Who is Anna Baltzer? Peter Slezak answers…

November 1, 2010 by Peter Slezak
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Alan Gold asked on J-Wire last week asked “Anna Who?” referring to American Anna Baltzer currently speaking in Australia on Israel-Palestinian affairs. Peter Slezak responds….

Reply to Alan Gold

Anna Baltzer

It is difficult to understand how pleas for upholding international law and humanitarian principles on the grounds of traditional Jewish values can elicit the scorn and gross misrepresentations of Alan Gold’s discussion of Anna Baltzer. Contrary to Gold’s gratuitous trivialization, Baltzer’s popularity is not due to her appearance or media naivete, but to the moral force of her position and the uncontroversial evidence she cites.

Anyone who has read her book or heard her public lectures would know that there is no warrant for Gold’s slurs that she encourages “hating Israel” or that “she changed her allegiance from Israelis to Palestinians” and that she repeats “anti-Israel mantras”.

Indeed, even without hearing for themselves, readers might wonder why Gold chooses to devote his entire article to discrediting Baltzer rather than to the substance of the many issues at stake. The urgent question we must face as Jews is not “So just who is Anna Baltzer?”, but rather: What evidence is there for her claims?

Ironically, Gold refers to her “inaccuracies” and “her wilful ignoring of facts” but Gold doesn’t address them and doesn’t reveal that Baltzer gives copious references to sources where her facts may be checked such as Israel’s own human rights organization B’Tselem, Israeli Gush Shalom, Amnesty International and many others. Readers may care to follow up Baltzer’s claims to judge who is guilty of wilfully ignoring the facts.

Dr Peter Slezak

Gold also neglects to mention to his Jewish audience that Baltzer consistently appeals to the venerable Jewish ethical tradition that prizes universal justice and fairness. Above all, holding Israel accountable to international law and humanitarian standards is not to encourage hating Israel but the very opposite. The true friends of Israel are not those like Gold who seek to hide the disturbing facts. On the contrary, hatred of Israel and antisemitism are encouraged raher by those who remain silent or even deny the crimes committed in their name. Baltzer is among the many Jews around the world who are speaking out on the grounds she quotes in her hand-out: “Silence is complicity”.

Since Gold relies on personal abuse rather addressing the evidence, we may perhaps note some facts cited by Baltzer in her talks and hand-out fact sheet that Gold fails to mention: From 1870 Jews were only 2% of the population of Palestine and by 1946 only 8% of the land was Jewish. In 1947 the UN Partition Plan proposed giving 54% of Palestinian land for a Jewish State. In 1948 Jewish control expanded to 78% of historical Palestine through the expulsion of ¾ million Palestinians amid over 50 massacres and destruction of 500 Palestinian villages. The remaining historic Palestinian land was occupied in 1967, now with ½ million Israeli settlers all prohibited by international law (4th Geneva Convention, Article 49). The separation wall weaves through Palestinian communities and farmland annexing around 8% more Palestinian land, and was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Israel also controls most of the sources of Palestinian water and has claimed control over the Jordan Valley.

Alan Gold

More than a million olive and fruit trees have been uprooted, and the brutality of the military occupation, checkpoints, blockades and rampages of armed settlers under the protection of the IDF cause daily suffering. There are regular shootings of unarmed Palestinians who protest peacefully against the illegal wall on their own land, in towns such as Bil’in. As Jews, we must join Baltzer in asking how any of this and the subsidized, luxurious colonization of Palestinian land can be justified on the excuse that it protects Israel.

The few issues that Gold mentions reveal the fraudulence of his case. He protests that Baltzer opposes a two-state solution which he rightly notes was demanded by UN resolutions. However, Baltzer shows maps that demonstrate Gold’s cynical misrepresentation. The two state solution that Gold now professes to defend has been made utterly impossible by the illegal settlements and the infrastructure of occupation leaving a mere 30% (of their 22% of historic Palestine) for disconnected Palestinian reserves or Bantustans from which Palestinians cannot travel without Israeli military permit. The UN Security Council resolution 242 for a 2-state solution requires the withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders. As Baltzer notes, this solution has long been the international consensus, in exchange for which 22 countries of the Arab League in 2002 offered peace and normal relations. If this is the 2-state solution that Gold defends, why doesn’t he plainly demand a full withdrawal of all Israelis behind the 1967 borders? Of course, it’s not this 2-state solution that he defends but presumably the present unviable, fragmented “Swiss Cheese” expropriation of Palestinian lands and its apartheid system of Jewish-only roads and infrastructure.

We may ask: Who is guilty of inaccuracies and wilfully ignoring facts? Is Baltzer “intellectually and morally biased” for seeking to draw these matters to the attention of Jewish and other audiences? Or is it Gold, for misrepresenting and hiding them? Is Baltzer “racist” as Gold claims for insisting that Palestinians are entitled to equal rights with Israeli Jews? Or is it Gold who evidently sees no difficulties at all in the current plight of the Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and under the dire circumstances of Gaza.

Many Jews are recognizing that we in the diaspora have a special responsibility in view of the support that our government gives to Israel’s ongoing crimes and injustices. Gold wonders why people are listening to Baltzer. It’s the same reason people are listening to Justice Goldstone among many other independent Jewish voices inside and outside Israel.

As Jews, we should understand the moral failing of those who protest that they “didn’t know” and of those who would deny or hide the uncomfortable facts for which they bear some responsibility. Since Israel proclaims that it acts on behalf of all Jews, we have a special obligation to hear the growing number of Jews like Anna Baltzer, not because of their expertise that Gold is so concerned with, but because they are decent, ordinary people who are speaking out in the spirit of the highest ethical principles of Judaism and, above all, because of their humanity.

Dr. Peter Slezak is Associate Professor in the School of History & Philosophy at the University of New South Wales and co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices (IAJV).


4 Responses to “Who is Anna Baltzer? Peter Slezak answers…”
  1. david singer says:

    # tiong hoon

    You state:
    ” the UN carved out a very rich strip of land that was to be nomanclatured ‘Israel”. Why that strip ? It’s so fertile, in a desert dominated land? ”

    Your statement is factually wrong for the following reasons:
    1. The UN carved nothing out. The UN recommended the division of Western Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State in 1947. The Jews accepted the proposal. The Arabs did not. The Jews had been given the legal right to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine by the League of Nations in 1920. The Arabs never accepted that decision.
    2. 77% of Palestine west of the Jordan River had been already granted independence by Great Britain in 1946 prior to the 1947 UN Plan for the remainder of Palestine. Not one Jew lived in this area.
    2. More than 70% of the area proposed for the Jewish State by the UN was the arid Negev desert which was sparsely populated by Jews or Arabs. The majority population in the proposed UN Jewish State was Jewish.
    3. The fertile coastal area was mainly to form part of the UN Arab State. The majority population in the proposed UN Arab State was Arab.

    You further state:

    “I love Israel, but I detest what she is doing to the Palestinians.”

    Do you equally detest what the Palestinians are doing to Israelis – like drive by murders, blowing up buses and firing thousands of rockets into civilian population centres?

    Suffering in the Middle East is not a one way street. Giving comfort to only one side of the conflict is the surest way to ensure the conflict is continued – not resolved.

  2. tiong hoon says:

    This debate seems to me to be a bit of a hoo ha. In due respect, the UN carved out a very rich strip of land that was to be nomanclatured ‘Israel”. Why that strip ? It’s so fertile, in a desert dominated land? In so doing the UN had deprived the Palestanian of their natural ‘habitat’ if you will, to live and exist in the Jordan valley. I have been there, but feel the sorrow of such conflict. Twas a kind of pilgrimage, but very very expensive in terms of human costs & sufferings.We are creature of God, no matter how so created. We feel pain, bleed & suffering. How so is that Israel is so immuned to international sanction for its attitude towards the arabs, esp the Palestinian. Arafat died for the cause; others will follow, make no mistake. USA condone Israel’s attitude, and so forgiving, asking ‘what are you gonna do about it, if you do’? Nuclear disarmament, came on, Barak,. Hilary, what happen to the Roadmap that previous US Presidents including Clinton, had instigated? Yeah keep visiting Natanyahu(?), have a talkfest & then some. You guys want to be a politician, a good politician, say but do something& then stand your ground. You do not owe Israel, Israel owes you, & the rest of it’s regional world. I love Israel, but I detest what she is doing to the Palestinians. In Austrlia, I do not need to smuggle essential goods & supplies vide subterranian means; I walk tall, for they who confront me shall be dealt with firstly by me, failing failing which, by the full foce of the law. That happens in Oz, wot about in the Middle East? Do somethiing about Gaza, pull Israel into line, or they will continue to wander in the modern desert world.

  3. Bob says:

    Anna Baltzer spread a false atrocity story and refused to apologize when it was proven that the story was false. Another anti-Israeli Jew, Barbara Lubin concocted a story about meeting a Palestinian women who told her that Israeli soldiers demanding that she (the woman) pick five of her ten children to be killed (plagiarizing Sophie’s Choice). Baltzer uncritically repeated the story. Then when Lubin admitted to having lied about it, Baltzer didn’t have the common decency to apologize for spreading a false atrocity story. If she has no compunctions about spreading a false atrocity story that makes Jews look like monsters, how can anything she says be trusted?

  4. Henry Wirth says:

    Without having any brief to support Alan Gold and having many times in the past debated the issues with Peter Slezak including the occasional raised voice, it is a great pity that Peter is also selective in the “facts” that he cites. As Peter is well aware the UN General Assemby Resolution 118(11) was passed on 29 November 1947 and this was promptly rejected by the Arabs and they took up arms. The consequence was further alienation of territory that would have been theirs on acceptance of the UN Resolution. This desire to return to past positions was evidenced after further Arab defeats in 1967 with vague notions of returns to “Green Lines”. If there were more pragmatism and honesty in attempting to reach a modus vivendi maybe we might have a solution, but neither Peter Slezak nor for that matter Bibi Netanyahu seem to have the answers.

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