Monday, February 18, 2013

Australian Jews shaken by the Ben Zygier affair.

Writing in the Israeli paper, Haaretz, Chemi Salev states:

"Australian Jews love Israel. Many of them commit significant amounts of time, energy and wealth to promoting, assisting and defending Israel. They visit Israel frequently and they send their children for extended stays, usually temporarily, often permanently. On a per capita basis, they are the most generous Jewish community in the world, and they may very well be the most Israel-devoted Jewish community in the world."

"Most Australian Jews love Israel without any conditions, qualifications or reservations. They don’t think it is their business to censure Israel from such a great distance in public, even when they disagree with its policies in private. They tend to criticize and often ostracize anyone who thinks or behaves otherwise. In many ways, they are what many Israelis think a model Diaspora community should look like."

I've been on the receiving end of this pro-Zionist ostracism and criticism in the past.  I've had arguments with some American Jews who equate Muslim or Palestinian anger and at times hatred of Israel and Jews with the traditional anti-Semitism of the European variety.  In fact, it is more common than not that if a Gentile criticizes Israel they'll be accused of anti-Semitism and if Jews do it they are "Self hating Jews."

I am sure that if Australian Jews were targeted by some Palestinian faction or simply as an act of vengeance by a lone Palestinian who might have had their home bulldozed and land taken to make way for immigrants from South Africa, Europe, or perhaps some retired US businessman who believes this land was given to him by god, they would claim the motive was anti-Semitism.

The reason the issue of Australian Jews comes up is the death of a Jewish Australian, Ben Zygier who died while under arrest in Israel.  Zygier was recruited by Mossad in 2000 according to reports and he was an ardent Zionist like many Australian Jews.

The controversy deepens given that an Australian passport was used when the Mossad murdered Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 19 January 2010.  This caused considerable concern and Israel faced some open criticism for it.  There is speculation that Zygier, also known as Ben Alon knew too much about September 11th or the assassination of Al-Mabhouh but either way the affair has gotten Australian Jews real edgy as there is some anti-Israeli sentiment being expressed in Australia about the death of an Australian citizen in Israeli custody.  The other aspect of this is which country Australian Jews are loyal to.

Ben Saul, the director of the Sydney Center for International Law at Sydney Law School, accused Israelis of being "masters of all the dark arts: assassination, abduction, torture, violent interception of civilians at sea and colonizing foreign territory." but in the main Australian Jewish leaders have been fairly quiet about it all according to the press.

But when Haaretz writes that Australian Jews don't, "think it is their business to censure Israel from such a great distance in public, even when they disagree with its policies in private." It makes me wonder what the writer would be saying were someone to utter those same words about a country they didn't live in but that that they may have originated from or, as Zionists argue, was given to them by god, and that country was persecuting Jews, treating them the way the Zionist regime treats Palestinians.  What if we said the same about Apartheid South Africa?  And what if we said the same about the Taliban's treatment of women?  "It's not my business to tell them what to do."

If that is how Australian Jews think, and in my experience it's how a lot of Jews in the Diaspora think, criticism of Israel is off limits, then they must expect that anger or hatred of Israeli policies can be felt toward Jews outside of that country who say nothing.  To criticize Israel is not anti-Semitic.  I am not saying that anger at Israel doesn't spill over in to a general anger at or hatred of Jews, this happens in all such instances and would be anti-Semitism I suppose but not the same as that which occurred in Europe.   

Many Jews are involved in the struggle for Palestinian rights and have died for their beliefs, I think Rachel Corrie, the young American run over by a bulldozer as she defended a Palestinian family's home from being demolished was Jewish. By tying themselves to Israel especially being uncritical of the regime and its brutal treatment of Palestinians, Jews around the world set themselves up for criticism.  Norman Finkelstein is a frequent critic of Israeli policies and a heroic figure in my opinion.  He has been savaged by Zionists for his views. There is an excellent interview with him here:

While one can understand the popularity that Zionism gained among Europe's Jews after the experience of Stalinist persecution and then the Nazi extermination camps, the Zionist regime is anything but a nation offering a secure future for the world's Jews, it is an apartheid state that continues to be the major destabilizing factor in the Middle East and harmful to the security of Jews throughout the world.

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