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May 29th 2010 print

Israel hatred at Overland

Philip Mendes: “[Overland’s contributors] form a mad hatter’s picnic of fanatical attacks on Israel and supporters of Israel followed by more fanatical attacks of the same ilk.” 

Philip Mendes in Vexnews:

Under the editorship of Jeff Sparrow, the pro-Palestinian lobby has captured Overland’s agenda.  This is particularly reflected in the four recent articles that appeared in issues 184 by Ned Curthoys, 187 by Ned Curthoys, 193 by Antony Loewenstein, and 198 by Michael Brull. As a combination, they form a mad hatter’s picnic of fanatical attacks on Israel and supporters of Israel followed by more fanatical attacks of the same ilk.

Curthoys, who co-ordinates the two person Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism with his father John Docker, is a serial hater of Israel and Zionism. In Issue 184, he provides not surprisingly a positive review of Antony Loewenstein’s anti-Israel text, My Israel Question. He also cannot resist promoting his favourite obsession concerning the campaign for a cultural, economic and academic boycott of Israel based on the racial stereotyping of all Israeli Jews as oppressors.  But in Issue 187, he firmly criticises the founding statement of Loewenstein’s Independent Australian Jewish Voices group for being too moderate, and specifically for accepting Israel’s right to exist. Instead, Curthoys returns to his theme of the necessity of an economic and cultural boycott of Israel, and particularly targets Left Zionism as inherently racist. He proposes the elimination of Israel, and its replacement by an Arab majority state.

Not to be outdone, Loewenstein denounced Israel in Issue 193 as a racist state supported only by Jewish zealots who allegedly direct hate-mail and death threats at any Jewish critics of Israel. Loewenstein claimed he “didn’t wish to see Israel’s destruction”, but then contradicted himself by demanding the establishment of a bi-national state in place of Israel.

Even worse was the contribution in Issue 198 of Michael Brull, an Independent Australian Jewish Voices blogger, who claims to support a two-state solution whilst regularly demonising Israel and any supporters of Israel.

Brull’s particular contribution is rambling, repetitive and contradictory, and of a standard that one might expect to find on a blog devoid of editorial oversight, not as an article chosen for publication in a refereed intellectual journal. In parts of his essay, Brull seems to support two states and oppose an academic boycott of Israel, but in other parts he seems to argue the exact opposite. Strangely, he seems to believe that anybody who supports the continued existence of Israel including fanatical anti-Zionist Noam Chomsky is a Zionist. This would be news indeed to the millions of Communists including even Arab Communists who supported the creation of Israel in 1948, but remained philosophically anti-Zionist.

Particularly bizarre are his final four paragraphs which consist of ad-hominem hysterical abuse of myself and others. This misrepresentation of my views and opinions on the nature of the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism (which I have always portrayed as reflecting complex historical and political influences)  is not surprising since Brull has regularly levied similar ridiculous accusations on his blog. What is surprising is that a serious journal chose to publish this unsubstantiated nonsense. Nevertheless, Brull enjoyed the last word, oddly ending his treatise with a call for “free debate without the usual flood of hysterical name-calling”. Maybe Brull’s kettle is coloured brown as well as black.

In response to this one-sided discourse, a group of six Australian academics consisting of Douglas Kirsner, Andrew Markus, Bill Anderson, Bernard Rechter, Nick Dyrenfurth and Philip Mendes sent a polite, but firm private letter to the Overland editor, Editorial Board and patron, Barry Jones. The letter questioned why Overland chose to highlight the most extreme voices who “contribute only fanatical polemics and represent nobody in either the Jewish community or the Left, and chosen to ignore or actively censor the large group of Jewish (and broader Left) voices who support two states, strongly oppose Israeli settlements and expansionism, but also totally reject the simplistic “Israel oppressor, Palestinians victim” argument presented by Curthoys et al, and seek to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and reconciliation rather than continued violence and enmity. Their views represent the majority of the Left, but seem to have been deliberately excluded from the pages of Overland magazine”.

The Overland editor Jeff Sparrow, founder and long-time activist in the far Left Trotskyist group Socialist Alternative which aggressively opposes the existence of Israel, immediately published this letter on the Overland blog without our permission which raised some serious ethical questions. He then launched into an inflammatory polemic, claiming erroneously that we had argued that Overland excluded contributors on the basis of ethnic or religious affiliations.  The letter in fact made no reference to anti-Semitism, and Sparrow’s argument conformed to a long-standing far Left political strategy whereby any criticisms of anti-Zionist fundamentalism are deliberately misrepresented as allegations of anti-Semitism. The intention behind this strategy is to delegitimize any critique of hardline pro-Palestinian arguments as involving “crying wolf” tactics, and hence not deserving of a serious response. This also neatly allows the target to avoid an objective analysis of the existence of some serious linkages between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

In a separate contribution, Sparrow concocted a conspiracy theory even more bizarre than that of his most extreme contributors, implying that Israeli policies since 9/11 were a direct threat to Australia’s peace and security.  He also urged the introduction of so-called “fresher” perspectives on Israel/Palestine, but what he really meant was the re-introduction of the same old hateful “abolish Israel” perspectives propagandized by the Hartleyites and the AUS in the 1970s.

Read the full article at Vexnews