Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: Bullies, demonisers and slanderers

Sep 26, 2011 | Jeremy Jones

The Last Word: Bullies
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Jeremy Jones

On one side of George Street, Sydney, a motley group of a dozen or so people held up a banner reading, “Australia Welcomes the Red Army”. After some time they unfurled the last word – “Choir”.

On the other side, in front of the theatre where the visiting “cultural ambassadors” were performing, a number of groups opposed to some of the policies of the USSR (or of its very existence) held placards and handed out literature to passersby – but they were not in nearly as much harmony as the singers inside the theatre.

The group with which I was protesting was calling for religious freedom in the USSR and for those who wanted to do so to be allowed to emigrate. Many people, mainly curious on-lookers, walked past all the protest groups.

I vividly remember a smiling, elderly man walking past, hand in hand with a girl who looked to be about eight years old.

“These are our friends the Estonians”, he told her, followed by “These are our friends the Ukranians; these are our friends the Latvians” etc. until he came to our group.
“These are bloody Jews”.

I doubt there was a fair-minded person in Australia who didn’t think our cause was reasonable and even moral – but not everyone who opposed the USSR was moral or admirable.

In recent weeks there has been a fair bit of attention on the activities of the anti-Israel bullies, demonisers and slanderers (who call themselves BDS for other reasons), who try to stop Australians from purchasing anything from hot chocolate and perfume to padlocks.

The more the boycotters are active, the more they are exposed as ignorant, malicious thugs. Rather than promote tolerance or peace-building, they promote bigotry and stereotyping.

Far from directing followers along the path of justice, they have diverted some well-meaning but naïve Australians into sinful (on their terms) promotion of hostility.

Instead of contributing to understanding or knowledge, their written material and sloganeering is ignorant and simplistic, which is unsurprising when one discovers how little their chief advocates know about the issue on which they purport to have expertise.

In a time when Iranian and a variety of Arab leaders have been brutally suppressing human rights in their own countries, the public silence on unambiguous outrages by so many critics of Israel is very telling indeed.

The simple explanation is that the loudest and most vigorous proponents of anti-Israel policies are not standing for any moral position but are standing on the barricades – they are not principled, simply partisan.

As the ignorance, arrogance and anti-social activism has produced a snowballing of opposition to boycotters and delegitimisers, a few of the more cynical and desperate of the BDS apologists have tried to divert attention towards some of their opponents.

In the far-left blogosphere, with minor leakage into the mainstream media, there has been some glee, self-congratulation and moral posturing due to the sighting of far-right fringe elements at some anti-anti-Israel rallies.

Suppose one ignores temporarily the absurdities of people trying to prevent ordinary Australians conducting business without impediment trying to take the high-ground in discussion of values of tolerance and freedom. Suppose one also ignores the individuals seeking to smear and dehumanise Israel, Israelis and those who are sympathetic to them, acting as if they are morally superior to those they accuse of being part of a campaign to denigrate others. That still leaves a question as to the “meaning” of abhorrent people opposing anti-Israel fanatics.

Just as those who fought for human rights for the peoples under Soviet domination were doing what was both right and morally imperative, standing against the bigots who seek to demonise Israel and Jews today is doing what is right and morally imperative.

The movements opposed in both cases represented intellectual corruption and human indecency of a high order.

The fact that disreputable and repugnant people were against the Soviet Union did not elevate communist totalitarism to a higher plane. Similarly, unsavoury opponents of anti-Israel campaigners do not make those campaigners any less wrong-headed.

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