Roast_Lamb.jpgA few good letters appeared in the Australian Jewish News on 18 Feb 2009
Treatment of Chazan and the NIF is shameful
THE furore over the New Israel Fund (NIF) has highlighted an ugly underbelly in both Australia and Israel.
The NIF and organisations that have received NIF grants work on civil and human rights; social and economic justice; religious pluralism and tolerance for Israeli Arabs and Bedouin citizens; the environment and assistance for immigrants – issues enshrined in Israel’s declaration of independence.
An otherwise little-known organisation accuses the NIF of giving Justice Richard Goldstone the tools to demonise Israel and accuses the head of the NIF of being a self-hating Jew and enemy of the Israel Defence Forces and Israel. The Israeli media, smelling a good story, have raised the hue and cry and the Australian-Jewish establishment has allegedly decided to follow the hounds.
That these accusations are patently false is almost irrelevant. The attack on the NIF is an attack on democracy in Israel. That an organisation and its leader can be pilloried with the images reminiscent of fascist propaganda machines is a serious threat to the wellbeing of that society.
Is dissent now beyond the pale? Is “king or country, right or wrong”, the new catchcry? If Chazan’s visit was indeed cancelled from this end, shame Australia for lack of moral courage to see bully-boy tactics for what they really are. Shame.
Leon Orbach
Meretz Australia
Time for Israel to be more open
FORMER Israeli Knesset member and controversial academic Professor Naomi Chazan’s invitation to speak at a fundraiser at Beth Weizmann Community Centre has been cancelled, either by her sponsor – the Union of Progressive Judaism – or of her own doing. Either way, it seems to be to do with her organisation’s alleged funding of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which contributed substantially to the Goldstone report (The Age 04/02 and AJN 05/02).
In the same edition of The Age, there was also a report about another Israeli academic, Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, calling for an independent inquiry, as requested by the Goldstone report, on alleged war crimes by the Israeli army during Operation Cast Lead. She said that Goldstone’s report has caused Israel severe international harm and she was concerned that it could turn Israel into “a kind of South Africa (during apartheid) or Serbia”. An inquiry, she claims, would show Israel has nothing to hide and in hindsight, Israel’s decision not to cooperate with the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Commission (HRC) was a mistake.
That is, had Israel cooperated with the HRC, Goldstone would also have got Israel’s side of the story and not relied so much on the evidence of the NGOs, and probably would have produced a more balanced report.
It has also been reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is now calling for an independent inquiry, I suspect for the same reasons, but he is meeting resistance from the Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff and members of his own cabinet.
Surely it is clear by now that if Israel wants to maintain its good standing in the international community, rather than stand alone and give comfort to its detractors, it must show a higher degree of openness.
Henry Herzog
St Kilda East, Vic
If ever an example was needed to highlight the credibility failure of the ZCV in its public advocacy for Israel, Dr Danny Lamm’s denigration of respected Israeli Professor Naomi Chazan chair of the New Israel Fund (NIF) is a classic demonstration.
Following outrageous accusations made by an obscure Israeli pro-settler fringe group, Im Tirtzu, that the NIF is largely responsible for the UN-sponsored Goldstone report into the January 2009 Gaza conflict, Dr Lamm, president of the ZCV is reported as withdrawing support of Prof Chazan’s engagement in Australia because of her “intolerable” association with the NIF.
The NIF is an organisation that has funded some 800 organisations in pursuit of its aim to strive for the equality of social and political rights for all Israelis without regard to religion, race or gender. In so doing, it has funded among many others, human rights groups who have critically highlighted human rights abuses in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The price of a vibrant democracy is a willingness to be self-critical and to expose abuse to the glare of public scrutiny. By its own admission, the ZCV will quite deliberately never be publicly critical of Israel and is now prepared to support nationalist groups such as Im Titzu, which by their nature are intolerant of dissent. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the vilification against Prof Chazan by Im Tirtzu, is their depiction of her in a cartoon in ads in the Israeli press, with a horn coming out of her forehead. In any other context, Dr Lamm would have been shouting “anti-Semitism” at the top of his voice.
Les Rosenblatt and Harold Zwier
Australian Jewish Democratic Society