Our Leaders/Institutions Decide Jews are not Disliked Enough – Action Taken

After reading the articles, read the comments below.

Robert Goot’s latest crusade

Albert Dadon’s piece in The Age

Dvir in his most recent spray

See also page 3 of this week’s Australian Jewish News

***

Now ask yourself whether the horrendous comments in response to these pieces are perhaps worse than the original infraction being complained about….

Along with the usual missives from Dvir, Goot and the ADC, and – unfortunately – the otherwise wonderful Albert Dadon, our leaders are behaving in such a way that makes it look like they *want* the anti-Semites to visit Caulfield….

Ever since getting all excited about the Friends of Palestine own goal, and the beautiful piece by Liam Getreu, I’ve been punished for the hubris by yet another public Jew popping up to make our community appear like a bunch of fascists and fundamentalists.

For confirmation of this perception of us, do read the comments attached to the articles.

You will see everything, from reasonable people suggesting Jews are too sensitive (or that Israel should care more about Palestinian welfare), to those that suggest Jews might just be better off in their own country – or other such pre-pogrom sentiments.

There is an aggregate damage that our leaders are inflicting on all of us.

I call on our leaders and institutions to implement an immediate moratorium on all public statements made on the entire community’s behalf.

Our leaders need to keep in mind that with the new blogging formats of papers like The Age online, people who have previously harboured negative sentiments regarding Jews privately, are now not only able to express them anonymously in a widely read, mainstream forum, but are able to see the vast numbers that actually agree with them.

What we are seeing is a consensus building at The Age (and other Fairfax papers) Online, and even – though to a lesser extent – at The Australian as well  – that Jews behave beyond reasonable, accepted community standards.

There is a giant chasm between aggressively defending our community’s interests, and being publicly aggressive in an attempt to defend our community’s interests. Our leaders are profoundly ignorant of this gulf and too often conflate the two positions.

This is a very, very dangerous approach our leaders are taking.

Should any of the online animosity translate into the off-line world, they will be forced to bear some of the responsibility.

More on this after Shabbat….

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18 Responses to “Our Leaders/Institutions Decide Jews are not Disliked Enough – Action Taken”

  1. Melinda says:

    Hi Alex,
    This is SO COOL….
    Nefesh B’Nefesh brought over 150 participants together on Ben Yehuda Street for the first ever Jerusalem flash mob in honor of Hanukkah. לקראת חג החנוכה , ארגון “נפש בנפש” הביא מעל ל-150
    משתתפים ל
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULtglogZbR8&feature=autofb
    Happy Hanukkah.
    Melinda.

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  2. Dalia says:

    Alex,

    There is a basic optimism at the heart of your critiques and analyses: That humans are fundamentally fair and reasonable creatures; That Israel, despite her shortcomings is a fundamentally fair and reasonable State and the case against her existence is patently absurd; And perhaps most optimistically of all, the damage caused by our leaders can, through intelligent effort, be undone and a new and more positive image of Jews and Zionism can be promoted.

    These are noble sentiments and ambitions.

    But, what if you are wrong? What if there are a critical number of humans who are not reasonable, what if the actions of Israel are never perceived as being fair and moral and finally, what if the image of Jews, as created by centuries of antisemitic propaganda and re-enforced by the callousness and ineptitude of our leaders is never changed but only re-enforced?

    Is it too late?

    If it isnt, please explain why? The comments sections that you pointed to would begin to indicate otherwise.

    If it is too late, then what? What posture should Jews in Australia (and young Jews in particular) be taking? What should we expect?

    You dangle the word pogrom every so often and it is often confusing as to whether you are using it in all seriousness or simply to stress a point.

    But, if you are using it in seriousness, if your “Jews can be saved through positive PR” campaign fails, do you have a Plan B?

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    • Alex Fein says:

      Dalia, you ask some seriously important – and difficult – questions in your comment.

      There hasn’t been a “Reader Response” post – a post that replies to a particularly cogent comment – for a while.

      Your comment deserves a post devoted to responding to it.

      Until that post is up (some time after Shabbes is out) all I’ll say is, don’t panic. I think we’re really lucky in that we’re identifying the damaging behaviour of certain elemts of the community a good while before some sort of anti-Semitic critical mass is reached. Plan Bs are not so simple. If we do reach that critical mass, our options will be much more limited. But we really aren’t there yet.

      I’ll write about this properly in the post. Thanks again for your comment!

  3. David says:

    I felt sick reading the ‘Schindler’s list’ story. Firstly by how foolish it was for our peak body to push this as an issue – really, really pathetic on many levels; and secondly, on the comments under the article. It’s kind of reassuring that the old fashioned right-wing kind of anti-semitism – the familiar kind that I was frequently exposed to as a child in my non-Jewish neighbourhood in London – lives on, alongside the newer, less familiar ‘left-ish’ kind disguised as anti-zionism.
    I kind of understand what sensible Muslims must go through every time somebody like Sheik Hilaly opens their mouth. Thanks a lot guys.

    Good shabbos and happy chanukah to all (although those who are shomrei shabbos won’t read this till it is too late).

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  4. Mohan says:

    Dalia again

    Take a look at contemporary Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Most of the attacks both inside Parliament and physical have been against Asians and Muslims. No leader of the church, Liberalsor Labour has uttered an anti-semitic word, but From George Pell to Fred Nile to Peter Costello they spew venom against Muslims, and target Asians and Muslims in dog whistle poll campaigns.

    Both in Melbourne and Sydney, the two biggest cities, physical attacks have been against Lebanese and Indians followed by Africans. They are the groups that need fear most.

    Even in Europe, Jews have been replaced by Turks, Bulgarians, Pakistanis, Indians, Bangaldeshis and Africans as the new targets of hate campaigns whether by the BNF, La Penn or Pym Fortune. They are the new scape goats.

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    • TheSadducee says:

      Mohan

      Where did you get your data from to advise us of the ethnicity of the victims of physical assaults in Melbourne/Sydney?

      I’m aware that NSW Police don’t keep that type of statistical information so I’m curious to know how you know this?
      (I am aware of the assaults against Indians but I haven’t heard much about Lebanese or Africans?)

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  5. Morry says:

    Hi Alex,

    I read Robert Goot’s piece and couldn’t agree with you more. It is worse than complete over-reaction, as, not only was I not offended, but I actually find a real estate agent named Schindler using “Schindler’s List” for her listing both clever and innovative … epecially with the overtones of saving her clients from distress.

    Then I read Albert Dadon’s piece, and suddenly we’re in very different territory. Here there is bigotry and ignorance to address, and it brings me back to a previous question in a similar vein, “At what point does one make a stand?”. Perhaps Dadon could have focussed more on explaining why Israel is not an Apartheid state, but the need to go there is not the fault of the Jewish community, but rather of those members of media like the Age, charged with informing us accurately, who do anything but. The posted comments highlight the ignorance and hatred that has become the hallmark of Age readers and ABC viewers, amongst so many. They didn’t become this way because of anything the Jewish community did, or failed to do.

    I am actually surprised, Alex, that you would look at those driven to post comments in the Age as in any way representative of wider Australian views, or that you would blame those views on our community leaders. So it’s back to my original question. Do we confront irrational bigotry and point out where it’s wrong and misguided, as Dadon did? Or do we bury our head in the sand and hope that, if we ignore it, it will go away, as was once done with Der Sturmer and its readership?

    Dvir’s piece, unfortunately, wouldn’t open, so I have little to say there. I agree with you, Alex, that we need to retain a sense of proportion, and Goot didn’t. On the other hand we are facing a world crisis of rising antisemitism based in irrational hatred, misinformation, and ignorance. There is little we can do about the hatred. But we can certainly address misinformation and ignorance, so that those who don’t hate, but simply don’t know, do not also become haters. We fared very badly the last time that avalanche began rolling.

    Bottom line, don’t cry wolf, choose your battles wisely, and certainly try to speak to your audience at a level that they feel (the things I understand you to have been saying, which I totally agree with) but certainly, never fold arms and simply hope.

    Dadon is faced with a very hostile audience, and whatever he said in support of Israel, in the Age, would have generated that same level of hostility and decontextualised claptrap … as I said, I’m surprised, Alex that you would lend it any credence. Consider one comment, quoting Barak hypothesising an unacceptable “one state” scenario in which Palestinians would either be the majority or would be, Appartheidlike, deprived of a vote. The commenter simply took all this hypothetical to mean that Israel was an Apartheid state, if only because the word “Apartheid” appeared there. Whether that is ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation (how does one so misread something without being driven by deep hatred?) I believe it needs to be addressed. If you can help our community leaders find better ways to do that with the comments on this blog, then this discussion is a very good and fruitful thing.

    Chag Chanukah Sameach

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    • Alex Fein says:

      Morry, I think you have misunderstood my intent completely.

      Nothing in the content of Dadon’s piece struck me as problematic. It’s all a question of placement and audience – of calibrating the message to the people its designed for.

      Just as I wouldn’t personally try to convince anti-evolution Christians of Darwin’s genius, and rightness with a letter in one of their publications, we Jews must keep in mind that many Age readers are precisely as wedded – religiously so – to their anti-Zionist worldview.

      Put simply, coming at such people head-on, presenting them with facts, is not just pointless, it opens the door for them to spew their venom in comments and gain a head of steam they would not otherwise have been able to gain.

      So…. you don’t write THAT sort of article in THAT sort of paper.

      In that sort of papaer, you use other methods – cultural, for example (see my response to Dvir) – as a way of normalising Jews in their minds.

      For the dissemination of facts and proper debate, a paper like The Australian may be more suitable, but even then…

      We are NEVER going to “win” by having a high-school style debate with anyone.

      We have to SHOW rather than TELL people about the positive contributions of Jews, Zionists, and Israel. No one except our most ardent enemies listens when we TELL.

      Keep in mind also, that while the haters in The Age may not represesent broader Oz NOW, they are, nevertheless, often at the vanguard of things.

      Along with the underemployed ratbags, they’re also artists, intellectuals/academics, media types… opinion makers, in short. What they believe now, often makes it into the mainstream eventually.

      Mainstream beliefs about race and gender, disability and sexuality all began as fringe hobby-horses. So did climate change…

      These people must not be dismissed. They’re bell-weathers, portents of the future – possibly. Unless we get a hell of a lot smarter, FAST.

      Just by the way, who would you say are currently the best ambassadors for Jews and Israel in Oz?

      I’ll tell you right now: John Safran and Danny Katz.

      We need to get out of this toxic hasbara mindset. It is the enemy of clear thinking and productive action.

    • Morry says:

      Alex, I don’ think I did misunderstand … I wrote: Bottom line, don’t cry wolf, choose your battles wisely, and certainly try to speak to your audience at a level that they feel (the things I understand you to have been saying, which I totally agree with)

      Perhaps we all agree on those things, I don’t know. I also don’t know what proportion of Age readers are bigoted ratbags. I suspect the number of antizionists are small relative to their showing in the various forums. So I’m back to my original question. Should we really be leaving the entire Age readership to their tender mercies, and if something they are saying is totally unacceptable, shouldn’t we be saying so?

      I recently had the need to face this very issue … a vile piece of antisemitism that had slipped through, and everybody was shtum, so I responded. I was flooded with comments (well 5 comments, all not Jewish, may not represent a “flood”, but given the way I was feeling, it sure seemed like one, or perhaps some blessed rain when you’re parched would be a better analogy) saying that they were outraged but didn’t know how to respond, and thanking me for mine. I noticed that from that point on whenever this person made an inappropriate remark others (not of the 5, but also making the point that they weren’t Jewish) were quick to jump on it and label it the bigotry it was.

      I agree that an elegant way that speaks to average Australians needs to be found, but at the same time, if we are to earn any respect, we must stand up.

      There is no challenge to painting Israel human. Israel has an impressively long resume of technoligical advances that we all use and rely on continuously. Israel does amazing things to help mankind every day, whether its in water conservation, health, the cutting edge of stem cell research that has provided a cure for MS, or Nobel prizes for Chemistry. Israel is a very easy sell … but we have no forum prepared to advance this view of Israel. Think Israel and the only dimensions that exist are conflict, war and oppression of Palestinians. Ask anyone about Israel’s refugee intake (I’m talking non-Jewish Asian and African) and you’ll get a blank stare. Tell somebody the imaging system in their hospital is Israeli and they’ll probably laugh out loud. If you’re looking for a term to explain these somewhat irrational attitudes, I doubt that it’s “antisemitism” but rather a very troubling new phenomenum that covers many issues and is polarising the world. It’s called “confirmation bias”. I believe that it stems from a new genre of educators who, rather than encourage students to think, succumb to the arrogance of moulding young minds in their own image, and children who haven’t learnt to think for themselves …. “confirnation bias” and groupthink is the frightening net result. That’s just my opinion, which agrees with the group that thinks it’s true (just kidding).

      Israel issues a multitude of press releases about these wonders it creates. Israel’s winning of Nobel prizes should be standard fare in reporting the news. I well remember when Given Industries came out with that amazing little camera in a pill, too big to ignore, and it was reported … just the word “Israel” never appeared in the report. None of these things confirm the bias, and therefore nust be wrong … hence no media reports.

      These are the very things you’re talking about Alex, the things that make Israel human, clearly the one thing media workers refuse to allow to see the light of day. Up until the 1970s Israel was the media darling, and stories about miraculous reclaiming of deserts, of work in the third world, of medical advances all abounded and generated a lot of sympathy for Israel. Hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the PR arm of Saatchi & Saatchi by the Saudis saw the conflict redefined from “the Arab-Israeli conflict” to “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Suddenly Israel was no longer the underdog but successfully PRed into an “Apartheid colonial power”, though nothing had actually changed.

      So Alex, how do we get the message out about all the wonderful things Israel does when nobody wants to print it, show it or talk about it?

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  6. Nicko says:

    Alex, I’m not sure why you persist in caricaturing supporters of the Palestinian cause as “leftist rabble” or “unemployed ratbags”, motivated purely by malign anti-Semitism. You obviously don’t actually know any of us on a personal basis. If you did, you would realise that we represent the broad spectrum of mainstream Australia and certainly do not conform to your comforting delusion of being unwashed Trotskyite agitators.

    BTW, you missed the third person of the holy Jewish Australian trinity: Antony Lowenstein. You may not like it, but Antony has done more to restore people’s faith in the Jewish capacity for independent and courageous thinking than anybody else.

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    • Alex Fein says:

      Oh Nicko. You’ve got to be kidding me.

      Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect you actually read the posts on this blog before commenting, but – without giving you the full CV, I can guarantee you that I have met, known, been close with etc. many, many people who’ve cared deeply about – not to mention, constructively worked for the welfare of – Palestinians, quite apart from my own experiences in Israel/Palestine – which are extensive. Unlike most of the fist-waivers, I’ve actually spent time in the territories.

      Believe it or not, being a staunch Zionist doesn’t render one a vampyric, genocidal maniac.

      As much as I enjoy characterising the rabble that fist-waves (supposedly) on behalf of Palestine, I do not and never have characterised those people of genuine good faith, and genuine good will, who help Palestinians as anything other than the decent people they are.

      But I’ve yet to meet someone of your political persuasion who will do the same for the good-faith Zionist. There are so many of us, that to ignore our number speaks very, very ill of the true motives of the “mobilised” left. One might be tempted to call them racists, considering the overwhelming majority of Jews are also Zionist.

      As for Loewenstein? He may appeal to the mobilised left just fine. And he may even provide a nice opportunity for people within it to claim, “some of my best friends are…” but the sad truth is, EVERYWHERE outside the mobilised left – in both Jewish and non-Jewish circles – Loewenstein is recognised for the joke he really is: someone who cannot master the most basic research skills, someone who writes very poorly, and someone who jets off on his first (extremely brief) trip to Israel in order to find twee anecdotes to back up his already constructed thesis – that Jews are genocidal racists.

    • TheSadducee says:

      Nicko

      If you represent the broad spectrum of Australian society I would be interested in hearing your explanation as to why many people who support the Palestinian cause choose that particular cause, usually in preference to others or exclusively? Is it the most important issue of social justice today, and if so, why? Is it the most important issue affecting Australian society? I’d like to read your views if you would care to dispel the caricature.

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  7. Michael Brull says:

    Morry has taken exception at my comment on Dadon’s article. In what sense have I misrepresented Dadon? Dadon said that any comparison of Israel to apartheid was an “assault on historical fact”, displayed “moral and intellectual bankruptcy” and so on. In an article a few months earlier, he quoted Barak saying that one political entity including the West Bank and Gaza, with them disenfrenchised was apartheid. The fact is, Israel has ruled over the occupied territories for over 40 years without enfranchising the Palestinians. If you think Barak is wrong, explain why. Dadon’s the one who quoted him, before writing that such claims were all sorts of terrible things. If anything’s bad for PR, it’s such blatant inconsistency by Israel’s “defenders” when they speak in different forums.

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    • Morry says:

      No Michael, I simply said that you’ve failed to differentiate between hypothetical and real. Barak was speaking to those Israelis eager to claim the West Bank, rather than surrender territory. This would mean in the future an unacceptable Arab majority vote or the alternative of denying them true citizenship, hence it “would be apartheid” (if it ever happened), not “was apartheid” as you say.

      As to “Israel’s rule”, Israel turned most of the territory (all of Gaza and most of the West Bank) over to the Palestinian Authority to rule in the wake of Oslo. It is hardly Israel’s fault that the PLO chose to invite every terrorist group that has ever killed an Israeli to be part of that authority … and that they have since made the average Palestinian’s life a living hell. Israel’s “rule” as you call it, in the rest of the territory is a clearly defined occupation whose terms you will find in the Geneva Conventions. They do not, nor have they ever, included co-opting those territories into Israel, in fact, that is explicitly forbidden, except by agreement. Your “enfranchisement” is simply not an option, and hence, weilding it as a stick against Israel, wholly inappropriate.

      The reality is that the State of Israel exists and has done so for over 60 years. It is filled with people defined as its citizens, who certainly do not include the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, who, as of last report, are looking for a state of their own. They are no more disenfranchised from Israel than are the Belgians from France. Apples and Oranges, Israelis and Palestinians.

      Self-determination, as defined in the UN Charter, means that Israelis have their chosen destiny to fulfill, and Palestinians have their distinctly different destiny to fulfill … which is what they are claiming. So why do you claim something totally different for them? Your “disenfranchisement” is as mythical and hypothetical as was Barak’s, in postulating a future where much of the West Bank must be surrendered so that Israel won’t actually find itself disenfranchising Palestinians in the future The need to give those territories away to a peaceful neighbour is shared by the bulk of Israelis and people of goodwill the world over, who believe in the right of people to pursue their own destiny … self-determination. But please, Michael, grant that same right to the Israelis. The key word you seem to not want to accept is “separate”, and because they are, there in no disenfranchisement.

      Today, Barak’s musings about the future aside, Israel is no apartheid state, with Israeli Arabs participating fully in Israel’s public and political life … not so the Blacks of South Africa. So to call Israel “apartheid” is indeed an “assault on historical fact”, and displayed “moral and intellectual bankruptcy”.

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  8. Yitzchak says:

    Alex,
    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the “official” Jewish reaction to “Schindler’s List” – it would have been far better to ignore it – but what about the rather hateful responses? If the lightning rod had not drawn these responses, the sentiments would still be there, albeit unexpressed. This should worry us all.
    However, as to your view on Albert Dadon’s piece in “The Age”, I have to disagree. Albert’s piece was an attempt to confront the lion in his den. That “The Age” (and perhaps much of its readership) adopts a position of wilful ignorance is not a situation we can afford to ignore because “The Age” is Melbourne – it both reflects the city’s many activities and sets the political and artistic agendas (By contrast “The Australian” is a Sydney newspaper with national distribution and a political stance which makes our opinion leaders uncomfortable.) There was almost no chance that Albert’s piece could have been a winner, but I support his attempt to answer blind prejudice.
    Finally, about the ADC. The ADC’s approach to Channel 9 was by letter addressing one particularly ugly comment – there was no press release to the general news media. As an organisation that depends entirely on community funding ADC publicised its action in the AJN to remind the community that it continues to exist and advocate. When people ring and write with their concerns, the matter is carefully considered before any action is taken; many reports of “incidents” are found to be trivial or judged unlikely to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction and these are simply recorded and no further action taken.

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  9. Alex Fein says:

    Morry, it’s 2:43am, and far too late to answer your questions in full. I will try to incorporate them into the coming post though.

  10. Morry says:

    Good night, Alex, sleep well!

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