Emails I have received these past few days included comments such as “What a repulsive race you Jews are”, “Can you not see why the Gallant Germans had to try to rid Jews from Europe”, “the Jews are committing on the Palestinians a real Holocaust not a Jew bullshit one” and “what a violent evil race” Jews comprise.
In a march through Sydney streets which I had the misfortune to encounter, I saw children waving banners which both accused Jews of being as bad as Nazis and implying the Nazis were not so bad after all, observed Greens and Labor Party activists associating with placards and slogans supporting Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, witnessed a Christian clergyman and self-described Jews walking in front of placards asserting that Islam will one day triumph over all non-believers and heard vocal calls for an existential battle which would end Jews once and for all.
After participating in a function hosted by a Muslim group marking the end of a Ramadan fasting day, I was informed that another participant had “a problem” with the fact I am “a Jew”, having posted on Facebook that my presence made her “want to vomit”.
A metropolitan broadsheet used letters accusing Israel of conducting “a murder spree”, a “frenzy of savagery” and a “savage and indiscriminate collective punishment of a civilian population” to bookend an even more atrocious letter.
The centre-piece depicted Israel as a US-armed version of Nazi Germany, with the writer alleging Israel is involved in “extermination”, is “loving” killing people and seeks to “annihilate the Palestinian people”, in a blatant apologia for Nazism coupled with advocacy for Israel’s abolition.
On the Facebook page of a Sydney-based group organising anti-Israel events, moderators permitted comments such as “Jews … have always been bloodthirsty”, are “whining about the Holocaust”, have “all the money in the world” and similar statements, interwoven with sinister suggestions that the Jewish community in Sydney’s “eastern suburbs” needed to become better acquainted with pro-Hamas protesters.
I am not suggesting that everyone opposed to the logic, conduct or impact of Israel’s military action is an antisemite, and I in no way belittle those with a genuine concern for the victims of the violence and those who want to change things for the better.
But antisemites, from the far right and left, and those driven by their interpretations of Christianity, Islam or other faiths/ideologies, have undeniably been using the fighting in Gaza as a pretext for verbalising and promoting their hatred.
In Australia we have been fortunate that the violent attacks on Jewish people, in Europe, Asia and North Africa, have not, with one exception, yet been replicated and hopefully will not be.
To demonstrate how serious the situation is in Europe, the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement condemning “Antisemitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies.”
They stressed the protestors had every right to freedom of speech and of assembly, but not to conduct “acts and statements that cross the line into antisemitism, racism and xenophobia”.
I have received personal communication from Muslims, Members of Parliaments and civil society, who expressed their abhorrence at anti-Jewish hostility being expressed openly and unapologetically in Australia.
Media commentators Andrew Bolt, Gerard and Anne Henderson, Tim Blair and some others have ensured that the issue is on the public agenda.
But while federal and state authorities with statutory responsibility to promote communal harmony have been very vocal, as is appropriate, in condemning acts of racism on public transport and sporting fields, they are far away from being in the vanguard of criticising anti-Jewish vitriol in marches through Australia’s cities.
When Facebook pages, letters to editors and demonstrations through CBDs have been directed at any other group of Australians, we have come to expect authoritative, moral leadership.
I hope, by the time this article is published, we have seen and heard such leadership condemning antisemitism – a belated but still essential action.