AIJAC responses to Antony Loewenstein’s “Good Weekend” article, which the Age and Sydney Morning Herald refused to publish
May 24, 2023 | AIJAC staff
On March 13, the “Good Weekend” magazine section of both the Age and Sydney Morning Herald included a 3,000 word article by Jewish anti-Zionist writer Antony Loewenstein titled “Being Jewish and critical of Israel can make you an outcast. I should know.” In it, Loewenstein asserted that “to not believe in Israel was to somehow forfeit one’s name as a good Jew” and that in 2003, after he first said Israel’s actions “paralleled apartheid-like policies” and that “its treatment of Palestinians centred around a racist ideology,” he and his family were attacked and ostracised within the Australian Jewish community. He also promoted his new book, The Palestine Laboratory, which he said tells “how the Jewish state has spent decades developing the tools and technologies to oppress the Palestinians, and how it now exports these tools to well over 100 countries.”
Given that much of his article was dedicated to attacks not only Israel, but on the Australian Jewish Community for both allegedly supporting Israel’s “apartheid and crimes against humanity”, and supposedly supressing the speech of those like Loewenstein who do not, AIJAC felt it was incumbent on someone representing the community to explain mainstream Jewish views on both his claims against the community and regarding Israel. To this end, AIJAC submitted an 800-word article penned by Tzvi Fleischer to both the Age and Sydney Morning Herald. The Herald did not respond to repeated requests for an answer regarding the article, but the Age did and rejected it. However, an Age editor did suggest a letter to the editor might be a more appropriate way to respond. AIJAC duly penned a 250-word letter and submitted it to both papers. The Age and Sydney Morning Herald both failed to publish this letter as well.
We include below both the op/ed and letter that the Age and Sydney Morning Herald refused to publish.
Extremist rhetoric obscures the Jewish community’s true stance
Predictably, anti-Zionist Jewish writer Antony Loewenstein’s Good Weekend article (May 13) repeats the same lines he has been publishing for 20 years – eviscerating Israel, sneering at those who support its right to exist or the two-state formula for peace with the Palestinians, and claiming victimhood because the Australian Jewish community overwhelmingly neither shares nor likes his angry, radical stance.
While it is unfortunate and regrettable if some individuals treated Loewenstein or his family rudely because of his political stances, the fault is not all on one side. While he lauds the Jewish tradition of dialogue, Loewenstein tends to impute racist motives to anyone who disagrees with him, and to treat any criticism or rebuttal of any of his often dubious claims, basic factual errors, gross and unfair generalisations, and enormous omissions of vital context, as evidence he is being persecuted and silenced.
And he is often not straightforward about where he differs from the rest of the community on the Palestinian issue.
Loewenstein generally obscures the fact that mainstream Australian Jewish communal organisations overwhelmingly support a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and polls show so do Australian Jews. And Loewenstein does not.
He is not merely critical of certain Israeli policies – as many Australian Jews are – but has long advocated a “one-state solution” involving Israel’s replacement by a majority Palestinian state. And not simply on practical grounds. In 2012, he wrote that partition of the land – a two-state solution – is “unethical”.
His views are extreme not only relative to the Jewish community, but the wider Australian, and indeed even international, communities.
The two states for two peoples blueprint – a Jewish State of Israel and an Arab-majority State of Palestine to fulfil Jewish and Palestinian rights to self-determination respectively – has been repeatedly endorsed by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly and furthermore approved by the Arab League in 2002.
Even Indonesia and Arab states that snub full diplomatic ties with Israel mostly support the two-state resolution in principle. So, at least in theory, do Palestinian leaders. Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords in September 1993 accepting Israel’s right to exist.
Loewenstein rhetorically obscures the fact that most of the Australian Jewish community does care about Palestinian rights and claims – by endorsing the same negotiated two-state mechanism for achieving those rights peacefully that almost the whole global community endorses.
Apart from a coterie of vocal Western like-minded anti-Israel activists like Loewenstein, the primary opponents of this equitable resolution include Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It’s hardly surprising that Loewenstein’s coreligionists are often alienated by his constant angry rhetoric implying most of the rest of the Jewish community is racist and blinded by the Holocaust for not agreeing to the same outcome advocated by these openly antisemitic actors.
He also refuses to acknowledge that Israel has made many good faith efforts to achieve a two-state outcome.
In July 2000, Yasser Arafat rebuffed then-Israeli PM Ehud Barak’s historic proposal at the Camp David summit to create a Palestinian state.
Even as Palestinian terrorism swept across Israel in December 2000/January 2001, Barak considerably sweetened the deal, but Arafat still rejected it. Indeed, as Bill Clinton’s 2004 memoir My Life noted, “the deal was so good I couldn’t believe anyone would be foolish enough to let it go…”
PM Ehud Olmert made another even more extensive two-state peace offer in 2008 – and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in his own words, rejected it “out of hand.” And major progress towards a US-brokered two-state deal in 2014 stalled when Abbas again refused to move forward.
Radical pro-Palestinian advocates, including Loewenstein, also routinely misrepresent the circumstances of Israel’s birth and the real reasons for the Palestinian refugee problem created during the 1948 war.
As the Sydney Morning Herald’s May 15, 1948 edition noted, “the birth of the Jewish State of Israel…was proclaimed in Tel Aviv. At the same time the headquarters of the Arab League in Damascus issued a formal declaration of a ‘state of war’ against Palestine Jewry, and the Egyptian government announced it would invade Palestine one minute after midnight.”
Without that invasion by five Arab states and subsequent bloody war, there could have been a Palestinian state established alongside Israel in 1948, as the UN intended, and no Palestinian refugees. Moreover, a Palestinian state could have been established any time between 1948 and 1967, when Egypt and Jordan respectively controlled Gaza and the West Bank.
So while Loewenstein is entitled to his extreme views, it’s unsurprising his problematic methods of promulgating them has cost him the respect of most of the wider Jewish community.
Most Australian Jews continue to hope that, as more Arab countries normalise relations with Israel, Palestinian leaders will also finally embrace the international consensus of two states for two peoples living side by side in peace – and then, hopefully, the rejectionist rhetoric of Hamas, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Western extremists like Loewenstein will fade away.
Dr. Tzvi Fleischer is editor of the Australia/Israel Review, published by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).
Anti-Zionist Jewish writer Antony Loewenstein’s Good Weekend article (May 13) repeats the same lines he has been publishing for 20 years – eviscerating Israel, sneering at those who support its right to exist, and claiming victimhood because the Australian Jewish community overwhelmingly rejects his angry, radical stance.
While it is regrettable if some individuals treated Loewenstein or his family rudely, the fault goes both ways. Loewenstein tends to impute racist motives to anyone who disagrees with him, and treat any criticism or rebuttal of any of his often dubious claims, factual errors, unfair generalisations, and enormous omissions of vital context, as evidence he is being persecuted and silenced.
He also obscures the fact that mainstream Australian Jewish communal organisations and Jewish community opinion overwhelmingly support a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Loewenstein, however, does not.
He doesn’t just criticise Israeli policies, but has long advocated a “one-state solution” involving Israel’s replacement by a majority Palestinian state. In 2012, he wrote that partition of the land – a two-state solution – is “unethical”
He also always ignores Israel’s many past efforts to reach a two-state peace with the Palestinians, including three offers of statehood along generally agreed lines, and the unilateral Gaza withdrawal. All came to nothing due to Palestinian intransigence.
Loewenstein portrays himself as a brave moral crusader shunned by his community for speaking uncomfortable truths, but in reality, he is an extremist whose problematic methods of promulgating his views have predictably cost him the respect of most of the wider Jewish community.