Overland extract: Michael Brull on Zionism

In Overland 198, Michael Brull replies to Ned Curthoys and Dennis Altman on how Australian Leftists should respond to Zionism:

This is an intervention, of sorts, into the disagreements between the dissident Jews Ned Curthoys and Dennis Altman (see Overland 187, 196 and 197). Given the scarcity of those publicly distancing themselves in any way from Israel, dissident voices, even if they warrant disagreement, merit at least some respect, and I appreciate that both Curthoys and Altman vocally opposed Israel’s vicious attack on Gaza.

That said, I still strongly disagree with Altman’s view of the attack in one important respect. During the massacre, Altman wrote that Israel had been ‘clearly provoked’ and, in his more recent essay, he discussed the attack as ‘retaliation’. The war on Gaza is not the focus of this essay: for those interested, I have documented the facts at length elsewhere. Suffice to say, in the immediate lead-up to the attack, Israel rejected a ceasefire that was offered by Hamas. The assault was an act of aggression, not retaliation. Israel could have secured the safety of its citizens by agreeing to the ceasefire, and its government knew this, because its own sources show that Hamas had upheld the preceding six-month ceasefire more faithfully than Israel had.

In the dispute between Curthoys and Altman over responses to Zionism, I sympathise with both positions, albeit with reservations. On the one hand, Altman’s seems more moderate and cautious. Yet he dismisses calls for a boycott of Israel. To me, this is unreasonable. I agree that the campaign for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) is likely to be ineffective in the struggle for Palestinian rights, and I have argued this at length elsewhere. Yet there is an obvious case for the BDS that is hardly frivolous. The precedent is apartheid South Africa. In my view, Israel’s regime in the Occupied Territories is obviously one of apartheid. Palestinians under occupation have been denied their human rights for over forty years. Indeed, Jewish settlers in the West Bank have rights under Israeli law, while Palestinians in the West Bank live under military rule. The pseudo-government of the Palestinian Authority – administering Palestinian cantons under Israeli rule, surrounded by Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, discriminatory roads, settlements and the Separation Wall – bears obvious resemblance to the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa. Besides the ‘grand apartheid’, there is the ‘petty apartheid’, such as the regime of checkpoints.

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Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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