Byron Friends of Palestine write to Byron Shire Echo re Zionist censorship at home and abroad 27May12 May 27, 2012

Avigail Abarbanel, editor of  “Beyond Tribal Loyalties – Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists”, is promoting her book 12noon-2pm, Saturday 23 June at the Byron Community Centre’s Verandah Room. Avigail now lives in Britain, but she was born in Israel and served 2 years in the Israeli Defence Force before becoming a psychotherapist, giving her a unique insight into Israeli perspectives on a variety of issues.  She writes: “Many people have visited my website over the years. Most felt supported and validated, some felt threatened. But things need to be said. I hope that some Palestinians at least can find some solace in some of what I am writing. As for Israelis, those who have the courage to stand up to their murderous and stupid government, don’t need to read my website. But perhaps some members of the Israeli majority, the 81% who are completely behind the Gaza massacre, will have a change of heart. I am not holding my breath though. But I will continue to write for as long as Israel occupies the Palestinian people”

Avigail’s book includes contributions by many Jewish Australian writers.   She has been disappointed to learn that a previously arranged panel discussion to be held at the Limmud Oz 2012 Festival of Jewish Learning & Culture, hosted by the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Melbourne’s Monash University, controversially has been cancelled due to censorship, in spite of the organisation’s stated claims to hold “diverse and controversial Jewish expression … be communal and democratic …  explore Australian Jewish identities … create space for ideas and reflection … ignite activism and be a forum for Jewish dialogue” (

In Britain, similar treatment closed down the launch of Sarah Irving’s “Leila Khaled – Icon of Palestinian Liberation”, indicating that many questions arise regarding the principle of free speech.   In another example from Britain, the  BBC and other media studiously ignored the recent Palestinian hunger strikes over a period of 2 months by about 2000 Palestinians arrested without charge and held indefinitely in
Israeli gaols under the infamous Administrative Detention Law.

Similar bias typifies the situation in Australia; for example, the Sydney Morning Herald recently devoted nearly a quarter of a full page to the death of Netanyahu’s centenarian father, compared with minute space dedicated to the exoneration of the Israeli colonel responsible for the massacre of 21 Samouni family members in Gaza.   In response to complaints about the lack of coverage by SBS World News on these important issues, executive producer Mark Boyd made the incredible admission that  “the deaths of the Samouni family did not reach us through our wire services, so we had no way of knowing of the event. An extensive web search revealed that all major Australian media, both electronic and print, were in the same situation as us. The only mention I could find of it was in the Haaretz article which you supplied a link to, and in Britain’s Guardian newspaper”.  If correct,
it seems most of our major media were denied news of this important story, which raises serious questions about the adequacy of Australia’s coverage of world news.   The Australian Press Council and Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy, need to urgently address this matter.

Against the above backdrop, we are lucky to have the opportunity of welcoming the visit of Avigail Avarbanel to Byron Bay. Details of her promotional book tour can be found at :

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