Jews “free to debate on Israel”

The following article appears in today’s Australian newspaper:

Rebecca Weisser

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has rejected claims that Jews in Australia are not able to freely express their views on Israel and the Middle East.

David Knoll, president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, described the Jewish community as “one of robust debate and open democracy”.

“Anyone who has witnessed debate at the established open forums such as the monthly public meetings of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies will tell you that debate and airing of diverse views is the norm within the Jewish community,” he said.

His remarks are in response to the formation of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices, a group calling for an alternative view of the Middle East. In a statement issued by the group this week, signatories said they felt they were being silenced by being labelled disloyal or “self-hating”.

Louise Adler, publisher of Melbourne University Press, said it was not a question of being prevented from expressing her point of view but of the language and tone of the debate.

“Obviously, I am able to say whatever I want but the tone of the debate isn’t civil,” she said.

Ms Adler said she was not calling for censorship but that she found it deeply offensive to be referred to as Jewish-born.

The group says it is committed to ensuring a just peace that recognises the national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians with a solution that protects the human rights of all.

Founding member Antony Loewenstein admitted the statement singled out Israeli government policy as not being in Israel’s best interests and made no comment on Palestinian policy, but denied the group was more interested in attacking Israel than its opponents. “I don’t agree that Israel is committed to a two-state solution, even if they say they are,” he said.

(For info on Rebecca Weisser’s issues with accuracy, see here.)

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