Antony Loewenstein: Easily Startled

Today’s Sunday Age has published a letter from Antony Loewenstein.

We’ve written before that our objections to Mr. Loewenstein lie not only in the flawed intellectual foundations of his anti-Zionism, but also in his utterly vapid arguments which he so often supports with factual errors.

Let’s examine his latest contribution to the public discourse on Australian Jewry and The Sensible Jew:

THE new blog the Sensible Jew (“Blog takes on the ’swill’ who speak for Jews”, 7/6) appears unconcerned with anything other than improving the PR of the Zionist agenda.

In his first sentence, Loewenstein already demonstrates both a cavalier attitude towards facts and a reluctance to burden himself with too much research. As most of our readers are aware, our primary focus at SJ is on leadership, representation, and transparency in the Australian Jewish Community. PR is only a subset of these issues. We also enjoy reporting on the odd Loewenstein confection.

While a mature debate is raging overseas about war crimes in Gaza, ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank and racist laws in Israel that would ban Arab memorials for 1948 ethnic cleansing, the mostly anonymous bloggers prefer to talk about Jewish spokespeople appearing clumsy on national television.

There have only been a couple of posts among the 46 we’ve written devoted to television. These appeared quite early in the blog’s life.  Misrepresentation through microcosmic extrapolation is Loewenstein’s stock in trade. For example, a tactic Loewenstein regularly employs to demonstrate the inherent perfidy of Zionism on his blog, is to find the very worst examples of Jewish racism, perhaps a small group of Arab-haters here, or a couple of Muslim-slanderers there, and then to use these most extreme cases to tar the entire Israeli people and their Zionist supporters.

It is beyond intellectually lazy, it’s even beyond bad journalism: it’s a form of villification. It would not be tolerated as a tactic against any other people (except, of course, Americans). It would be given it’s true name: racist.

An interesting corollary of all this, is that there are indeed legitimate concerns that Zionists may hold regarding Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. But Antony extinguishes all good-will and pushes potentially helpful (to his cause, at least) Jewish voices away through his insistence that there is nothing legitimate, nothing redeeming at all about the Jewish state. He seems less interested in the welfare of Palestinians than he is in making blanket, divisive, poorly researched statements that are guaranteed to alienate anyone who might otherwise be sympathetic.

As is seen in Britain and the US, a growing number of concerned citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are no longer willing to accept a self-described Jewish state that actively discriminates against the non-Jewish population. A global campaign to boycott Israel is growing in strength.

Once again, Loewenstein is quite unencumbered by the rigours of basic fact-checking. Firstly, Israel, since its independence has been recognised by a majority at the UN as a Jewish state. That it also describes itself as a Jewish state is something of a truism. Loewenstein’s implication, however, is that Israel is alone in its Jewish designation. This is just such a silly error, that one has to wonder at the anti-Zionist wisdom of embracing him as a spokesperson.

He is also quite wrong about the increasing strength of boycotts. The threats of boycotts and divestment have been around for about as long as your blogger has been alive. They wax and wane. Five years ago, it all seemed pretty fierce again. Today, there are unions debating other unions about the wisdom of such actions, and the academic activists have absolutely failed to gain any traction with policy-makers.

Instead, the Australian Jewish community obsesses about who belongs to what Jewish roof body. The parochialism is startling.

We are genuinely sorry for startling Mr. Loewenstein.

100,000 or so Jewish Australians do, however, have a set of interests that are unique to them. Just as Loewenstein relies on selective condemnation of Israelis in ways he would never dare to extend to other peoples, we don’t believe we will hear from him any time soon on the matter of Greek-Australian parochialism, Vietnamese-Australian parochialism, and certainly never on Arab-Australian parochialism.

The reason is simple: Loewenstein has a burning need to demonstrate a moral laxity in Jews, and in Jews alone. That he works so very hard to except himself and a very few others from such laxity is perhaps the clearest indication that his concerns may be more personal than political.

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Related posts:

  1. The Sensible Jew Salutes Antony Loewenstein.
  2. Loewenstein: Why Bother?
  3. Reader Response 7: Responding to our Non/Anti-Zionist Readers
  4. Dvir Abramovich in The Age: No Laughing!
  5. Mossad and Our Passports

51 Responses to “Antony Loewenstein: Easily Startled”

  1. MERC says:

    SJ, There are none so blind as will not see. Thousands of Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948 to make way for a Jewish-majority state. They remain as refugees in surrounding countries, stateless and disenfranchised, in the name of the maintenance of Israel’s Jewish-majority. And this while Jews such as yourselves have the luxury of deciding whether or not to live here or there. Israel sees its non-Jewish citizens as a threat to its Jewish majority. The Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories is increasingly called upon to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and so accept the permanent exile of the ‘48 refugees from their homes and lands. And all this, for you, is as it should be? I commend Antony Loewenstein and others like him for seeing through the anachronistic, toxic tribalism that is political Zionism and recognising that we’re all human beings with far more in common than the accidents of birth which divide us. His speaking out against the tribal nature and crimes of the state of Israel has nothing whatever to do with any alleged “need to demonstrate moral laxity in Jews.” Seeing that Israel, as a self-declared Jewish state, claims to be acting in the interests of ‘the Jewish people’ wherever they live, as a person of conscience, who identifies as a Jew, I imagine he feels he has little choice but to say loud and clear – ‘Not in my name’.

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  2. Merc,

    Many will dispute your use of the term “ethnically cleansed” to describe the departure of Palestinians from Israel in 1948. Further, it’s an oddity that between 1948 and 1967, when the so-called “refugees” were under the rule of Egypt and Jordan, there was no huge global push for a Palestinian state. Most of the I/P debate these days is predicated on facts that are actually falsehoods. Reveal those, and the whole thing falls down like a house of cards.

    But alas, SJ will tell us that here is not the place for those discussions.


    I question whether we should bother engaging Loewenstein at all – it simply gives him column-inches that he does not deserve. You have every right to run a blog to discuss local Jewish leadership, advocacy and PR, and to limit the scope of those discussions. Every (ethnic) community has the right to such functions. His attack can be summed up as this: “don’t even discuss your issue, mine is more important, and within that, my view is the only valid one”. So both Loewenstein and yourself are “off-topic” in the attack and response regarding this very blog!

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  3. raffegold says:


    Thank you for this. I have met Loewenstein on several occasions and have been thoroughly unimpressed. Whilst I understand exactly where David is coming from in simply ignoring Loewenstein’s baseless and moronic comments an alternate fear is that Loewenstein continues to scream to whoever will listen and without a harsh rebuking from the Jewish community his views will gain credence in the wider arena.

    Keep up the good work SJ!

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  4. Michael Brull says:

    You write that Antony uses marginal examples of anti-Arab racists to criticise Israel and it’s supporters. In the letter you cite, he cites the example of what may became actual Israeli laws preventing commemoration of the Nakba. Which you studiously ignore. You also refuse to comment on ECAJ et al’s embrace of Benny Morris, supposedly in line with their anti-racist agenda. And you refuse to comment on AIJAC’s support for expelling Arabs in the Nakba.

    However, you did think it important to warn of the dangers of a “complete and utter disgrace” of an academic conference on Gaza, despite apparently not knowing anything about the speakers.

    I think this is enough to show what was never really in doubt. 1) you are yet another voice for hasbara (2) you are not even slightly independent or principled, and are not even willing to suggest that expelling Palestinians from their homes is wrong, or that perhaps the leading Jewish communal bodies shouldn’t openly endorse anti-Palestinian racists.

    Now it’s fine if you want to complain that Antony Loewenstein has different politics to you. But what he wrote is basically right. And given that racism plainly isn’t something you are concerned about, it’s a little hard to take seriously your concern that Loewenstein is racist. Plainly, what worries you isn’t racism, but when Jews criticise Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

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  5. MERC says:

    David Werdiger, were I to deny the existence of the Nazi holocaust, I’d be correctly accused of holocaust denial. You seem to be engaging in nakba denial. Still, even in the improbable circumstance that the Palestinians just decided to go walkabout for no apparent reason at all in ‘48, that does not mean they therefore have no right of return. Please consult your copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (if you have one) – Article 13. Re your reference to no push for a Palestinian state in the years up to 1967, why would they? They were relying instead, forlornly as we now see, on the UN to enforce resolution 194, enshrining the right of return to their homes and lands in what is today Israel. Is it any wonder then that some eventually turned to armed struggle to win back their homes and lands?

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  6. Jon says:

    I don’t think your blog can simply ignore the substantive issues associated with the I/P conflict.

    Part of the problem with the official leadership of Australian Jewry is too often they represent an overly rightwing and narrow view of the I/P conflict. When one reads the AJN of late, one struggles to find anything remotely informative on the I/P conflict (with some exceptions – Mark Baker’s columns come to mind). Why on earth, for example, do the AJN continue to source everything from the right-wing JPost as oppposed to Israel’s newspaper of record, Haaretz.

    These issues may become particulary interesting in light of the current dispute between Obama and Netanyahu. How the jewish community leadership is likely for example to respond to Netanyahu’s leadership will be interesting, given to date his refusal to utter the words “Palestinian state” or to agree to a genuine settlement freeze (it should be remembered that Rabin agreed to such a freeze in 93/94 so its been done before).

    I don’t think a blog should remained neutral or balanced on such issues. If the Israeli right wing world view is a load of rubbish and more importantly, is harming Israel’s long-term interests, then you should say so.

    I for one do not believe that simply because you live in the Diaspora, you have to be a lacky for whatever policy the current Israeli government is following.

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  7. Michael says:

    Merc [ Maher ] well the same argument can be used against you on your blog site and other similar anti Zionists when criticizing and giving real examples of Palestinian acts of extremism,intolerance, racism in their portrayal of Jews in their media , Mosques etc , intransigence ,corruption , discrimination of Palestinian Christians etc etc and immediately there are cries of Islamophobia …In fact Muslims have cried all the way to The UN and demanded { and received ] they get special protection for criticism that’s pretty paranoid I’d say , wouldn’t you?

    Perhaps you and you friend Antony should take an example from this BLog site and accept views you do not subscribe to.

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  8. MERC says:

    Diversionary tactics, Michael. Ignore the primary act of ethnic cleansing, deny the nakba, blame and demonise the victims as terrorists and extremists whenever they hit back, pretend the Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonialism is really just Islam on the march. No matter what the spin, it’s just not selling though, is it? Not even Israeli Jews are buying nakba denial anymore: ‘Study surprisingly finds 47% of Israeli-Jews believe that the 1948 Palestinian refugees were expelled by Israel’, 4/6/09, Spin away, Michael, no one’s listening anymore.

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  9. Liss says:

    Hooo, gotta love The AL!
    He can certainly be credited with initiating dialogue, if nothing else…

    Look, it seems to me that his letter is a mash-up of two issues which have been dealt with pretty separately by the SensiJew:

    1) Israel PR, and how it’s handled by the Melbourne Jewish community; and
    2) The politics of Jewish communal institutions.

    There’s certainly a relationship between the two, but they’re not one and the same.

    Loewenstein’s letter is misleading because it oversimplifies the content on the Sensible Jew. The letter reduces the SJ to being all about Israel advocacy, and therefore ignorant of crimes against Palestinians, and therefore parochial and petty in light of serious events happening in Israel/Palestine. If that were indeed the case, then yes, perhaps you could extrapolate that we Melbourne Jews are “parochial”.

    But the SJ (and the Melbourne/Australian Jewish community) is not that simple. The SJ is not the caricature that Loewenstein would have readers of The Age believe. Likewise, the Melbourne Jewish community is not 100% fixated on Israel advocacy and/or the denial of Palestinian suffering. I’ve been reading SJ from the beginning, and what brings me back again and again is the core issue (well, as I perceive it) behind the blog – the function and transparency of Jewish communal organizations.

    There’s a lot more to the JCCV et al than the “Zionist agenda”. These ‘roof’ organisations control the direction of communal funds: to schools, welfare organisations, education, security, and yes, Israel advocacy. They have a direct impact on the day-to-day life of many Melbourne Jews. I don’t think it’s anyway unreasonable for us to “obsess” about these organisations.

    I want to know how I’m going to be able to afford to give my kids a Jewish education. I want to know exactly how communal funds are distributed; to know that aged care facilities are being maintained to an appropriate standard, because most likely my parents will end up there. I want to know what services are being provided to young Jews so that they grow up to be happy, healthy, contributing members to the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. I want to know how my community is protecting me, so that I am not harassed walking to the synagogue. Are these concerns parochial? Maybe, maybe not. They are real, that’s for sure.

    So Loewenstein is way off the mark. But I’m not referring to his understanding of the plight of Israelis and Palestinians (although he’s not my cup of tea there, either). I mean in terms of his ‘getting’ (or not getting) the Sensible Jew and his/her/their readership. Loewenstein’s letter has been titled “Missing the Point”, presumably by a sub-editor at The Age, to describe HIS view of THIS blog. Which is ironic, because it’s really him who’s “missing the point”.

    Fire away.

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  10. dzyngier says:

    Dear Merc and Michael,

    if you and other SJ bloggers want to actually DO SOMETHING [apart from talking] about the lack of discussion about the real issues that confront Jewish communities everywhere – that is the nature of our relationship with Israel and how that affects everything we think and do – then have a look at GoPetitions Changing the World: Australian Jews support Obama’s MidEast Statement

    and then tell your friends about it!

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  11. michael says:

    Not all Australian Jews , dzyngier you should not be associating all Australian Jews with your propaganda you are doing exactly what you are accusing elected Jewish leaders of doing !

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  12. Disinterested Observer says:

    Of various aspects about this blog that are puzzling, the obsession with Antony Loewenstein is perhaps the most interesting. I would never deny that internet titan Loewenstein could be single-handedly responsible for the decline in Israel’s image. Clearly he is responsible, and Israel’s increasingly severe actions have nothing to do with it.

    Also clear is the neat symbiotic relationship between the SJ and the Ant. Each feeds the other in a virtuous circle of love (disguised as disdain, but I am not fooled).

    But is SJ really going to keep his name in the subhead indefinitely?

    I would like to suggest a rotating roster of rougues that could fulfill the right-hand (but left-wing) slot in the subhead. My first suggestion is Max Blumenthal, creator of the notorious viral video of drunken Obama abuse in Jerusalem, now with 400,000 hits on youtube.

    But this is not the reason he merits inclusion. I note that one of SJ’s criticisms of the Melbourne J-establishment is their frequent recourse to absurd accusations of antisemitism. In an interview in Haaretz (14 June 09) Blumenthal gives the funniest response I’ve ever seen to such absurdities:

    “‘I have received death threats from people, mainly ones calling me a self-hating Jew. I am self-hating, but my self-hatred has nothing to do with me being Jewish,’ Blumenthal told Haaretz this week. ”

    I’ve never seen anything quite like it & I don’t know that Mr Loewenstein measures up.

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  13. MERC says:

    SJ, To say in response to my initial post (1) that Israel is “not devoid of problems”/”doesn’t contain unpleasant elements” is a breathtaking understatement. The issue of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the enforced exile of the majority of its people from 78% of their homeland in order to achieve and maintain a demographic Jewish majority is not simply problematic or unpleasant, it is racist to the core and goes to the very heart of the Zionist project in Palestine. Given that neither you (I assume) nor I would tolerate the existence of an ethnographic/theocratic regime in Australia, how then can you support one in Israel/Palestine? This is a fundamental moral/political issue which cannot be swept under the carpet any longer. If, as you suggest, Antony Loewenstein is the exception to the rule that most Australian Jews are Zionists “to some degree,” then that is to his everlasting credit. You ask if the Jewish community, to the extent that it embraces political Zionism, is “deluded.” Was the pre-1994 white minority in South Africa, to the extent that it embraced apartheid, deluded?

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  14. MERC comes across all knowledgeable about the conflict on his blog. But that’s because he mostly links to stuff and attempts deconstruction. But here in the comments, where he attempts to explain himself, he comes undone.

    First, Jews like the Sensible Jew do have the luxury of deciding whether to become Israeli citizens, whereas Palestinians do not. Like it or not, Israel is the Jewish state, and affords the right of Jews to become citizens. Non-Jews can become citizens, but the process is harder (and one of the pre-requisites is that you don’t want to dismantle the state…) In the same vein, Greece allows Greeks the world over to become citizens with tremendous ease, whereas non-Greeks find it harder to become citizens. Likewise, Ireland allows people of Irish descent greater ease to become citizens than the non-Irish. And so the list goes. States with a majority ethnicity and a diaspora the world over allow the diaspora to become citizens with greater ease than members of other ethnicities. Israel is one of many examples.

    Second, UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is not binding. So if the Arab and/or Palestinian leaderships were waiting for the UN to enforce it, they’re idiots, and show about as much knowledge of international law as MERC himself. However, and at risk of watering down my fabulous insult in the preceding sentence, they weren’t waiting for the UN to enforce it; they were trying to enforce it themselves, with numerous raids, and sponsorship of terrorist groups, like the Egyptian organised Fedayun. See also the massive arms build up the Arab states undertook with Soviet sponsorship in order to ‘erase the stain on Arab pride’ that the Zionist Entity so nicely splashed, like a good old glass of red wine.

    Third, Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights allows everyone to leave a country (Israel certainly allowed that of the Palestinians – what are you complaining about?!), and “to return to his country.” Sexist, gender-specific words notwithstanding, the Palestinians will be more than welcome to return to their country if and when, for the first time in history, they have a country. Israel is not their country. It is not a Palestinian state. It is not even an Arab state. It is the Jewish state of Israel. You may not like it, MERC, but it’s reality. Palestinians can’t return to it because they don’t own it. (Oh, and they never have. The Brits had it before the Jews, and before them the Turks, and so on into distant history…)

    Fourth, regarding your ongoing remarks about the Naqba. It did happen. No one denies it. The Jews turfed out a whole bunch of Arabs. But you know what? The Arabs were trying to turf out a whole bunch of Jews. And, in the logic of school ground arguments (which the Arab-Israel conflict so often reflects), the Arabs started it. The Germans started World War II and lost, but I don’t hear a lot of sympathy for them. Likewise, the Palestinians, with active wider Arab support, started what Israelis call the War of Independence and lost. Sorry, folks, but thems the breaks.

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  15. MERC says:

    Nice try, Elder. Your first argument is disingenuous in the extreme: Jews have a right to take up Israeli citizenship, but for non-Jewish Palestinians (who just happen to be the indigenous people of the country) it’s “harder”. Harder? Who are you trying to fool? In its Law of Return, Israel discriminates against the return of Palestine’s indigenous Arab inhabitants on the basis of race/religion. As for Greeks etc, they, unlike Israeli Jews, do not live in Greece at the expense of an exiled indigenous population.

    Your second argument, that 194 is non-binding gets you nowhere. So too is the partition resolution 181, which you like to think gives the Zionist project in Palestine its legitimacy.

    Your third argument is based on a nonsense: that the Palestinian refugees of 1948 were not somehow, really living on their land or in their country, that Palestine was some sort of terra nullius or that, if anyone owned it, it was the Brits or the Turks. When will Zionist apologists ever get over the notion that the Palestinians were just squatters/nomads/itinerants in their own land? Silly question. Palestinians expelled from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, Acre etc have the legal right of the refugee to return to Jaffa, Haifa, Acre etc, regardless of your assertions to the contrary.

    Finally, your allegation that the Palestinians were trying to “turf out a whole lot of Jews” – please refer me to the Palestinian Plan Dalet. Palestinian resistance to ethnic cleansing by Zionist forces in 1948 was akin to the kind of desperate, rearguard defence of their lands engaged in by Australia’s Pemulwuy or America’s Sitting Bull. The primary cause of the Middle East conflict is simply the attempt by a settler-colonial movement, Zionism, to carve a Jewish state out of Palestine at the expense of its indigenous Palestinian Arab population. To pretend otherwise is delusional.

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  16. I can sense the Sensible Jew about to shut this convo down, so let me be quick:

    1 and 3: About half the Arab population living in the British Mandate of Palestine on May 14, 1948 were not born there. Because the Jews had made the economy so good, immigrants, mostly from Egypt, had gone to get jobs.

    2. 181 is not binding. It would only have been binding if all relevant parties agreed to it. The Palestinian Arabs did not. 181 does not give the Zionist Entity legitimacy; it does not need legitimacy. It exists. Get over it.

    3. International law, especially that to do with the status of citizens, etc, is based on – and especially was so in the 1940s – statehood. The Palestinians were not citizens of an Arab Palestinian state. There has never been such a state. Half of them may have lived there for generations and owned lots of property, but the Palestinians never owned Palestine vis-a-vis statehood. This is different to the case of Australian Aborigines. Aborigines did not have the concept of possession or land ownership, like in the Islamic and Western worlds of the 1940s. If anything, they think that the land owns them, not the other way round. Palestinian Arabs were well aware of the concept of statehood and land ownership and as such, bunk about living in all those cities is bunk. Jews had lived in Hebron – continuously – longer than the Arabs. Didn’t stop them being turfed out in 1929.

    4. If you seriously believe that Palestinian Arabs, from the leadership to the people did not call for, overwhelmingly support and attempt (with the active help of neighbourbing Arab countries; help for which the Palestinian Arab leadership called) to drive the Jews out of areas of Arab control, you are as deluded as those Zionists who still think the Arabs went out for a picnic in 1948 and never bothered coming back. Plan Dalet was a response to actual and impending Arab violence. The chicken, in this case, came well after the egg.

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  17. SJ#10,

    After due consideration, it probably is better to respond to Loewenstein in some way, but bearing in mind the words of Ethics of the Fathers: “know how to respond to a heretic”.

    I took issue with your response, because I felt it opened the door for further I/P debate that didn’t belong here. You can see that this is indeed what happened. That’s why I called it “off topic”.

    For someone whose blog has been a platform for criticizing our leadership, you seem not to respond well when the criticism goes the other way. Chill!

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  18. Oh, and my might add that Palestinian refugees do have the legal right to return to Israel, well sort of. Can’t be bothered going into all the details. But a) children of refugees aren’t refugees (unless they’re Palestinian; go figure, but the ‘legal right’ in this case is from the generic law, not the Palestinian-only refugee status) so the Palestinian “refugees” rotting in Lebanon and elsewhere, unless they were born in the Mandate of Palestine and are still alive, have got no legal right whatsoever and b) if refugees can’t go back to their land of origin, they are supposed to be absorbed by the country in which they ended up.

    I see as much effort by Arab countries to absorb Palestinian refugees and their descendants as I see you calling for that to happen.

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  19. Disinterested Observer says:

    SJ: #27 my screen name simply reflects the fact that I have no connection to any middle-eastern factions, countries or ethnic groups, that is to say I am in the same position as most Australians. So I have no financial or familial interest in the goings-on there. Nevertheless any attempt to read a newspaper or watch the news involves confronting the sad saga of the middle-east. It’s been like that, well, it seems like forever.

    So one tries to understand the world. I have found that ideologies are useless for the purpose of understanding the world. They always fail at some point. The world is not simple enough for ideologies to succeed. Is Zionism an ideology? If so, regardless of whether it it “right” or “wrong”, it will fail. This seems to be what is happening to Israel right now. The contradictions, swept under various rugs for so long, are returning like unwanted ghosts. How will Israel deal with this? Will it succeed in transcending ideology? With or without assistance from US/UK/Oz Jewry? Will it all end badly? These are compelling questions.

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  20. Disinterested Observer says:

    SJ: as to intent, well normally I take the topics seriously. In this thread, you may have provoked me into humour. But now I am going to follow you and address the topic of Loewenstein seriously, because I do have a serious (but pretty simple) question.

    Why is it that you characterize him as left-wing?

    As I noted above, I am allergic to all ideologies, because I find that they just don’t work and are painfully at variance with reality. I certainly include lefty ideologies amongst my allergies, yet I find no unpleasant swellings, rashes or other allergic reactions when I read Loewenstein. Now it may be that I just didn’t read enough (eg I haven’t read his books) or I wasn’t paying attention. But is there something specific in his writing that you can point to that would mark him as a lefty in the usual sense (eg preferring socialist-style economics versus laissez-faire fee markets, or any other signpost of the lefty mind)?

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  21. Disinterested Observer says:

    er, that should have been “laissez-faire free markets”. Or perhaps “flea markets”. But not “fee markets”. I blame my keyboard.

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  22. I can hear the lid of Pandora’s box creaking open. Not-so-Disinterested Observer wrote: “Is Zionism an ideology? If so, regardless of whether it it “right” or “wrong”, it will fail. This seems to be what is happening to Israel right now.”

    That you feel the Zionist Enterprise is currently in its death throes is a crock of the highest order, but I’ll let someone else take you up on that.

    My two cents will be thrown in regarding the Zionist=Ideology. It’s not. Zionism is Jewish nationalism. Simple as that. It’s about an ethnic group wanting its own state. It does not have a set of principles or rules, like most ‘ideologies.’ It simply wants Jews to be able to determine their own future and not be reliant on non-Jews for security, in the land Jews consider their spiritual homeland.

    Polls in Israel consistently show that Israeli Jews are very proud and happy being Israeli and they don’t want to move elsewhere thank you very much. Zionism failing my arse!

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  23. sensiblejew says:

    Guys, I just deleted a bunch of posts from Aarpn Goldberg, David Werdiger, Merc, and Michael. We have asked all of you, countless times, to refrain:
    a)from personal attacks
    b)from debating Israel/Palestine issues unless they relate directly to Australia.

    Merc, we can only count one or two of your contributions here that have not breached the above guidelines. This is not the place to propound your views on I/P. There a many, many other places you can go to pick this particular fight. We urge you to find them.

    All further breaches will be deleted without explanation.

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  24. The Goy Husband says:

    Dear TSJ,

    Ladies, thanks for the managed dialogue between MERC (I think he might be the author of the anonymous website that has “conspiracy” stories about the evils of the Jewish Community’s awesome yet sinister (my take on his line) control over political discourse) and Elder of Zion (he writes so well – must be a two sides of the story Libran like me!). It was a titanic sized job.

    On the real point of the thread: Mr Lowenstein has performed well in venues (like the Sydney Writers festival) and online where he can position himself as a rational, sensible and never shrill voice for moderation between extremes such as the settlers and the radicals.

    However, your analysis of his various alleged weaknesses is both detailed and compelling.

    Maybe you should devote some websirte time to review the internal democracy, representativeness or transparency of organisations or critics who are centre stage against the current Jewish communal leadership, its commitment to diversity and dialogue.

    Oh by the way, it was 2 against 1 in the letters pages of the SMH today on the Gillard tour (do these programs work in your eyes?)

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  25. Hee hee! Did I poke a stick into a hornets nest? I feel like I’m on the right side of a conspiracy when my post remains and MERC and co find theirs deleted!

    I actually thought I could get away with such a comment, because questioning Zionism – while very much related to the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio – is also part of what this blog discusses (or discusses others discussing – e.g. Loewenstein).

    I’m afraid I’ve got little time for inter-community politics and the like. To be frank, it sh*ts me no end, and I’m not entirely sure any rant I provide in this forum would make a difference anyhow. Actually, I’m entirely sure it wouldn’t. As such, I’ll reserve any commenting for helping you stick it to Loewenstein, on those occasions you choose to do so.

    Finally, thank you Sensible Jew and Goy Husband for compliments on my writing. Anonymity unleashes creativity, it seems.

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  26. TheSadducee says:

    Loewenstein remarks “The parochialism is startling.”

    This coming from a Jew who has made his career to date primarily talking about Israel and Jewish related matters…

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  27. sensiblejew says:

    Sadducee, nice call!

    Goy Husband, we do not intend to devote our time to anything that does not directly affect our community. The internecine squabbles of other communities is of no interest to us, unless it has a direct impact on Australian Jewry. We find it puzzling that you so strongly advocate anything that would deflect attention from our own communial leaders.

    Elder of Zion, as great as your writing is, there is no conspiracy, and if you cross the line again, you’ll be deleted with the others.

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  28. The Goy Husband says:

    Dear TSJ,

    The squabbles (your words) … my words are internal democracy, representativeness and transparency do have a direct, cogent and substantial impact on our community. Critics of the current communal processes (both perceived systemic weaknesses, leadership responsiveness and actual policy/practices) should be the subject of fair, reasonable and searching analysis.

    Your moderation of this site – with ample dissection of the value, rationale and persuasiveness of various comments – is an exercise that is consistent with my suggestion. The old pot calling the kettle black syndrome is alive and well if certain foundational aspects are not addressed. It may be the case that the very things that you (TSJ and co) see as deficient in Australian Jewry can be explained or understood by the forces/players that take political/ideological aim at the communal leaders, their organisations or their values.

    I hate to say that I disagree (why spoil our discourse) but puzzling is not an apt conclusion.

    If any, the correct title would be frustation at what I perceive as well meaning, bold and partially naive thinking: a blog does not make a revolution anymore than a twitter conversation a democratic election.

    I would very much welcome TSJ going further with greater details (from this point forward) as to conceptually practical models of governance that might achieve the end results so passionately sought by the blogging originators.

    Unhappiness over the current state of play is quite useless (a bit like watching some State Governments) … workshopping (horrid business term) a solution or at least a reform pathway might be more useful.

    Ps sorry for mispelling Antony’s name – my typing skills are sometimes only moderate (like most of my political/social views).

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  29. Disinterested Observer says:

    Elder, #32 – What is clear to me is that Israel is in crisis at present. That is being reflected in a crisis of sorts in the diaspora, resulting in the emergence of Loewenstein et al and in turn leading to the emergence of this blog! If there were no crisis, SJ wouldn’t have to worry about how lousy the PR people are.

    Former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg advises “anyone who can” in Israel to obtain a passport from a Western country, as he has (from France I think). He says that when he asks friends whether their children will stay, perhaps 50% expect they will. Now this may be an elite subgroup, but you definitely don’t want your elites skedaddling.

    Mr Burg knows far more about Israel and Zionism than I do, so I’m inclined to take him seriously. He gives copious evidence and this was *before* Gaza and a Foreign Minister being appointed whose rhetoric in 2003 looked like this:

    “I am willing to bring the busses to take the Palestinian prisoners to a place from which they will never return… I would rather drown them in the Dead Sea.”

    Now that he is Foreign Minister he says that Israel “cannot continue with a successful foreign policy without changing the way we are perceived” internationally. He lamented: “We have a fundamental problem: we are not perceived well.”

    No kidding! Who woulda thunk?! A country with an FM known for talking about bussing people to be drowned has an image problem!

    But no, not a crisis, never a crisis. Just an image problem! Right.

    Now you might say Israel is always in crisis & there is nothing new here. Well, I’ve been reading the papers for a long time and I think there is something new, both in Israel, in the West’s approach to it and (relatedly) in the diaspora.

    On a question of politesse: I have explained my “disinterest” explicitly in #28. But I am far from being “uninterested”. Obviously. That’s the whole idea, see!? Somewhat disappointed that I have to explain my little joke.

    I just got Burg’s book, along with “Einstein on Israel and Zionism”, so I’ve got some reading ahead of me.

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  30. Disinterested Observer says:

    Elder, last post was from me. SJ: I figured identity is important enough to correct.

    Moderator: Much appreciated!

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  31. Chook says:

    David Werdigar, When Loewenstein has his unimformed, inflamitary non-sense published, your average joe blow may, unforntunitly take him seriously so we need to counter his rubbish with facts.

    We know that his chosen career is to vilify Israel that is his form of income. I would love to think that to ignore him would be the best tactic, but he has the same sort of carisma that our worst enemies had.

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  32. Not-so-Disinterested Observer,

    I disagree with a large proportion of what you wrote, but don’t want to be deleted. Pretty much nothing I would write has anything to do with or impacts upon Australia and/or the Australian Jewish community. Sensible Jew is becoming strict!

    Allow me to say one thing though; Avraham Burg is a schmuck. Reading Burg’s book about Zionism will give you as well-rounded a knowledge of the subject as would reading an Antony Loewenstein treatise.

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  33. Chook says:

    A great letter in the Sunday Age from Bill Anderson showing up Loewenstin for what he is. I am sure many sent in letters, including the real me, but I am glad Bill’s was used. It also showed some good judgement on the part of the Sunday Age

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  34. jewinthefat says:

    Looks like newmatilda is changing it’s tune … or is it?

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  35. Mohan says:

    I think Lowenstien is mistaken as well as SJ. Israel describes itself as a state of the Jewish people not a Jewish state. Unlike Iran or Pakistan, Islamic states, Israel is a stae of all the world’s Jews.

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  36. hmmm says:

    Just for a new perspective on someone who is like a brother to me! Antony Lowenstein is one of the most caring, loveing thoughtful and inspiring people I know. He’s out there meeting and interviewing and experiencing the people and places he writes about. I know, I get messages of love and support on my mobile everytime he leaves the country to do more research.

    It saddens me as both a jew and as his friend to read some of the personal attacks on Antony’s character. You may not like what he writes and I am not here to defend any of it but I ask you to think of his friends and family when you next decide to disagree with his thoughts.

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  37. hmmm says:

    oh and thanks sensible jew for mointoring this. I went back and see that you do cut out a lot of the personal slander so thanks for that!

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  38. sensiblejew says:

    Hi David Werdiger.

    We wonder if your comments on this issue have been made in good faith. We have clearly stated, on numerous occasions, our reasons for asking people not to write on Israel/Palestine unless there is a direct link to the Australian Jewish community. If this in some way does not meet your needs, there are multitudes of fora available that deal with this issue.

    Secondly, Loewenstein receives a substantial amount of media and academic space to propound his views. Choosing not to expose his flawed arguments, poor reasoning, and lax fact-checking is problematic on two counts:
    1) People who are undecided are left with only one side of the argument
    2) It allows us as Zionists to engage in exactly that kind of group-think of which we accuse the anti-Zionists: we are so comfortable in our certainty that we see no need to examine arguments, reasoning, or facts.

    We are pleased you acknowledge our “right to run a blog.” How you extrapolate that to mean that we are off-topic is quite opaque. There could be nothing more on topic than a response to a flawed, inaccurate criticism of this blog’s raison d’etre.

    Finally, comments about our moderation policy are never on topic. They will be deleted from here on.

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  39. sensiblejew says:

    Hi and welcome, raffegold. Thank you for your kind words about the blog.

    As we wrote in our response to David Werdiger, what Loewenstein lacks in substance, he makes up for in volume. His stock in trade is slandering all Zionists, implying that we are all supporters of ethnic cleansing and abusing the human rights of Palestinians. It doesn’t strike us as a particularly smart move to keep quiet in the hope that he’ll go away, while meanwhile, his views gain tractionn in the wider community.

    We look forward to hearing more from you.

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  40. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Michael and Merc:

    Michael, we do not claim, and we never have, that Israel is devoid of problems or that it doesn’t contains unpleasant elements. That was never the issue. The Naqba law is not yet law, and it is exceptional in Loewenstein’s writing in that it relies on something other than the tactic of tarring all Zionists. OPlease note, our post did not refer to his letter alone.

    Please provide proof that we know nothing of the speakers at the ACU lectures. Please bring to our attention any factual error or logical fallacy that we made in either of the relevant posts.

    That we are concerned with Australian Jewish issues and not those of Israel/Palestine is entirely proper. It is entirely IMproper to suggest that simply because we are Jews, we must comment on Israel/Palestine.

    We never complain about differing politics. We object to the seriousness with which Loewenstein is taken by the intelligenstia, despite his numerous failings as a researcher and writer.

    Michael, you have not demonstrated – with clear evidence – that anything we have said is incorrect. You have not addressed the poverty of Loewenstein’s intellectual contributions.


    Merc, you may not want to hear this, but almost all Australian Jews are Zionists to some degree. Loewenstein makes news for precisely the reason that he is so very unusual. Are we as an entire ethnic group deluded? Why would that be so?


    The biggest problem with Michael and Merc’s arguments is this: they have done nothing to demonstrate that Loewenstein is not intellectually lazy, cavalier with facts, and a very poor advocate for his cause.

    What if there are elements of Loewenstein’s arguments that could resonate with a number of Jews? What if there were Australian Jews out there who sympathised with the plight of the Palestinians? Many of them might even be in a position to help or influence Israeli policy. The only problem is, these Jews are not going to renounce Zionism. Do any of you believe that Loewenstein’s tactics of smearing all Zionists is actually going to help Palestinians? What concrete good has Loewenstein done for these people? The only effect we perceive Loewenstein having on Jews is to unite them – both leftist and rightist – in condemnation of his broad-brush attacks that would not be tolerated if they were made against any other ethnic group.

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  41. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Jon, and welcome.

    We do not advocate any particular approach to relations with Israel.

    We ask you to read posts and relevant comments before commenting. Our reasoning for not dealing with Israel/Palestine has been made clear on numerous occasions.

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  42. sensiblejew says:

    Liss, what a great comment!

    The concerns you bring up (education, funds etc.) are key. We’ll be writing a post tomorrow that will touch on these issues as they relate to governance.

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  43. sensiblejew says:

    Elder of Zion (will we ever stop loving your screen name? probably not), you are quite right in what you sense. I’m shutting this discussion of Israel/Palestine down. It’s a shame, because you raise some really interesting issues, and we really appreciate that whatever you argue, you argue with clarity and civility. Kol ha’kavod – and perhaps visit some of the other topics so we can enjoy your writing there as well.

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  44. sensiblejew says:

    Hi David Werdiger.

    We saw the danger of opening an Israel/Palestine debate as having been greatly outweighed by the numerous other issues raised in Loewenstein’s letter.

    As moderators and writers of this blog, these are the sorts of decisions we have to make. We assure you we give all such decisions their due consideration.

    We would like to clarify something: were we averse to disagreement with our views, we would never have begun this blog. Critiques of moderation policy, however, are not the same as criticism of substantive issues.

    They derail debates, interfere with the flow of argument, and bore most readers. Our email address is publicly available (sensiblejew[at]gmail[dot]com). You are always welcome to email us with whatever concerns you may have.

    Any further interruption of blog discussion with moderation complaints will be deleted.

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  45. sensiblejew says:

    Merc, this is not the place for such discussion. Any further breaches of our policy will be deleted.

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  46. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Disinterested Observer. Your screen name does seem to contradict your intent. A couple of posts about Loewenstein hardly indicates symbiosis. His name is in our subheading because he has made himself the most easily recognisable face of a mode of argument with which most Australian Jews take issue. Your idea of the roster is cute, though.

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  47. sensiblejew says:

    Disinterested Observer, the left/right paradigm as it relates to Israel/Palestine has somewhat specific connotations and tends to be dominated by left = concessions to the Palestinians and right = as few concessions as possible. This is, of course, a very simplistic summation; however, it will suffice to explain where Loewenstein is placed along the left/right continuum as it relates to Israel/Palestine.

    If you are not yet aware of the vast number of factual errors and poor reasoning that characterise Loewenstein’s writing, we advise you read widely on the subject before going back to Loewenstein and checking on your allergies.

    Also, please do not create a separate comment to correct typos or other errors in a previous comment. It is disruptive to the discussion’s flow. Everybody understands that the nature of online discussion is not conducive to the neatest writing.

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  48. sensiblejew says:

    Nu, Mr/Ms Elder of Zion! Stop giving us indigestion already! You know we love your writing. But we really need you to stop straying onto Israel/Palestine territory.

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  49. sensiblejew says:

    Goy Husband, we have explained our resoning on every issue you have mentioned in your latest comment. We are sorry if that reasoning does not satisfy you.

    Please think before posting: have you already asked a particular question? Has it already been answered in a previous comment? Is the answer you seek already in a post? It becomes tiresome for our readers to read the same things over and over. It disrupts the flow of discussion, and lowers the standard of discourse.

    We assume that you have been repeating yourself/asking already answered questions in good faith; however, for the sake of the quality of discussion, we will begin deleting comments that are facsimilies of previous comments.

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  50. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Chook, and welcome. Clearly, we agree strongly with what you say.

    Loewenstein does have a degree of charisma, and he already has a platform. We need to keep in mind, as well, that the initial communal leassership response to him was handled poorly: they played right into his hands and made him look even more heroic in the eyes of certain areas of academia and media.

    He needs to be exposed for what he is: not a threat to Zionism or Israel. Israel’s plenty tough enough, and Loewenstein is the least of its problems. Loewenstein does his real damage to our reputation as Australian Zionists, when he paints us all as extreme racists.

    The best way to deal with him is a combination of seriously demonstrating his disregard for facts, and ridiculing his poor capacity for argument – all the while keeping a cool head, and not resorting to hysteria.

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  51. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Elder of Zion.
    Just a small comment to thank you for your restraint. I know it’s tough when Disinterested Observer criticises Israel, but couches it in terms that relate back to Australian Jews using the PR angle. We really do appreciate it, though.

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