Slezak questions Rhiannon criticism

December 19, 2013 by Peter Slezak
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It is telling that Alexander Ryvchin’s denunciation of Senator Lee Rhiannon (J-Wire, Dec-18)  fails to mention the grave charges that motivate such critics of Israel, even to rebut them – the egregious, serial violations of human rights, international law and UN resolutions…writes Peter Slezak.

Peter Slezak  photo: Henry Benjamin

Peter Slezak                      photo: Henry Benjamin

Ryvchin entirely neglects the brutal military occupation that has left Palestinians only 15% of the West Bank. Ryvchin makes the usual protest that it is Israel’s security and “right to exist” which is threatened or denied. This is extremely cynical and ironic. The demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s “right to exist” must be seen in light of the most obvious fact that, after all, Israel does exist, whereas Palestine has virtually disappeared. The Palestinians are not occupying 80% of Israel and pose no security threat to the fourth most powerful military regime in the world.

Among other concerns for critics, Ryvchin’s characterisation of Israel as “the Jewish collective” is impossible to reconcile with its claims to being a democracy when 20% of its citizens are not Jewish and suffer systematic discrimination. Senator Rhiannon is among critics who are concerned with justice, violations of human rights and international law. However, Ryvchin makes the usual disgraceful conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism. He fails to acknowledge that most of the sources Rhiannon cites in her Parliamentary address are either Israeli or Jewish such as Professor Jeff Halper from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), or the Israeli sergeant who described his commanding officer as a terrorist and Arab-hater who beat up a Palestinian in front of his children. Senator Rhiannon also cites Israeli soldiers of Breaking the Silence and Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem who document gross violations of human rights of Palestinians.

In particular, support for the BDS movement is not antisemitic. Even its critics must acknowledge that BDS is based on the call from Palestinian civil society to protest Israel’s serious violations of human rights and international law. After Palestinians had long been condemned for violent resistance to the Israeli occupation, the emergence of peaceful protest through BDS should be welcomed even by those who don’t agree with it. Instead, however, it is denounced and slandered as racist. In fact, BDS is a rights-based movement which is against racism in all forms, notably and explicitly against antisemitism. Despite their own rhetoric, most Jews understand that BDS is a political and moral challenge to Israel and its supporters and not a form of antisemitism. While it is often characterised as “deligitimizing” Israel (whatever that means), it is actually deligitimizing violations of human rights and international law by Israel: The 600,000 settlers on the West Bank are all in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The separation wall cuts off about ten percent of the West Bank and has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Sixty percent of the West Bank designated Area C is under full Israeli control where Palestinians in villages such as Susiya are evicted from their tents, and their water cisterns and solar panels are destroyed. There have been 28,000 homes of innocent people demolished since 1967. None of this can be explained on the grounds of security or the defense of Israel. The West Bank is criss-crossed by Israeli-only roads and hundreds of check points. Unarmed protesters are regularly shot in their own villages such as Bil’in, Nil’in and Nabi Saleh. And there is the tragedy of Gaza in which 1.5 million people suffer the collective punishment of an ongoing siege and the effects of large-scale military assault. Since their expulsion in 1948, Palestinian refugees are denied their Right of Return in international law, while Jews assert their own spurious “Law of Return” which entitles an Australian or American with no connection to the land to dispossess a Palestinian. This is what BDS is about.

Ryvchin is particularly disingenuous to cite Norman Finkelstein’s critique of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Finkelstein has been critical of certain aspects of BDS but he is a Jew, the son of Holocaust survivors, and academic historian, among the most trenchant critics of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians since their dispossession in 1947. He is, in fact, a supporter of an economic boycott of Israel as a “nonviolent tactic the purpose of which is to achieve a just and lasting settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict.” Ryvchin should heed Finkelstein’s warning that “the real enemies of the Jews” are “those who cheapen the memory of Jewish suffering by equating principled opposition to Israel’s illegal and immoral policies with antisemitism.”

 Associate Professor Peter Slezak is co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV) and on the Executive of Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN).



5 Responses to “Slezak questions Rhiannon criticism”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Rhiannon is a died-in-the-wool Israel-hater, so obsessive, so biased, her speeches dripping invective. Only those such as Peter Slezak, who get excited by hearing views propagated that match their own, are going to take her words seriously. Still, they do their damage and make their mark … We just have to organise professional, ruthlessly insistent spokespeople who can immediately countermand these attacks, and get publicity in doing so.

  2. Stuart Sontag says:

    Dear Peter Slezak, as you should know, ever since the Oslo Accords of the 1990s between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank has been divided into 3 Areas A, B, C. Area A is under full Palestinian Authority military control. Area B is meant to be under joint Israeli and Palestinian control. However, it is essentially under full Palestinian Authority Control as the later against the letter of the agreement denys access to Israeli Civilians to areas such as Joseph’s Tomb where Jewish Pilgrims have been shot at by Palestinian Authority forces. Area C which contains all the settlers, all the settlements and only 4% of the Palestinians is under full Israeli control. Similarly, since 2005 Israel has completely vacated Gaza and does not control the lives of the Gazan Palestinians. It is true that both Israel and Egypt do restrict a small number of items which can be used by Hamas to build weapons or bunkers. If Gaza changes it’s state of War with Israel to a peaceful footing then even these limited restrictions would be lifted. All This means that 96% of the Palestinians live under the self governed regimes of Hamas in Gaza or the Palestinian Authority in Areas A & B of the Westbank. Hence if the Palestinian People are ‘occupied’ then they are occupied by their own autocratic dysfunctional regimes and if they suffer Human Rights abuses then they do so at the hands of their own governments.

    • Here, here Stuart. With all the documents available to people and in recent articles printed for Jwire where are these people who are supposedly standing for honest reporting?

  3. Paul Winter says:

    Hey Slezak, your fact-free spray destroys your argument against Alexander Ryvchin. William Nemesh’s facts demolish your claim on the “facts” of your argument. To you, facts are things you can twist of invent. Its your vitriol that gets up my nose.

    How dare you talk of brutal occupation?! If a group of people murdered that majority population and its leadership celebrated those fould deeds, all nations except the Jewish state would launch a major war on them. In fact, the jihadi PA and its brainless “shahids” act the way they do, because Jews respect life and laws.

    A people concocted by the KGB in 1964 to deny Jewish self-determination, has no rights to anything. The bulk of them arrived when Jewish pioneers got the economy of that impoverished Ottoman province going. Those people who invent their heritage as they go along, to trump facts, do not deserve a state and in fact never sought one while their Arab brothers ruled over them. In Judea and Samaria, they were even Jordanian citizens. Jews don’t want those redicalised jihadis either, but being Jews, they are willing to grant them autonomy, something, mohammedans fail to give to Kurds or Berbers.

    Wow, you state that 20% of Israelis suffer discrimination. Now what would that be, pray tell? Like Haneed Zoabi or Ahmed Tibi who get MK’s pay and denounce the state. Or the Arabs who don’t do national service going to uni and gettin social benefits? Or the Bedouin who have multiple wives and collect benefits for their minitribes?

    Oh how you suffer for the poor, poor Pallies, so affected by the “wall”. It really must be hard for a would-be shahid to have a barrier get in the way to murdering Jews and claiming 72 virgins, especially when they have self-regenerating hymens.

    Oh, yes, Susiya. The Arabs are so hard done by being evicted from lands they just recently discovered were traditional. An water, why the Jews build pipes and then demolish illegal taps. Further, those ungrateful Jews complain that Arabs give them the benefit of their unsewered waste via ground water.

    The dreaded check-points. Hundreds? Hundreds??? I hope that you give more attention to facts in your lectures. But I forget. When you talk about the Jewish state, facts matter no more to you than they did to the KGB.

    The people who heeded the calls of the Arab armies who spoke a great fight of extermination against Jews, have no right to return. What are you on about? The recent court ruling that the Greeks expelled by the invading Turks cannot return to northern Cyprus should have woken you up. But nothing will wake a hater from his evil dreams. But if you want to dream, don’t disturb Jews with your delusional snores and snorts.

    Before you venture on another Jewish site, just keep Sen Moynihan’s comment in mind: you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own set of facts.

  4. Have a look at William Nemesh’s demolition of Slezak’s arguments at”

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