Australia/Israel Review


AMUST after Oct 7: Defending Hamas and antisemitism

Dec 20, 2023 | Ran Porat

The image chosen for the AMUST December 2023 editorial (Image: AMUST website screenshot)
The image chosen for the AMUST December 2023 editorial (Image: AMUST website screenshot)

The Australian Muslim Times (AMUST) is a repeat offender when it comes to publishing extremist content, antisemitic material and conspiracy theories regarding Israel. Yet the barrage of such material in the AMUST following the October 7 massacre by Hamas was unusual in terms of both volume and viciousness.

In this first part of a two-part series, I will review AMUST’s editorials and a few examples of the material published in October, November and December 2023.

 

AMUST editor: poor Hamas only has inaccurate rockets

Zia Ahmad is the Editor-in-Chief of AMUST. In the November edition, Ahmad sought to “educate” readers about the “Historical background to 7 October attack.” Alas, Ahmad’s “education” involved not historical facts, but rather untruths.

For example, he asserted Israel’s response to October 7 was “mounting revenge killing of many times more Palestinians.” Yet Israel’s stated war aims in its campaign of self-defence are about removing Hamas from power and rescuing its hostages in Gaza, not about revenge, and certainly not targeting all Palestinians.

Ahmad offers an apologetic defence of Hamas’ attack: “the root cause of 7 October attacks has a long history where Palestinians have been made to live under brutal military occupation in the West Bank and under siege in an open-air prison in Gaza while Israeli settlers live in leafy suburban settlements armed to the teeth, enjoying life and partying under the protection of Israeli military and police.” Apparently, according to Ahmad’s rationalisation, Israeli Jews partying, or just living in their homes, is sufficient reason to rape, murder and kidnap them.

Hamas, according to Ahmad, “is a democratically elected legitimate authority governing Gaza Strip” – ignoring the fact that this terrorist organisation seized sole control over Gaza in a bloody coup d’etat in 2007 during which it killed many Palestinian opponents in cold blood.

After portraying Hamas as just like any other governing party, Ahmad does note that Hamas’ “armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades have engaged Israel from time to time, justifying its attacks to resist Israeli occupation and occasionally targeting Israeli civilians in Israel proper and armed settlers in the occupied areas.” He fails to note that this “engagement” came mainly in the form of the tens of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians for more than 15 years – each one a war crime.

Despite acknowledging the reality of the “indiscriminate attacks by the Al-Qassam Brigades,” Ahmad argues that the real reason why Hamas was listed as a terrorist organisation in several countries (including Australia) is that this measure was “pushed by the Israeli lobby in these countries” – a claim clearly invoking antisemitic tropes about Jewish power, as well as suggesting the Australian Government is incapable of recognising its own security interests and examining objective realities.

The editorial concludes with Ahmad laying out, and not demurring from, Hamas’ extremist ideology, which views Israel as “a racist and apartheid state with discriminatory laws incorporated to promote the settlement of foreign Jews while denying indigenous people of Palestine to live peacefully on their own ancestral land.”

In the closing lines of the editorial, Ahmad defends Hamas by insisting that it had to confront Israel “with only inaccurate rockets against missiles, pickup trucks against tanks and gliders” – all of which were the means cruelly used for the mass killing and war crimes conducted by the Palestinians on October 7.

The image for AMUST’s December editorial (“War on Gaza: The battle of the two narratives”) was a popular online meme spread by Hamas and its supporters. Two pictures, side by side: on the left, an Israeli border patrol officer holding a Palestinian teenager, possibly arresting him after a crime, such as an attempt to harm an Israeli; on the right, an armed Hamas terrorist in a ‘friendly’ gesture next to an allegedly Israeli child, smiling. There is ample evidence that Israelis, including children, kept by Hamas in Gaza after they were kidnapped on October 7, were held in very harsh conditions, were basically tortured in many cases and then forced or drugged into making friendly gestures toward their captors as they were released.

The editorial itself opens by immediately tapping into anti-Jewish conspiracy theories by alluding to the trope that Jews have global domination over politicians and the media. Soon after the attack, Ahmad says, “Israel’s highly sophisticated propaganda machinery with its reach into Western centres of political power, the mainstream media and its global network of lobbyists particularly in US, UK, Canada, France and Australia started building the pro-Israel narrative targeting and demonising Hamas.”

Describing Hamas’ well-documented crimes against humanity by using the “Keywords of Hamas, terrorists, murderers, killers, rapists, hostage takers, baby killers, decapitators, arsonists,” was just a smokescreen, he said, “in order to deflect blame from the Israeli government and the incompetence of the Israeli forces and its intelligence agencies.”

Ahmad appeared to be saying Israeli victims were butchered by the Palestinian “fighters” for a good reason: “Hamas was blamed for the killing of 1400 people initially that was later reduced to 1200 by break away fighters from Gaza of ‘innocent civilians’ without clearly spelling out that almost 300 killed were Israeli soldiers and the rest settlers occupying Palestinian lands and overseas workers employed by these settlers.” Of course, Israeli civilians butchered near Gaza are “settlers…occupying Palestinian land” only if you believe every single Israeli Jew should be deemed a “settler…occupying Palestinian land.” Ahmad then denied the well-established fact that Hamas terrorists raped many women, while also regurgitating the lie circulated by the Palestinian Authority that Israeli army helicopters killed large numbers of Israeli civilians on October 7.

The editorial reached new levels of self-righteousness when Ahmad sanctimoniously defended pro-Palestinians in Australia (and elsewhere) who celebrated the death and horrors of October 7. “At the initial stages, the supporters of Palestine celebrated the spectacular success of the militants breaking out of the high-tech barrier with their crude gliders, pick up vans, motor bikes and of [sic] the shelf drones, some in their thongs and taking on the mighty Israeli high tech militarised machinery.”

Yet Ahmad immediately contradicts himself. After claiming that reports of Hamas crimes were false, he then argues that atrocities did actually occur but were repudiated by Palestinian supporters in Australia: “However later when the large number of those killed in Israel, atrocities being committed and abduction of women, children and the elderly came to light, those who supported the initial success of the militants retracted their celebratory statements.”

Other AMUST articles from the same period, for example by Mohamed Ainullah, repeated the exact same arguments, often in the same words put forward by Ahmad.

 

Justifying and praising Hamas

Defending and glorifying Hamas and the bloody October 7 campaign of mass murder is a motif of AMUST stories for the last three months. Here are a few examples.

Imam Ali, the former President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, could not hide his admiration for Hamas. In his piece for AMUST (Oct. 27), he proudly states, “The resilience of Hamas is remarkable and their most recent incursion across the border was predictable given the air, sea and land blockade of a city with 2.4 million for nearly two decades. Gaza has the dubious distinction of being the largest open-air prison in the world.”

He then suggests a moral equivalence between the Hamas attack on women and children, and Israel’s war to remove the murderous threat of Hamas from Gaza. “Killing of innocent people by Hamas is of course abhorrent,” he sanctimoniously says, “but the State of Israel’s hands are arguably no less brutal.” Ali ends his text by concluding that “Colonisation and occupation must end as should apartheid. The two-state solution has gone nowhere. Is it time to consider one-state solution?”

In “Uncovering justifications to exterminate forgotten Palestinians” (Oct. 27), Shahjahan Khan, a retired statistics professor from Bangladesh, rhetorically asks: “So why are Palestinians treated worse than animals by Israelis; why is ethnic cleansing not a crime to them, more so to the world?” His conspiratorial answer is “With the full backing of almost all Western powers and their leaders, the Murdoch media conglomerate, and immeasurable military funding, the Zionist army is in full action in the air, from the sea, and on the land to annihilate as many blameless Palestinians as possible to secure their apartheid state and expand the illegal settlements for foreign Jews.”

Khan indirectly admits his own support for Hamas’ actions by pointing to “Many prominent anti-Israeli activists and organisations [that] have expressed their full support for the Hamas actions on different media outlets. They are framing Hamas’s surprise attacks as a natural outburst of an anti-occupation struggle and hence a form of ‘resistance’ for self-determination. They [are] correct [by noting the] fact that many Jews are against Zionism and apartheid state of Israel.”

“Hamas is a resistance force committed to regain the land, dignity, and nationhood,” states Khan who then goes on to equate Israel with Nazi Germany: “Ironically, the way Hitler treated Jews in Germany, the Zionists are treating the people of Palestine much worse than that.”

Khan is certain that Israeli Jews are racist evil beings who seek to dominate and exterminate all others: “The rulers of Israel strongly believe that they are superior to Arabs, Christians and Muslims, because they are intellectually, morally, physically much better than Palestinians (and others [sic] non-Jews). This superior status drives them to abuse, assault, humiliate, and kill anyone, let alone the people of Gaza.”

Finally, Khan finishes off his AMUST article with the old-fashioned antisemitic conspiracy theory about the Jews seeking to take over the whole region from the Nile to the Euphrates: “Gradual occupation of Palestine is the beginning of expanding Israels boarders [sic] to the ‘Greater Israel’, ‘from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates’ as dreamed by the founding father of Zionism Theodore Herzl, as a Jewish State. So, make no mistakes, Gaza is just the beginning. Once the buffer state with strong resistance force is defeated, the IDF would move to other neighbouring Arab kingdoms to create the ‘Greater Israel’ soon.”

In the next AIR I will review more of the toxic narratives promoted in AMUST’s articles, and on its social media accounts, since October 7.

Dr. Ran Porat is a lecturer on Israel and Middle Eastern Affairs at Monash University and an affiliate research associate at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation. He is also an AIJAC research associate and a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya.

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