LETTERS 31.8.19

Thank you
THANK you for publishing Vincent Sammut’s opinion piece (“How I became an anti-Semite without trying”, Voice, August 17, 2019) regarding the emerging definition of anti-Semitism.
In relation to Steve Lieblich’s response (“Defining letter”, Voice Letters, August 24, 2019), I note that he claims Mr Sammut and the leader of the UK Labour Party are seeking to redefine anti-Semitism.
The point of the original piece is the opposite: Mr Sammut is pushing back against redefinition.
He deplores hatred of Jewish people (as right-minded people do) but he does not accept that criticism of Israeli policy, and speaking out about Palestinian human rights should carry the label of anti-Semitism.
Alas, we are increasingly seeing anyone who speaks out against Israel’s apartheid laws and practices being labeled anti-Semitic, and that effectively shuts down any discussion. Melissa Parke was ousted as the ALP candidate for Curtin because she spoke out against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, treatment she witnessed first-hand as a lawyer for the UN, based in Gaza.
Ms Parke was accused by members of Australia’s Israel-lobby of anti-Semitism and was dropped like a hot potato.
The other letters you published talk of the Jewish people’s attachment to the land, which has not been denied by Mr Sammut.
Jews have always lived there and prior to British colonisation after World War I, Ottoman rule of Palestine (as it was then broadly known) allowed for Jews to live and worship in the land.
The manner of ruling over those Jewish subjects would not pass modern standards of equality or democracy, but that does not excuse the lack of equality or democracy now meted out on the Palestinians.
I have volunteered in Israel and the West Bank for both Israeli and Palestinian organisations including on a kibbutz, picking olives, accompanying children to get to school when threatened by settlers, and helping with a home rebuilding program.
I have seen the discrimination and racism inflicted by Israeli state policies such as separate buses, separate roads, refusal to provide civic services such as garbage removal for tax-paying Palestinian citizens, refusal of family reunification and the terrifying experience of home invasion in the dead of night.
I am in good company with Mr Sammut, Jeremy Corbyn and Ms Parke and I will keep criticising Israel for violations of Palestinian human rights.
Sarah Haynes
Address supplied

Brave Voice
REGARDING the Speaker’s Corner by Vincent Sammut (“How I became an anti-semite without trying”, Voice, August 17, 2019), it was an interesting opinion piece to publish and an opinion that should be freely talked about and debated more often.
The barrage of letters and the lynch mob mentality that followed was disgraceful, especially coming from prominent people and academics.
I also found Vincent’s memory amazing, recalling in detail when he was only two.
Professor David Trigger started by saying; “I am surprised there was no editorial oversight before publishing an opinion piece…” Then later on suggests “Public debate on the Israel / Palestinian conflict is most productive when seeking a balance between justice for Jews and Palestinians”.
Confusing as it is, it infers censorship is required for any criticism of Israel or Zionism and that the terms of any debate should be set out in context of the broad ranging definitions of anti-Semitism.
Steve Lieblich wrote in his Voice letter, “Not all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but some is”. I guess it all depends on who you talk to and who’s criticising.
There are many Jews including learned Rabbis that are anti-Zionists and Orthodox Jews that protest in the streets, but apparently they are labeled as self-hating Jews by the ones that they oppose (well I suppose it would sound ridiculous calling them anti-Semitic).
As Zionism is a political movement, it should by virtue of its elitist construct be open to criticism. A quote from former Israeli education minister Shulamit Aloni comes to mind: “Well it’s a trick, we always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticising Israel then we bring up the holocaust. When in this country people are criticising Israel, then they are anti-Semitic…”
Good on you Vincent for speaking your mind and good on the Voice for publishing his opinion, especially in these these times of the breakdown of free speech.
Gene Lorenzon
Mt Hawthorn

Trigger happy
IT’S interesting that of the three letter writers who responded to my Speaker’s Corner in the Voice (“How I became an anti-semite without trying”, August 17, 2019), only Professor David Trigger got my point, saying, “Those reading the full piece will see that the author recounts his opposition to anti-Semitism”.
Therefore, I must remind my other critics of my original premise which is that as a person with a consistent record of opposing injustice (horses included), I have never been guilty of anti-Semitism.
I reject the “new anti-Semitism” definition as so much facile and self-serving rubbish.
It is as bereft of substance as a hot air balloon – pure absurdist, rhetorical sophistry,  designed to confuse and deter critics of Israel by directing the focus of attention on to the supposed blemished character of the individual rather than the gravity of the issue.
The question then arises, “What is the likelihood of someone with my blameless track record, reversing an 80-year-old pattern of behaviour and adopting an anti-Semitic about-turn? The problem is not with me but with the unacceptable, illogicality of “new anti-Semitism”.
To me, anti-Semitism is the undifferentiated hatred of all Jews: a better definition, to my way of thinking.
I am also critical of the excesses of the Catholic church, as so many are these days, yet I’m not anti-Catholics.
I deplore the actions of early white settlers and the government agencies who brutalised Aborigines but I don’t hate white people.
I have nothing against Chinese people but I am critical of the policies of the Chinese government for oppressing minority groups.
Similarly, I oppose the Israeli government’s ongoing, Jewish only, settlement policy of stealing the very land on which  Palestinians would build a future state.
This illegal practice as well as the occupation itself, have been condemned by the United Nations for decades to no avail.
I will continue to address this gross injustice as long as Israel refuses to recognise and honour the legitimate humanitarian claims of Palestinians.
Vincent Sammut
Leederville

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