, yet never once was the Israeli/Palestinian issue ever raised either by my teacher, parents or peers. My opinions of the Middle-east are the result of my own extensive research, not as Lowenstein tries to portray some kind of ‘collective Jewish rules’ force-fed to me. No doubt anti-Semites around the world who read his sensationalist claims of conspiratorial Jewish hegemony are rubbing their hands with glee. He can join the club of such hallowed individuals as Israel Shahak, Israel Shamir and others who spread the message of Jewish conspiracy theories better than any anti-Semite can, while at the same time he repudiates his anti-Semitism with the frequency and vehemence of David Duke. And the guilt of his self-hatred manifests itself in the constant stream of his denials.
    You simply have to replace ‘Zionist’ with ‘Jew’ to get an good rehash of blood libels that have plagued Jewish communities for centuries, and now as then, there is a Jew bolstering this sickening claim being hailed as a hero for standing up to expose Zionist (read: Jewish) tactics. But now, unlike then, anti-Semites no longer exist; instead every anti-Semite has suddenly morphed into a humanitarian concerned with the Jewish treatment of Palestinians. Though this concern is conspicuously absent in other area far worse humanitarian situations. For example, this blog purports to be a ‘scholarly commentary on Middle East politics, culture, and media coverage’ yet its authors seem to possess an obsession with Israel to the exclusion of almost everything else in the region. (Not to mention a bias they would have to accept as unscholarly in any other discipline.)

    I would also note that anecdote that he brings is quite interesting as it illustrates how the particular Israeli involved understands and empathizes with the hardships of Palestinians.

    I now bring for comparison some recent news items concerning how non-Zionist occupiers conduct their affairs.

    SUSPECTED Taliban militants arrested by Australian special forces in Afghanistan have been detained in “dog pens” – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24280215-5007133,00.html
    Both sides of parliament spoke out in support of the soldiers – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24283979-29277,00.html

    Intelligence Agency has admitted using waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, and a recent Justice Department probe cited cases of sleep disruption, “short shackling” and other physical techniques against terrorism suspects captured after the September 11 attacks – http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/08/31/mccain_criticizes_bush_on_torture_of_prisoners/

    3rd September – 6 Iraqi’s killed by US soldiers – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080903/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_1

    3rd September – 15 people killed in PAKISTAN by NATO forces – http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080903/ap_on_re_as/pakistan

    1st September – 5 children killed by NATO and Afghan forces – http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/080901/world/afghanistan_139

    August 25 – Report finds over 90 civilians killed by NATO forces in Afghanistan in a single incident (quite likely exaggerated) – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24236059-23109,00.html

    August 18 – Nato kills 4 civilians – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24197936-23109,00.html

    August 8 – Coalition troops kill 4 women and child – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,24149179-23109,00.html

    Figures obtained from the US Central Command headquarters show that American, British, French and other allied jets used 272 tonnes of bombs on Taliban targets in June and July alone in support of hard-pressed ground forces.

    At least 500 Afghan civilians have died this year as a result of the actions of Nato forces, most of them as “collateral damage” casualties of air strikes.

    “4. Zionism is not a religion. Zionism is a political orientation. Therefore the analogy with Islam is inappropriate. Apples and oranges.”

    That is my opinion too. But according to Mr. Loewenstein, Zionism is some kind of authoritarian regime that seeks to superimpose its rules and beliefs on the Jewish establishment, and that controls the actions of the entire Israeli army and Israeli civilians in general. I doubt that he holds the Republican party responsible for acts of violence committed by American soldiers at checkpoints in Iraq. But apparently Zionism is an omnipotent ruling force in Israel responsible for all negative acts committed by an Israeli against a Palestinian.

    “What utter nonsense. Britney, I challenge you to name one place in this blog where any of the blog contributors blame Jews for violence committed against them.

    “its inability to remove settlements from occupied land has now made a two-state solution impossible” implies that it’s Israel’s actions that made a peaceful two-state solution impossible. Never mind that the Palestinian Authority, whose ‘moderate’ leader is a holocaust revisionist, created and continues to fund terrorist organizations like Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades which deliberately targets innocent civilians. It’s unfortunate that this distorted attitude pervades this blog.

    “Oh, and in future comments could you please punctuate correctly? Thanks! No matter what your beliefs, it’s always nice if you can express them clearly.”

    So you want not only edification, but punctuation as well? Well nitpicking is easy. But I’m studying IT and grammar is not my strong point but I do try my best as I’m sure everyone else does to express themselves as clearly as possible. If you prefer I can write in l33t, or maybe I should save my time and energy and just contribute to a blog whose authors can be influenced by rational, factual and historical arguments.

  12. Noor Hammad says:

    Britney, take a moment to actually READ Anthony Lowenstein’s post and then take a moment to READ Lisa’s post above and you will see that neither Anthony nor Lisa described “bombing refugee camps” as a “traditional Jewish trait”.

    You do yourself a great injustice by commenting on blogs without reading and understanding the view points of the author and your comments come off as ignorant and unconsidered.

    Noor Hammad

  13. Hi Britney,

    We all have much to learn

    May I suggest you take a look at the following site:


    I would encourage you in particular to watch Naomi Klein’s lecture – listed in the section on Canadian Jewish peace activists. She gave a moving address about her own awakening to dangers of an uncritical view Israel.

    Britney there are 11 million human beings in this region that we know as the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Israel. My hope is that peace can be found for our fellow human beings regardless of whatever form of identity they like to go by. Part of this process involves acknowledging how we have inflicted violence on another. This is the truth and reconciliation process,

    Each nation has their skeletons – especially when it comes to nation-state creation stories. As an Australian you should be aware of this. Israel is not blameless. Palestinians are not blameless. However, Israel as the militarily and economically stronger power needs to acknowledge that occupying another people as they have done since 1967 (I will save 1948 for now) only fuels violence against itself and only hurts the teenagers that are sent to enforce the military occupation each year.

    Thank you for commenting, because at least by you commenting you have raised an opportunity to discuss a perspective. But I would suggest to be cautious about showing your prejudice too soon. It is important that you take the time to read carefully people’s contributions – to see whether there is irony or sarcasm that is being used to convey a point. To see whether another person has already answered a point that you raised.

    At the end of the day Antony is seeking for the truth and for peace. He is quite rightly concerned that an attempt is being made to shut-down legitimate and necessary debate about Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian people. Thise in the community who have a zero tolerance on any criticism of Israel only serve to perpetuate misunderstanding, hurt and further misery. No government on this planet is above reproach. Israel, Hamas, Fatah all must be held to account for their actions. Thank you Antony and others who continue to seek for accountability, truth and change.

  14. mustafa ramadan says:


    Your last paragraph was not clear to me. Could you make it clearer ?


  15. Noah Bassil says:

    Britney, in regards to your comment posted Sept, 4, I think you have misinterpreted Antony Lowenstein’s point altogether, when you you state that,

    “The authors attempts to demonstrate that Jews – who are as diverse as any other religious or ethnic group – are a unified front with a set of enforced rules, is a uniquely anti-Semitic viewpoint”

    I think what you find Antony Lowenstein saying is that there are powerful institutional and individual voices that silence dissenting views and attempt to perpetuate a myth that there is a unified Jewish viewpoint. Lowenstein’s view in itself proves there is no one single Jewish perspective. His argument that dissenting views, Jewish and non-Jewish, be allowed to debate the political shape and direction of the Israeli state, is clearly at odds with your criticism of him.

    I really do not want to even dignify your last point about loving those that want to kill you, as it is a comment without any historical or contextual foundations, and based on nothing more than gross generalisation and subjectivity as to to unsupportable, more akin to paranoia than anything substantive. In addition, I cannot find anything resembling this viewpoint in Antony Lowenstein’s post.

    My final comment is addressed to Hazel. Hazel not only have you not taken the time to read Antony Lowenstein’s blog, on which you then respond, but have no knowledge of previous letters by critics of this site. Lowenstein’s description of Andrew Bolt as a right-wing attack dog is mild compared to the insults that the authors on this site have received, without censorship. What you have done by making this statement is continue, in the tradition of the critics of this site, to comment first and read later (if at all). The one thing that infuriates me more than anything else, is when those writing letters to this site make comments that are obviously written without any knowledge of the views posted. Repeating false accusations can make them a “truth”, but the cost for society of such actions are enormous .

  16. mustafa ramadan says:


    To: Noah, Anthony, Lisa, Rosalyn, Noor and Stuart

    I really felt glad while reading your balanced, reasonable and constructive comments.
    Your contributions are giving this site weight, respect and human scholarly spirit.



  17. Raffe says:

    I’ve been a commentator on this site for several months and i’m ashamed to say that i’ve not made my voice loud enough since the sudden influx of conservative commentators. This is not, in any way, an anti-Semitic blog. If it were an anti-Semitic blog i can assure you that my posts would not have made it through the vetting process as i’ve made several references to my Zionism and my Judaism.

    I have many issues with some of the postings made by both academics and contributors and i’ll continue to debate them until i suffer from RSI. I have taken classes by some of the contributors and i’ve read Mr. Loewenstein’s book ‘My Israel Question’ (never disagreed with a book more in my life and am currently searching for his new book). I’ve been critical of this blog because of its obsessive focus on Israel/Palestine and hopefully, in the future, there will be a broader range of topics which focus on human rights abuses in the Arab world which i believe also fall under the auspice of ‘scholarly study in the Middle East’. The contributors to this blog are not anti-Semites as i have seen them refute anti-Semitic postings on occasion and I can assure you that if they were then they would not be allowed to continue under the employ of Macquarie University.

    It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the foreign policy of Israel and i’ll challenge anyone who says that it is. Israel is a democratic state which is facing scores of challenges, some of its own making and some forced upon her, and a state who has managed to defy obstacles placed in her way. I do strongly believe that Israel is the brightest star within a dark sky and with debate and discussion it can only get brighter. Anyone that has stood in the visitors gallery of the Knesset when she is in full session knows that there is nothing but robust debate about every facet of Israeli foreign and domestic policy. These parties include members from all walks of Israeli life; including Arabs who stand up and denounce the Jewish State.

    To the Khaldoun contributors; I look forward to many more fruitful discussions. I may not be able to change your minds but i’m more than happy to continue screaming.

  18. Thanks again Raffe for your perspective.

    Your contributions are immensely important.

  19. mustafa ramadan says:

    To Raffe
    In your last blog dated 6 Sep 2008, you said, “I do strongly believe that Israel is the brightest star within a dark sky …”
    Would you elaborate and present some examples to support your argument ?
    Why don’t Israle’s neighbours (not Westerners) have the same opinion of her ?
    Has that light really guided any party or solved any problem ?
    If Isreal is the brightest star, which countries come after her ?


  20. cf says:

    how on earth can you claim that “alternative’ voices on this issue are never heard when these ‘alternative” voices are everywhere? on the net, in newspapers, on the streets, it’s constant.
    Are you foloowing the antony loewenstein route, where you appear in every conceivable bit of media around while screaming that you’re being silenced?

    perosnally i would love an honest discussion of Israel/Arab issues, including an honest appraisal of islam, an honest acknowledgement that the israel/palestine issue is an Israel/ARAB issue, that suicide bombers are real not just Jewish “paranoia”,
    and that the palestinina Arabs are not currently citizens of the israeli state and that israel, like every other country in the world, has the right to determine what is appropriate for its own citizens, which include many Israeli Arabs, Druze, CVhristians and the other tens of nationalities living there in peace and religigious diversity.

  21. cf says:

    Ok, I’ve just reread this post and it’s clear that this little screed is written by Antony Lowenstein himself – i thought the tone was familiar!

    Why is his name not listed as the author of this piece? Too embarrassed?

    I should point out that id you’re desiring honesty on an issue involving two parties then it’s incumbent on you to focus on BOTH the partioes, not just blithely toss one away as not being relevant. Be scathing about Zionism if youwish, young loewestein and Co. but ignoring the inimical role of the Arabs in this whole debate deathfeast they’ve intitiated in the Middle East is jejune, ineffective and too, too transparent.

    BTW, Antony, get the terms right – the West Bank for instance has never had sovereignty. Territories known colloquially as “occupied” are legally known as “disputed”. Spend some of that time you spend skiting about yourself using the correct terms and understanding some of the complexities involved in the Middle East.
    All this focus on Israel alone in a sea of Arabs, layers of Islamic, Arab, English and Turkish law – to mention but a few – not to mention the legacy of haj Amin Al Hussein shows a limited value to your commentary.

  22. cf says:

    Sorry about spelling mistakes people.

  23. llwynn says:

    Hi CF

    There’s a peculiarity of this blog software that it shows the post author when you view it on the regular homepage of the blog (https://khaldoun.wordpress.com) but when you view the individual posting, it doesn’t show the author. I wish we could fix it but we can’t. We all try to remember to sign our posts in the text of the post to get around that problem, but as Antony was a guest blogger who just contributed this one post, he didn’t know about our blog software problems and didn’t know he needed to add an extra signature.


  24. Raffe says:


    I believe that it’s rare to find countries such as Israel that have been tested under such immense pressures since its inception and still uphold the rule of law and civil liberties for all citizens and contribute to making a better world.

    Since her creation Israel has been attacked on several occasions; many of them in attempts to push her citizens into the sea. The 1948, 1967, 1973 wars were all declared against Israel by much larger Arab forces with the intention of wiping her out.

    Despite this Israel has not turned into a police state and has upheld freedom of speech and freedom of the press (unless it harms the lives of soldiers in the field), has allowed the creation of political parties that radically challenge the state, has allowed human rights groups to express their outrage at the army and the government (for instance well known groups such as B’tselem and Machsom Watch are keeping the government and army in check). The Supreme Court of Israel routinely forces the army to change its methods or plans if they’re seen as against the Basic Laws of the State of Israel; they outlawed torture in 1999, stopped the use of the ‘neighbour’ practice whereas the army would ask the neighbour of a Palestinian terrorist to enter the building and ask the terrorist to surrender; this saved the lives of Israeli soldiers and was halted when a terrorist shot dead his neighbour because he thought they were Israeli soldiers. Along with the re-routing of the security fence to avoid heavily impacting on Palestinian land and also so it actually delves into Israeli territory.

    Along with this Israel has also improved the live of people world-wide by making dozens of breakthroughs in pharmacy, technology etc. Life-saving drugs to treat some of the most horrible diseases have been created in Israel. Stem-cells are being utilized to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s and paralysis. Recently a machine was invented that allowed paralyzed people to walk again and many of the world’s computers are running because of Israeli-designed intel chips.

    Why don’t Israle’s neighbours (not Westerners) have the same opinion of her ?

    The Arab countries have been at war with Israel for the last 60 years. Their citizens are fed anti-Semitic material in government papers and Israel is blamed for the source of their problems as a distraction from the regimes themselves. It’s impossible to immediately change the psyche of a people when they have been taught to hate for the last several generations. The amount of money that goes into Saudi coffers from oil profiteering is astounding yet none of that makes its way to the people. That being said; there have been several peace treaties between Israel and her Arab neighbours. The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli and the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaties prove that the non-Western states are changing their stance. Turkey and Israel also have a very good relationship; as did Israel and Iran before the revolution in 1979.
    You may also recall in the immediate days after two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped in 2006 a number of Arab states lined up to condemn Hezbollah. There is change in the air Mustafa.

  25. Rosalyn says:

    No Raffe there isn’t a change in the air vis-a-vis your example here on Hizbullah and the 2006 war. No Arab regime who is tied to America (such as Saudi Arabia) is going to praise Hizbullah (esp given the Sunni Shia divide these days). Those states that condemned Hizbullah have not really had much praise for Hizbullah since its inception. Because these arab regimes lack LEGITIMACY and any real ruling mandate they evidently will voice condemnation of such groups because their lack of power is exposed.

    and for future reference soldiers don’t get kidnapped – they get captured.

  26. cf says:

    Thanks for explaining that Lisa.

  27. mustafa ramadan says:


    Paragraph 1, line 4: Azmi instead of Azim


  28. mustafa ramadan says:

    Is Israel a democracy and the brightest star in the Middle East ?
    (Modified 11-9-08)

    To Raffe

    1-All the world knows that Israel is a democracy. Yes, but only for its Jewish citizens.
    Palestinians living in Israel are second class citizens as all people know. Go to their villages and see their miserable conditions.

    2-If Israel is a democracy, why did it silence free Palestinian voices even outside Israel ? Where is freedom of speech and expression ?
    Why did Israel kill the Palestinian novelist Ghassan Kanafani and the Christian Palestinian poet Kamal Nasser in Beirut in the I970’s? Why did Israel force the Palestinian KM Azmi Bsahara to leave his homeland ? Bshara is an elected Arab KM and is supposed to represent his own Palestinian people’s interests in the Knesset, not Israeli interests. His flight reveals your false democracy.

    3-The misery of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation refute your claims about Israel being a democracy. Just refer to the number of the Palestinians killed between 2000 and 2008 and the number of Palestinian homes demolished and the Israeli homes built on the Palestinian land.
    Only these days in the holy month of Ramadan, the IDF is preventing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to pray in their holiest place, Al Aqsa. Those who are allowed have to go through countless check points, inhuman harassment and continual humiliation. Many have to walk for long hours across hills and alleys to reach the Al Aqsa mosque. In real democracies you don’t see heavily armed soldiers around holy places and at their gates. Don’t forget, this month there is an agreed cease fire.

    4-The best possible judge in the world is the United Nations. There are tens of UN resolutions condemning Israel and there were many other UN resolutions that were not implemented by your democratic state.

    5-Without the US blind, material, financial and military support and protection in the UN, Israel wouldn’t hold in the Middle East area. Your cluster bombs in Jenin and Lebanon are another example of Israel democracy and humanity.

    6-It’s a shame that notorious Israeli killers such as Netanyaho, Sharon, and Olmert were given overwhelming applause and long repeated standing ovations by the US Congress who is supposed to represent the democracy of free Americans.

    7-Don’t tell me about Israeli genius in science and medicine, because this is irrelevant to our subject, and because there are countless inventions and advancements in other countries including Arab countries.

    8-Raffe, briefly, you are a choosy Zionist propagandist.


  29. llwynn says:

    Britney, I just found your comment (the one above dated September 4th) in the spam filter and took it out. Everyone who comments on this blog, you should know that’s an aspect of the blog software settings: If you include a whole slew of links in your post, the blogging software automatically puts it in the spam filter, and I don’t realize this because I don’t go check it very often. Stewart Mills has had this problem, too. Don’t let it stop you from posting comments with links if you think they’re important to the point you want to make! If you want to post a comment with lots of links, here’s what to do: go post it, and then send me an e-mail (lisa.wynn[@]mq.edu.au) asking me to go fish it out of the spam filter, and I will.

    Back to the content of your comment, Britney: I appreciate that you’ve written something a lot more thoughtful and considered than your original comment, and I’m particularly interested in some of those links you posted about non-Israeli occupations in the MIddle East. Quite right!

    But I still can’t see that you answered my basic question that I originally posed to you: “Britney, I challenge you to name one place in this blog where any of the blog contributors blame Jews for violence committed against them.” Just because we say that Israeli politicians refuse to move towards a peaceful two-state solution (that’s not a very controversial statement, by the way: the same politicians gleefully admit it themselves!) doesn’t mean that we’re saying that Jews are bringing violence down upon themselves. Yes, Israeli politicians may be Jewish, but they’re a lot of other things, too, and Jewishness is not the whole of their identities and actions. We also frequently note on this blog the courageous efforts of Israeli peace and human rights activists. They are Jews, too, but they are not perpetuating a cycle of violence in the Middle East.

    Also, Britney, it is an intellectually impoverished argument to say that anybody who criticizes the Israeli government is an anti-Semite, that somehow it’s just a mask for hidden ugly racism. Let me remind you that there are a hell of a lot of Israelis who oppose Israeli government policy. Are they anti-Semites? No. Is Noah Bassil (another contributor to this blog) a hater of Muslims because he writes against the policy of the Sudanese government in Darfur? No. Opposing the policy of a state has nothing to do with hating people who live in that state, and still less to do with any feelings one might have about the religion professed by the majority of people living in that state.

    To put it another way: I’m an American and I was raised a Christian, and I am fervently opposed to US government policy in the Middle East, opposed to Bush, and opposed to US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. But that doesn’t make me an anti-Christian American hater, does it? Every time I travel to Egypt, a country where I have spent years studying and researching and a country full of people who I deeply love, I am always grateful for the many Egyptians who I know hate American foreign policy, who are even boycotting American goods and products, but who do not hate me, do not boycott me, and do not loathe Christianity just because it is the same religion professed by the US president who is occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and who supports the Israeli occupation of Palestine. They can see that there is a difference between a state and a people. Why can’t you?

    Finally, the claim that we write about Israel and Palestine to the exclusion of everything else in the MIddle East is also clearly false. Have a look at the many postings on a wide range of topics, from Darfur to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia to gender reassignment surgery in Iran to announcements about upcoming film events in Sydney that we think might be of interest to our readers. I hope you find something of interest, but if not, you’re most welcome to look elsewhere for commentary on Middle East issues.


  30. Raffe says:

    Israel is a democracy for all Israeli citizens; which means the Arabs, Christian, Baha’i and Druze members of Israeli society. Whilst there may be unofficial discrimination against the Arab citizens of Israel it remains unofficial. Israeli Arabs currently enjoy the same civil liberties that Jews do.

    You criticise the Israeli government for maintaining a security presence at the Holy sights however it is not restricted to Palestinians. Anyone that enters the old city, including the Jews, goes through metal detectors and checkpoints. Not only at the holy sites but you go through a checkpoint whenever you enter a shopping mall, café or nightclub. There are security checkpoints on both sides that restrict both citizens. You also say that no other democracy maintains a large security presence at their holy sites; please consider Vatican City where there is a significant presence by the Swiss guards and you must also admit that there’s no where else where the three major Abrahamic religions are in such close proximity with each other. Ethnic and regional tensions abound and so in preventing violence Israel maintains a large security presence. It is not a matter of oppression but a matter of saving lives.

    I refer to the number of Palestinians killed; around 4800 over the last 8 years. These aren’t only civilians but also Hamas gunmen and members of other terror organizations. 4800 killed is a travesty, I’m not disputing this, but could you please name me another country (including Western democracies) that have maintained a continual state of war over almost a decade and had such a low causality count. Remember earlier this year Russia killed almost 2000 Georgians in 2 days. Imagine if the war between Russia and Georgia had lasted for 8 long years. Also remember Syria’s response to terrorism in the 1970s when they crushed the entire city of Hama over the course of a month with reports that the death toll reached more than 25,000 civilians and the commander of the operation boasting that he had killed more than 38,000.

    As I’ve said on many occasions my argument is never to deny the occupation or paint it in a positive light. Rather I believe that if the entire conflict is put in a global context. Taking into account the widespread use of torture, election tampering through intimidation and the ethnic cleansings of people in the Balkans, Sudan and other countries it is obvious that there is discrimination against Israel in the public and the media. The world continues to turn a blind eye to atrocities committed in other countries yet constantly condemns and scrutinizes Israel for her security measures. Case in point; Wikipedia lists casualties of Palestinians down to a single digit (5,322 and even breaks it down into those killed by the IDF, Settlers and Palestinian in-fighting) whilst atrocities such as the Rwandan genocide or the Sudan genocide have a margin of error of 200,000 people.


  31. […] My following post was written for Khaldoun, the blog recently started by Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, where I’m a board member: […]

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