‘Independent Australian Jewish Voices’ issue call for free debate

Monday, 5 March 2007 — A number of British Jews, including prominent figures such as Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, filmmaker Mike Leigh and comedian Stephen Fry, recently expressed their concern publicly that independent views on the Middle East were not adequately represented by official Jewish bodies. Their group, ‘Independent Jewish Voices,’ issued a declaration that was published in the British press and now has several hundred signatures expressing support. A German group with the same aims, ‘Schalom 5767,’ has also been established and has received 7,000 signatures on their website.

We are Australian Jews who share the concerns of such groups worldwide and today we are launching ‘Independent Australian Jewish Voices.’ Our declaration of principles below will be published in the mainstream media in the coming days. A number of prominent Australians have signed including philosopher Professor Peter Singer (Princeton University), Robert Richter QC, Louise Adler (Melbourne University Publishing CEO), Ian Cohen MLC, Eva Cox (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, UTS), Professor Dennis Altman (Politics, Latrobe), Moss Cass (former Federal MHR Whitlam government), Professor Ivor Indyk (publisher & UWS), Henry Rosenbloom (founder, Scribe Publications), Professor Andrew Benjamin (Associate Dean of Research, UTS), Professor Arie Freiberg (Dean of Law, Monash), Professor Andrew Jakubowicz (Sociology, UTS), Professor Ephraim Nimni (Queens University, Belfast), Professor David Goodman (Contemporary China Studies, UTS), Antony Loewenstein (author and journalist), Dr. Geoffrey Brahm Levey, (Foundation Director of Jewish Studies, UNSW), Dr. Peter Slezak (School of History & Philosophy, UNSW), Dr. Jim Levy (School of Languages & Linguistics, UNSW), Hashomer Hatzair (Socialist Zionist Youth Movement).

For a full list of current signatories, please see our website: http://iajv.org/

Statement of Principles: A Call for an Alternative View

We are Jews with diverse opinions on the Middle East who share a deep concern about the current crisis in the region and have formed a group, Independent Australian Jewish Voices (http://iajv.org/).

We are committed to ensuring a just peace that recognizes the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians with a solution that protects the human rights of all.

We condemn violence by all parties, whether state sanctioned or not. We believe that Israel’s right to exist must be recognized and that Palestinians’ right to a homeland must also be acknowledged.

As Australians we are privileged to live in a democratic state that embodies the principles of tolerance and free speech. We feel there is an urgent need to hear alternative voices that should not be silenced by being labelled disloyal or “self-hating.”

Uncritical allegiance to Israeli government policy does not necessarily serve Israel’s best interests. Our concern for justice and peace in the Middle East is a legitimate opinion and should be met by reasoned argument rather than vilification and intimidation. In particular, we are concerned that the Jewish establishment does not represent the full range of Jewish opinion. Contrary to widespread concerns, anti-Semitism is not fuelled by Jews who publicly disagree with actions of the Jewish State.

Jews understand what it is to suffer racism and victimization and therefore we are not only concerned about anti-Semitism but also the demonisation of all other minorities.

We call upon fellow Jews to join us in supporting free debate to further the prospects of peace, security and human rights in the Middle East.