Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Prescription

Nov 28, 2011 | Jeremy Jones

The Last Word: Symptoms
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Jeremy Jones

Between 1 October 1989 and 30 September 2011, I have logged incidents of “racist violence” against Jewish Australians and Jewish Australian institutions, including 566 of physical assaults or property damage, and 1,180 incidents of direct harassment and intimidation (mainly of families walking to or from synagogue).

Also recorded were: 679 incidents of telephone abuse and threats; 1,290 individual mailings of anti-Jewish material; 877 incidents of anti-Jewish graffiti; 3,168 examples of unique emails with anti-Jewish content and/or threats; and 664 incidents of other types, including faxes, leaflets, stickers, text messages and posters.

I have additionally received many reports which may have been antisemitic but where there was insufficient evidence to justify inclusion, such as when Jewish Australians have been assaulted, harassed and abused in a manner or context which makes it unclear whether the Jewishness of the target was the cause of the offence.

A small minority of attacks on Israel or its alleged behaviour were expressed in a manner which identified them as antisemitic, but in many other cases antisemitism was a possible, but not definite motive. Unless unambiguously antisemitic, these incidents are excluded.
In the most recent 12 month period, a total of 517 reports were logged – 193 of what are broadly defined as attacks and harassment and 324 broadly logged as intimidation and threats.

Put bluntly: in contemporary Australia this year, ten times a week, every week, Jewish Australians were attacked or threatened.

While disturbing, these incidents should be viewed in the context of the many millions of interactions in the same period between Jews and non-Jews which are positive or neutral. Further, even if each of the 8,424 incidents recorded had been experienced by different individuals (which isn’t the case) the overwhelming majority of Jews in Australia never encounter physical manifestations of antisemitism.

The qualifications, however, work both ways.

There are organisations, as well as individuals, promoting antisemitism in Australia. There are many more, daily, examples of anti-Jewish propaganda and discourse than of physical attacks.

Further, while anti-Jewish violence and physical harassment has few public supporters or apologists, antisemitic comments find comfortable hosts on the on-line sites of mainstream, including government owned, media outlets. There are Christian and Muslim groups which will promote goodwill to Jews with one hand and publish supremacist and other anti-Jewish bigotry on the other hand. There are self-described progressive groups and organisations which tolerate or even promote anti-Jewish material when it suits their broader agendas.

Australia should provide an environment in which no person, Jewish or otherwise, is denied their right to live free of vilification, harassment, intimidation and assault.

Based on more than 20 years of analysis of antisemitic activity in Australia, I proffer the following suggestions:

  • Treat hate crimes seriously – the property damage or injury may often be slight but the impact on the community is significant;
  • Victims should not be the designated complainants against racists – the offence is against the community, not just individual targets;
  • Just as most Church groups have managed to psychologically distance themselves from pseudo-Christian racists, mainstream Muslims, leftists, rightists and others need to identify antisemites and racists as just that – bigots undeserving of a place on even a lengthy continuum;
  • It is time mainstream media and others grew up – the online world can no longer be regarded as some sort of alternative reality. If a posting on your website would not be published in print or broadcast by you, don’t provide it with an online platform and demean your brand;
  • Genuine anti-racists don’t tolerate double standards or demonisation of any group. Churches, particularly, should be aware that it is immoral to proclaim opposition to antisemitism and then, for example, promote supercessionist literature.

I don’t expect racists, bigots and hate mongers to transfer to the side of the angels, but is it unreasonable to expect that despicable views will be branded as such, continuously and consistently?

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