Tuesday, October 13, 2015

 “We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality,” famously observed the nineteenth-century British historian and politician Lord Macaulay.  These days, there is surely no spectacle more ridiculous than swarms of hard-core leftists across the Western world declaring their revulsion at “Islamophobia” and branding as “Fascists” or "Nazis" those worried about the spread of – er – Islamofascism. We’ve seen plenty of the latter type of ridiculosity here in Australia over recent days, in the wake of the latest jihadist atrocity to take place in this land.

Runners-up in the Aussie “ridiculous spectacle” stakes this week are the representatives of eleven leftist Jewish organisations: Aleph Melbourne; Ameinu Australia; Australian Reform Zionist Association; Habonim Dror Australia; Hashomer Hatzair Australia; Hineni Australia; Keshet Australia; Netzer Australia;  New Israel Fund Australia; Progressive Judaism Victoria; and Melbourne’s Shira Hadasha Synagogue.

These have taken it upon themselves to fulminate about the forthcoming visit to Australia of the controversial Israeli political figure Moshe Feiglin, scion of a family well-known in the annals of Australian Jewry.  He has been invited to address the Melbourne-based Beis Chabad Ohel Deborah.  But instead of expressing their misgivings privately, much less waiting to learn precisely what Feiglin has to say before rushing to judgment, these eleven organisations have taken it upon themselves to stir the pot and court maximum publicity for themselves (and the Israel-demonising cause) by co-issuing a press release condemning the decision to invite him.

“Moshe Feiglin’s views on women, homosexuality and Palestinian citizens of Israel are inconsistent with Jewish values,” these eleven organisations thunder.  “They have no place in a modern democracy such as Israel that was established on the principle of respecting the human rights of all its minorities.”

(Observes a prominent rabbi: “Let him speak in Australia and the community can respond.  Australia is a robust democracy, it can handle diversity.  I am sure Feiglin will not be as controversial as some groups hope.”)

Getting their fifteen minutes of fame via the self-indulgent press release are office-bearers of the organisations concerned, a mix of men and women.

People such as the president of New Israel Fund Australia: “The views of many people in the Australian Jewish community do not line up with Moshe Feiglin’s which is why it is important to point out when such anti-democratic values are being promoted. NIF is working hard in Israel to bring different sectors together, promote shared society and coexistence, and uphold the values of the Declaration of Independence.”

People such as the president of Keshet Australia: “The board of Keshet Australia, wishes to express our concern regarding the proposed visit by Mr Feiglin to Australia. Keshet aspires to encourage and teach inclusivity. Mr Feiglin’s philosophy is diametrically opposed to our core values. Mr Feiglin has expressed views which seek to oppose the inclusivity and rights of GLBT Jews. Keshet Australia believes his views are damaging and hurtful to people here and in Israel. We feel it is incumbent on us to highlight to the greater community that such views are not held or supported by most Jewish people in Australia or elsewhere.”

People such as the president of Progressive Judaism Victoria: “We are concerned about Mr Feiglin’s visit to Melbourne. He is a disruptive person in the Jewish world and shares few values with the Jewish community.”

People such as the acting president of the Australian Reform Zionist Association (ARZA): “ARZA Australia supports discussion about sensitive issues in Israel, including the treatment of minorities, the status of women and the issues of pluralism and sexual orientation. However, such discussions should be respectful and focussed on constructive dialogue. It is highly questionable if the views and presentation of Moshe Feiglin meet these basic criteria.”

(Indeed, the bloke who runs Aleph has fulminated additionally against the Jewish community’s representative bodies: “Any Holocaust denier or anti-Semite would be hounded out of town by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and the Anti-Defamation Commission, yet despite these organisations calling for respect for LGBTIQ people, they have remained silent on this visit from a person who does not respect LGBTIQ people.  That is unacceptable.  This man represents intolerance and intolerance is unacceptable to a cohesive and safe community.” 

I’m tempted to say, as would the late British film director Michael Winner in his catch-phrase: “Calm down, dear”.  Anyway, according to this report http://www.smh.com.au/national/chabad-hosts-rightwing-israeli-extremist-moshe-feiglin-20151009-gk57pb.html the chairman of the ADL – a gung-ho supporter of Israel, so fear not, ladies and gentlemen –  has expressed disapproval of Feiglin’s “misguided and divisive comments”.)

I hold no brief for Feiglin.  But where were these concerned leftists and representatives of Progressive/Reform Judaism last year when, tossing female and LGBT equality aside, Australia’s largest Jewish congregation, Temple Beth Israel, hosted two representatives of the Islamic Research Education Academy (IREA), which is actively and centrally dedicated to da’wah – the proselytising of non-Muslims – to participate in a concert in the Temple last year?  Where was their concern for “Jewish values” then?

As the Islamist pair’s subsequent remarks on social media showed, those two (whose views on women’s role and status and on gays would probably make Feiglin’s look like those of a Sensitive New Age Guy) could scarcely believe their luck in being given the opportunity to address a huge crowd of Jews, and their brothers in the IREA were suitably impressed.

An excoriating analysis of the Temple event appeared on the Jews Down Under site [http://jewsdownunder.com/2014/06/21/melbourne-jewish-temples-interfaith-deception/].  Written by Pam Hopf, it pointed out, inter alia, that a Temple description of the event went as follows: '[T]he second half of the concert took on a different dimension, bringing “something new to TBI’s sanctuary, the Muslim call to prayer, and a chanting of the 55th Surah of the Koran. With this recitation Abdul Aziz al Mathkour and Brother Waseem Razvi … revealed many points of commonality between Judaism and Islam in its languages and texts.” 

As Ms Hopf observed:  “Excuse my cynicism, but what points of commonality can possibly exist when Surah 55 describes how Muslim men will enjoy deflowering virgins in paradise, whilst the unbeliever will suffer the torments of hell.  For a community that prides itself on being progressive, particularly with regard to gender issues, it’s hard to see how they can condone this Surah, especially as there is no promise that women can equally enjoy endless sex. The progressives constantly berate orthodox Jewry for separating men and women during prayer, yet apparently have no problem endorsing men using women for sex, which smacks of hypocrisy. Moreover, if they truly believe in interfaith tolerance, they should surely object to the fate that awaits non-Muslims....” 

Regrettably, nobody from the Temple or from the Progressive/Reform organisations was man – or should I say woman? – enough to respond Ms Hopf’s reasonable and reasoned article (I know it was read), or to admit publicly that in its affront to feminine sensibilities the Temple had made an egregious mistake in inviting the two Islamists to participate.  Yet imagine the furore that would erupt if a male Jew (Mr Feiglin perhaps?) wandered into the Temple and recited this traditional Orthodox morning recitation: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a woman".

Incidentally, the IREA hit the headlines only last week, when the press –  in IREA’s eyes unjustifiably dubbing it an “extremist” organisation – reported that it’s been on a da’wah mission at Deakin University’s Melbourne campus.  That fact has not been lost on Paul Winter of Sydney, a Holocaust survivor and frequent contributor to the letters column of the Australian Jewish News.  In deploring the press release put out against Feiglin by the eleven leftist organisations, Mr Winter comments on the antipodean new service J-Wire’s site [http://www.jwire.com.au/rlrvrn-organisations-object-to-feiglin-views/]:  “Feiglin is indeed on the far right. So what? He is as entitled to his views as those on the far left… The signatories to the statement are beyond belief! We have Jews murdered in Israel, a junior jihadi murders a man in Sydney, the Islamic Research and Educational Academy holds a session in Deakin Uni and they say nothing … The statement is a sad reflection of a nasty social trend where the politically correct want to shout down anyone who does not toe their line. Feiglin is not coming to talk to Progressive Jews, but to Chabad. Don’t like him? Don’t go to his talk.  And if the NIF is opposed to Feiglin, I’m for him. I believe Israel is living up to the promise of its Declaration of Indep[end]ence. I’ve read the document and I deplore NIF’s distorted interpretation of it.”

Observes another commenter:  “I didn’t see a list of Jewish organisations issue statements and objections when [the NIF’s] Naomi Chazan was brought by organisations who support her views. Yet there are many organisations that would consider her views extremist, divisive, destructive, not in line with Jewish values, not constructive, not in sync with the majority of Australian Jews etc etc.  These organisations [the eleven] cannot have it both ways. Free speech is OK until such time as the views of that free speech don’t sit comfortably with their ideals and therefore need to be shut down…”

And another:  “The difference between Israeli society and Israel’s Arab neighbours is that Israel ostracized Moshe Feiglin, but if he held his views in Arab society he’d be called a moderate.  SMH [Sydney Morning Herald, part of the Israel-bashing Fairfax newspaper empire] staff must be [overjoyed] at the opportunity to deride Feiglin. If only the SMH wrote about the contrast between Israel and her Arab neighbours with respect to the fact that Israel functions as an egalitarian society – women, LGBTs and all ethnicities are equally protected by law. Arabs have held high office.  Jews who don’t ignore molehills such as Feiglin’s visit and contribute to the media’s anti-Israel opportunity should hang their idiotic heads in shame.”

Among the commenters on J-Wire are Michael Burd and Alan Freedman, who intend to interview Feiglin on their show on radio J-Air.  Mindful of the damage the eleven have done in providing food – or should that be acting as fools? – for the eager consumption of the Fairfax press [http://www.smh.com.au/national/extremist-rightwing-israeli-politician-to-visit-synagogues-20151009-gk57pb.html] Burd writes: “You have to scratch your head whilst Israel is being vilified day and night in the media particularly by the Fairfax media these left wing loony Jews provide Fairfax’s SMH a free kick to publish more anti- Israel material …    You have to ask do we really need Jews acting as Palestinian Useful Idiots. How does it help Israel’s cause particularly when one of the Looney groups NIF is one of the most controversial Jewish based anti-Zionist extremist organisation in [t]he world?”  

Quite so, Mr Burd.  Quite so.

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