Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Media Week - Antony blowin’ steam; Do the math; Don’t bank on Barclay

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Antony blowin' steam

Channel Seven's "Weekend Sunrise" (July 7) featured the authors of a new book debating religion called "For God's Sake" which includes a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim and a Jew. The Christian, Muslim and atheist were committed believers.

The "Jew", however, was that well-known non-authority on Judaism, the self-described atheist and extreme anti-Zionist Antony Loewenstein.

Predictably, Loewenstein preferred to bash Israel rather than talk about Judaism:

For me, as a Jewish atheist Australian, I practice no religion. I don't believe in God but I am culturally Jewish and my disillusionment with Judaism has become, in the last decade or so, through the role that Israel plays in relation to Palestinians. So Israel has become for many Jews a religion of itself. So many Jews are secular, don't practice anything but they defend in my view uncritically the apartheid that Israel practices against Palestinians. So for me, and growing numbers of young Jews, here, the US and overseas, the idea that you can be an anti-Zionist against the idea of a Jewish state but still proudly Jewish and secular and modern and multicultural.

Regrettably, this anti-Israel nonsense was uncritically accepted with neither "Sunrise" host Andrew O'Keefe or Samantha Armytage even asking why an atheist was invited to speak on behalf of Judaism.

Do the math

A report by Phoebe Greenwood in the Canberra Times (June 29) on US Secretary of State John Kerry's attempts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations listed some of the issues that could not be resolved the last time talks were held in 2007/08.

This included a "Palestinian insistence on the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes they fled in 1948 in what is now Israel."

The estimates for the Arab Palestinians displaced during the 1948 war range between 500,000 and 750,000, certainly not "millions".

Don't bank on Barclay

Speculating on the consequences for Egypt and beyond following President Mohammed Morsi's fall from power, in the Courier Mail (July 5) academic Glen Barclay argued that "Washington...might have...cause to reflect that what is good for Israel is not necessarily good for the US, if the new order in Egypt should be less disposed than the Islamists to put any pressure on Israel to further an effective peace process."

In fact Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to return to the negotiating table without preconditions, something they have refused to do since 2009.

As recently as June 22, Netanyahu told the Washington Post that "We should enter immediately into negotiations without preconditions... If Secretary Kerry, whose efforts we support, were to pitch a tent halfway between here and Ramallah...I'm in it, I'm in the tent. And I'm committed to stay in the tent and negotiate for as long as it takes to work out a solution of peace and security between us and the Palestinians."

In contrast, on June 30, the PA's chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said his side doesn't "have pre-conditions for the resumption of the negotiations" but then conditioned Palestinian participation on Israel "halting settlement construction, accepting the principle of the two-state solution and releasing prisoners."

Allon Lee

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