For a debate without offensive falsifications

Friday, May 18, 2007

The following letter was sent by Green Left Weekly on May 16 to the editor of the Australia/Israel Review, the journal of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

We reject utterly as an offensive slur the implication in your May 2007 editorial ("The Oldest Hatred Revisited") that coverage in Green Left Weekly of Palestine/Israel is anti-Semitic. Our paper is proudly and explicitly based on socialist internationalism and we reject all forms of racism, discrimination and chauvinism as prejudices serving the ruling class and completely counterproductive to the struggle of the exploited and oppressed for a better world.

In the same issue of your journal, Israeli academic Dina Porat argues that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic "when it attributes Jewish qualities to Israeli military and political behaviour". We agree and you will search completely in vain in the so far 709 issues of GLW for a single reference to any essential "Jewish nature" of the policies of the Israeli state that we certainly criticise, or any use whatsoever of derogatory stereotypes of Jews.

These stereotypes are based on the oppression of Jewish people in areas where they have lived as a persecuted minority. This oppression indeed has a long history, but festered much more openly in Europe as capitalism developed, was a mainstay of capitalist politics for many decades and has always been opposed by socialists.

There are such things as systematic national and racist oppressions arising from particular relations of power and wealth, and recognising this fact is completely different from explaining negative policies in terms of the supposed cultural or ethnic "qualities" of the instigators. We certainly see the plight of the Palestinian people as an example of national oppression, but we are adamant that this is no more the result of "Jewishness" than the oppression of Indigenous Australians, East Timorese, Iraqis, Kurds or Jews has been caused by the "qualities" of, respectively, settler Australians, Indonesians, Americans, Arabs or Europeans.

Our recognition of the national oppression of Palestinians naturally frames our coverage, in that we are not concerned with a spurious "balance", but focus on explaining real causes and real solutions, that is, solutions in the interests of the great majority, including working-class and oppressed Jewish Israelis.

The main founding organisation of Green Left Weekly, the Democratic Socialist Perspective, argues that the viable solution to this national oppression is a single, democratic, secular state in Palestine/Israel, and urges Jews to heed the words of Israeli intellectual Ilan Pappe at a May 8 debate in Tel Aviv: "Let's give the refugees their share and respect their aspirations to be partners with us in one state. Let's check the practicability of this idea and of the road to it — because for sixty years already we have checked the Two State idea and the result is clear: continuation of exile, occupation, discrimination and dispossession."

GLW has also, however, often featured the voices of those arguing for a two-state solution, including Israelis such as Uri Avnery.

We do not expect you to agree with us, but we expect debate to be conducted without offensive falsifications and crude amalgams.

Kerryn Williams

Editor

Green Left Weekly

Issue