March/April felt like a turning point in the mainstream media reporting on the recrudescence in global antisemitism.
This year, with Passover and Good Friday – a date freighted with historic instances of anti-Jewish libels and violence – coinciding, ABC Radio National “Breakfast” (March 30) decided to run a program on Christian Zionism featuring high profile British antisemite Reverend Stephen Sizer.
Sizer’s antisemitism includes cavorting with and citing Holocaust deniers and circulating and endorsing material suggesting Israel and/or Jews orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
Sizer was given time to denounce any theological relationship between the Land of Israel and Jews, accuse Israel of “want[ing] all the land” and assert it was “not a democracy.” He was asked about some of his past dalliances with antisemitism, but was allowed to dismiss them without any follow-up questions from host David Rutledge, who instead inserted his own view: “I accept that you’re not an antisemite.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Peter Wertheim’s criticism of the “‘soft interview’… as an affront to Jewish people” and Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich’s statement that the ABC “crossed the line big time,” were reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and Age (April 4).
Elsewhere, the West Australian clearly grasped signs of something afoot – reporting (March 29) the stabbing murder on “anti-Semitic grounds” of 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll; noting (April 9) Germany’s appointment of “its first anti-Semitism commissioner” and covering (April 21) the brazen antisemitic attack in Berlin on Israeli Arab Adam Armoush by a Syrian man. Armoush had ironically worn a skullcap as an experiment to disprove his friend’s claim that the city is unsafe for Jews.
Daily Telegraph (March 28) columnist Miranda Devine reported on the antisemitism seen in a video of Australian Jewish right-wing activist Avi Yemini at a refugee rally wearing a skullcap and trying to convince people to sign a petition supporting asylum for persecuted white South African farmers.
Age columnist Julie Szego looked at alleged antisemitism on the left and right (April 15). This included the “racist demonisation” by Hungarian PM Viktor Orban of Jewish billionaire George Soros during the country’s recent elections, US President Donald Trump’s “equivocation” on a range of far-right groups with antisemitic beliefs, and British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Questions over Corbyn and leftist antisemitism garnered significant media coverage following the March 26 demonstration against Labour tolerance of antisemitism attended by disgruntled Jews and Labour members and MPs outside the British Parliament.
In the Australian (March 28), UK Times columnist Hugo Rifkind detailed the litany of historic accusations against Corbyn, suggesting he “should ask himself why people who dislike Jews seem to think that his party is a party for them.”
Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan discussed the alliance between the left and Islamists (April 12), opining that “one reason [Corbyn’s] personal history of extremism doesn’t count against him is that young people have no clue about the historical issues on which [he] routinely sided with the communists and the dictators.”
Fairfax European correspondent Nick Miller reported (April 22) that “some in Labour fear [antisemitism] poses an existential threat to the party,” quoting the concerns of Jewish and non-Jewish Labour supporters.
The Corbyn/UK Labour issues were also unpacked in an excellent discussion by ABC Radio National “Late Night Live” (April 5) guest host Josh Zepps and Ian Dunt, editor of politics.co.uk.
The Guardian Australia – which has itself been accused of echoing much of the anti-Israel agenda of Corbyn and his fellow travellers in some of its content – editorialised (March 28): “this latest episode is not about Israel. It’s worth repeating that there is nothing anti-Jewish in criticising Israel’s conduct… But it is antisemitic to dismiss every heartfelt complaint of anti-Jewish racism as an attempt to stifle discussion of Israel, for it suggests that Jews never act in earnest, but are rather motivated by an ulterior motive… Corbyn… cannot elevate himself above this reality. But that is the mistake he is making.”
Still, some in Australia insist on making the same mistake. In his vile piece noted opposite, aside from relying upon two alleged antisemites to justify calling Israel an “apartheid state”, Greg Barns also insisted on talking about “the insidious influence Israel has on Australian society” and expressing disgust that “the Israel lobby labels … supporters [of BDS] anti-Semitic,” Mercury (April 16).