Sunday, February 15, 2009


Australian wordsmith Antony Loewenstein is in Indonesia having been invited to attend the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Actually, he invited himself (and isn't listed as an attending author):
Just as the UWRF staff began the task of planning this year’s Festival around the theme of Suka Duka: Compassion and Solidarity, Janet was contacted by Antony Loewenstein, Australian freelance journalist, author and blogger, who is visiting the Bali in February.
Examples of the "incisive" and "masterful" writing (currently appearing on the front page of his blog) that convinced Ubud organisers to include him:
  • At this stage, we’re years away from even contemplating such a reality.
  • The idea that literary figures would visit Sri Lanka at such a time is morally questionable.
  • Israel is becoming apartheid South Africa and the world response, after the recent Gaza war, is only set to increase.
  • Sri Lanka is currently in the middle of military and civil chaos, with the regime causing untold civilian misery.
Anyway, Loewenstein will tonight appear at a fund-raising dinner where it's claimed he will give a "first hand account of the life in Occupied Territories". No he won't: he visited the West Bank for only a few days in 2005 and has never been to Gaza. Just about everything he knows about Israel and Palestine comes not from first hand knowledge but rather from what he reads.

Loewenstein is muddle-headed, writes at a high school level and is an uninspiring speaker but continues to trade on his novelty status as an anti-Israel Jew, emerging as something of a minor celebrity. He is (as he himself describes Israel) at once both "fascinating and repulsive": fascinating in that he singlemindedly pursues the goal of international celebrity; and repugnant in that he plays fast and loose with the truth.

A recent Loewenstein interview by Helen Caldicott provides double the fascinating repulsiveness. Knowing there will be no hardball questions from his lefty interlocutor he is glib and supremely self-confident. Perhaps too confident, chuckling freakishly (at 3:27) while discussing Hitler's sincere desire to eliminate Jews from Europe.

Now no one in his right mind is going to listen to the whole of a 59 minute audio clip in which Caldicott repeatedly mentions Loewenstein's best-selling-author status and Loewenstein repeatedly agrees with Caldicott by saying "indeed", and keeps saying "in reality" when he actually means "in my alternate reality", so I've listened to the whole interview for you. Here are the highlights (rather, the lowlights):
  • Loewenstein again says that for Israel's 60th anniversary western media has suddenly taken interest in the plight of Palestinians. He says, for example, that for Israel's 50th birthday the plight of Palestinians was "virtually ignored", specifically mentioning the New York Times. In fact, the NYT published literally hundreds of such articles around the time of Israel's 50th (1998). This 1998 article in particular relates to the Nakba.
  • His 2005 visit to Israel causing him to reflect on his Jewishness: "I didn't feel particularly Jewish being there." [When does he feel particularly Jewish? Perhaps when soliciting media appearances such as this - ed.]
  • He didn't visit the Wailing Wall despite its significance in "modern history".
  • A separate Palestinian state has only been discussed in the past 20 years.
  • Palestinians are "by definition... pretty pissed off to actually being ruled over by Israel."
  • "Israeli settlements in the West Bank are the Achilles' heel of this conflict."
  • The U.S. supports Israel because:
  • The Israel lobby is powerful;
  • Financial support provided to Democrats;
  • Criticism of Israel can affect your career;
  • Israel offers a "great deal of base" [sic] for U.S. infrastructure and weapons;
  • Israel tests U.S. weapons (as in Gaza).
  • Israel's armaments industry is the world's fifth largest and growing every year.
  • "Study after study have shown that the people of Jordan and Egypt do not want to be at peace with Israel." [So Jewish paranoia is justified - ed.]
  • North Korean nukes are the only thing preventing a U.S. invasion. [WTF? - ed.]
Actually, I was wrong about "fascinating".

Update: Loewenstein deplores journalists reporting on Iraq from their hotel rooms while pretty much everything he reports come from his lounge room.

Update II: His hit-count surged during Israel's Gaza assault but is rapidly returning to his natural level of unpopularity – this despite massive media hype for the best-selling author.

UpdateIII: According to Loewenstein, Hampshire University (it's actually a college) has created a "firestorm" by supporting Israeli divestment. Organsiers of the “Voices of Hampshire, Voices of Divestment” blog at the centre of the firestorm have asked him to promote their blog. Gee, I hope they can handle the increased traffic. And, considering their persuasive arguments, it's hard to imagine the Hampshire students needing assistance in getting their message out.


Anonymous Kevin of Southbank said...

"Loewenstein is muddle-headed, writes at a high school level and is an uninspiring speaker but continues to trade on his novelty status"

Sounds awfully like someone else.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suka Duka? Suka Duka!

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bloody hell, Beck; where do you find this stuff? That interview must the be the worst thing broadcast. Ever. I'm nominating you for an Australian of the Year award just for sitting through the whole thing!!

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" I've listened to the whole interview for you."

Dude! Someone should be giving you Danger Money for going above and beyond like that.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous blogstrop said...

There should be an Ibid Festival of Writers & Readers for those who have only written or read one book.

12:35 PM  

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