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Antony Loewenstein at the Forum

The Report:

Book Launch and Forum:
Antony Loewenstein's My Israel Question

Hello, this is our page with photos, speeches and articles following the 11 October 2006 Forum at Kulcha Multicultural Arts of WA, organised by Project SafeCom in collaboration with the Social Justice Network.

The event announcement page for the Forum is here.

On this page we're bringing together some photographs taken during the evening and some of the speeches delivered by members of the Forum.

It includes some reports written as a result of the Forum, including a report in The Fremantle Herald of 17 October 2006.




11 October 2006: Antony's Israel Question: Book Launch and Forum This is the official Western Australian Book Launch and Forum for Antony Loewenstein's 'My Israel Question', a forum with Antony Loewenstein, Prof Linda Briskman, Dr Samina Yasmeen and Giz Watson MLC at Kulcha, Fremantle. Organised by Project SafeCom in collaboration with The Social Justice Network.

 :::EVENT::: Saturday 29 July 2006: Israel in Palestine and Lebanon: March for Peace and Justice - We call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon and Gaza, and for the US and Australian governments to cease their support of the current bombing campaign.

20 July 2006: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt: The Israel Lobby - Yesterday, ABC Lateline reported: "... two leading American academics have sparked a war of words over their claim that US-Middle East policy has become unbalanced because of the activities of a right-wing pro-Israeli lobby, which tries to shut down critics by labelling them anti-Semitic." Here is the "offending" article, from The London Review of Books.

10 February 2006: Worlds apart: Israel, Palestine and Apartheid - After four years reporting from Jerusalem and more than a decade from Johannesburg before that, the Guardian's award-winning Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal is exceptionally well placed to assess an explosive comparison. The first part of his two-part special report.

10 February 2006: Brothers in Arms: Israel's Secret Pact With Pretoria - Israelis have always been horrified at the idea of parallels between their country, a democracy risen from the ashes of genocide, and the racist system that ruled the old South Africa. Yet even within Israel itself....

What strikes me as I travel around the nation is the ability of the Israel/Palestine issue to cross all religious, ethnic, environmental and political lines. This affects the young and old, devout and atheist, Australian and overseas-born. The status-quo no longer works and the political and media elite ignores this at its peril. -Antony Loewenstein [Source]

Forum speech: Gavin Mooney

Gavin Mooney is the Co-convenor of the WA Social Justice Network and Professor of Health Economics at Curtin University, Visiting Professor at the Centre for Health and Humanity at Aarhus University (Denmark) and Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town. He has experience working with governments and health departments and agencies in many countries - in addition to Australia, he has worked with health organisations in Denmark, New Zealand, Norway and the UK. He has written widely on various aspects of public health economics and has a strong interest in equity, priority setting and the principles underlying public health. He has acted as consultant to the WHO on many occasions and for the OECD twice.

Comments by Gavin Mooney, Co-convenor of the WA Social Justice Network and Professor of Health Economics, Curtin University

I want to acknowledge the Noongar people, the traditional owners of this land - and, let us note, still the owners of this land!

This is an extraordinary book. Whatever else, it is a book that took considerable moral courage to write. It is a book which increases our understanding on a number of different dimensions - about Israel, obviously; but also about the Jews; about Zionism; about being anti-Zionist; and about being anti-Semitic. But also, it increases our understanding of Australian political life and the current frowning on dissent within that. So this is not just a book about a far off country geographically. It is also about important issues in this country, here, today.

This is a book that needed to be written and on three counts. First we need good research and writings on the Middle East - the focal point geo-politically of the major problems of the planet.

Second it exposes the problems of separating out views on Israel from views on Jews.

In this context I have a confession to make: I don't give a bugger if someone is Jewish or not. Often I simply don't know. I try to respect humanity as humanity whatever shape or form or creed or religion someone comes in.

But let's face it; it is a bit weird that I feel obliged to say: I am not anti Jewish. I am very opposed to some of the actions of the Israeli government especially in its treatment of the Palestinians. I was sickened by the overkill reactions of that same government to the capturing of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah and the carnage that then followed. That does not make me anti-Jewish.

I am similarly opposed to many of the actions of the US administration. The US is as much a Christian country as Israel is a Jewish country. Yet in criticising the US I do not feel the same obligation to say: I am not anti-Christian.

Loewenstein notes (p253) that the eminent historian Eric Hobsbawm is convinced that if Zionists stay in power in Israel, that country will cease to exist. If Israel goes on behaving as it has done to the Palestinians and the Lebanese, then like many others I will be driven to oppose its existence.

I note also from Loewenstein's book (p72) that at one time Kenya was suggested as the site of the Jewish state. That rather surprised me - that another location might have been contemplated. If that idea were ever a runner again I have another suggestion: site it in the US!

The Israeli Government and its US allies need to recognise that they have an obligation - a humanitarian obligation - to change their behaviour to the Palestinian people. The Palestinians cannot move forward unless Israel and the US take the lead.

One of the saddest and most stupid aspects of all of this is that the US and Israel have succeeded in conflating Israel's interests with the interests of the West. They have also driven so many of us - wherever our original position - to be more and more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Australia cannot see past its US alliance - Howard in his desire to get up Bush's bum is turning us into another US state. And in so doing Howard has accepted holus bolus the rightness of all that Israel does.

The US -- with the Israeli government - connived to delay a call for a ceasefire in Lebanon until such time as they hoped Hezbollah would be defeated. (Is "connived" the right word I wonder when it was done so, so openly?) Hezbollah never was defeated - ending the myth of the Israeli military's invincibility and ending - so needlessly - the lives of so many Lebanese people. Loewenstein quotes the Israeli journalist Daphna Baram (p236) as describing Israel as 'a nuclear regional superpower possessing the fourth most powerful army in the world' - yet militarily (and morally) it lost to Hezbollah.

Anyone with even a modicum of interest in the Israel Palestine Lebanon issues should read this book. Any claim, as has been made, that it is one sided would need to be set in the wider context of the "other sidedness" of the Zionist voice that so dominates Australian discourse.

The book reminds us of the need to draw a very clear distinction between being opposed to the Israeli government and being anti-Semitic or anti Zionist.

In a small way I have got caught up in this. I was quoted in The West a few weeks ago in the wake of voicing my concern about the visit to my university by the Israeli Ambassador.

Two complete strangers then emailed me with certain documents about anti-Semitism. In my naivety I didn't twig and thought: what is this? Then, in the correspondence that followed, it became clear that each thought that because I had voiced concern about the Israeli Ambassador's visit to my university therefore I must be anti-Semitic. Weird....

Then after I had circulated an announcement of this forum, I received an email again from a complete stranger which stated.

'That's an interesting range of views you'll have represented by your forum participants. I'd say that will cover all views from "anti-Zionism" to "denial of Israel's right to exist."'

My third point on Loewenstein's book (together with thinking about that email) is that it makes me realise the importance in Australia today of speaking out. Even in our universities we are increasingly cowed in this respect. This book makes me yet more determined to exercise my academic freedom.

Let me then consider a very fundamental question about the Middle East. Why does the Israeli government condemn the Palestinian people to an imprisoned hell behind the wall?

The question here of why is not rhetorical. It is because of the assumption of terra nullius. Loewenstein quotes (p74) Norman Finkelstein, the internationally acclaimed Jewish author: 'the Zionists in Palestine ... [have] invoked the ... claim that the territory appointed for conquest was deserted'. The author adds (p74) 'To concede that Palestine was already inhabited was a concession [the Zionists] were unable to make: the idea that the land was unpopulated remains one of the most potent myths in popular Jewish thought.'

It seems from Loewenstein's book that anyone who argues against Israel's more horrific actions - all those so-called smart bombs left behind in south Lebanon after it was known that a ceasefire was just days away - these little bombs designed specifically to kill innocent civilians and kids - anyone who criticises such behaviour risks being labelled anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. Is there anything that Israel does or even might do that we can criticise without being labelled anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist? This sort of blind faith - this fundamentalist view of the rightness of the Israeli cause - is intolerable, just as it is illogical. The Middle East issues will only be resolved through an openness of dialogue. Can these silly people not realise the damage they do - not least to their own cause - by such ostrich-like attitudes and behaviour?

The parallels with terra nullius in Australia and the Howard government's treatment of Aboriginal people are very striking. Aboriginal people seek to have their voices heard. They seek for the rest of us to show respect for their culture. They seek the right to have access to their land. The Palestinian people seek very similar ends. It is the powerful elites in both cases who refuse to listen. Breaking through to let the voices of the oppressed be heard needs, as Loewenstein says (p253) at the very end of his book, 'our political leaders and news media to listen to voices that challenge their prejudices and preconceptions' and he argues that this cannot be done 'without the involvement of many caring people.'

On the Middle East we cannot go on wringing our hands in exasperation or washing our hands Pontius Pilate style. I believe that anyone who reads this book will end up caring more about trying to find a solution to the problems of' the Middle East and be more prepared to get involved. If that is the legacy of this book - and I think it will be - then I am sure that all of us and not just the author will be well pleased.

Forum speech: Linda Briskman

Linda Briskman is the Dr Harihusa Handa Chair in Human Rights Education at Curtin University. She recently moved to Perth from RMIT University in Melbourne where she pursued research and policy interests in the fields of Indigenous affairs and asylum seekers and refugees. She is convenor of a citizen's inquiry into immigration detention convened by the Australian Council of Heads of Schools of Social Work. As a member of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society she has a long-standing interest in Israel and Palestine.

Let me start by congratulating Antony on his research, his book and standing up for his beliefs. From the outset I wish to state that I share many of the same views. My stance is partly derived from my upbringing in Melbourne, which was similar to Anthony's although of a different time.

I was raised in Melbourne to a moderately observant family who sent me to Sunday School and observed the High Holydays. The son of an orthodox Rabbi, my father embraced the liberal (progressive) tradition of Judaism and was very active in synagogue affairs. My parents did not send me to a Jewish school but instilled within me like Anthony's a sense of 'we need to stick together' and 'you shouldn't marry out' as the expression was.

But unlike Anthony's family mine was a great supporter of the rights of Palestinians so I have always felt that these views were the norm. I'm not sure whether it was necessarily to do with their Jewishness or more to do with their political activism that also spanned strong opposition to the South African apartheid regime and to the Vietnam War. I will return to this point later.

There are two points where I diverge from Antony's thesis as these aspects could foster even more divisiveness within the Jewish community. First, I believe it's provocative to speak of the exploitation of the holocaust for the purposes of establishing a Jewish state and even for maintaining it to the present day and I don't think this view holds currency. Furthermore, the use of the term ethnic cleansing in this context, even if from secondary sources, does not assist in bringing together divergent viewpoints or facilitating dialogue among those who resist opening their minds to opposing views.

I ponder the question of anti-semitism directed at those who criticise Israel. The history of anti-semitism is far greater than the Israel/Palestine question and most anti-Jewish sentiment sits outside this paradigm. Despite its ongoing existence I think the hatred directed towards Jews, who are supported by powerful nations, is minimal in today's world compared to the hatred directed at Palestinians, who are rendered powerless, and to Muslims in general. There are many people in the Jewish community who have no knowledge of Islam in contrast to many Muslims who have far more respect for and interest in the tenets of Judaism from which Islam is partly derived.

Why has Antony received so much condemnation in the Jewish community and why is he under siege when his views are not particularly unique? Arguably, many Jews don't like their dirty linen aired in public even though there is an acceptance of dissent and debate, preferably hidden in the private Jewish domain. To my mind, part of the reason is because he has done his homework and he has taken his views into many public places by writing a book. He cannot be dismissed as a leftish Jewish ideologue by rightish Jewish ideologues. The discrediting of his work reminds me of the Henry Reynolds/Keith Windshuttle affair. When people don't share one's ideology they look for flaws in scholarship as a way of rationalising their opposition. But he is not alone and again I don't think it's a Jewish question. As Antony says, Jews are socially progressive on a range of issues but not Israel. Many of the Jews I know are socially progressive on a range of issues including Israel. What comes first? Being socially progressive or being Jewish when criticising Israeli politics.

In finishing let me indulge briefly. Going through my father's papers recently I found an undated letter titled The Jewish Conscience and the Palestinians that he wrote to the Australian Jewish News. I'm not sure when. He's been dead nearly ten years and the phone number on the letter has only 7 digits so that's a clue. In the letter he speaks warmly of Palestinians, criticises Israel's colonialism and argues that: 'We will never resolve the Arab-Israel conflict or enjoy the peace for which we yearn, unless we take notice of their justifiable bitterness and despair'. He finishes as I will finish with words of the Jewish prophets:

Who is he who is mighty; it is he who can turn an enemy into a friend.

Two unsettling King Hits in one week

Shaken up from Left and Right

'a rant' sent by email
by Sister Slatz
17 October 2006

In 24 hours, I experienced the two spectrums of my topic. The Israel / Palestine question came to life here in Perth with two separate events. The first was a book launch of Antony Loewenstein's My Israel Question. The second was a visit by Israel's Ambassador and former head of Mossad, Efraim Halevy. After the first, I was so excited I couldn't sleep. Life was running through my veins and I felt so fortunate to have experienced it. After the second, I was shaking and wanted to throw up. I went and got drunk and stoned. The next morning I cried. These visceral reactions are not something I am ashamed of. That is the depth of what I am dealing with, and the way it affects me. If it didn't, I wouldn't be doing it.

Both meetings were, in effect, gatherings of the faithful. The first was a gathering of the dissident left in Australian politics. Their hero: a Jewish boy from Melbourne who had taken on the Zionist establishment and put forward a suggestion that the Palestinian question needs to be resolved. The second was a gathering of that very Zionist establishment. Their hero: a British-born Zionist Israeli Jew who was visiting Western Australia to spread the word. Israel was winning the war on terror. Israel was winning the fight for its existence. They were doing this with smart bombs and smart men - a military establishment and financial acumen. Halevy made it quite clear that Israel's future lay not with its 'Muzz-lim' neighbours, represented as a terrifying horde of 200 million. Rather, Israel's future lay with powerful friends and connections across the international arena.

There is almost nothing to say about Loewenstein's talk. It was life-affirming, intellectually stimulating, exciting and welcoming. I felt like I was at home in that community. But although there was disagreement and dissent within it, it was, as I have already said, essentially a gathering of the faithful.

Halevy's talk was a gathering of an entirely different faithful. Its most astounding feature was that he delivered the entire thing without saying the P-word once, except with regard to a special project he is involved in. Halevy sees the key to the 'Muzz-lim' problem lying in the changing role of women in Islam. With his posse of female researchers, who include a Palestinian woman, he is trying to 'lead the way' in this field. To be 'a light unto the nations'.

For all that 'light', it looked dark in the auditorium. Outside, a collection of protestors yelled and banged. I felt like I should be outside with them. But I was inside, trying to understand the beast. From the inside, the protestors felt vaguely threatening. I had that familiar sinking feeling that I felt when I went to Israel. I might get hurt; I might get caught up in it all just because I was there. Because I was in the 'wrong' camp. But more than that. The vague, irrational fear that those people 'out there' had it in for the people 'in here'. That they, 'out there', wouldn't distinguish between me and anybody else, just as a Palestinian suicide bomber wouldn't distinguish between a Zionist settler and a girl on a bus who might indeed be a peace activist.

I sorted through these feelings, noting them, and filing them away to ponder later. But the other people in the auditorium did not. They repelled the protestors with a stoic disregard. They waved their hands like they were waving away flies. We have been through this before, again and again. Goodbye. Don't bother us.

The insider / outsider thing terrified me. It also represented a microcosm of the whole conflict. Inside, the Israeli establishment bolstering itself, listing its military and financial achievements. Not saying the P-Word. Aggrandising itself with pompous attempts to lead backward 'Muzz-lims' towards enlightenment. A man, with an attachment to big guns and bombs, talking about how women would lead the way to a better world, whilst presiding over a talk in which not a single woman was permitted to ask a question.

Outside, a group of people, standing in for the Palestinians, who were righteously angry. Who did not want to talk to the people inside. Who hated Israel as a terrorist state. But who were yelling so loud that the Zionists inside just had to raise their voices and keep going, as if the irritant did not exist. But certain people did acknowledge the irritant, and were moving about the room in its shadowy corners with briefcases and microphones, making sure that this invisible barrier was not breached.

As question time grew closer, my heart began to pound in my chest. It pounded so quickly I was afraid that my neighbouring sweaty fascist, who reeked of secret service with his suit and scary silver briefcase, would think I had a bomb. But the only bomb I had was of the intellectual kind. I wanted to ask this man how he could talk about 'security' without talking about the greatest reason Israel is insecure.

Question time began. And, as the offer was put to the audience, there was a deadly silence. It reminded me of one of my tutorials when the students are stunned or dopey, and need to be gently led to the space of discourse. Inside me, a great turmoil was going on. Fear and self-preservation were competing against the desire to stand up and be counted. As silence reigned, and my own pathetic machinations continued, the previous night's hero saved the day. Up stood Antony Loewenstein, and he asked the question that I was too gutless to verbalise.

He asked the question, and Halevy's response was the most shocking thing of all. First, he said that he supported Israel's claim to the entire territory. Great flashing lights went off in my brain: 'Greater Israel freak! Fascist! WARNING! WARNING!' But then he followed with a surprising counter. The Palestinians also had a claim to that entire territory. That claim was also valid. So the real issue here was that both sides needed to validate the other's claims. The lights in my head suddenly went out. Could this suited and booted member of the military establishment actually be an advocate of a radical binational state? I listened on, cogs turning. When the mutual recognition was done, suggested Halevy, the issue of carving up the territory would be a doddle. Ah, okay, so there would be two states here, then. Fair enough, he's talking about compromise, a sensible solution to a conflict involving so much mutual hatred. And then, for the final twist. The real problem here is 'them'. 'They' won't recognise Israel's right to exist. Whilst Israel is doing the hard yards, agreeing to talk to Hamas. We're doing better than they are, was Halevy's explicit charge, which means that it's their fault that the whole thing continues.

I let all of this churn around in my head for a moment, as the crowd nodded and grunted their assent, and suddenly it came to me what was wrong with this piece of logic. It either represented an extremely flawed piece of strategic thinking, or it was a cynical, manipulative, callous lie; a platitude to the concept of peace and justice from a man committed to one thing, and one thing only - Greater Israel.

As a piece of flawed strategic thinking, it put across a great show of bad faith in its alleged ideals. Two peoples are asserted to have a legitimate claim to one land. One stages a military occupation of the other. It does not allow the other into the land it has claimed exclusively as its own. It settles the remainder without regard for the fact that this might be the 'compromise' territory; the piece of land that allows two people to have two states. As a gesture of bad faith, it is almost unparalleled. Nothing speaks less of acknowledging the other's claim than this course of action. How is the other, seeing this bad faith, supposed to acknowledge the legitimacy of the state that does this?

And that, of course, brings us to the truth of the matter. A man who worked for an intelligence agency could not be so stupid. It was not a flawed piece of strategic thinking, though some of the nodding members of the audience might have bought it, because it works on a people who feel attacked from the outside. No, the real truth of the matter was that this was a cynical, manipulative lie. The man does not want peace, and the man does not want to acknowledge the claim of the Palestinians. He simply used that language as a way of making himself appear to be a 'man of peace', just as Sharon went to the Al-Aqsa mosque in 2000 with a gesture of peace.

I realised this and I wanted to challenge him. I realised I could not challenge him on the lie, but I could challenge him on his words - on the failure of strategic thought that managed make 'acknowledgment of the other' look like a military occupation and land grab. I put my hand in the air, strong and high.

The lady taking questions saw me straight off. She saw the burning heat in my eyes, and her own eyes closed off like a steel trap. She looked past me. She called on people elsewhere, people whose hands I did not see. She called on men - young men, old men, Jewish men, possibly even an Arab man. But the questions, aside from the first, were questions of the 'in-camp'. Slightly curly teasers to allow the intelligence man to strut his stuff.

When the final question was called, and it wasn't me, a great churning rage went through my body. The adrenaline, which had coursed my veins and powered my thumping heart, settled in the bilious zones of my stomach. I wanted to be sick on everyone and everything in sight. I realised, with slight shame, that this was my first real moment of complete and utter disempowerment. And it made me livid. Dave, my accompanying friend, leaned over and hissed, 'you were barred!'

I charged down the front at the conclusion of the talk, to challenge my adversary. She was fawning over Halevy, and squeezing hands with a female friend. I fronted up to her. "Excuse me," I said, in my most polite tone. "Could I have a brief word?" She gave me a superficial smile that did not reach her eyes. "I would be very interested to know why you didn't give me the opportunity to ask a question." I said. "You saw me. I know you saw me early on, but you did not call on me. I'd like to know why not." She laughed in an off-hand manner, with all the practice and experience of those who control the discourse. "Oh, there was nothing intentional about it. I was trying to make sure I took questions from the entire room." "Well, from where I was sitting, I couldn't see many hands in the air," I countered. "But I know you saw mine. And I was a woman who wanted to speak. Every single person you called on was a man. It would have been nice if you had allowed a woman to speak." She then looked at me properly, for the first time, and there was a momentary pause whilst she scanned my face. "I don't know you," she said. "I don't know who you are. But I gave non-Jewish people the opportunity to speak. At the end, I saw someone I knew, who was Jewish, and I wanted to give him the opportunity to speak."

So that was that. With my blonde hair and blue eyes, I'd been profiled. With my vintage dress and coat, I was clearly not a member of the establishment. "I don't know you." And so, not known, I was silenced. Or maybe I was known, and my sweaty friend with his briefcase and suit had my number, and knew about my secret weapon. And took it away.

I raged all the way home. I drank and raged. I smoked and raged. I cried and raged. I raged because for the first time in my privileged little life, I could actually imagine how it felt to be on the outside. And I had played the 'woman' card, which I don't like doing. I would have felt just the same if I had been a man and had been silenced like that. But the woman card was a good one to play, and it was a good one to play to a woman. But ultimately, it didn't make any difference. "I don't know who you are."

Most of all I raged because that dishonourable man was lauded like a hero by people who either subscribe to his fascist views (yet are allowed to posture as decent members of 'the establishment'), or were convinced by his 'bad faith' logic. Either way, he, and the people who loved him, represented 'the monster'. And I was so upset and afraid that the monster-slayer from the night before, and all the monster slayers out there, might never be enough to counter such a clever, powerful and well-connected regime. And so all my hope and faith and delight from the night before shrivelled into a bitter little ball of failure. But at the same time a voice in my head, said, 'what are you, stupid? The very nature of dissent is that which you are dissenting against. You've spend so much time in the encouraging world of dissent, you've forgotten what this whole ugly thing looks like.'

So maybe it was, after all, a timely reminder for me of the nature of what I'm dealing with. And maybe I can dig out that bitter little ball and channel it somewhere good, after all. I just need to give the toxins time to work their way out of my system. And the greatest toxin of all ... Well, that may take a little time ... but I'll get there.

Efraim Halevy: A man of war

Antony Loewenstein's Blog
by Antony Loewenstein
October 18th, 2006

When was the last time a former head of Mossad lectured in Perth? It's a question that went through my head during Efraim Halevy's speech last week in Perth at the University of Western Australia. Entitled 'Where do we go from here?', the former spook spoke to an enthralled, predominantly 400-strong Jewish audience who seemed content hearing the official Israeli government line on the recent war with Hizbollah. He was welcomed like a present-day Moses.

Halevy is in Australia as a guest of the Australian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and will be speaking in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and the Gold Coast. He is the current head of Center for Strategic and Policy Studies at The Hebrew University's School of Public Policy. After all, it is exceedingly common for former senior public servants to serve out their twilight years in academia (and I was in Perth for a book event organised by Project SafeCom.)

Before Halevy started his off-the-cuff remarks, a lone protestor stood at the back of the auditorium waving a BLF-union flag. "Australia wouldn't let [Holocaust denier] David Irving in", he shouted, "so why let Halevy in?" A well-built security official soon escorted him from the room.

Halevy's principal aim was to debunk the currently accepted wisdom that Israel lost the war against Hizbollah. Wrong, stated the former Mossad head.

He claimed that Hizbollah "miscalculated" Israel's military superiority and "mauled" the militia's capability. He said the Lebanon war "was not pre-ordained or pre-planned" and "happened by accident." Syria and Iran were equally chastised, he alleged.

Halevy delivered a solid PR performance. Israel was a "responsible" and "stable" nation at the forefront of international development. He praised the medical and technological advances in Israel. He said that Israel was "setting precedents" in the "war on terror" by teaching the world how to fight Islamic terror. At this point, a lone fist was heard pounding on a side door of the auditorium and the screamed words, "Israel is a terror state."

Halevy was silent, however, on the occupation of West Bank and Gaza, so I stood up and asked whether he'd like to comment on the ongoing occupation that is contributing to unprecedented levels of anti-Israel sentiment - justified, in my opinion - around the world.

He said that Israel had the right to "every square inch" of Palestine for "strategic considerations." He said that the Palestinians also claimed all of Palestine as their own (in fact, Hamas now states that that it is willing to accept a Palestinian state on the lands occupied by Israel since 1967.) Although he talked of "mutual recognition on both sides", he refused to acknowledge that Israel is currently expanding its West Bank settlements and imposing even more checkpoints against the Palestinians.

Despite the obvious gaps in his talk, the audience seemed reassured by his words. As they left, they were greeted by a small but noisy protest that accused Halevy of being a "terrorist" and Mossad a "terrorist organisation."

Perhaps the life of a former Mossad head is to live out his days speaking to friendly audiences in unlikely places like Perth.