Reader Response 5: Israel, Kangaroo Courts, Unity, Speaking Out, and Subheadings

Today, we’ve not only experienced a major spike in readership, we have also seen a plethora of comments, some of which we’ll answer in this post.

Firstly, Israel is clearly integral to a Jew’s identity – whether said Jew is pro- or anti-Zionist. We find it hard to imagine a Jew without an opinion either way. This blog would like to make a subtle distinction: between discussion of Israel/Palestine itself, and discussion of the Australian Jewish community’s public responses about issues pertaining to Israel in the wider media. There are already thousands of blogs devoted to the former, there seems to be none devoted to the latter, save ours. We worry that if we encourage debate on Israeli issues here, we risk overshadowing this blog’s initial aim: to provide a forum for discussion of Australian Jewish communal issues. We therefore ask our readers to focus on Israeli matters only when there is a direct link to our community.

On to the email sent last night to our leaders…. There has been some suggestion that we have invited them to write here in order to establish a kangaroo court in which they might be summarily convicted of… we’re not quite sure what.

This couldn’t be further from our aims. Our hope is that we can begin to inject some public participation into matters affecting our current leadership, that the leadership might address some of the concerns expressed on this blog, and that constructive dialogue might lead to a dissipation of the mooted apathy striking at younger Jews. We, at The Sensible Jew, undertake to treat all participants – be they commenters, or leaders wishing to participate here, with fairness, openness, and in good faith. Our record shows that while we passionately express our opinions – to do otherwise would render this blog pointless – we have never degenerated into making personal attacks. We view the ad hominem approach to debate as unworthy of true inquiry and honest discourse.

Another issue raised regarded the dangers of disunity – that should the Jews of Australia degenerate into internecine sniping, we will erode our community’s foundations. While in theory, it would be lovely for all of us to be able to stand together in the face of myriad challenges facing the 21st century Jew, such an aim is untenable.  Complete unity or unanimity (which is the reall issue, here, we believe) has never existed in any Jewish community throughout the entire history of our people. And calls for unity tend to come from people advocating for the status quo, as an emotive challenge to those stirring the pot. It is emotive because it renders any dissent or debate as existentially harmful to Jews. We believe the exact opposite is true. There is nothing more harmful to the well-being of any group than an absence of genuine discourse; and genuine discourse is only possible when competing ideas are able to duke it out in freedom, without fear of retribution.

This leads us to the next item: speaking out. Let us put it on the record that we are grateful to be agitating in a community that does not settle disputes with violence or the threat of violence. We are grateful that Jewish culture, here in Melbourne – and in Australia generally -  settles its scores in all manner of ways (both seemly and unseemly), but one need never worry about violent retribution. This is certainly not the case in many parts of the world, and perhaps even in some other communities in Australia. It speaks very, very well of us. It would be nice if our leaders could alert the media to this phenomenon at a relevant time, especially considering the number of tussles Jews find themselves in at any given moment, either with other Jews, or with non-Jews.

That said, an old canard has been repeated in our comments section recently that must be addressed: the implication that the Arab/Muslim world is devoid of dissent or debate. This is simply incorrect. A very quick Google search will throw up any number of blogs by people in the Muslim world – or Muslims in the west – who not only don’t hate Jews or America, but who also yearn to see reform taking place in their own countries. Many of these blogs – and other sites – are in English. Many are not. It can be difficult, without knowledge of Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu to get a really complete idea of what is being said. There’s plenty of nasty stuff out there. There are also plenty of examples that are really inspiring. Many, many people are risking their own safety, and the safety of their families, to call for greater transparency, democratisation, and freedom of expression in parts of the world that really put living in a wonderful place, like Australia, into its proper perspective. Often, these people will also expose the anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism of their governments for the diversionary tactics that they are: that these governments use the Israeli bogeyman to distract their own people from sub-standard governance.

Lastly, and certainly least importantly, our blog’s sub-heading: a number of people have missed the irony of it or take issue with our mentioning the Beth Din as an example of religious rightism. Some find it unnecessarily judgemental. Because we never intended this blog to be a showcase for our own vast wit/brilliance/whatever, but a forum for public discussion, we feel that if enough people find the sub-heading problematic, we’ll be happy to change it. Also, if someone can suggest something better, we’ll change it anyway.

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Related posts:

  1. Reader Response 7: Responding to our Non/Anti-Zionist Readers
  2. Reader Response 8: Canada, Isi Leibler, and Advocacy
  3. Reader Response 4: Coups, Town Halls, and the Reluctance to Comment
  4. Reader Response 6: Sha Shtil – Correcting a Misconception
  5. Reader Response 3: Media and Anti-Semitism

5 Responses to “Reader Response 5: Israel, Kangaroo Courts, Unity, Speaking Out, and Subheadings”

  1. The Goy Husband says:

    Dear Ms SJ,

    Thanks for clearing up some of the ambiguity that has surrounded the intention of the blog and its focus on leadership, communal organisations and personalities.

    Am I correct to think that any organisation representing itself to be of the community (like the Wolper, Independent Australian Jewish Voices or Maccabi) is open for public discourse over its decisions, strategies, funding basis and administrative effectiveness.

    Blogging can indeed offer greater community accountability. Within limits.

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  2. gustavm says:

    Whoever the anonymous “authors” of The Sensible Jew are, the so-called editorial comment Speaking Out” calls for a response.

    Why try and be slick – and stupid to boot! – by having a sub-heading which has nothing to do with whatever the objective of the blog is. Is there perhaps more than a tad envy in “using” Antony Loewenstein [btw, getting the spelling of his surname right would help to be taken seriously!] because he has attracted a following and support which the “author” bloggers find hard to take let alone understand?

    Talking around the Shabbath table about various topics, and not speaking out and up when it is called for, is not only wimpish but pathetic. It ill behoves Jews who have allegedly valued discourse and argument.

    Which brings one to the next point. It is the fact that ANYONE Jewish who speaks out against the perceived Jewish “line” is immediately dubbed a self-hating Jew, an anti-semite or anti Israel. Why attract that sort of opprobrium and offensive insult? End result? Default silence from those who would speak out and up but fear the consequences.! In fact, by tagging Loewenstein into the sub-heading of this blog, the “authors” of this blog, who claim that everyone’s views ought to be respected, have themselves engaged in their own bit of slagging off. “We view the ad hominem approach to debate as unworthy of true inquiry and honest discourse” referred to in the Speaking Out posting rings hollow.

    One suspects that the anonymous “authors” of this blog know full well that by taking the positions they have to date that they will be vilified and attacked if it was know who they are – and if academics, perhaps even fear that their positions at whatever Uni they are in [especially if in a Jewish department] will become tenuous.

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  3. sensiblejew says:

    Hi, Goy Husband. Sorry we missed your comment before. We will only speak about the Melbourne leadership’s openness to scrutiny and outside input: the simple answer is, one is free to say whatever one likes. Whether anyone will ever pay any attention is another matter entirely.

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  4. Senseless Jew says:

    Can i note that it is not suprising that Jewish community leaders might view themselves as walking into a ‘Kangaroo Court” in participating in this blog given that this Blog, has since the beginning, passed judgement on them all as collectively “unrepresentative swill”. Swill of course means pig food. You say you do not engage in ad hominom attacks, but this wording seems pretty close to one to me. I know you will argue you are only repeating a colourful phrase from Paul Keating, but would it really be that surprising if community leaders so labelled might not see it that way? Especially since the way the Age highlighted this description in the headline of Tom Hyland’s aricle?

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  5. sensiblejew says:

    Hello Gustav and welcome. Thank you for pointing out the misspelling of Antony Loewenstein’s name. We have since corrected our mistake.

    We stand by our assertion that we avoid personal attacks. We have never commented on Mr Loewenstein’s or anyone else’s personal traits in any way. We have, however, vigorously refuted what we believe to be intellectual flacidity, disingenuousness, and damaging behaviour on both the left and the right. To judge someone’s public thoughts or actions and then pass comment is hardly in the same category as ad hominem attack or villification.

    We also demand respect on this blog for all people; however, we do not demand respect for opinions or actions. These are two quite separate things. There would be no value in a blog that said nothing, in the hope that no one would be offended. If we believe public statements or actions are foolsih, or a book has been written with scant regard to even the most basic fact checking, then we are most certainly able to comment on that without resorting to petty name-calling.

    And once again: we are not attached to Monash or any other academic institution. We do not fear for our livelihoods. We are not anonymous because those big scary Zionists might come after us. We are anonymous because we want the issues to be front and centre, not our personae and the attendant assumptions about what we likely stand for that would occur before anyone had read a word.

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