Letters: 24.8.19

Flawed premise
REGARDING the Speaker’s Corner “How I became an anti-Semite without trying” by Vincent Sammut in your August 17 edition of the Voice.
Mr Sammut’s piece goes to great length explaining how his stance is a purely political one based on “truthful comments that…expose the injustices”.
He rests his premise wholly on the false contention that that the Arabs, in what was mandated Palestine, are an indigenous people “forced out” by European Jews (“a new cultural group”) who colonised the territory by force in 1948, which his 10-year-old “politically inarticulate” self “recoiled against”.
I posit that Mr Sammut remains politically inarticulate. He demonstrates no recognition of the fact that the Arabs, who were also granted a state in 1948, refused it and were the instigators of the conflict and were mainly responsible for the flight of their own people, as attested in Mitchell Bard’s Myths and Facts and many other authentic sources which, as the long-time proprietor of Books Etcetera, he would have had ample opportunity to consult.
There is no awareness or acknowledgment of the 4000-year-old Israelitic connection to the land, the continuous settlements even after the Roman expulsion, and the Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews who together outnumber their European Ashkenazi cousins.
Mr Sammut needs to be honest with himself and admit his anti-Zionism is just the same old anti-Semitism dressed up for a new millennium.
David Schildkraut

Defining letter
VINCENT SAMMUT, like Jeremy Corbyn, seeks to redefine anti-Semitism to avoid being labelled as such (“How I became an anti-Semite without trying”, Speaker’s Corner, Voice, August 17, 2019).
The definition with which he disagrees, arose from the deliberations of European Forum on Antisemitism in 2004, hosted by the president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, and later published as a Working Definition of Antisemitism.
The definition was later adopted by The London Declaration in 2013, which was signed in 2013 by thousands of lawmakers globally including Australia’s prime minister, the opposition leader and over 100 Australian parliamentarians.
It was also signed in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which has 33 member nations, including Australia, and another nine nations in the process of becoming members.
Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but some is.
Extreme anti-Israel activism is often anti-Semitic, or at least provides a cover for anti-Semites to express and promote their hatred.
The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism says: “Anti-Semitism…may be expressed as hatred toward Jews…toward Jewish community institutions…Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity…” and it provides examples,
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, for example by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour [delegitimisation].
• Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis [demonisation].
• Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis [demonisation].
• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
Israel is where Jews were sovereign for 1500 years before Christ, and has always been central to Jewish prayer, poetry, music, dreaming and longing for two millennia of exile.
Israel is the only place where Jews, as a collective, have sovereignty, self-determination and the ability to create a Jewish society: steeped in the language, values, calendar, history, art, music, poetry and wisdom of the Jewish people.
Jews began to return to their ancient homeland from the 1880s, bought land, and held out their hands in peace to their Arab neighbours.
The Arabs violently rejected peace and repeated offers of a 23rd Arab state in 1935, 1947, after 1967, 1992, 2000 and 2008.
However they apparently don’t want a 23rd Arab state.
They want to destroy the one and only Jewish state.
Criticising Israel is not anti-Semitism – it’s democracy.
But denying Israel’s right to exist is the new anti-Semitism.
Steve Lieblich,
director of public affairs
Jewish Community Council of
Western Australia Inc

An oversight
I AM surprised there was no editorial oversight before publishing an opinion piece headed ‘How I became an anti-Semite without trying’, and ending with the statement that we need more ‘anti-Semitism’? (Speaker’s Corner, Voice, August 17, 2019)
At best, the choice of wording is extremely unfortunate and misleading.
Such headlines risk being read by racists as encouragement for anti-Jewish views.
Those reading the full piece will see that the author recounts his opposition to anti-Semitism.
And we should not equate any criticism of particular Israeli governments or policies with being anti-Semitic.
However, if there is only condemnation for Israel as an entire country, the encouragement of stereotypes about Jewish people is given room to grow.
In this context, the strange association by the writer of the establishment of Israel with his childhood memory of a man cruelly beating a horse is confusing to say the least.
Then there is a simplistic suggestion of ‘European Jews’ versus ‘indigenous Arabs’, based on a memory of watching a news item in 1948.
In fact, Israel’s population today includes a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.
Public debate on the Israel/Palestinian conflict is most productive when seeking a balance between justice for Jews and Palestinians.
Recognition of the history of Jewish connections to the land of Israel and the post-Holocaust circumstances associated with the declaration of the Jewish state are too often ignored among critics of Zionism.
Certainly, a range of views on this complex issue should be given space in the media.
However, one-sided demonisation of Israel will always be disappointingly counter-productive.
Professor David Trigger

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