Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Daphne Anson - Ha'aretz's Blunder Draws Thunder From Down Under

Daphne Anson..
24 January '12..

The leftwing Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz recently carried this highly tendentious article by Akiva Eldar about Australian Jewry and Israel. Its headline? "Israel is shaming Australian Jews"

I know for a fact that online ripostes, even by well-informed and well-respected Middle East analysts, failed to find their way onto the Comments section. Deliberate suppression on the part of a newspaper which prides itself on its own gift of free speech, no matter how critical it is of the policies of its beleagured nation? It would seem so.

But unfortunately for the newspaper, and for Eldar, the leadership of Australian Jewry is made of sterner stuff than its lily-livered counterparts in the Mother Country. There are comparatively few "trembling Israelites" in Australian Jewish circles, perhaps because such a large proportion of the Jewish community Down Under is derived from Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of Australian Jewry, has written to Ha'aretz as follows:

"My organisation, which is the peak national body representing Australian Jewry, has been besieged with complaints from Australian Jews about the egregious falsehoods and childish oversimplifications contained in the article. I understand that many complainants have posted comments in response to the article but, so far, you have failed to publish any of them.

I am writing to ask you for two things.

Publish all the posts (unless they are obscene or abusive), and allow the link to the article to remain on your home page for a few days to give visitors to the site a fair opportunity to read them.

Publish our 750 word reply to Eldar – to be supplied.

I would appreciate your urgent response. Kindly note that the Jewish community media in Australia and elsewhere are keenly observing how this matter unfolds."

And Danny Rod, a young law and international studies student and board member of the State Zionist Council of New South Wales, has written a splendid "Open Letter" to Eldar:

"Dear Akiva Eldar,

It is you who are shaming Australian Jews.

I was outraged to have read your piece in Haaretz on the 23rd of January because you openly slap in the face the thousands of ordinary Australian Jews, who every day seek to support Israel and prevent anti-semitism in Australia.

These people are not the so called lobbyists but everyday people, youth movement members, Jewish Communal leaders and University Campus leaders. You are not here to witness the hate and the vitriol that we experience each and every day on campus and you are not there when ridiculed for your belief in the right of a Jewish State to exist. These things happen each day and as a past Chairperson of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students in NSW I saw it with my own eyes. I saw and still see the passion in the Young Adult Community’s eyes when celebrating Yom Haatzmaut and the dedication of so many young university students to attend our events just to show their support for Israel.

I see ordinary working men and women, who give up their spare time volunteering to ensure that there are events which promote Israel in our community and provide an outlet to express our love even if we are not in Israel physically.

Your article demonstrated no understanding of our community and shows a great deal of ignorance. Our community is not as affluent as you might think and it is up to organisations that do amazing work such as Jewish Care and Jewish House which provide amazing services to those less fortunate in our community. The ties that bind our community together are strong and the passion and love we show for Israel is unbreakable.

In case you were wondering, Middle Eastern Affairs does feature prominently in the Australian news cycle. You may have heard of the Marrickville BDS campaign and related horrific campaigns by the NSW Greens last year and the public outcry that it received. The so called ‘spineless lobbyists’ were not the ones who were able to effect the changes in the policy of both Marrickville Council and the NSW Greens but rather grassroots campaigning and mainstream media coverage which showed the hypocrisy that BDS promotes. This was by both Jews and Non-Jews, both seeking to show that they supported peace in the Middle East.

The assertion that Middle Eastern affairs is on the bottom rung of priorities for Australian politicians is simply wrong. We are privileged to have strong bi-partisan support from both of Australia’s political parties on Israel and when issues arise that are of concern to our community, they are the first to help out and lend a hand to the community – not because of lobbyists but a shared belief that Israel and Australia share the same values. You are forgetting that Kevin Rudd, when Prime Minister was prepared to take Iran to the International Criminal Court for it’s actions against Israel or the fact Israel has been the subject of numerous parliamentary motions all of which passed with bi-partisan support for Israel.

Despite your ridiculous article, I am proud to say that Israel is not something we are ashamed of. In face of attacks on our Synagogues and large often anti-Semitic protests on campus we still believe in Israel. We believe that although Israel is not the perfect place we envision it to be, we fight to make it that way. To the thousands of volunteers who work each day to promote Israel and Zionism in Australia, I thank you. Your work is very much under appreciated and thanks is often unspoken but no less valuable. To the politicians on both sides of parliament, thank you for your support – I’m sure a ridiculous article such as this does not put a damper on our appreciation of your support."

Hat tip: reader Shirlee; text sources J-Wire.

Link: http://daphneanson.blogspot.com/2012/01/haaretzs-blunder-drawsthunder-from-down.html

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