Last Tuesday night I saw two sides of the Middle East debate.
First, the launch of Antony Loewenstein’s My Israel Question. Some 400 people packed the second level of the trendy Gleebooks in Sydney’s inner west, a mixed crowd of journos, editors, authors and a crowd of what appeared to be miscellaneous lefties. Until I bumped into The Oz’s opinion page editor Tom Switzer, I felt like the lone conservative.
Louise Adler from Melbourne University Press praised Antony for following the rich Jewish tradition of dissent and debate. She also praised him for being something publishers dream of – an author who regards his work as a team effort.
But Adler’s special thanks were reserved for Michael Danby, MP for Melbourne Ports. At least I think it was Louise who thanked him. Or maybe it was Antony? The excess amounts of red wine scent filling the air were enough to make a confirmed teetotaller like myself intoxicated on the fumes. Anyway, thanks to Danby’s call for the book to be boycotted, MUP and Loewenstein are laughing all the way to the bank. Already the book is into its second print.
David Marr lambasted AIJAC frontman Dr Colin Rubenstein and his dossier of complaints against the ABC. Marr spoke of how language and rhetoric were used to stifle debate on one of the most contentious issues of our time. Marr admitted he didn’t agree with Loewenstein’s politics or with everything in the book, but congratulated him for stimulating debate on the issue.
Loewenstein’s speech managed to mention Robert Fisk, Edward Said, Antony’s web-designer, his partner, his editor and his Melbourne-based parents. He said a bit more, but I was well and truly gone by then. Drop him a line to find out what else he said.
Virtually all present bought a copy of the book, personally signed by Loewenstein. I left my credit card at home, and had a total of $2.75 in my pocket. Next time.
I went home and turned on the tele - SBS TV’s The Cutting Edge on how Palestinian nationalism was inspired by Nazism and anti-Semitism and how Israel’s creation was the initiative of Holocaust survivors. Somehow I doubt Dr Rubenstein will find any bias to complain of there.