Monday, June 22, 2015

A Strange Choice of Book Reviewer

Let's say your the literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald's Saturday arts supplement, Spectrum. 

Let's assume you're well-informed and genuinely interested in debate.

Let's say you've decided (for reasons best known to yourself) that, of all the latest books on Palestine/Israel that need reviewing, it just has to be Philip Mendes and Nick Dyrenfurth's Boycotting Israel is Wrong.

Who are you going to commission to do the job?

Jake Lynch, Stuart Rees, Peter Slezak, Antony Loewenstein, Nick Reimer, Marcelo Svirsky? All conversant in the politics of Palestine/Israel, and all supporters of the pro-Palestine boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

OK, you're not Spectrum's literary editor. Susan Wyndham is, and she's commissioned Dennis Altman, professorial fellow in the Institute for Human Security & Social Change at LaTrobe University to review Mendes & Dyrenfurth (Shaky support for two states, 20/6/15)

Problem is, according to freelance journalist Michael Brull, a close observer of these things, Altman is dismissive of the call to boycott Israel. (But what about Zionism?, Michael Brull, Overland, Autumn 2010)

Now I've been unable to access the Altman article Brull refers to on Overland's website. It seems to have been withdrawn for some reason. But, assuming that Brull is correct, and Altman takes a dim view of BDS, or worse, why then commission him of all people to review an anti-BDS book?

Certainly, anyone who begins his review this way has got to be a bit of a worry:

"Anyone who writes about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is asking for trouble; even that statement will itself draw criticism. Few issues bring out such deeply polarised views, leaving little room for genuine empathy with the range of positions involved on the ground."

OMG... genuine empathy for the range of positions involved? Yes, yes, Mr Netanyahu, I do empathise with your position, I really do... you're absolutely right about... and... and... but...

Ditto for this:

"I largely agree with the comment they [Mendes & Dyrenfurth] cite from David Remnick... that: 'Israel exists; the Palestinian people exist... Within these territorial confines two nationally distinct groups, who are divided by language, culture and history cannot live... wholly together'."

Well, weren't South Africa's Whites and Blacks ONCE so divided?  Now where do they live if not wholly together?

And this:

"Thus Boycotting Israel gives us a great deal of detail about some of the excesses of the BDS movement, including the attacks on the Max Brenner chocolate shops..."

Attacks? You're kidding me? What attacks?

But more than that, Altman avoids the real reason why Zionist propagandists such as Mendes and Dyrenfurth have gone to the trouble of writing a book smearing the BDS campaign.

It's because one of the three aims of the BDS campaign is the right of return to their homes and lands, in Israel (im)proper, of the Palestinian refugees of 1948.

Mendes & Dyrenfurth have referred to this fundamental tenet of international law sneeringly as "a so-called Right of Return." (The BDS campaign's flaws and failings, M&D, Australian Jewish News, 5/5/15) And Dyrenfurth recently said on the ABC's Radio National that "The most problematic aim of the PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel) statement relates to the right of return for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war... if there was a mass return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper... that would mean the end of Israel..." (Is boycotting Israel ethical or anti-Semitic?, Religion & Ethics Report, 17/6/15)

What he meant was the end of Israel as a Jewish supremacist state, that is one which allows people like Mendes & Dyrenfurth, simply by virtue of their having Jewish mothers,* to swan in or out of Israel (im)proper as they please, while denying the same right to its original, indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants, ethnically cleansed in 1948. IOW, to discriminate in favour of Jews but against non-Jewish Palestinians.

[*Through Israel's Law of Return]

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