Friday, May 17, 2013

The Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel

My o my, Gillard's really started something here. Have you ever seen a more blatant display of political one-upmanship than this:

"More than 40 members of the federal opposition banded together yesterday to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism after they were incensed by comments from the head of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Stuart Rees, attacking the document. The Australian yesterday reported Professor Rees had lashed Julia Gillard for signing the declaration, calling the gesture 'childish, thoughtless but easily populist'... She was joined last week by opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne... To counter [Professor Rees'] comments, Victorian Liberal Josh Frydenberg arranged for a group of colleagues to gather in is office immediately to sign the declaration. Close to 30 Coalition members from all states and factions joined him, ranging from veteran parliamentarians such as Philip Ruddock and Judi Moylan to newcomers such as Wyatt Roy, Scott Bucholz and George Christensen. Opposition leader Tony Abbott and frontbenchers Bruce Billson, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt, Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull and Sharman Stone also signed. As news spread, a steady stream of MPs beat a path to Mr Frydenberg's office to add their names, taking the total to 49.... Yesterday's events mean that close to a quarter of the global parliamentarians to sign the declaration are Australian. NSW Liberal senator Marise Payne is expected to repeat the process for members of the upper house today." (MPs unite to sign anti-Semitism pact, Christian Kerr, The Australian, 15/5/13)

Now in case you're inclined to applaud Frydenberg and Co. for endorsing what appears on the surface to be merely an anti-racist initiative, ask yourself just how many of those who beat a path to Frydenberg's office actually sat down and read the 'fine print', or if they did, how many fully comprehended what they were signing on to - essentially a commitment to defend Israel and all its works based on the illegitimate conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. (See my 28/4/13 post The Latest Prime Ministerial Kowtow).

To cite but one sentence from the declaration's preamble: "We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations - in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the state of Israel." (my italics)

Not, of course, that any of this lot, even if they were aware of what they were doing, would bat an eyelid at such a conflation. Or, for that matter, having taken this first step, at going on to support legislation criminalising expressions of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

Now I introduced this post by saying that Gillard had started something here. But in fact the buck didn't start with her. If you've read my earlier post on the declaration, you'll see that she's just another link in a chain of useful fools stretching back to the Steering Committee of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, the outfit sponsoring the declaration. And at the head of the committee you'll find none other than former Minister for Public Diplomacy & Diaspora, now Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, a member of Israel's ruling Likud Party.

If honesty means anything these days - I'm a little old-fashioned here - the so-called London Declaration on Combating Ant-Semitism would more correctly be called the Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Anti-Zionism, or more broadly, the Tel Aviv Declaration on Combating Criticism of Israel.

The irony here, of course, is that the declaration is actually bad news for anyone genuinely concerned about combating anti-Semitism, as a former Jewish member of the Zionist cult has pointed out:

"Whenever I was asked to speak on contemporary antisemitism, I took the opportunity to explain the Israel-antisemitism connection. A panel discussion organised by the Faculty for Israel-Palestine Peace at Birkbeck on 14 May [2007] focused on how the politicisation of discussion about antisemitism, through the labelling of forms of criticism of Israel as antisemitic, was hampering free and open consideration of Jew-hatred. I outlined how Israeli governments had successfully sought to control efforts to define and combat antisemitism at the international level. Increasing acceptance of the so-called 'Working Definition' of antisemitism of the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia had helped Israel in this regard. It had led to a situation where 'We cannot discuss Israel-Palestine without getting entangled in arguments about what critique of Israel is antisemitic; and we cannot discuss contemporary antisemitism without getting entangled in arguments about Israel-Palestine'." (The Making & Unmaking of a Zionist: A Personal & Political Journey, Antony Lerman, 2012, pp 176-177)

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