Antony Loewenstein’s book My Israel Question is released in August.
The book has brought extreme discomfort to some within the Australian community which believes Israel has the right to bomb Lebanese civilians even if this risks the lives of thousands of Australian citizens in Lebanon.
This same group has been actively lobbying the Australian government to virtually ignore the interests of Lebanon and its citizens. Similar forces in the United States have been pressuring American lawmakers to act against American interests in the Middle East.
Loewenstein is a brave man for taking on this nefarious, dishonest and destructive force. Already, he has been pilloried on national television, accused of making factual errors and of being far-Left.
To some extent, I personally can understand where Antony Lowenstein is coming from. I myself have written and spoken in the media, condemning forces within Australia’s Islamic communities, including peak bodies, who have wasted resources and are spreading extremism and hatred in the community.
Because of the public positions I have taken, I have also been condemned and pilloried. I’ve been accused of being anti-Islamic, I’ve received death threats (via e-mail, over the telephone and in person) and I’ve had numerous occasions to feel apprehensive about my own safety and that of my family.
There are forces within the Islamic communities who have a vested interest in maintaining control over community organisations. There are others who derive income and prestige from their involvement in Muslim affairs.
The Jewish communities in Australia have their fair share of self-appointed spokespeople who deliberately take the most belligerent approach to any issue affecting Israel.
I am not aware of any Australian Muslim organisation which has gone out of its way to defend Hezbollah's attack on Israeli sovereignty. I am also not aware of any Muslim lobbies set up to defend even the most outrageous actions of the governments of Muslim-majority states.
Indeed, as a rule, Muslims are amongst the loudest critics of Muslim governments and states. The only exception to this rule has been those institutions deriving income on condition of their support (if not their silence) for a particular king or emir.
Aussie Muslims are openly irreverent to both local community leaders and to political figures in Muslim countries. An open and lively debate is conducted in Muslim circles, including on internet forums (even if Sydney and Brisbane American-owned tabloid newspapers confuse such open debate with terrorism).
Jewish and Muslim communities are going through a process of generational change. It is understandable that so many Australian Jews feel strongly about Israel. After all, the Australian Jewish community has a much higher proportion of Holocaust survivors than most diaspora communities (hence, Sheik Hilaly’s despicable attempts at Holocaust denial were even more irresponsible and damaging to Muslim-Jewish relations).
However, many younger Jews don’t feel such a strong link to a foreign state in the Middle East. Not all necessarily take the same approach as Loewenstein. But their voices need to be heard. And thankfully they are being heard more and more.
(The launch will be held on Tuesday 8 August 2006 at 6pm at Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. RSVP by Tuesday 1 August 2006 by tel 03) 9342 0300 or email@example.com.)
© Irfan Yusuf 2006