Protest at Dershowitz Pro-Israel United Israel Appeal talk

Alan Dershowitz

I was one of the “pro-Palestinian hecklers” that faced off against Alan Dershowitz at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre on February 25.

I heckled because there was no freedom of speech in that United Israel Appeal (UIA) propaganda event. The issues of the stealing of Palestinian land and the killing of Palestinian people were not addressed. I have strong Jewish connections as well as Palestinian friends, some of whom were demonstrating outside, together with the valiant Jews Against the Occupation.

It is time people like Dershowitz faced up to the real injustices created by Zionist colonialism, and the way it has distorted Jewish life. It has been said that Zionism is a prison for Palestinian bodies and for Jewish minds. Thank goodness that Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe and others keep the flag flying for Jewish humanity, while, in the rush for a racist state, many others, such as Dershowitz, have abandoned it.

Vivienne Porzsolt of Jews Against the Occupation (JAO) suggested we try to get tickets to the Zionist fund-raising event. As it turned out, I was the only one who got in.

I do not like to interrupt people, even Dershowitz who (to put it kindly) does not enjoy a great reputation for honesty. But I heckled because it is in the interest of free speech to interrupt lies and propaganda. I do not agree with shutting it down, but certainly with interrupting it, and making room for dissent. I wish I had done it more.

I stood up with a banner that read “STOP STEALING PALESTINE”. I shouted “Stop stealing Palestinian land!” A member of the audience ripped the banner from my hands. At that moment I wished I had brought a spare — “STOP STEALING PALESTINE” spray-painted on a cut open pillowcase, compact and light.

Security people came up to me saying I could have my money back if we could talk quietly about it out the back. I refused. I refused a few times. They threatened to remove me forcibly, and I invited them to try it. They did. They prized my hand off the railing and carried me out of the auditorium. For once, being rather overweight was an advantage.

As I left, I shouted that Dershowitz was a propagandist and a charlatan. I was not arrested, thank goodness. The security people and police were fairly polite to me. It helped to be white and middle class. They asked if I was Jewish. I told them I was a human being.

It seemed to be just one person protesting, but it was a collective effort. When I arrived at the Convention Centre, there was a demonstration in the rain. I was pleased to see Aboriginal and Palestinian flags. To be honest, I would rather have been outside with my friends, not inside with people I have little in common with.

The speaker before Dershowitz welcomed “our Christian Zionist friends”. These are people, as Noam Chomsky has written, who would like all the Jews to be in one place so they can be wiped out on “Judgement Day” as “God’s elect”, the Christians, go to God. They are anti-Semites.

This is a nice touch as Zionists routinely accuse anyone who criticises Israel and supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), of being anti-Semitic. Israel supports genuine anti-Semites, as long as they support Israel’s colonising, invading, policies.

An Israeli spoke about an organisation helping marginalised children at school. One might imagine that this might include some Palestinian children. If it did, they were not mentioned. Only Ethiopian Jewish children were mentioned. Can you imagine something like this here, with only white kids being helped and not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children? But, as in the former apartheid South Africa, there is a separate and inferior system for the education of children not of the dominating ethnicity, so it should not have come as a surprise.

They boasted of how many Australian politicians have visited Israel. I cannot remember if free trips to Australian journalists were mentioned, although I know they happen, and it is not a secret, even if the journalists themselves do not declare them when they write about the Middle East.

We who want justice in the Middle East, should encourage and support journalists, such as Sophie MacNeill and John Lyons, who tell the truth. We should expose politicians who have been duchessed by the Israeli state. And we should counter the lies about the Occupation and Zionist colonies on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

I think we should disrupt the overwhelming propaganda events where there is no room given for dissent. That is what the Dershowitz event was. Shutting such an event down would, I believe, be undemocratic. Interrupting it, is striking a blow for free speech.

I was impressed with Gideon Levy’s visit here. For him in Israel, as it is for us here in Australia, the question is about the kind of country we want to live in. Do Jewish Israelis really want to live in a country that holds another people, the Indigenous people, in subjection, becoming more and more a police state as it does so? Do Israelis want to be violators of international law, and continue a profound injustice, even as they commit atrocities every day?

The questions are similar for us: do we want to live in an increasingly authoritarian state, with refugees held hostage both in neighbouring lands we have bullied into compliance and in our own gulag archipelago? Is there never to be an honest accounting for our own history, with Indigenous always denied any sort of justice? We are both colonised countries and we have many of the same questions to answer.

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