19 Feb 2013

Talking Freely About The Real Israel

By Larry Stillman
The Prisoner X scandal has shocked many Australian Jews because it flies in the face of their status as "insiders" to Israel. Liberty, justice and equality can be good substitutes for Israeli nationalism, writes Larry Stillman
The "Prisoner X" episode brings to the fore some of the classic dilemmas of Jewish existence in the modern world: universalist versus particularistic values; their status as insiders or outsiders; and cross-border loyalties as opposed to particular citizenship.

The great German sociologist George Simmel wrote an essay in 1908 called "The Stranger" about classes of people such as traders (often Jews) in Europe, who were simultaneously insiders and outsiders in the societies in which they lived. I think that this observation is perhaps an apt one to describe the life of the Jewish community in Australia today. Loyal to a religiously and politically redemptive version of Zionism, the land of Israel is somewhere where they assume they will never be treated as strangers. Israel is seen as an insider insurance policy for a perceived outsider status.

On the Israel question the insider/outsider issue becomes problematic. There is a widespread view of being under siege. The media, and the Fairfax press in particular, is called "anti-Semitic". The Israel lobby and its parliamentary supporters such as Michael Danby do not hold back in their condemnation of those who they consider to be hostile.

World Vision and Ausaid are accused of being supporters of terrorism, along with the Zionist New Israel Fund, a more moderate organisation, by right-wing rabble-rousers. The SBS broadcast of the series The Promise was the subject of a furious complaint campaign by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry who saw it as anti-Israel propaganda. Then there is endemic controversy over Boycott Sanctions and Divestment strategies.

At an internal community level, not covered in the mainstream press, police were most recently called to prevent the most minor of protests in Melbourne against the Jewish National Fund, the icon of fundraising for Israel. The Jewish National Fund discriminates against non-Jews in Israel, and also supports the forced relocation of Bedouin in the Beersheba area for Jews-only housing.

A tiny, entirely lawful and peaceful leafleting protest outside the headquarters of the Jewish community in Melbourne was organised for 3 February to draw attention to fundraising by the Jewish National Fund. We made it clear that we thought there were alternate charities that supported human rights in Israel. That tiny Sunday morning protest brought out the mysterious Community Security Group and three police vehicles. Fortunately, the police had no issue at all with our protest, though people were forbidden from taking the contaminating leaflets inside the building. Outsider views may cause problems for insiders.

Onto the current Prisoner X scandal. Details are still coming thick and fast.

Eighteen months ago I wrote this response to the postings of a young Australian who had joined the Israeli army on Galusaustralis, an online Jewish magazine:

"When we have young people in Australia being indoctrinated about a 'greater Israel' in which Palestinians have no place or are a nuisance, and such people join the Israeli military they are in grave danger of becoming ethical and moral abusers or worse. The excuse cannot be made that we do not know about such matters or they are irrelevant for young people who make aliyah [migrate to Israel].


"The fact is that the Occupation has been with us for over 40 years now and I find it hard to believe that any young Jewish person is unaware that the Occupation is not benign. Choices can be made. Many Israelis choose not to serve in the Occupied Territories by either refusing service there, or undertaking alternate forms of conscription. The same choices are available to Australians who commit themselves to a life in Israel."

I was pilloried for suggesting this problem, and now, another local who served in the Australian army has opened up another discussion with reference to Ben Zygier.

The Prisoner X scandal has shocked many Jews almost certainly because it flies in the face of their status as "insiders" to Israel. Of the few establishment figures who have said anything about the scandal so far, one has accused a number of us at playing at spies and cops and robbers, and being amateur mavens. Should we stay quiet and let the "community leadership" handle the situation? Can truth be so damaging?

No. If it was not for the free press in Australia, and the press in Israel, trying to escape the muzzle of the constant claim of security, this death in custody would have gone unnoticed.

I hope that increasing numbers of Australian Jews realize that there are alternate forms of connection to their brethren which do not require such an insider/outsider status or attachment to the dangerous ethnocentric nationalism played out by the Israeli state.

If they care about Jewish life in Israel, they can stand tall and support human rights activists in Israel. They should listen to people like Melbourne-born Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann, a Zionist, but active in the Occupied Territories for Rabbis for Human Rights about the abuse conducted by Israel against Palestinians in the name of "security" as it goes down the road to an apartheid state. They can also support full and equal citizenship so that Israel becomes a state of all its peoples, recognises Palestinian rights and not just a state of the Jews which privileges one group of people over another.

They can say that the "Right of Return" for Jews, but not Palestinians is an affront to human rights principles and that Palestinians have been wronged. We should be able to talk about all these things freely, as do progressives in Israel itself. The Israeli colonialist fantasy is over. Prisoner X is only the tip of a much bigger iceberg that can't be ignored.

This article is the author's own view and does not necessarily represent the position of the AJDS.

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Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 16:26

Cor, I like it. Makes a lot of sense to me. I am a believer in a Palestine that is home to all Semites, that is including the Palestinians, and NO religion will be top dog. In fact, I would prefer no religious influence whatsoever in the politics of the society. A totally secular society.
Let the Palestinians that were driven out by the Jews come home, and the Jews who have no right to call Palestine home can leave again. I am sure that Russia etc. would welcome them back. Ha! But it is the Russian Mafia influence of these Jews that is causing so much of the troubles in israeli occupied Palestine. They are not really wanted in ANY country. Fundamentalists and Troublemakers.
Unless someone in israeli Palestine comes to their senses soon, the israeli jews will indeed become world pariahs, hated and distrusted by all. Even the damned Yankees will not be able to protect a diminishing asset in he Middle East, one that is fast becoming a liability. A damned expensive one.
We shall see.

Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 18:07

I liked this article, I'm sick of seeing any group of people collectively condemned by the actions of a minority in power.

From Sadat and Begin to the present day there has been nothing but bloodshed and I remember the protest during the Lebanon incident by jewish activists, the banner read "stop the madness now!"

I think the majority probably feel that way but as usual we don't hear from them.

Good to see someone in Australia with a working knowledge of the subject express the hopes of the "silent majority."

Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 23:00

I'm happy to learn there is at least one rabbi in Australia willing to criticise (some of)Israel's practices. Why don't we hear from this rabbi, or any others, in the mainstream press?

It is disappointing to think most Australian rabbis rank ethical and moral standards below supporting Israel regardless of how badly it behaves. And it is sad to see them persistently staying silent when Israel is shown to have done wrong. They implicitly condone whatever Israel does and encourage their congregations to do the same.

Doesn't the local community yet have the ethical maturity to admit to and critique bad behaviour by Israel and its non-lawabiding supporters?

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 09:03

Excellent article by an outstanding anti-racist Jewish Australian.

For anti-racist Jews and indeed all anti-racist humanitarians the core moral messages from the Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million dead, 1 in 6 dying from deprivation) and from the more general WW2 European Holocaust (30 million Slav, Jewish and Gypsy dead) are “zero tolerance for racism”, “never again to anyone”, “bear witness” and “zero tolerance for lying”.

However these sacred injunctions are grossly violated by the anti-Arab anti-Semitic racist Zionists running Apartheid Israel and their Western backers variously involved in the ongoing Palestinian Genocide, Iraqi Genocide, Somali Genocide, and Afghan Genocide (post-invasion violent and non-violent excess deaths 0.3 million (1967-2011), 4.6 million (1990-2011), 2.2 million (1992-2011) and 5.6 million, respectively; post-invasion under-5 infant deaths 0.2 million, 2.0 million, 1.3 million and 2.9 million, respectively; refugees totalling 7 million, 5-6 million, 2 million and 3-4 million, respectively, plus a further 2.5 million NW Pakistan Pashtun refugees).

All decent, anti-racist, humanitarians must vigorously oppose and sideline those supporting racist Zionism, Apartheid Israel and racist Western wars and occupations who are currently complicit in 0.7 million non-violent excess deaths annually; continuing, racist perversion of human rights, humanitarian values and rational discourse in the Western democracies; ignoring of worsening climate genocide (that may kill 10 billion non-Europeans this century through unaddressed man-made climate change); and egregious anti-Jewish anti-Semitism through falsely identifying decent, anti-racist Jews with these appalling crimes.

Decent, loyal, patriotic, anti-racist Jewish Australians and indeed all Australians are under threat from traitorous and criminal conduct of the racist Zionists, a threat made worse by the overwhelming support for the racist Zionists by the Liberal-National Party Coalition Opposition and the Labor Government (the Lib-Labs, the Liberal-Laborals).

Events in the last decade - specifically Israeli state terrorism and spying involving Australians both here and abroad - have shown that with the protection of the traitorous Lib-Labs, Australian racist Zionists are free to taser, shoot, bomb, kidnap, terrorize, abuse, torture, kill, rob, and deceive Australian citizens and to routinely commit these crimes on a huge scale against family members of Australian citizens in the Middle East.

Dr Larry Stillman is correct in saying that anti-racist Jews should speak out - indeed many have (for an alphabetical compendium of such humane opinions see "Jews Against Racist Zionism": https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ ) .

The most effective things anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish Australians can do to protect Australia and anti-racist Jewish Australians from the traitorous racist Zionists and their Lib-lab supporters is (a) to inform everyone they can, (b) urge the sidelining of the racist Zionists and their Lib-Lab supporters from Australian public life (as has already happened to like racists such as the Nazis, neo-Nazis, Apartheiders and KKK) and (c) eschew pro-Zionist Lib-Labs at the ballot box.

So far, as far as I am aware, apart from the Greens, the only Australian MP to have spoken out against the Australian Government -complicit torturing to death by the Israelis of Australian citizen and father of 2 Ben Zygier has been chief opposition whip in the Senate , Senator Helen Kroger, who has described the government’s failure to explain what it knew or didn’t know about the case of Ben Zygier a “disgrace” (see "Kroger: Government response on Zygier is “disgrace", Australian Jewish News, 14 February 2013: http://www.jewishnews.net.au/kroger-government-response-on-zygier-is-dis... ) .

All anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish Australians CAN do something concrete to help protect Australia and decent, LOYAL, anti-racist Jewish Australians - they should vote 1 Green and put Labor last until Labor ceases supporting traitorous racist Zionists at home and Israeli state terrorism, the Palestinian Genocide and nuclear terrorist Apartheid Israel abroad (see Gideon Polya, "Australian Labor’s new anti-Semitism. Oz Labor threatens anti-racist Jews", MWC News: http://www.aljazeera-news.net/focus/politics/17530-new-anti-semitism.html

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 11:58

Can I completely and utterly disassociate myself from the anti-Semitic ravings of the serial poster, Gideon Polya including being awarded the title "outstanding anti-racist Jewish Australian".

Second, Ben Saul has come up with some similar and well put observations-- http://tinyurl.com/bb73k7x

Third, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann lives in Israel, not Australia, but works in the Occupied Territories.

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 14:22

Larry, your Bio at the top right of the page pretty much achieves goal 1 in your above post, if not the nature of your article which I thought was well balanced.

I found it enlightening to discover how many people in palestine sum total hold similar views be they jewish, arab or other, and just how many cross cultural-inter-cultural programmes and ngo's there are.

Surely democratic numbers will yet see good in the land of the living.

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 14:37

More moderate Jewish voices need to come forward in the west because Israeli politics and the IDF has gone a little mad and their excesses aren't even serving Zionist interests.

You can check OccupiedPalestine on twitter/blog or the electronic Intifada for another perspective. The Israelis have violated the latest cease fire with Hamas about a hundred times now and not a mention of it in mainstream western press. Not a mention in NM either.

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 15:50

Readers of this thread - the above abuse directed at me (by who?) is utterly false, egregiously defamatory and unacceptable, pejorative ad hominem abuse that is unfortunately de rigeur for Zionists defending or more insidiously obfuscating the immense crimes of genocidally racist, democracy-by-genocide, nuclear terrorist Apartheid Israel. Of course, such highly offensive, defamatory ad hominem abuse requires retraction and apology, is no substitute for polite interlocution, and does no good to the reputation of Monash University.

En passant, the assertion in the article "the abuse conducted by Israel against Palestinians in the name of "security" as it goes down the road to an apartheid state" is extremely misleading. The State of Israel is a democracy-by-genocide and is ALREADY an Apartheid state as perceived by numerous outstanding Jewish and non-Jewish writers, most notably Jewish and non-Jewish heroes in the fight against Apartheid in South Africa e.g. Ronnie Kasrils and Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu (see "Jews Against Racist Zionism": https://sites.google.com/site/jewsagainstracistzionism/ and "Non-Jews Against Racist Zionism": https://sites.google.com/site/nonjewsagainstracistzionism/ ).

Thus of about 12 million Indigenous Palestinians, 6 million are forbidden to even step foot in their own country, 1.7 million Occupied Palestinians are highly abusively confined to what the Catholic Church has described as the Gaza Concentration Camp (50% children , of whom 10% are stunted due to Israeli blockade) , 2.5 million are highly abusively confined to ever-dwindling West Bank Bantustans without human rights under military rule, and only the adults of 1.6 million Palestinian Israelis are permitted to vote for the government ruling all of Palestine plus ethnically cleansed parts of Lebanon and Syria (i.e. about 6.7% of 12 million Palestinians, this percentage coincidentally being the percentage of seats occupied by Aung Sang Suu Kyi's overwhelmingly popular party in the rigged Burmese parliament; see Gideon Polya, "Comparing Burma and Apartheid Israel", MWC News, 4 April 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/18002-burma-israel.html ).

Zionist Peter Beinart in his otherwise useful book "The Crisis of Zionism" made the same error of warning that the State of Israel MIGHT BECOME an Apartheid state when it already is one. Beinart, while sympathetic to justice for Palestinians and for a Palestinian State, fails to point out the obvious that the State of Israel is ALREADY clearly not a democracy – it is a democracy by genocide (ethnic cleansing) and he fails to quantitate the appalling demographic realities of the Palestinian Genocide, notably 2 million Palestinian deaths from violence (0.1 million) or from violently-imposed deprivation (1.9 million) since 1936 (see "Review: The Crisis of Zionism. Apartheid Israel & Palestinian Genocide", MWC News, 14 July 2012: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/20182-crisis-of-zionism.html ; "Palestinian Genocide": https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ ); and the multi-author book "The Plight of the Palestinians", for review see: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya170612.htm ).

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

Posted Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 15:49

You will never have peace until the Squatting is discontinued and reversed.

Israel as a political entity must be subsumed by a greater Palestinian state which provides equal rights for indigenes and aliens.

The idea of young Australians fighting for a particular religion is anathema to the very principle of multi-culturalism and should be actively dissuaded by any Government preaching MC.

Posted Monday, February 25, 2013 - 09:28

The routine pro-Zionist use of the false defamation of "anti-semite" against anti-racist Jewish or non-Jewish critics of Apartheid Israel (as in this thread) must be unequivocally condemned.

Just as patriotism is the refuge of scoundrels, so "anti-semite" is the canard of Zionists.

Outstanding anti-racist Jewish Australian writer Antony Loewenstein: "Labelling critics of Israel as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel merely attempts to silence individuals who passionately believe the current political path of the Jewish state is destined to lead to its disappearance. I share this fear. The simple truth is that Israel's long-term security lies with the Arab world, not a superpower thousands of miles away. A superpower, it should be noted, that has suffered an inglorious and welcome defeat in Iraq and whose reputation in the Arab and Muslim world has never been worse” (see Antony Loewenstein “My Israel Question”, Counterpunch, 13 September 2006: http://www.counterpunch.org/loewenstein09132006.html ).

This false defamation is particularly offensive when made with the courage of anonymity and applied to anti-racist Jews, more so when made against those who have lost numerous family members in the WW2 Jewish Holocaust (to my knowledge only about a dozen of my wider family survived the 1944-1945 Jewish Holocaust in Hungary).

Anti-racist Jews have an inescapable obligation to speak out about the gross abuses of human rights by Apartheid Israel.

Thus Professor Peter Sleazak (philosophy professor, University of Sydney , Australia ) in his chapter “The wicked son: Hemlock and cherem” in "Beyond Tribal Loyalties. Personal stories of Jewish peace activists" , edited by ex-Israeli psychologist Avigail Abarbanel (pp 65 & 83; see: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190113.htm ).” : “I am a secular, atheist, assimilated, non-Zionist Jew… Both my parents survived the Holocaust … My eighty-three year-old mother is a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz . I grew up with her questions: Why didn't anyone help the Jews? Why didn't anyone else care? Why did the world allow it to happen? These are the same questions we must ask today about the crimes against the Palestinians. So I'm here because the State if Israel does not represent all Jews. If we have learned the real meaning of the slogan “never again”, we can't remain silent when the crimes are being committed in our name. We must universalize the lessons of our own tragedy to include others in our moral universe… right now we are all Palestinians”

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.