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RE: [JustPeaceUK] An unhelpful discourse on Israel

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  • Deborah Maccoby
    Yes, a brilliant article which applies equally well to the organised Jewish community here. The refusal of the Australian Jewish News to publish it just
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 1, 2009
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      Yes, a brilliant article which applies equally well to the organised Jewish community here. The refusal of the Australian Jewish News to publish it just bears out everything he says.

      I think also this article makes clear that - as Vivien pointed out - talking about students in their gap year in Israel being "soiled" by contact with Israel and Israelis is also an unhelpful discourse and misses the reality which Jeff brings out so well. So I hope we can get away from that kind of discourse.


      To: jaz@yahoogroups.com; JustPeaceUK@yahoogroups.com
      From: lists@...
      Date: Wed, 1 Apr 2009 00:49:23 +0100
      Subject: [JustPeaceUK] An unhelpful discourse on Israel

      There is an exceptionally good article by Jeff Halper on Antony
      Loewenstein's blog, at

      An unhelpful discourse on Israel

      Posted By Antony Loewenstein On 31 March 2009 @ 10:12 pm In Israel | 3

      The following article is written by Israeli/American peace activist Jeff
      Halper for the Australian Jewish News [1] but the paper refuses to run the
      piece, despite spending weeks attacking Halper and his supporters in its

      The uproar in the organized Jewish community [2] over the prospect of my
      speaking in Australia is truly startling to an Israeli like me. Granted, I
      am very critical of Israel's policies of Occupation and doubt whether a
      two-state solution is still possible given the extent of Israel's
      settlements, but this hardly warrants the kind of demonization I received in
      the pages of The AJN. Opinions similar to mine are readily available in the
      mainstream Israeli media. Indeed, I myself write frequently for the Israeli
      press and appear regularly on Israeli TV and radio.

      Why, then, the hysteria? Why was I banned from Temple Emmanuel in Sydney, a
      self-proclaimed progressive synagogue? Why did I, an Israeli, have to
      address the Jewish community from a church? Why was I invited to speak in
      every university in eastern Australia yet, at Monash University, I was
      forced to hold a secret meeting with Jewish faculty in a darkened room far
      from the halls of intellectual discourse? Why, when the "leaders" of the
      Jewish community were excoriating me and my positions, did the Israelis who
      attended my talks express such appreciation that "real" Israeli views were
      finally getting aired in Australia, even if they did not all agree with me?
      Given the support my right to speak evidenced by most of the letters
      published in The AJN, this all raises disturbing questions over the right of
      Australian Jews to hear divergent views on Israel's conflict with the
      Palestinians held by Israelis themselves.

      It raises an even deeper issue, however. What should be the relationship of
      Diaspora Jewry to Israel? Whatever threat I represented to the organized
      Jewish community of Australia had less to do with Israel, I suspect, than
      with some damage I might to do to the idealized "Leon Uris" image of Israel
      which you hold onto so dearly. This might seem like a strange thing to say,
      but I do not believe that you in the Diaspora have internalized the fact
      that Israel is a foreign country as far from your idealized version as
      Australia is far from its image as kangaroo-land. Countries change, they
      evolve. What would Australia's European founders think - even those who
      until very recently pursued a "White Australia" policy - if they were to see
      the multi-cultural country you have become? Well, almost 30% of Israeli
      citizens are not Jews, we may very well have permanently incorporated
      another four million Palestinians - the residents of the Occupied
      Territories - into our country and, to top it off, it's clear by now that
      the vast majority of the world's Jews are not going to emigrate to Israel.
      Those facts, plus the urgent need of Israel to make peace with its
      neighbors, mean something. They mean that Israel must change in ways Ben
      Gurion, Leon Uris and Mark Leibler never envisioned, even if that's hard for
      you to accept.

      Yet I see this as a positive thing, a sign of a healthy country coming to
      grips with reality, some of it of its own creation, even if it means that
      Israel will evolve from a Jewish state into a state of all its citizens - a
      bi-national or democratic state. Rather than "eliminating" Israel, this
      challenge is in fact a natural and probably inevitable development. It will
      not be easy, but if you can become multi-cultural, so can we.

      But that's our problem as Israelis. What's your problem? Why should
      discussing such important issues for Israel be the cause of such distress
      for you? Because, I venture to say, you have a stake in preserving Israel's
      idealized image that trumps dealing with the real country. In my view,
      Israel is being used as the lynchpin of your ethnic identity in Australia;
      mobilizing around a beleaguered Israel is essential for keeping your kids
      Jewish. I would go so far as to accuse you of needing an Israel in conflict,
      which is why you seem so threatened by an Israel at peace, why you deny that
      peace is even possible, why a peaceful Israel that is neither threatened nor
      "Jewish" cannot fulfill the role you have cast for it, and thus why you
      characterize my message as "vile lies."

      This, to be honest, is the threat I represent. Only this can explain why
      rabbis, community "leaders" and Jewish professors choose to meet me secretly
      rather than have me, a critical Israel, in their synagogues or classrooms.
      This is all understandable. You do need a lynchpin if you are to preserve
      your identity as a prosperous community in a tolerant multi-cultural
      society. I would just question whether the real country of Israel can
      fulfill that role, or even if it's fair to Israel to expect it to.

      We are different peoples. Israel can no more define Diaspora Jewish life
      than you can define Israel. Rather than knee-jerk defense of an imaginary
      place, you need to develop a respect for Israel and Israeli voices, a
      respect that will come only when you start regarding Israel as a real
      country. And you have to get a life of your own. You have to develop
      alternative Diaspora Jewish cultures and identities. Ironically, after all I
      have said, the Israeli government will resist that, for it uses you as
      agents to support its policies, often extreme right-wing and militaristic
      policies that contradict your very values of cultural pluralism and human
      rights. Remember: Israel does what it does in your name. Unless you take an
      independent position, you are complicit.

      What befell me in Australia is just a tiny piece of a sad story of mutual
      exploitation: you using Israel to keep your community together, Israel using
      you to defend its indefensible policies. Perhaps something good can emerge
      from all this: robust discussion on the nature of Israeli-Diaspora
      relations. I'm going home to Jerusalem. You have to let Israel go and get a
      [Jewish] life.

      Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House
      Demolitions [3], a peace and human rights organization dedicated to
      achieving a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He can be reached
      at <jeff@... [4]>

      Article printed from Antony Loewenstein: http://antonyloewenstein.com

      URL to article:

      URLs in this post:

      [1] Australian Jewish News: http://ajn.com.au/news/news.asp?catID=2

      [2] The uproar in the organized Jewish community:

      [3] Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: http://www.icahd.org/eng/

      [4] jeff@...: mailto:jeff@...

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