By submitting to fashionable untruths of political correctness, Australia’s Jewish Establishment is doing a grave disservice to its mission and values.
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!… Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities… but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world... The effects are apparent in many countries... Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live… The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men… Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science… the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
– Winston Churchill, 1899
One of the false presumptions of our time is that people on the political Left are motivated by good intentions even when they do bad things, while people on the political Right are motivated by bad intentions even when they do good things.
– Douglas Murray, May 7, 2015
I chose to commence this week’s column with these excerpts because they encapsulate the essence of what I wish to address in this somewhat critical appraisal of the conduct of the Australian Jewish establishment.
Why Australian Jewry?
Why Australian Jewry? Well, in recent years Australian Jewry has become increasingly important. Its involvement with Israel has grown, as has its influence. Australia has become an ever-more sought after destination for Israeli business, academics and public figures. Accordingly, Israelis should care about what happens there – and express concern when it appears things are veering off kilter.
Hence this column – which I have been mulling on for some time now – ever since I learned (somewhat belatedly) of the shabby treatment meted out to two (very different) well-known Israelis for expressing views divergent from prevailing political correctness.
The one was a prominent academic and world-renowned expert on Islam, Raphael (Raphi) Israeli, professor emeritus of Middle Eastern, Islamic and Chinese history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The other, a former Knesset member and deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament, a major in an IDF combat unit, and – oh, the bitter irony – former co-chairman of the Israel-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group, Moshe Feiglin, who also served on 10 Knesset panels, including the prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Sadly, their fate seems indicative of a more pervasive malaise of chronic – almost Pavlovian – political correctness that permeates the mind-set of much of the Jewish establishment there.Politically incorrect political truth?
Back in 2007, Prof. Israeli, an erudite scholar and entertaining lecturer, ran afoul of Australia’s Jewish establishment when he ventured to articulate an almost self-evident – but brusquely politically incorrect – truth. In an interview to the Australian Jewish News, Israeli had the temerity to suggest that if Muslim immigration to Australia reached the levels in Europe, then Australian society was likely to suffer much the same Muslim-related ravages as those afflicting Europe.
The learned academic was immediately excoriated by leading Jewish organizations, whose response reflected intimidation and/ or ignorance rather than informed enlightenment.
AIJAC (the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council), roughly the Down Under equivalent of AIPAC, and arguably the most visible Jewish group there, egregiously disowned Israeli, retracting its co-hosting of his planned lectures series, saying: “... his comments are both unacceptable and unhelpful, and AIJAC cannot be associated with them and therefore will not be co-hosting any of his further appearances in Australia.”
Subsequent events – Muslim rioting in Sydney, lethal Muslim-related terrorist attacks and increased jihadi activism – have imparted an ominous ring of truth to his recalcitrant politically incorrect caveats.
Indeed, it would appear that, today, many EU countries would embrace them eagerly, given the devastating effect their burgeoning Muslim populations are having on their socio-cultural fabric.Churchill would be unwelcome?
Clearly nothing Israeli said was remotely as abrasive as Churchill’s words cited above. Yet it would be difficult to find any factual flaw in either his unflattering description of the socio-cultural realities in large swathes of the Muslim world, or in his chillingly prophetic prediction as to Islam’s quest for dominance in many other, as yet, non-Muslim countries across the globe.
Yet given its aversion to unpalatable political truths, one cannot help but wonder whether if Churchill, one of fiercest champions of liberty against fascism, were alive today, he too would be ostracized by much of the Australian Jewish establishment.
Indeed, despite the fact that “[i]ndividual Moslems may show splendid qualities,” the societal impact of large, unassimilated (and arguably, unassimilable) Muslim populations in the democratic West, which Israeli referred to, is becoming increasingly difficult to deny – as many well-intentioned governments across Western Europe and Scandinavia are discovering to their consternation.
In its submission to the untruths of fashionable political correctness, the Australian Jewish community is doing a grave disservice to its mission and to the enlightened values to which it purports to subscribe. For not only has the European experience shown that increased Muslim populations are likely to inflame Judeophobic sentiments, if current trends continue unchecked a ban on bikinis at Bondi and Bronte beaches may soon be a far less unthinkable prospect than one may imagine today.
‘Condemned for terrible things he never said’
The question of attitudes to gender and sexual preferences leads naturally to the blackballing of former MK Moshe Feiglin on his visit to Australia last year. He was shunned and castigated by numerous Jewish organizations for his “unacceptable” views on women, gays and the Palestinian-Arabs. Thus Rabbi Benjamin Elton of Sydney’s Great Synagogue declared.
“He wouldn’t be welcome here... I’m absolutely opposed to any sexism, racism or homophobia.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, October 13, 2015) A headline in the US site Jewishpress.com sums up the establishment assault on the hapless visitor from Israel: “Australian Jews Reject Former MK Feiglin over Terrible Things He Never Said.”
It appears that Feiglin’s detractors were victims (albeit not necessarily unwilling ones) of disinformation, disseminated by some of his illiberal, far-left ideological, adversaries who seized upon a (Hebrew) article he wrote in mid-2008, which bore the unfortunate, and somewhat misleading, headline: “I am a proud homophobe.” Had anyone of his critics bothered to read the article, they would have discovered that it was far more a defense of traditional family structure than an attack on gays, and the suffix “-phobe” was used more in the sense of “fear” rather than “aversion,” conveying concern for societal stability, rather than opprobrium for same-sex liaisons.
But even if there are those who would dispute my interpretation of Feiglin’s offending article as overly and misleadingly lenient, his defamers certainly ignored (or concealed) the later development of his views on the topic, and the prominent expression given to them in the Israeli media – even in, gasp, Haaretz! How homophobic can you get?
Indeed, the following are excerpts from a report (Haaretz, February 8, 2013) by Ilan Lior, on a visit by Feiglin to a gay bar shortly after being elected to the Knesset: “Feiglin expressed support for education toward tolerance of homosexuals and lesbians in schools and providing training for educators and community leaders, including the Orthodox and haredi public. He also agreed, cautiously, to support an amendment to the law that would forbid discrimination in schools based on sexual preference...”
OMG! How homophobic can one get? The report continued: “Later, Feiglin went even a step further. ‘If we would define it as a pact of intimacy and not as same-sex marriage, would you support it?” asked one of those present.
“Very likely,” replied Feiglin. The audience applauded him at the end of the event.”
I kid you not. That’s what it said – in Haaretz: “The [gay] audience applauded him.”
On leaving the event, the report concluded, Feiglin stated firmly “I am not a homophobe.”
Other media channels carried similar favorable accounts of the meeting. Thus, on the NRG website Lior Dayan, hardly a Feiglin adherent, described several moving moments of human interaction between the purported right-wing ogre and his gay interlocutors, particularly Feiglin’s poignant account of how the “coming out of the closet” of one of his best friend’s sons, had impacted him. Dayan quotes Feiglin as telling this audience: “I fight for the freedom of every person... including your freedom. I see myself committed to you no less than any other person.”
Just thought you guys Down Under might want to know – in the interests of fair play, you know.Endorsing pluralism – on condition there is none?
A later piece in Haaretz (April 19, 2013), by Avi Shilon, provided this assessment of Feiglin: “He is the most interesting right-winger today.” According to Shilon, “... in many senses he is more enlightened... and is certainly a deeper thinker than [many others on the Israeli Right].”
Shilon observed: “The uniqueness of his views lies in his insistence on combining the Greater Land of Israel with extreme individual liberty and on combining clear preference for the Jewish people with liberal democracy.”
Liberal democracy? Feiglin? In Haaretz? What is the world coming to? How many of you out there in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and so on were aware of all this? I wonder.
Anyway, in concluding, Shilon offers a depressing explanation for Feiglin’s demonization: He asks: “What... is the reason for the shunning of Feiglin and the labeling of him as a deviant oddball?” and suggests an answer: “... in our political discourse... [t]ry presenting a complex worldview – and you will immediately become weird and ominous.”
This certainly seems to be a condition that has afflicted a good number of Australian Jewish leaders. Thus, for example Johnny Baker, president of Ameinu Australia and a member of the AIJAC editorial board, declared: “Whilst we respect the right of different voices to be heard in our community, we are equally concerned that the impending visit of Israeli extremist Moishe Feiglin will bring the Jewish community into disrepute and play into the hands of our adversaries.” Heads of several other organizations expressed similar dismissive disapproval.
Surely then, one could be excused for reaching the conclusion that much of Australia’s Jewish establishment is all for pluralism – on condition there’s none. Or, at least, not too much.Hugely hypocritical
But, of course, Feiglin’s views on gender and sexual preferences really have nothing to do with the animosity he encountered. After all, whatever alleged bias against women and gays that might – rightly or wrongly – be attributed to him, it pales into insignificance compared to the virulent discrimination against females and the barbarous persecution of homosexuals almost universal in Muslim society to which the Jewish establishment insists on demonstrating such benevolent tolerance, as part and parcel of its commitment to enlightened modernity.
This glaring disparity – between the gross intolerance shown Feiglin and the protective defensiveness against criticism of Muslim society – reeks of huge hypocrisy and blatant disingenuousness.
Indeed, the real reason for the hostility toward Feiglin is his heretical attitude toward the “holy grail” of the two-state paradigm and his alternative proposal – very similar to a policy prescription I too have long promoted – for the funded emigration of Palestinian-Arabs to third-party countries.
Sadly, Australia’s Jewish establishment has wedded itself, and its public prestige, to the dangerous delusion of the two-state principle.
Thus, AIJAC executive-director Colin Rubenstein wrote (The Australian, March 12, 2014): “AIJAC has consistently argued that a negotiated two-state settlement is the only path to genuine peace in the narrow strip of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean – thus fulfilling the desire of all parents there to give their children a secure and fulfilling future free from terrorism and war.”Immoral, irrational, incompatible
Of course nothing could be more dangerously divergent from the truth.
The two-state endeavor is immoral, irrational, and incompatible with the long-term existence of Israel as the Jewish nation-state.
It is immoral because it will create realties that are the absolute negation of the lofty values invoked for its implementation.
It is irrational because it will produce precisely the perils it was designed to prevent.
It is incompatible with Israel’s long-term existence as the Jewish nation-state because it will almost inevitably culminate in a mega-Gaza on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.
These are issues that – subject to breaking news – I will elaborate on in greater detail in next week’s sequel to this appeal to Australian Jewry.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategic-israel.org)