RE: [JustPeaceUK] An unhelpful discourse on Israel
- 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: email@example.com; JustPeaceUK@yahoogroups.com
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  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  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
Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House
Demolitions , a peace and human rights organization dedicated to
achieving a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. He can be reached
at <jeff@... >
Article printed from Antony Loewenstein: http://antonyloewenstein.com
URL to article:
URLs in this post:
 Australian Jewish News: http://ajn.com.au/news/news.asp?catID=2
 The uproar in the organized Jewish community:
 Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions: http://www.icahd.org/eng/
 jeff@...: mailto:jeff@...
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