Raised eyebrow to the Jewish News, part 3

by tobybee

I know we said that we’d do this on a regular basis – have a look at the weeks Jewish News – but sometimes it’s the kind of paper that you want to flick through once and not think about again. But this week, once again, there was a kicker of an article, courtesy of one of the Melbourne Jewish community’s favourite sons/fascists, Isi Leibler. In the print edition of the AJN, the article had the title ‘If we are not for ourselves, who will be?’, and in the (which is a slightly longer version of the article) it is ‘Marginalize the Renegade Jews’.

The article begins on a nice note, talking about the ‘enemy within’, which, I’m fairly sure, includes me… and if you read this blog on a regular basis, it probably includes you too. We are characterised as not really Jewish, but we exploit our ‘Jewish origins’. It’s really the same tired old rhetoric which is being brought forward this week in order to argue against left-wing Jews who might somewhat critique what Israel does, particularly in light of the fact that the report on the Gaza attacks earlier this year by Judge Richard Goldstone was to be voted on at the UN yesterday (and, in a great move, the UN Human Rights Commission endorsed the report).

But what makes this article worthy of posting about is the lack of logic and coherency which accompanies its fascist tendencies. Leibler says at one point that “Israel prides itself on being the only country in the region in which genuine freedom of expression reigns supreme… To tolerate such abominations [Jewish critiques of Israel and Zionism] in the name of freedom of expression is taking an ideal to a lunatic extreme.” He continues on: “when senior academics, such as Ben-Gurion University’s Neve Gordon, call Israel an ‘apartheid state’ and encourage the world to boycott Israeli institutions, they are the ones abusing academic freedom.”

My problem here is that it makes no sense. He can’t be proud of Israel’s embrace of freedom of expression (which, in light of the fact that MPs in the Knesset earlier this year trying to pass legislation to ban commemorating the Nakba, I don’t really believe actually exists) and also argue that it be taken away from people he disagrees with. Is it even possible to ‘abuse’ academic freedom? When does exercising those freedoms constitute abusing them? How does having the freedom to express oneself, and using that freedom to actually, y’know, express oneself, become taking an idea to a ‘lunatic extreme’?

Later on in the piece he hints at something rather sinister, arguing that “The Israeli government must now take steps to neutralise the impact of renegade Jews who present themselves as having legitimate alternative Jewish viewpoints. Such an initiative by a country that provides democratic rights to all its citizens, including Arabs, could hardly be categorised as eradicating freedom of expression. It would rather represent a highly overdue effort to exorcise such odious groups from the mainstream and expose them as unrepresentative fringe groups with no standing.”

I suppose, luckily for us, we’ve never claimed to be in the mainstream… otherwise it seems like we may be facing being ‘neutralised.’ Wonder what that’s a euphemism for…

But this is what I don’t get. Someone, Isi Leibler, wrote this piece. An editor/sub-editor read it. Presumably more than one person has to read an article for it to be published. I think it was also published in The Jerusalem Post. Which indicates to me that, to these people, this article makes sense. And that, potentially, there were people sitting around the Shabbes dinner table on Friday night, discussing the article and agreeing that, ‘yes! Isi’s right! ‘exorcising’ those ‘odious’ ‘renegades’ is completely consistent with Israel’s democratic principles. And absolutely yes! it needs to be done.’ So where’s the logic? That’s what I can’t fathom, but what I think we need to understand to actually work at undoing the damage that Leibler, and the AJN, and others like them, do by publishing such material.