Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Denigrating Critics of Israel


As today’s column will provoke accusations of anti-Semitism, let me begin with a few words in my defence. A classic philo-Semite, I’ve long been described as a Jew lover by the anti-Semites in organisations such as Frederick Tobin’s Adelaide Institute. I’ve been dragged before the Press Council by the abominable League of Rights and am proud to say I’m regularly attacked in the hate pages of neo-Nazi organisations.

I’m on the receiving end of stacks of hate mail, up to and including death threats. My home was attacked by an anti-Semitic group that spray-painted racist obscenities all over it, then tried to sledgehammer their way in.

My children grew up in a home with a mezuzah, which consecrates it, on the doorpost. They were taught to respect the extraordinary contribution of Jews to science, philosophy, philanthropy, ethics, civil rights and the arts. My first daughter, named Rebecca, renounced her father’s atheism and converted to Judaism. And I’ve lost count of the occasions when I’ve launched books by Jewish authors, opened exhibitions by Jewish artists or spoken at Jewish fundraisers or at Holocaust exhibitions or museums.

Yet, with growing frequency, I get letters branding me an anti-Semite. Worse still, I’ve lost close friends in the Jewish community. Why? Because in recent years I’ve found it impossible not to criticise Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians.

It is not anti-Semitic to disagree with Israel’s behaviour in the Lebanon or the disputed territories. It is not anti-Semitic to regard Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as equally culpable with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the present mess. And it is not anti-Semitic to protest long and loud against the attempts to denigrate Hanan Ashrawi and those who would honour her.

The behaviour of the so-called Jewish lobby over the Ashrawi issue is not only appalling but extraordinarily stupid. Once again, in its efforts to suppress and censor, the lobby challenges the efforts of its worst enemies to become its own worst enemy.

Take the case of the diabolical David Irving. Australian Jewry succeeded in banning him from entering Australia–the classic Pyrrhic victory. It did not hurt Irving’s cause. Rather, it made him a martyr to his deranged supporters while providing the oxygen of publicity for his books, videos and website.

Far better to have let him into the country and to confront him. The demolition job done on Irving in the London libel trial shows his vulnerability to scholarly attack. Whereas shutting him out in an attempt to shut him up gives the ill-informed and uninformed the impression that his opponents have something to hide.

If the campaign to keep Irving out of Australia was counterproductive, the attack on Ashrawi–and those of us who admire her–is worse.

I’m one of many who regard themselves as simultaneously pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian, in the sense that we want a negotiated settlement, some sort of two-state solution. Of course we want the suicide bombings to end. But we also want the building of that monstrous wall to cease. And we want to recognise the immense efforts of those, on both sides of the fence–of the wall, of the political abyss–who’ve spent their lives trying to negotiate a workable and equitable solution.

I’ve known Ashrawi for many years. The last time we spoke she’d just celebrated her daughter’s marriage, the festivities clouded by the explosions of Israeli missiles. Her response was characteristically measured and modulated. She has, after all, spent a lifetime in the firing line, working as a top negotiator between her people and the Israelis, within the maelstrom of Palestinian politics. I’ve had dealings with hundreds of the most prominent people in public life, not only in Australia but across the world. Their ranks have included quite a few who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. But I’ve met few I admire as much as Ashrawi.

Now there are attempts to deny her the Australian Peace Prize. First the University of Sydney was cowed into slamming the door of the Great Hall in her face. Then it was Sydney Town Hall, with Lord Mayor Lucy Turnbull’s behaviour, calling into question not only her courage but her judgment.

Which brings us to Sydney councillor Kathryn Greiner’s attack on the Sydney Peace Foundation, which she’d chaired for four years. Her attempts to have the award to Ashrawi overturned were uncharacteristically craven.

Yesterday, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer bought into the issue, tut-tutting Ashrawi’s award. Odd, given that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade paid for Ashrawi to attend, and address, the Festival of Ideas in Adelaide.

Everyone, it seems, is running scared. At least NSW Premier Bob Carr has refused to back off. Equally admirable, the behaviour of Stuart Rees, director of the SPF.

As a consequence of their bitter experiences over the centuries, Jews have stood at the forefront of human rights and civil rights issues across the world. To be so wrong-headed on this occasion is, therefore, doubly disappointing.

The campaign smacks of an attack on free speech in this country and, yes, on free assembly. And it plays right into the hands of the true anti-Semites.

PHILIP ADAMS writes for the Australian, where this column originally appeared.


More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future