Heated Israel-Palestine Debate at the Opera House

June 20, 2011 Agencies
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A panel debate at the Sydney Opera House discussed “Israel & Palestine In The New Middle East” yesterday in front of a packed – and sometimes angry – audience.

Naomi Chazan

Naomi Chazan, in Australia to launch the local branch of the New Israel Fund, argued valiantly in favour of a two-state solution, while Peter Hartcher, the political editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, argued that the “fluidity” of the current situation generated by the “Arab Spring” offered huge opportunities although the chances for a settlement remained distant.

Academic Ghassan Hage, the author of White Nation and Against Paranoid Nationalism, urged the audience not to be bound by the constraints of a one- or two-state solution, but rejected the notion that Palestinians who still felt pain from being forced from their homes in Israel during the 1948 war were part of the “old narrative” and that these claims had to be dealt with in any negotiations.

American academic Saree Makdisi, author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, was fiercely critical of the Israeli government and argued strongly for a one-state solution that includes rights for all Palestinians, including those living in the Palestinian Diaspora.

Chazan, a former deputy speaker of the Knesset, rebuffed the idea of a one-state solution, not just because it is impractical given the animosity on both sides but because it would deny self-determination to both peoples. Professor Chazan also urged both professors to move beyond the narrative of the past and to take a realistic view of the future.

The full  panel comprised Professor Naomi  Chazan, President of the New Israel Fund and former head of Israel’s Meretz Party, Sydney Morning Herald Chief Reporter Peter Hartcher, Melbourne University Anthropology and Social Theory Professor Ghassan Hage and English Literature Associate Professor Saree Makdisi from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Professors Hage and Makdisi both called for the dissolution of the Jewish state, with the latter urging a one-state solution and the former saying there should be no nation-states at all.

Hartcher sketched an outline of the new Middle East and issues pertaining to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff, NIF President Robin Margo and many members of the Jewish community were in the audience.

Alhadeff said “neither Professors Hage nor Makdisi were willing to concede the right of Israel to exist as the state of the Jewish people, yet Makdisi drew the insidious apartheid-Israel comparison while expounding the need for everyone to respect everyone else’s human rights. Professor Chazan was dignified in the extreme.”

Although there was due to be questions from the audience, the panel debate ran over time and the partisan crowd was not able to engage in debate – much to the chagrin of some vocal audience members.




9 Responses to “Heated Israel-Palestine Debate at the Opera House”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    Otto Waldmann attacks appalling people who, in very fact,inhabit implicit appalling ideas for the simple reason that ideas pertain exclusively to …people. Only a few days ago and a couple of similar issues on the same site ,I elaborated on the exclusiveness of reciprocity between ideas, ideology and human conduits.
    To satisfy the obvious need to stave off this apparent torrent of denial of reason stemming from the so called left, it is worth reminding that on the reverse of the coinage of objections,elevating persons to the status of deities of ideas – take a recent Mandella, or a Che Guevarra – it seems perfectly acceptable to worship a person if ideas proffered are accepted,but totally not kosher to…criticise/attack a person for his/her ideas. Accordingly, supporters of Naomi Chazan and her respective NIF would consider her to be a “fantastic”.. person.I beg to differ and managed to find appalling personal traits in the presenter, incredibly consistent with, and responsible for , the ideas prommoted by the said person. Incidentally Chazan’s ejection from Jerusalem Post as an opnion maker was a very PERSONAL decision.

    As the above Mr/Ms Denial has completely drowned in some river of his/her own making any rational consistency in the notion of Jewish advocacy,I shall not even attempt to disect his/her “idea” of competence in presenting the Israel case or , similarly, the above attempt at defining the legendary “left” and its merrits in the development of Zionism. Sufice to conclude that if NIF/NIFA is defined by the above comments, I feel much better within my intellectual comfort zone.

  2. A river called denial says:

    Two comments.
    1 Why does Otto Waldman make such appalling personal attacks on people rather than dealing with issues?
    2. People commenting here obviously just dont get the extent and strength of anti Israel feeling that is out there. So yes, one option is to do as commenters here suggest, and boycott these discussions. But bear in mind that if there is no-one there making the case for Israel, organisers will invite an Antony Loewenstein type as their token Jew so while other Jews wont attend and we can all pretend a forum like this is not happening, thats rather delusional. Alternatively we can be grateful to have advocates like Chazan who speak the langauge of the left and make the case for Israel in that language. Some news for people commenting here, the voice-pieces of the Zionist establishment come across – to anyone with genuine empathy for the Palestinian cause, which is plenty of people – like self serving ideologues. And in other news, Jews don’t control the media or the world more generally. So yes, the Jewish community can choose not to participate in these discussions but they will go ahead anyway.

  3. Rachael Kohn says:

    As the debate was clearly stacked against Israel, with no attempt equally represent both sides, it is hard to imagine why any fair minded person would give it credance.

  4. Otto Waldmann says:

    It must be repeated, however differently nuanced, that Naomi Chazan’s presence in Australia has evinced a very serious malaise in the local, erroded Jewish leadership. The “mere”fact that the most eloquent among us, Vic Alhadeff has been relegated to “spectator” and, conversely the “actual”president is nowhere to be seen, in spite of his quite visible profile, as well as the other well known leaders missing in in-action, is testimony that, at the top, they have allowed a wellknown “reformer” of otherwise necessary communal stances, Naomi Chazan, to kidnap the Jewish agenda, thereby jetissoning everything we are supposed to dedicate our souls and donations to.
    My dear friend Paul is absolutely right, Naomi Chazan is attempting to ballance her inner passion for the radical transition of Israel into a vassal entity to the palestinian agendas while pretending that she has remained on the other side of the fence, wall,whatever you want. Indeed, were she to subscribe so publicly to all the venimous incongruities allowed to be peddled UNCHALLENGED in the heart of OUR democracy, the entire farcical edifice of a NIF devoted to the sanctity of “democracy”, “justice”, “social justice” and ( as I must berate mnyself for this real hilul Hashem) Zionism, would have been dead and burried – at least for a while,untill the likes of Robin Margo and his cotterie of wannabies communal leaders would have reared their headless profiles, again, hardly challenged by the same leaders, unchanged, unaltered,unaffected in their unchallenged life tenure given and unaccountable “leadership”posts.
    Tachles: I want to see Peter, Jeremmy, Robert, Yair and even Vic and Ron put fingertips on the dial and respond to the damaging anti Israel crusade unfolding under our eyes – including theirs – lead by one Naomi Chazan and her newly annointed NIFA.

  5. Yosi Tal says:

    these conversations with people who do not recognise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State is a total waste of time.

  6. Paul Winter says:

    The meaning of debate was changed by the choice of less than choice participants. Even the topic was a farce: who says that there is a new middle east? The debaters reminded me of the debate in Nazi Germany regarding the advantages of two versus three retort crematoria. Israel exists; Palestine doesn’t. Israel is willing to negotiate in accordance with its agreements. The Arabs are back to 1948, reaffirming the 1967 Khartoum declaration: no peace, no negotiations, no recognition. Nothing new, Not even that the PA/Hamas terror leaders are unelected, their terms of office having long ago expired. For the muddle east, where the practice is one man, one vote, one time is a time dishonoured old practice. Makdisi seems to have forcefully demanded the self-determination of that politically concocted people, the “Palestinians”, but at the expense of Jews; the underlying message is the Jews have no rights i.e. antisemitism pretending to be anti-Zionism. Hage seemed to be saying that there is nothing new until the old, the Arab narrative, is accepted and resolved to the satisfaction of the Arabs. Hartcher demonstrated that he should stick to local matters because he is ignorant of undercurrents in the unrest the Arabs have sprung on their regimes or he would prefer that others accept his wishful thinking. And that Chazan was dignified only goes to show that she is well practised in being humble in the face of aggressive Jew haters. Chazan wants to remove all Arab grief – even if artificial – to molify them and give in to all their demands but cannot in the end accede to the demands of her enemies of Israel’s national suicide. She wants it both ways and is content to harm Jews to please Arabs. She is an all round loser. And so are all the other NIF groupies.

  7. Otto Waldmann says:

    It is very regretable that Vic was only in the audience and not on the pannel as Naomi Chazan is hardly the voice of genuine Jewish stances , local and anywhere else. Robin Margo in the audience,however, perfectly suitable.

  8. Maurice may says:

    Your report on the panel at the opera house is strange to say the least. All speakers were listened to without anger or rancor. I suspect that your reporter was deaf and blind.

  9. Richard says:

    Professor Naomi Hazan was indeed a passionate, articulate & balanced speaker, especially when confronted with an anti Israel, largely inner Sydney western suburb (which shall not be named) audience – I assume the ratepayers did not pay for their attendance en masse.

    She, unlike the 2 ex-pat Palestinian protagonists, lives in the region – her family is in the firing line & she speaks eloquently for peace. The 2 Palestinians, one living comfortably & safely in the United States & the other in the safety of Australia, favoured “solutions” which could only lead to more bloodshed.

    Professor Ghassan Hage (the Australian Palestinian) rejected references to the “old narrative’ & promptly invoked the massacres of arabs in 1948 (my recollection is of arabs murdering defenceless Jews). He spoke of arabs being “forced from their homes” (my recollection is that their own people told them to get out while they finished off the job which Hitler had started and which the Mufti of Jerusalem had so vehemently supported).

    He squandered valuable time (sadly none was left for the promised audience questions) with a side trip to expound his view of the diffence between “actuality” & “reality”. The moderator sadly did nothing to stop this detour.

    Professor Saree Makdisi (the American Palestinian) denounced the failure of Israel to honour the rights of ALL its citizens. Naturally he was decrying the status of Israeli arabs.

    What Professor Makdisi failed to do was to acknowledge that Israeli arabs vote in Israel. He failed to acknowledge that they elect representatives to the Knesset. He failed to say that there is an Israeli arab who sits on the Israeli Supreme Court. He failed to name a single arab state which honours the rights of ALL its citizens. I will go so far as to venture to suggest that the minorities in arab states would give their eye teeth to be as badly treated as Israeli arabs.

    Peter Hartcher got a wry Western suburbs laugh from his “joke” that Israel’s response to the Palestinian Authority agreeing to join with Hamas was to increase its defence budget (a cheap shot not worthy of a man of his intellect). Mr Hartcher, what would you do in Israel’s shoes if a potential partner for peace joined arms with a partner committed to your destruction? Perhaps you would send a bowl of fruit & a best wishes greeting.

    All in all, a VERY frustrating afternoon with a single ray of sunshine in the shape of the elegant, fair minded & altogether impressive Professor Naomi Hazan.

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