G’day. The Zionism debate is running hot after my mea culpa yesterday in Zionism: too many meanings make communication too hard?, and readers have sent in lots of information deepening it. I’ll start with this challenge from Lucy Idoleyes:
“I’ve read the waffling drivel you present as a response to the anger over your KKK-style assertion, and I’d still like to know, do you stand by your assertion that Jewish people control the media and politics in Australia? Zionists aren’t Lutherans or Catholics, so let’s be blunt about what you said. Do you stand by it?”
Margo: Lucy, I did NOT say that Jewish people control the media and politics in Australia. I said that “fundamentalist Zionists” did. My understanding is that most Jewish people are Zionists, but that most Jewish people are not fundamentalist Zionists who believe that they have a right given to the Jewish people by God to appropriate Palestinian land. Wikipedia defines Zionism as “a political movement that holds that the Jews are a nation, and as such are entitled to a “Jewish National Homeland”, and also as “a movement to support the development and defense of the State of Israel, and to encourage Jews to settle there.” Therefore, Anti-Zionism can be opposition to either of these objectives or their implementation”.
Some Jewish people are anti-Zionist, for example jewsagainstzionism. Some fundamentalist Christians in the United States are anti-semitic Zionists: wikpediastates that “Christian Zionism is the belief among some denominations of Protestant Christians, mainly in the United States, that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, through the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy, and is a necessary precondition for the return of Jesus to reign on Earth.”
I unreservedly retract my statement that fundamentalist Zionists “control” politics and the media in Australia. ‘Raymond Allen’, a Jewish bloke who wrote to me privately yesterday and agreed to be published under a nom de plume, expressed what I meant: “Australia’s “No Vote” on the General Assembly resolution was because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby is highly influential in politics and the media in the US and Australia on the issue of Israel/Palestine”.
I again apologise for causing offence to many readers, and I’ve removed the phrase in question from the original piece, On the road again.
Webdiary columnist Jack Robertson defends my honour in a ‘Meeja Watch’ piece at Robbo-v-Bolt on anti-semitism, over a whisky perhaps? In this entry I publish every critical email I received that was not marked “not for publication” since yesterday’s piece, and some emails in my defence. Let’s start with Raymond.
I read your follow-up piece after you wrote that “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” and admired that you would soul-search publicly as to how that sentence would give offence. You said you thought (in so many words) that everyone agreed. But from the examples you gave it seems that what you meant was only “control” as related to discussion of Israel/Palestine.
But what you actually wrote was “control politics and the media”. You didn’t make it issue-specific so it read exactly as the sort of far-fetched ambit claim that neo-Nazis make. To control politics and the media is to be a “secret government”. If you control politics and the media you control everything, you rule autocratically. I am not twisting your words to say that they meant that you are claiming that we are living in a Fundamentalist Zionist dictatorship, that’s precisely what “controlling” politics and media means. How can you be so terribly surprised that people took offence at such a hugely exaggerated claim normally the province exclusively of neo-Nazis?
OK, let’s assume you didn’t really mean ALL of politics of media, in which case you must admit your language was careless in the extreme. (Margo: Admitted!) I still say using the word “control” is far too strong even if you are just talking about the Israel/Palestine issue. You can’t waste a word like “control” for what happens here on any issue. Many Governments around the world really do control their media and what that means is NOTHING unfavourable to their specific cause gets published, absolutely nothing. That’s what “control” means.
To suggest that the Zionists “control” the media and virtually in the same breath to link to Moir’s passionately anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian cartoon just proves that your point is false – surely that cartoon would not get published if the Zionists really did “control” the media. Actually, take it a step further: that you can make the claim that the Zionists “control” the media and the claim gets published in that self-same media itself demonstrates the falsehood of the claim! Be realistic, the Zionists score goals in lobbying but there is heaps published every day that they have no control of and obviously would not permit if they truly had this control and did decide to use it to stifle all dissent. Anyway, the Fundamentalist Zionists as you call them really do (currently) control the Israeli Government (in this case by virtue of the democratic process) and they do not “control” the media even there – you can read many daily pieces hostile to Sharon’s policies, including the security fence, in the left-wing Israeli media (like Ha-aretz) where dissent is not stifled.
Because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia: That’s the “secret government” neo-Nazi claim. How could you not have noticed?
If you really only meant because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media [on the issue of Israel/Palestine] in the US and Australia, then OK, it’s not quite as neo-Nazi, but crazily far-fetched because in that case it would be impossible for anyone to publish a piece critical of Israel, just as it was impossible to publish a piece critical of the Communist Party in Soviet Russia. This is a middle-class Western disease, exaggerating and being far-fetched about the degree of the perceived outrage which leaves no language left to describe the true extremes which still do exist but are so alien to us so we tend to forget what “control” of the media really does mean, where journalists such as yourself can be imprisoned, tortured and killed for dissenting from the party line.
I think if you’d written that Australia’s “No Vote” on the General Assembly resolution was because the fundamentalist Zionist lobby is highly influential in politics and the media in the US and Australia on the issue of Israel/Palestine very few people would have blinked or played the “anti-Semite” card. Not everyone would have agreed with you. They might say “I have formed my own opinion that the Israeli security fence is justified without being lobbied by Zionists, so I don’t see why the Australian Government might not have come to the same conclusion independent of lobbyists”. That’s debate, your opinion is arguable and so is theirs, they can’t prove that the vote wasn’t a result of lobbying and you can’t prove that it was. It’s all legitimate opinion.
But your careless language, which I accept was unintentional, shows that there is a line to be crossed between legitimate criticism of Israel and the Zionist lobby and language that at least at face value is certainly anti-Semitic. “Control” is far too strong a word, connoting unlimited power. Intellectually it’s dishonest. Morally it’s bankrupt because the “control” claim (the secret Jewish Government) is at the heart of every fatally poisonous anti-Semitic canard. So double reason not to use the word “control”, it’s dishonest and false, and the same untrue allegation that anti-Semites regularly make.
How could your alarm bells not go off? (Margo: I’m inexperienced in this debate, which I avoided before Ashrawi and have promised myself I will never enter again! It was a throwaway line that I deeply regret.)
I was surprised that you virtually re-iterated the claim in your follow up piece, saying that you thought everyone agreed that the Zionists had this “control”.
I think that was the problem and what was missing in your follow up. It was the word “control” that was way over the top, and is precisely this same over-the-top-ness that has had such a terrible legacy in the hands of real anti-Semites. Ultimately your use of it plays into those very hands, makes the extreme mainstream. (Margo: Agreed!)
Ronald H Tolkien: Sharon to Peres: “We Control America”: Congressional Pandering to Israel.
Sol Salbe recommends Tactic of intimidation by smear utterly repugnant, on theAustralia/Israeland Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) response to the attempt by Israeli spies to obtain New Zealand passports under false pretences.
Scott Burchill recommends Israel expands West Bank settlements: aerial photos reveal extent of land grab, say peace groups.
Allen Jay: “I suggest you read ‘The Politics of Anti-Semitism’, published by Counterpunch and edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. See also Uri Avnerey’s The Hoax of Paris andChirac v. Sharon on how it all works – spin included. Sau Landau’s website on the media is also interesting.
I just wanted to point out to Allen Jay in his off-target comparison of Israel and the “Nazi plan” yesterday that his recounting of Sharon’s political history is incorrect.
Allen states that “Sharon come to power on the back of the assassination of a PM who made peace with the Palestinians, promising to destroy that peace…..”. Well, not quite.
In fact, there were three (3!) other Israeli Prime Ministers who served between the time of the assasinated Rabin and Sharon coming to power. They were: Shimon Peres (1995-97), Bibi Netanyahu (1997-1999) and Ehud Barak (1999-2001)
Sharon’s entry into power in 2001, 6 years after the 1995 shooting, can hardly be categorised as on the back of the assasination (thereby implying a link). Sharon came to power in a completely different context, in the wake of the Camp David Peace Accords attended by Clinton, Arafat, and Barak in October 2000. Thanks for the opportunity to write in.
Boss Hog: Margo must have won a life-time free membership to the Klan with her anti-Semitic rave. Is it true that the SMH is changing its name to “Juden Raus”?
The current definition of anti-Semitism in common useage is anyone who disagrees with either Sharon or Colin Rubenstein. They are Jews so whatever they say must be Jewish and to oppose even their most ludicrously inhumane or stupid beliefs is ipso facto anti-Semitism. Colin likes John Howard, so criticism of John Howard may be anti-Semitism, too!
Now, I just happen to be Jewish. Pretty much as Jewish as you get. Not half, not quarter, but a full-blood, bull’s blood Kike. (Ich bin der uberJuden, jedes Deutsche schlimpster auptraum.) The sort of investigative journalist the Nazis would have been proud to pop in the head and throw into a mass grave, like more than 90 percent of my family.
So, of course, anyone who disagrees with me, particularly on matters relating to the State of Israel, is another bloody anti-Semite. The only minor technical problem we have here is that all Jews know the dictum: Two Jews, Three Opinions, so all Jews by definition must be anti-Semites.
Over the top? This abuse of language goes back a long way. Many on the non-extreme right of Israel and Jewish affairs are appalled when the extremists use the Holocaust – the deaths of our families – for their own cheap political points.
Isi Liebler is apparently fond of describing Jews critical of ultra-right wing Israeli governments as “self-hating Jews”. Others call them “Isi Liebler hating Jews”.
But the bottom line on this gang of language-abusers belongs to the mentor I share with Robert Manne – Dr Franta Knopfelmacher: “At least Spinoza was excommunicated by Rabbis. I was excommunicated by travel agents.” A reference to Liebler’s then travel agency.
As for Zionism, I am reclaiming the term and I am a Real Zionist – one who supports the Hollywood Paul Newman version in Exodus, where Jews are prepared and able to defend a homeland for Jews, while treating the indigenous peoples with the respect demanded by UN Resolution 181 (II) and be light on the hill to all nations on peaceful coexistence. I want an Israel for perpetuity, not just for Chanukkah.
PS: Note to the AIJAC functionary tasked to criticise this article – humour has been included, along with irony, so please ask a grown-up for help.
Exchange of emails between Jonathan Baral in Chippendale and an online editor, sent to me by Jonathan
Jonathan Baral: Why do you continue to publish Margo Kingston’s work (Monday 26th July- Zionism – too many means make communication too hard)? In the name of free speech? Even though it incites hatred of Jews (whether they be from Israel or Australia). Every time I read her work (published in SMH) I feel vilified. I thought that this kind of thing went out with Nazi Germany. Shame! Shame!! Shame!!! I ask you what is the legal responsiblilty of the editorial department? I for one will be finding out, and if possible will be looking to sue. How dare you publish offensive propaganda. At the barest minimum, I would expect SMH to put forward a retraction (you do bear responsiblity as you published it, even if you do not agree with it). Please note, if you choose to employ a racist, that is your perogative. But to publish their works (ongoing), that is just offensive. I look forward to your most urgent attention to this matter,
Editor: Surely the piece you refer to is self-explanatory? It sets out Margo’s explanation of her use of language and what others thought about it at considerable length. If Margo was a racist, why would she bother writing at the conclusion of the piece: “To conclude, I sincerely apologise for any offence caused, and will be happy to publish reader discussion on the matter. ” If you wish to discuss it further with her, why not take up her offer?
Jonathan: Was the put down necessary? And if it is self-explanatory, then why do you think I took so much offence? Perhaps you agree with Ms.Kingston? Please read some of Ms Kingston’s work. I am not a part of some “fundamentalist Zionist lobby” that Ms Kingston is trying to draw attention to while trying to apologise for it, or use someone else’s statements to do so. Ms.Kingston’s constant referal to “The Protocols of the elders of Zion” (the foundation for the Nazi extermination of Jews in Europe) and her suggestion that this Zionist lobby is in control of Australian/US politics and media, while apologising for making these statements is offensive. (Margo: I don’t beieve I have EVER referred to “the protocols” – could you refer me to your evidence, please?)
My family through the Holocaust in Europe (sic). This article is offensive to those that survived and those that did not. It is also offensive to those who are trying to survive now in Israel.
Why write something (and publish it!) if you know it will cause offence and then apologise for it?! Does that excuse the content? I think not. To discuss the matter further with Margo Kingston would achieve nothing. She has made her opinion very clear over a very long time. This is not a topic for discussion and I will not bring myself down to the level of this person by debating with her my right to exist (and yes, it is that personal). How can you discuss/debate with someone who clearly won’t listen anyway. This woman’s work is offensive to most Jews who live in Australia (check with the Jewish Board of Deputies – Jeremy Jones care of nswjbd). Again I urge you to take action in this matter.
Alternatively I am happy to air Ms Kingston’s article and our emails on various websites with people who share my views. Perhaps you might like to hear from them as well.
Editor: Jonathan, far from seeking to put you down, I’m encouraging you to use the vehicle of the Webdiary and contribute to the debate to get your point of view across. If Margo doesn’t listen, why would she seek – as in the piece of which you complain – to try to understand how she has given offence? I’ll copy her in on this exchange.
Jonathan: Perhaps both you and Ms Kingston might choose to read some of the letters and editorial comment from the Jerusalem Times. I would also recommend honestreporting.
Jews the world over feel as though they are under seige. Most are scared by what they see happening in the world (note metal detectors and armed security at places of worship; also concrete barriers at high holy days!). They have heard the stories of what happened 60 years ago, and see the same thing happening again. The Jewish people are being dehumanised by the world media; their enemies seek to disarm them (ie the World Court/UN resolution); the next step………..
The Webdiary is not the place to discuss this. This is not a debate – how can any Jew debate their right to exist? How can any people debate their right to exist? How can anyone debate their identity and the right for their identity to exist? How can any country debate its right to exist? These matters are not for debate or up for discussion. And anyone who wants to…how dare they!
Disclosure: I was born in Damascus, Syria, raised a Christian, am existentialist by thought and don’t do hate. Unfortunately, my name and my background tend to sideline me when it comes to discussing issues of Jewish statehood or Zionist agendas ESPECIALLY in Australia: Oh, OF COURSE you’d think that, you’re an Arab! Take a number. I understand (but do not accept) that.
I too read that line and did a double take. Not because it offends. Not because its outlandish. No, I re-read it several times thinking “There goes Webdiary”! It wouldn’t go down well, and Margo/Webdiary was in real danger. Funny, because that re-enforced your point precisely!
The first international Zionist convention held towards the end of the 19th century was formed by a minority with a Fundamentalist Jewish agenda. A majority of Jews world-wide did not agree with it or condone it. In fact, many labeled it anti-semitic. The aim of the Zionists was clear. The method, however, is largely unspoken: their mission statement specifically identifies the use of lobby groups to influence international governments for the interests of the Zionist movement.
So, how can you, Margo, be labeled anit-semitic for simply stating that the Zionists have been very successful in their mission ?
Zionist does NOT equal Jew, fundamentalist does NOT equal majority Jewish practice and belief, and the use of the phrase Zionist Fundamentalist in no way misrepresents the minority agenda you refer to. Unfortunately, anti-semitic is just too easy to say and is a fast twitch reflex to any text containing both Zionist and Fundamentalist.
I applauded the Ashrawi chapter in ‘Not Happy, John!’ It promoted an open discussion of the Zionist state-of-play which was otherwise taboo. Open and frank discussion is WAY overdue in this country. And I feel very responsible as an educated positive example of a person of middle eastern descent to contribute, not for me, but for everyday Australians to understand. Middle Eastern ignorance is only going to hurt this country more in the years to come.
The tricky part about this discussion, though, is that you must approach it very humbly, diplomatically and above all, intelligently – that’s what I’ve learnt, anyway. One must be very clever in conceding the right ground, avoiding the anti-semitic trump card, and getting the facts and truth across.
Margo, is the Israeli Labour Party a fundamentalist organisation? Which group of Israelis in Israel who support the existence of the State of Israel is not “fundamentalist”? Your answer to these questions will assist you to realise that the term “fundamental Zionist” is an anti-semitic term. If by “Zionist”, you mean someone who supports the notion of Israel’s right to exist then my guess is about 90% of the world’s Jewish population would be Zionists and, moreover, would come within the ambit of your term “fundamental Zionist”. Perhaps my analysis is wrong. I guess I could be proved wrong by your defining for me who exactly is a non-fundamentalist Zionist.
Margo: A Zionist who opposes the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and thus the appropriation of Palestinian land. Wikipedia states: “Zionism holds that ‘Jewish people constitute a nation and are entitled to a national homeland,’ but is often used by opponents to label the much stronger viewpoint of some in the Israeli settler movement who wish to build a “Greater Israel” on the West Bank and Gaza strip at the expense of Palestinians. Supporters of the former interpretation of Zionism regard it as a combination of nationalism and democratic plurality.”
It seems to me that every comment made about Judaism today is made under the cloud of the Holocaust. Sadly, and ironically, fundmentalist Zionism has hijacked the Holocaust to its cause, to be dragged out as the ‘no-brainer’ for every criticism of anything Jewish. The reaction you received is the reaction of a public that has been trained to tread delicately to the point where free thinking has been suppressed.
I recently visited Gross Rossen Concentration Camp in Poland, just outside my ‘ancestral’ hometown (ancestors long gone). A marvellous young Austrian chap showed me around, working there to fulfill his National Service duties. After the experience I can honestly say that the tragedy of the Holocaust crosses all cultural and religious barriers, and it is a continuing tragedy that we stand back and allow it to be constantly misused as a tool for political and monetary power struggles.
Lest we really do forget…
Yosi Tal in Leichhardt, Sydney
This is the letter the SMH wouldn’t print.
“If we were to see the words, “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” we may think we were reading something from the Ku Klux Klan, or perhaps the League of Rights. No-one should expect such comments to come from a Sydney Morning Herald journalist, yet SMH web diarist Margo Kingston posted them on the site on July 22 in response to a reader comment. If Ms Kingston does not understand that the SMH is not the place for old fashioned Jewish conspiracy mythology, the SMH needs to find itself a new diarist.”
Jackie McKerrell in Bonbeach, Victoria
Perhaps the missing words in your comment were “the views of” and “on the Israel/Palestine issue”, i.e. [the views of] the fundamentalist Zionist lobby [on the Israel/Palestine issue] control politics and media in the US and Australia. I think an extremely robust argument can be mounted in this regard, and does not imply that all Jews are Zionists or fundamentalist Zionists or even the requirement of a direct “all-powerful” Jewish hand (see the influence of the extremely dangerous and profoundly anti-semitic Christian Zionists in the US).
I think it is deeply troubling that the privately funded right wing think tank AIJAC is perceived as the voice of Australian Jewry by both the politicians and the media, and that it seems virtually impossible for alternative views to be heard, including from the left, opponents of Israel’s military occupation, supporters of a just peace with the Palestinians or even voices on the right who do not support the excesses of the Sharon Government and even less the blatant racism and ethnic cleansing aspirations of the lunatic fringe who wield inordinate power in Israeli politics.
The automatic response from the media to turn to the Rubinsteins and the Lapkins as the “voice of Australian Jewry” at every opportunity does a grave disservice to Australian Jews who do not share their reflexive pro-Likudnik stance.
It goes without saying that the coverage of the Middle East in Australia is extremely poor and almost unrelentingly pro-Israeli largely due to omission of Palestinian voices and presentation of the Palestinian experience of 37 years of military occupation, dispossession and colonisation. And what of the cost to Israeli society of this four decade long military occupation, compulsory military service and the financial and moral burden of the Jewish settlers on Palestinian land – increased crime and violence, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, marginalisation of already beseiged and disadvantaged non-Jewish minorities, racial purity laws (see new legislation regarding marriage), and the coarsening of public and parliamentary debate where talk of ethnic cleansing of non-Jews, excising whole Arab communities from Israel or withdrawing even the right to vote from Israeli Arabs are OK topics for discussion?
Why do we not hear the voices of outstanding Israeli journalists like Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Tanya Reinhart, Neve Gordon or Meron Benvenisti in Australia? The profound and considered analysis of Ilan Pappe or Baruch Kimmerling? It is not just the voices of Palestinians that are silenced by the predominance of the fundamentalist Zionist viewpoint, it is also the dissenting voices of Israeli and Australian Jews.
I am not Jewish nor do I have a any close Jewish friends, nor do I have any particular ideological sympathies with Israel. Having said that I am appalled and disgusted by the blatant anti-Semitism displayed by your employee, Margo Kingston. Her subsequent ‘explanation’ merely emphasises her hate and arrogance. I will no longer subscribe to a newspaper which publishes such strident prejudice.”
Steve j. Spears in Henley Beach, South Australia
Well, who’s a naughty girl? Some folks want to hang you for — “… the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia”. Seems to me that fewer feathers would have been ruffled had you said “has massive influence over” instead of “controls”. But, really, big f…ing deal. The Ultra-Sensitive wings within both Judaism and Zionism would be screaming “anti-semite” at you even if you’d replaced “controls” with “has no influence whatsoever over”.
The insult is the issue itself. How dare you use words which don’t parse in praise of them and all their works?
In her well-reasoned letter yesterday, Webdiarist Jenny Green says – “You have to remember that that label (“Jew”) has variously been a source of shame and fear and danger within the lifetime of my own grandparents”.
She better keep schtum about that lest the Ultra-Sensitives decide to ban goys using “Jew”.
Daniel Boase-Jelinek in Perth
I am disappointed by the attacks on you regarding your comments on the political activities of various Jewish groups in Australia and the USA, and their turning a blind eye to Howard’s violations of human rights.
I had no sense of anti-semitism while reading your column. What struck me were the parallels between Isreali displacement of Palestinians and the displacement of Aboriginal people in Australia, and the continuing denial of human rights in both places. It seems to me that what is happening in Israel may be a preview of what could happen in Australia if we continue to deny justice to Aboriginal people.
What I do find offensive is the refusal by our Government and mainstream media to consider the possibility that the festering sore of Israel is at the root of terrorism around the world, and that the war on terrorism would be much further advanced if this was addressed.
“The fundamentalist Zionist lobby influences politics and the media in the US and Australia” – OK, we can live with that. “The fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” – Aaarrrrgggghhhh!!!! Death to the unbeliever!!! I suggest that Israel, which is happy to be the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid (much of it military), has failed to convince the world that it is using that support morally. I am not anti-semitic, and I’m not anti-Israel. I am, however, anti-oppression, and Israel has ignored more UN resolutions on its conduct in the occupied territories than Saddam Hussein.
Tim Gillin in Kensington, Sydney
Margo, you seem to have had a close encounter with what libertarian New York Jewish writer Murray Rothbard called Organised Anti-Anti-Semitism(OOAS). He wrote a fun article about this in the early 1990s when Richard Nixon’s former speech writer Pat Buchanan urged the US to revert to Ike’s “even handed” policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict. He also opposed Gulf War 1. For these “radical” views Buchanan was smeared as an anti-semite. I think you’ll enjoy Rothbard’s description of how fellow journalists use the anti-semite label, the whole Smear Bund spin cycle and his premonitions of things to come.
I suppose your words “the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia” could have been better chosen. I would have said the “Likudniks” rather than “Zionists” and “dominates” rather than “controls” myself. But free speech is about saying what you want, how you want. So I may disagree with your adjectives and adverbs, but I will fight, or at least cuss, to the death, or at least to my old age pension comes in, for your right to use them.
There may be some good to all this. Now you know how us conservatives feel when your mob toss buckets of political correctness, anti-racism, anti-sexism etc at us for not gasping in awe at the self evident worth of all pronouncements from Philip Adams!