Conspiracy theories in Australia – An Update
Nov 27, 2020 | Ran Porat
Several leading voices in the Muslim and Arabic-speaking communities in Australia have been continuing to publish antisemitic tropes, anti-Israel fake news and conspiracy theories. What follows is a brief review of some of these extreme voices over the past few months.
The Sydney based El-Telegraph Arabic-language newspaper, an outlet with a problematic history of disseminating antisemitic conspiracy theories, has been publishing articles insisting Israel must have been responsible for the blast at the Beirut port on Aug 4.
In his column on Oct. 26, El-Telegraph editor Antoine Kazzi OAM tied the Beirut blast to the Abraham Accords peace deals between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Inspired by reports that Dubai’s state-owned company DP World is considering purchasing the Haifa port jointly with an Israeli firm, Kazzi mused that “Perhaps the destruction of the Beirut port was required to enable a smooth and legitimate Gulf recovery of the port of Haifa.”
Similarly, El-Telegraph chose to republish an article by Wajih Rafi, a retired Brigadier General of the Lebanese Army, and a former military attaché at the Lebanese Embassy in Washington. In “The harbour explosion. And the painful truth” (originally posted on a Lebanese website), Rafi stated that “Some intelligence circles are still insisting on accusing Israel of the operation [the Beirut explosion], by using smart, qualitative and modern weapons, which are not visible to the naked eye, [as Israel] is the world leader in weapons and missile technology.”
Israel perpetrated the attack, wrote Rafi, because the Beirut port, “is a major economic artery on the eastern Mediterranean basin, constituting a serious competitor to Haifa port, as Israel is trying to convert it [the Haifa Port] to the main port in the region.”
Farah News is an Arabic-language Australian news and commentary portal, operating from Sydney, that also has a documented record of spreading antisemitism and conspiracies.
In September, Farah News ran “The United Nations Abrahamic scheme in the Middle East” by Zuhair Al-Sebaei, a regular contributor to the website. In this article, Al-Sebaei contended that the Abraham Accords were part of the “Abrahamic United Nations” grand scheme originating from Washington to control the Middle East by setting up an Israeli imperial state over large tracts of the region.
The Abraham Accords are but one stage of the plan, he preposterously claimed, that incorporates areas “from Iraq, through Turkey and Syria, to Jerusalem”, while “Israel announced that its promised state would be within this path, meaning from the Euphrates to the Nile, and [that] we [Israel] will throw the Arabs into the sea.”
Another Al-Sebaei article, published by Farah News a few days later, “Will normalisation with Israel save the Syrian regime?”, again claimed that Israel is a puppet used by Western powers to take over the Middle East: “[T]he Jews were planted and settled in Palestine in order to tear and fragment the Arab world and to secure the interests of the Western countries that colonised the region and are still colonising it through their proxies,” he wrote.
“Whatever the Arab rulers do,” concluded Al-Sebaei, “the Arab peoples will not accept the existence of the Israeli cancer that gnaws and eats their flesh.”
Australian Muslim Times (AMUST)
Editors of the established Australian Muslim Times (AMUST) published an opinion piece by Dr Aslam Abdullah titled “Macron played makar (deception) and God has his plans” commenting critically on the tension between French President Emmanuel Macron and many Muslims, both in France and abroad, prompted by Macron’s reaction to terrorist killings in response to a teacher showing his students cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.
The article contained baseless slander against Jews, Israel and Zionism, even though these have nothing to do with the current tension over the policies of the French Government. Abdullah claimed that “In Australia and the USA, the tri alliance of Christian evangelists, Zionists, and Hindutva has joined hands to attack Islam and Muslims and project them as unfit to be part of Western civilisation.” Similarly, he argues that “The roots of Islamophobia are in the literature found in Christian, Jewish, secular and Hindu literature” and “Christians and Jews use their scriptures to capture Palestine and persecute Palestinians.”
Covering Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential elections for AMUST, Zia Ahmad chose to quote extensively from an article by American antisemite and Holocaust denier Philip Giraldi. Among the excerpts from Giraldi’s article, titled ‘Israel wins US Elections’, quoted by Ahmed is this:
“The United States has become Israel’s bitch and there is hardly a politician or journalist who has the courage to say so. Congress and the media have been so corrupted by money emanating from the Israeli lobby that they cannot do enough to satisfy America’s rulers in Jerusalem. And for those who do not succumb to the money there is always intimidation, career-ending weaponised accusations of holocaust-denial and anti-Semitism. It is all designed to produce one result: whoever wins in American elections doesn’t matter as long as Israel gets what it wants.”
Algerian-born Perth-based Sunni preacher Sufyaan Khalifa is one of Australia’s most active conspiracy theory fans and promoters, his efforts including the inevitable use of antisemitic tropes. Posting dozens of videos online, he aggressively pushes wild coronavirus conspiracies to a loyal base of followers among opponents of the COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne. Many of his coronavirus fables include an antisemitic component, for example, labelling as “Zionist” policy makers in Victoria, such as Premier Daniel Andrews and Victoria Police, that promulgate and enforce lockdown rules he does not approve of.
In mid-September, Khalifa blamed “global Zionism” and Israel for creating coronavirus, the 9/11 terror attacks and other calamities: “The 9/11 events, COVID-19, ISIS, Boko Haram [African Jihadist terror organisation] and other bad events ravaging in the world – they are the results of the leaders of one element – global Zionism that controls the world and their many friends, that are igniting conflicts in several areas across the world,” he said.
He also unsurprisingly claimed that Israel caused the Beirut blast by attacking the port with a sea-to-land Gabriel missile and a Delilah “nuclear missile” fired from an F-16 jet.
Portraying Israel in satanic terms as a country seeking to expand as part of an evil global scheme to control the Middle East is one of Khalifa’s main themes. In May, Khalifa warned Muslims about the coming of a supposed “Big Israel”, in which Israel will control Lebanon, Syria, parts of Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula, and that most Arabs who live there will be killed.
In “Al-Quds [belongs] to us” Khalifa cursed the “criminal Zionists”, the “lying conqueror oppressor” Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, and called US President, Donald Trump and Netanyahu “wild friends from the monkeys and pigs”, and “murderers”.
“I will not forget you Palestine”, another of his online videos, contains a warning by Khalifa that “Palestine is not for sale” because it belongs to “her sons, and to the families of Muslims, Christians and other denominations” displaced from it by “the Zionist occupiers”. He then calls on Arabs to teach their children the highly controversial Sahih Muslim Islamic Hadith (a story or saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammed and/or his companions) – which prophesies that Muslims will kill all the Jews on Judgement Day.
On his social media, Khalifa also promotes antisemitic and conspiratorial materials. In October, he shared The Fall of the Cabal fake ‘documentary’, since removed by YouTube, promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory, known to incorporate antisemitic tropes. This video touts slurs about evil Ashkenazi “Khazar” Jews taking over the world.
It is easy to underestimate these people and dismiss the toxic lies they spread as marginal. But that would be a mistake. History teaches us the painful lesson that such words find their way to others who then act on them with hate and violence. For that reason, Australian society should be made aware of, and be vigilant to reject, confront and further marginalise, such voices.