Many unhappy returns
A special protest in Gaza to mark the one year anniversary since the start of the so-called “March of Return” – which has regularly seen thousands of Palestinians violently protesting at the Gaza-Israel border – received media coverage.
ABC TV “7pm News” Vic (March 31) noted the protesters threw stones and petrol bombs and said they are demanding the “right to return to land which their ancestors fled or were forced to leave.”
SBS TV “World News” (March 31) noted that “the events mark[ed] the first anniversary of often violent weekly demonstrations.”
Reporter Rena Sarumpaet noted that Hamas leaders were present and “Palestinian security men [were] exerting control” which was “part of a reported arrangement with Israel” to ensure calm.
The story also included an Israeli Defence Forces statement that explosives and petrol bombs were also thrown in the latest protest.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph and Advertiser (March 27) ran a picture of a Gaza protester to highlight a news brief noting an international photographic competition. The accompanying text stated that the “protest[s were] organised by Palestinian protesters who reject the Israeli blockade of Gaza” and noted that “about 233 Palestinian protesters have been killed”.
The protests do not merely reject the blockade but reject Israel’s very existence.
On March 18, News columnists Andrew Bolt and Rita Panahi both highlighted how “Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US president Bill Clinton, was confronted by activists at an interfaith vigil for the Christchurch terror victims who told her “the 49 people died because of the rhetoric you put out there.”
Panahi wrote that Clinton is “always politically correct and never strays from mainstream Leftist doctrine, but was still blamed for stoking religious hatred, all because she dared criticise the anti-Semitism of a Muslim congresswoman.”
Bolt also explained how the “massacre [was used] to attack Clinton for opposing the anti-Semitism of Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar.”
The Courier Mail and the Advertiser reported (March 18) the confrontation without noting the vital point that Clinton had called out Omar’s repeated use of antisemitic tropes.
Beating the anti-Australia drum
An all-female Muslim panel on ABC TV’s “The Drum” (March 18) was criticised for inappropriately using Christchurch for their own political agendas.
Continuing in the same vein as she did on ABC RN “Late Night Live” (see last month’s AIR), Randa Abdel-Fattah threw in an obligatory dig at Israel, saying, “What worries me is when the bodies have been buried …and we move on as a society…what worries me is we’re going to forget that this is a bigger issue. This is a violent country and when you, for example, roll out the red carpet to Netanyahu, who decimates Palestinian bodies, when you go and train the Myanmar military in an ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, when you participate in arming a state that is killing Yemenis in the worst humanitarian crisis and you expect us not to think that violence is just something that’s exceptional to this country. We live with it every single day. We have Indigenous people who have lower life expectancy than us. They are dying in custody. Indigenous women, it’s the rising prison population. For brown and black bodies in this country violence is part of our life daily. Just because we don’t get our hijabs ripped off or we’re not shot up every single day, doesn’t mean that this is part of living in a white supremacist society.”
The other panellists, Sara Saleh, Lydia Shelly, Hanan Dover, and Diana Sayed largely made similar points to Abdel-Fattah.
News Corp columnist Rita Panahi (March 20), slammed the panel, saying, they “were meant to ‘discuss the social, cultural and political influences leading up to the Christchurch terror attack’ but disregarded facts, logic and the alleged terrorist’s own manifesto to instead savage Australia and Australians. If you were unfamiliar with Australia and took the program at face value, you’d be left believing that Australia was a deeply racist, hostile and backward nation teeming with white supremacists.”
Panahi said, “The Drum’s women were supposed to represent the wider Muslim community but their view of the country didn’t align with the Muslims I know who are grateful to be living in a country that is welcoming and inclusive, people who work hard, contribute and have seized the opportunities Australia provides. They would not settle here if the picture the ABC painted was accurate.”
Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan weighed in on misappropriating the massacre, writing (March 20), “Nothing was quite so sublimely fatuous as Nick Riemer in The Sydney Morning Herald suggesting the Christchurch terrorism proves that universities should reject the Ramsay Centre’s proposed courses on Western civilisation, as though studying Plato or Dante leads to mass murder. Of course, the utter foolishness of some academics does not diminish the sturdy common sense of most Australians.”
Mind your language
The massacre raised important discussions of how to talk about terror when perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam.
News columnist Tory Shepherd noted the role ideology plays in creating terrorists, writing “Maybe now is the time for warm, fuzzy platitudes. But tomorrow we need to more starkly identify the enemy and a path to stop them. Fortunately, much of that work has already been done: and fortunately right-wing and Islamic terrorists have quite a lot in common. Enough that we can often use the same strategies against them. The lone wolves tend to be men who’ve been marinating in ideological bile spewed by extremists. But wait, there’s more. In fact there are reams of work done by experts, by intelligence agencies, by academics, to chart the path of radicalisation. Our own spooks regularly brief parliament on the threats at hand,” Adelaide Advertiser (March 20).
Analysing the rise of far-right extremists, commentator Tanveer Ahmed claimed that, “White nationalism is the Newtonian response to Islamic terrorism, an equal and opposite reaction. In the wake of Christchurch, far right terrorism might now be on the threshold of overtaking it as a threat,” Australian Financial Review (March 18).
But in the Australian (March 22), Henry Ergas argued “neo-Nazis are not the jihadis’ opposite. They are their twins” pursuing the same objective to eradicate democracy and sharing “a hatred of Jews, who are at the heart of the conspiracy theories that frame their view of the world.” Ergas cited some examples of how a shared hate for Jews has seen members of both groups cooperate together, including Turkish President Erdogan and Turkey’s leading fascist party.
Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan said (March 18), “The type of people who hate Muslims in this context typically also hate Jews, and most often hate Asians. Just five minutes ago, their forebears in the white supremacist movements of the past hated Catholics as well.”
He also made the important point that “It is wrong… to refer to ‘Islamic terrorism’ for this gives the impression that terrorism is associated with the entire religious tradition
“Some commentators use the term jihadism or jihadist terrorism. This is too abstruse to convey meaning to a general audience. The most accurate term is ‘Islamist’ terrorism. Islamism is a political ideology based on a particular interpretation of Islam and even Islamism need not be violent. Islamist terrorism accurately conveys the meaning of the ideology of Islamism taken to a violent extreme.
“I make this point because one lesson of Christchurch is the need we all have to speak of each other with civility, especially when we are categorising people by broad groups, such as religion or race.”
Shedding light on the right
In the Australian Financial Review (March 19), Andrew Tillett quoted Executive Council of Australian Jewry research director Julie Nathan explaining the subgroups of “the far right is quite a mix of different ideas and ideologies.”
Tillett wrote, “Nathan says the far right should not be thought of as a monolithic sub-culture. Instead there were three distinct but overlapping groups: civic patriots, who want migrants to adopt Australian values; the nationalists who want to restrict migration to those of European heritage; and racialists who put white supremacy at the core of their beliefs, such as neo-Nazis.”
Talking to ABC Radio National “Minefield” hosts Scott Stephens and Waleed Aly (March 27), US antisemitism expert Deborah Lipstadt explained how antisemitism and most other forms of racism differ.
Lipstadt stressed that “one is not worse than the other but different”.
The right-wing racist, she said, “punches down” and looks at the “person of colour and says that person is going to destroy the white race” and “pollute” and “degrade”.
Whereas with antisemitism “they are punching up” and see “the Jew [as] talented… in an evil way. The Jew can pass. The Jew is not white but they can look white, they can look like one of us and the Jew operates behind the scenes to do evil,” she said.
Antisemitism on the left is “refracted through the prism” of class and ethnicity, she explained. “They look at Jews and they see white people who are privileged… and they say ipso facto, therefore Jews cannot be a victim of prejudice. It’s impossible… and I as a progressive person on the left could not be a purveyor of prejudice. Therefore, the Jews must have another objective, another motive [for pointing out antisemitism] and then they will say it’s because of Israel” or some other motive.
On anti-Zionism and people who insist they merely oppose Israel’s existence and want a one-state solution Lipstadt said it would see Jews become a minority and “I don’t know of any Muslim state where religious minorities have thrived.” Of those who say Israel’s Jews should go back to where they came from, such as Poland, Lipstadt noted, “52%” of Jewish Israelis are from the Middle East and would be considered “people of colour,” adding anti-Zionism is often a “cover” for antisemitism.
Ideology, not identity
An op-ed from AIJAC’s Colin Rubenstein noted the importance of recognising how ideology radicalises people to become Islamist or far-right terrorists, not their ethnicity, religious affiliation or nationality.
“Ideology”, Rubenstein said, “should always be central in any discussion of terrorism, whether white supremacist, Islamist or any other type, yet this has not always been the case.”
“Islamism” as an ideology is the threat, he said, which “is not only distinct from the respected religion of Islam but also a terrorism threat to a large proportion of the world’s overwhelmingly peaceful Muslims.”
He cautioned that the Christchurch terror attack may have been perpetrated by a “white supremacist” but it does not change the fact that the threat from Islamist terrorism is real and “we must find the resources and expertise to counter both challenges – and any other potential sources of terror,” West Australian (April 1).
News columnist Susie O’Brien made a similar argument (March 19), writing, “Almost all of the 50 deaths due to terrorist attacks in 2018 in the United States and 950 attacks in Germany in 2017 have been linked to Right-wing extremism targeting Islamics. I am not suggesting we stop reasoned, informed debate about the negative aspects of Islam. The focus needs to be on shutting down racist, anti-Islamic hate speech which views all Muslims as an explicit threat to the Australian way of life.”
News columnist Tim Blair ridiculed One Nation leader Pauline Hanson for claiming that the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre was a government conspiracy and not the action of lone gunman Martin Bryant (March 31).
As Blair noted, “the ‘blue book’ that apparently convinced Hanson there was something to Port Arthur massacre conspiracy claims, this is again something that appals people who’ll never vote for One Nation but won’t dent the party’s support at all. Deadly Deception At Port Arthur was written by late West Australian conspiracy hobbyist Joe Vialls, who believed almost everything bad was caused by Israel, including 9/11, the Lockerbie bombing and the 2004 Asian tsunami. Vialls, you see, was an idiot. But conspiracy theories are to One Nation voters as climate alarmism is to Greens – red meat for the base.”
It’s not all right
Analysing how political parties should preference One Nation candidates at the upcoming federal election, Nine newspapers’ chief political correspondent David Crowe stressed that there is no comparison between One Nation and the Greens because the former is “defined by racism”, (March 22).
Crowe acknowledged that “The anti-Semitic streak in the political left has been a dangerous madness for years. Australians see a hint of it whenever a Greens MP posts a Nazi-sympathiser image of a Jewish banker or stands on a platform alongside those who say the state of Israel should cease to exist. The schism over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in the United Kingdom shows that anti-Semitism can be just as debilitating a disease for the left as Islamophobia is for the right. Yet none of the Greens in Australia have engaged in the extremism of Hanson. None has called for an end to Jewish migration to Australia, or worn Jewish garb in Parliament to mock people of faith.”
The Australian’s Elias Visontay (April 1) reported on accusations that David Jeffery, a staffer for Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May in the seat of Macnamara, which has Melbourne’s largest percentage of Jews, said deaths in the Gaza Strip were “genocide”.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Alex Ryvchin described the comments as “appalling” and “betray a complete contempt for the sovereign rights of the Jewish people and an ignorance of fact and history… which can serve to incite hatred”.
Hating on Hate Speech Laws
The Institute of Public Affairs’ Gideon Rozner criticised proposals to regulate the internet to stop incitement on online forums and social media platforms and said laws against hate speech are problematic.
“The problem is that laws against ‘hate speech’ are, at best, a blunt instrument that almost always incur unintended consequences. We’ve seen anti-discrimination laws recently weaponised against Queensland University of Technology students who actually argued against racial segregation,” Age/Sydney Morning Herald (March 29).
Rozner is presumably referring to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act which gives people a legal avenue if they have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated based on their race, colour or national or ethnic origin.
The law was passed in 1995 and cognisant of the need to ensure that legitimate debate was not affected, the Act includes a provision – 18D – which lets people express views that are made “reasonably and in good faith” for artistic, academic, scientific or other public interest purposes.
Since then, the vast majority of cases have been resolved through mediation.
The law has attracted the ire of libertarians who have argued it has constrained their ability to talk about indigenous people and Muslims, amongst other topics. But there seems little hard evidence to show this is correct.
In the Queensland University case that Rozner mentioned, the case was initially thrown out by the Human Rights Commission but the plaintiff appealed before losing in court. Even this was an exception, rather than the norm.
An Australian Financial Review editorial (Feb. 20) warning of the revival of the progressive left referenced the defections of seven British Labour Party MPs who said they “quit the party in protest against the Venezuelan socialism of Jeremy Corbyn and the zealots around him”.
The paper published AIJAC’s Jeremy Jones’ letter (Feb. 27) highlighting the fact that the defectors had nominated antisemitism in the party as a major reason for their departure.
Jones wrote, “the fact the once anti-racist party is now considered by many long-term supporters to be institutionally racist is vital context when analysing the potential upheaval of British politics among broader global political shifts.”
A subsequent AFR editorial (Mar 18) reflecting on the Christchurch massacre stated “the left needs to watch its political language as well… look how quickly British Labour has become engulfed in anti-Semitism, imported along with the nasty sectarian politics of the authoritarian left that the party foolishly invited in.”