Tanya Levin

Speak to me first before you speak out against Israel

Image: AAP

Tanya Levin has a fair and simple plea to Israel’s Gaza conflict detractors – those screeching for fairness could include the Jewish people in their cries…

For an overgrown rum colony, Australians have a lot to say.

Australia is a nation of invaders, refugees and migrants that is just over 200 years old, without a culture of its own that the settlers can agree on. The dominant culture, “old whitey”, is actually proudest when it can trace its ancestry back to the great unwanted of 18th century London. Old whitey’s idea of historical culture is the invention of the Hills Hoist, televised cricket and the sisters Minogue.

Yet when it comes to international affairs, Australians have no hesitation in telling the rest of the world what to do.

Where exactly were we supposed to look while Campbell Newman told Russian President Putin that he was no longer welcome in Queensland? All I could imagine was a devastated Putin, while he ripped down his “Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next Posters” and cried into his borscht.

But it seems Newman is not alone in his sense of superpower self importance.

Despite the Cronulla riots being the closest this island has got to an invasion, Australian social critics are experts in the Middle East conflict. They are willing to stand up and be counted over their unrelenting outrage over Gaza, a place with which they have no affiliation whatsoever. They know how Israel should respond to rocket fire. They know how to work with Hamas. Four thousand years of history is nothing to a well-read Aussie.

Arabs and Arabs? Meh, not so interesting. We’re not leaving the house for Syria.

The Sudan? Kinda old and boring.

But Palestine?

Well, pack the kids some lunch and get to the nearest protest against Israel this weekend.

Here’s the part I find ironic, or just plain hypocritical. If this were an issue about Aboriginal people, we would respectfully step back and defer to key members of that community.

If this were about women, we would create a safe place for women to speak about it.

Yet, when it comes to Jews and/or Israel, all bets are off.

And any concern about anti-Jewish vilification is dismissed as overreaction.

Mike Carlton took it upon himself to explain last weekend.

Fascism in Israel? At this point the Australian Likudniks, as Bob Carr calls them, will be lunging for their keyboards. There will be the customary torrent of abusive emails calling me a Nazi, an anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier, an ignoramus.  As usual they will demand my resignation, my sacking.

Israeli propaganda is subtle and skillfully put. “If Israel were to lay down its arms tomorrow, she would be destroyed; but if Hamas were to lay down their arms, there would be peace,” goes the line, parroted endlessly.

If you will for a minute, imagine  if these were terms applied to women or people of aboriginal background.

Imagine if Carlton had written –

Gay mafia? At this point the whole of Mardi Gras, and their mums, will be mincing over to their keyboards. There will be the customary torrent of abusive emails calling me a homophobe, a gay-basher, a privileged heterosexual, a bigot. Gay propaganda is subtle and skillfully put…

Twitter would explode. Carlton would be hung out to dry.

But, as I keep reading, if it doesn’t count with Jews because they’ve got all the power, then that’s what I call discrimination. Or dare I say, anti-Semitism and its perpetuation, subtle and skillfully put.

The touching argument made by “Australians Who Could Easily Replace the United Nations Because They Are So Smart” is that they care. They care about the terrible deaths that are taking place in Gaza. They care about the innocents being mistreated. They have to do something about it.

Ironically, less than a year ago Australia elected a fascist of their own, who is now ripping up their social fabric like old curtains, while the citizens post very angry statuses on Facebook before getting back to selecting their dinner menu.

How can these people who care so much about Palestine sleep while there are thousands dying in their own backyard? Do they not care that women’s refuges are being de-funded around the country and that the leading cause of death in this land for women under 45 is at the hands of their partner?

Surely these are innocents worth saving.

Is it not important that Aboriginal people in Australia are killing themselves at up to 100 times the rate of the general population? Before recklessly using words like ‘apartheid’ about other countries, what about the putrid racism that flourishes at home? Make no mistake, Australia oversees a fine legally binding apartheid of its own.

For the Jewish people of Australia, the misguided hatred is sad and it is frightening. We are Jews left mainly from the 20th Century and we know what anti-Semitism looks like. We do not need to argue it with you to know what we see. There are demonstrations around the world that start with pro-Palestine sentiments and culminate in pro-Hitler and anti-Jew chanting. We see it and it is familiar. It doesn’t take long for this to spread like wildfire. We are talking to each other and we are reading the reports. You see,  this is not so far away. These are our friends, our families, our loved ones we are talking about. Not just a Twitpic that came up in our news feeds.

Most of all, we know a little more about the situation. We know the difference between being against the decisions Israel makes during war, and being against Israel.

So maybe those screeching for fairness could include the Jewish people in their cries. 

Tanya Levin

Tanya Levin is an author, social worker and mother, and other things that involve telling people what to do. She hopes the siesta will soon be part of the Australian working day.

  • Before anyone else gets on their soap box with their Palestine 101, here are the points i think Tanya is trying to convey:

    1. For a country with such little history (since Old Whitey invasion anyway), no identifiable culture of our own and no affiliation with Gaza, and sheer ignorance on the history and culture of this country before “Old Whitey” came to be here, we seem to have panels of experts chomping at the bit to impose their commentary and advice on a conflict in a land with complex history and culture going back thousands of years that we have little to no personal insight into.

    Why are Aussie’s (yes i’m generalising) so cocky and opinionated on matters that they have little personal let alone expert understanding on? Why did I have people jumping down my throat with essays on Gaza when I posted this article on Facebook? Why was I almost un-friended by someone who i have known for years, merely for posting this article (which they took to mean me being anti-Paleistine)?

    2. Tanya is not just screaming “anti-semitism” in place of intelligent argument. She has put context and comparisons around it and made a fair point. She compared if the same things were said of certain minority groups and the responses they would elicit, and i think she has maid that point fairly. So if you want to dismiss her claim of anti-semitism in this country, then address the substance of her argument.

    3. I believe Tanya is mainly trying to share her heart and personal perspective as an Australian Jew. In addition, she is not so much as commenting on the conflict itself, but what many Australians say or endorse in response to this conflict. As an Australian Jew, Tanya has an insight and a personal way this impacts here that me as an Australian with no connection to Gaza cannot comprehend, and this should be respected, just as an aboriginal commenting on an aboriginal affairs issue should be given that space to speak and be respected, or as a woman should be given space to speak and be respected if it were a women’s social issue.

    We need to pull our heads in and stop thinking we are experts on the whole damn world.

  • Grace

    Please read up on some of Australia’s history. The Aboriginal people did rise up to protect their custodianship of Australia! They did take up arms and try to fight oppression of the invaders who came to this country, but they were outnumbered, with weaponry different to the invaders and killed off, killed with diseases and enslaved. The Palestinians are also outnumbered..that is the whole point…

  • Grace

    Now this is a better article..well written and to the point I made above..

  • Grace

    Tanya..your article raises some good points..but you cannot compare apples with oranges to make it…as far as I am concerned..killing is killing..I don’t care if you live in Gaza or Israel…it has to stop…because innocent people are being killed. I don’t have to be an expert to know that there is more killing happening in Gaza than there is in Israel…stay focused on what this is really about…people killing other people and justifying it in some way….

  • BJ

    Tanya I liked your article. It wasn’t what people want to hear which is why I liked it so much. Australian’s generally only skim articles and use insults instead of conversation to make their points.

  • Ian Fabian

    I’ve got to say that Tanya Levin’s article does little to change Jewish stereotypes. Her attempts to justify the atrocities that are occurring in Gaza come across as superior and petulant bleating. She feels justified in painting Australians as backward, ignorant drunks who are incapable of informed and intelligent comment. Her arguments were nothing more than smokescreens. Yes, Australia has a poor track record regarding the treatment of indigenous people, yes Campbell Newman is a dick, yes I still care deeply about what is going on in Sudan and Syria (did I see antisemitism tossed around to). But WTF does all that have to do with what is happening in Gaza? This is a separate issue. Ms Levin has missed the mark with her comments which at best, exposes her ignorance. IT IS THE UNACCEPTABLE AND ABHORRENT LOSS OF LIFE THAT IS THE ISSUE. This is the view of a rum soaked cultureless, convict, racist, Campbell Newman loving(this is basically what Ms Levin has collectively labeled Australians), 6th generation Australian ignoramus!
    Please Ms Levin, do not for one minute believe that I tar all Jews with the same brush, as you have done regarding the mosty good, caring and compassionate people of Australia. I believe there are many Jewish people who are just as horrified at the loss of life and associated grief that this conflict has caused to both Palestine and Israel.

  • Ian Fabian

    I’ve got to say that Tanya Levin’s article does little to change Jewish stereotypes. Her attempts to justify the atrocities that are occurring in Gaza come across as superior and petulant bleating. She feels justified in painting Australians as backward, ignorant drunks who are incapable of informed and intelligent comment. Her arguments were nothing more than smokescreens. Yes, Australia has a poor track record regarding the treatment of indigenous people, yes Campbell Newman is a dick, yes I still care deeply about what is going on in Sudan and Syria (did I see antisemitism tossed around to). But WTF does all that have to do with what is happening in Gaza? This is a separate issue. Ms Levin has missed the mark with her comments which at best, exposes her ignorance. IT IS THE UNACCEPTABLE AND ABHORRENT LOSS OF LIFE THAT IS THE ISSUE. This is the view of a rum soaked cultureless, convict, racist, Campbell Newman loving(this is basically what Ms Levin has collectively labeled Australians), 6th generation Australian ignoramus!
    Please Ms Levin, do not for one minute believe that I tar all Jews with the same brush, as you have done regarding the mosty good, caring and compassionate people of Australia. I believe there are many Jewish people who are just as horrified at the loss of life and associated grief that this conflict has caused to both Palestine and Israel.

  • Peter David Meline

    having
    been to Israel twice i must say that i have sympathies for the
    Palestinians–i cannot understand Israel in any other way but a fascist
    regime. OK so the Palestinians are a bit hot headed –that does not mean
    that they are not people with rights…this
    kind of argument sounds a lot like the arguments that the European
    South Africans used to justify apartheid…i do not think that the
    transition to majority rule in South Africa has been very elegant but
    it had to happen eventually, it would probably have been a lot better
    if the Europeans had been open minded enough to integrate the majority
    South African population into the government when rumblings started in
    the late 1950’s. AND….OK so Tanya Levin makes some interesting
    points, some of the Australian European people in the past treated the
    natives of Australia very badly..i cant change that now!…some of my
    ancestors were people indigenous to Ireland who were transported to
    Australia for nothing more than trying to expel English invaders from
    their country and they were treated very badly when they got here and
    were transported on the condition that they could never return! ..i cant
    change that either…..remember that Hitler’s initial political
    platform was “lebensraum” in summary the idea that Germans were being
    over run by an inferior race–and it was the Slavs not the Jews that the
    was initially thinking about! …………….and that it would be a
    total disaster for the Germans if the Slavs were not stopped. (sound
    familiar?) ….and yes we have a very right wing government in power in
    Australia right now…i did not vote for them and i will work to get rid
    of them asap..AND i believe that Australia has been honestly trying
    hard to help its Aborigine population in the last 30 years despite all
    of the sins of my forefathers (i must say that having worked in rural
    Australia with Aborigine people for more than 40 years i can tell you
    that it is not an easy and straightforward matter–i am heartened by
    some of my Aborigine friends who have degrees in Medicine, Architecture
    and Law –it looks like progress in the right direction to me but there
    is still much to be done)———i also have some friends who are
    Israeli migrants to Australia who got out of Israel 20 years ago after
    having served in the Israeli Army and afterwards had sympathies for the
    Palestinians and tried to integrate Palestinians into their social
    circle and also tried to set up a Palestinians /Jewish Kibbutz and were
    continually stopped by their government–their take on it was that the
    Israeli government was terrified at the idea of the intermarrying of
    Jews with Palestinians–i call that Fascism!–and i think that the
    article of of Tanya Levin is at best misguided!!—Pete

  • doug

    If any Australians support the right of Palestine to take up an armed and violent struggle to regain “Their” land then they should also be willing to support Australian Aboriginal people taking up terror attacks and armed resistance to reclaim Australia for their people.

    Australian Aboriginals have far more claim to this land than Palestinians have to the land they claim in the middle east.

    Any fool would understand an armed uprising of Australian Aboriginals would be counterproductive in the extreme but they seem to think Palestinians have some right to negotiate via the barrel of a gun.

  • JG

    Absolutely bloody typical. Why is it that Israel and its supporters simply cannot respond to any criticism without resorting to that old chestnut – anti-semitism. I’m sorry but criticising the actions of the israeli government/military/state, is NOT the same as criticising the Jewish people at large. In fact there are many Jews around the world, including in Israel, who are absolutely disgusted with the actions of the israeli government and military and wish such atrocities were not committed in their name.

    Yes the rocket attacks are terrible and must be awful for that segment of the israeli population that live within range of them, but to draw some sort of moral equivalence between a small group of terrorists/freedom fighters/militants or whatever you want to call them firing off small numbers of unguided, largely ineffective and inaccurate rockets (most of which will be intercepted by the iron dome system if they pose a threat) and have killed a total of 3 people in the current conflict, with the actions of the regions most well equipped and capable military that has engaged in deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure like hospitals and mosques absolutely reeks of the staunchest hypocrisy. YEs it is abhorren that Hamas and the other militants hide amongst the civilian population to further their attacks, but please explain to me how the deliberate targeting of Gaza’s ONLY power station, which provides the vast majority of power for such basic infrastructure as hospitals and water pumps and treatment plants, is anything other than an attempt to ethnicly cleanse the Gaza enclave once and for all? How is it anything but a punitive strike that will make life misearable for all gazans, and force them to flee as refugees?

    Yes there is plenty of blame to go around for both sides of the conflict, and yes in Australia we have some serious human rights issues of our own to deal with (Indigenous issues, asylum seekers etc), but I’m sorry – to all of the hypocrites who continue to bring up anti-semitism in a cynical attempt to stifle any proper debate on what is a complex and enduring complex, you are as bad and as racists as the Nazis you continuously invoke. Anyone tho thinks that a thousand plus dead palestinians (over 2/3 civilian) is a proportional and justified response to roughly 50 dead israelis (90% of whom are military) can go jump in a lake, you’ve lost any moral credibility and objectivity in my book

  • joe

    woah! hectic article i like it

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