FRESH AIR

Expect antisemitism, terror support at local Al Quds Day rallies

May 31, 2019 | Naomi Levin

Al Quds Day Melbourne in 2016.
Al Quds Day Melbourne in 2016.

Al Quds Day rallies will shortly be held in Melbourne and Sydney. These events are hosted and addressed by Australians who openly support the Iranian Government’s extreme agenda and Iran’s militant proxy Hezbollah.

In the lead up to this year’s rallies, one of its organisers and chief supporters, Sydney-based Sheikh Namy Farhat, has already caught the attention of monitors at the social media giant YouTube. In recent days, YouTube removed one of Sheikh Farhat’s videos because the content incites violence. Dangerously, the video is still available on the Australian Al Quds Day Committee Facebook page.

Al Quds Day in Australia was initiated by a small group of pro-Iranians, including Sheikh Farhat, who is expected to attend the Al Quds Day event in Bexley, Sydney.

Earlier this year, Melbourne academic Dr Ran Porat exposed how Sheikh Farhat and his colleagues openly express their allegiance to the Iranian Government and the terrorist organisations it funds, including Hezbollah. Dr Porat also found evidence of Sheikh Farhat spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories to his Sydney-based congregants.

Farhat has taken to social media to blame “Zionist puppets” for trying to stop him spreading his offensive and dangerous rhetoric “through their evil ways”. However his hateful messages are failing to pass YouTube’s standards with the Google-owned social media giant removing his 2018 Al Quds Day speech, in which he declared his support for Iran and Hezbollah. YouTube said the speech “glorifies violent criminal organizations or incites violent acts against individuals or a defined group of people”.

Unlike in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and elsewhere, Australians can legally wave Hezbollah flags on the street, raise money for the group and preach in support of its militant activities, as Sheikh Farhat does. This is because the Australian Government differentiates between Hezbollah and an entity it calls the Hezbollah External Security Organisation. Hezbollah leaders, Western politicians and analysts all agree this differentiation is bogus, but the Australian Government only designates the Hezbollah External Security Organsation as a terrorist organisation. The Government maintains this is at the advice of intelligence organisations, but even parliamentarians are calling for the ban to be extended.

A demonstrator at the 2017 Al Quds Day rally in Melbourne.

Each year, anti-Zionists around the world mark Al Quds Day. The event protests the entire existence of the State of Israel and was established by the Iranian revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The rhetoric at Al Quds Day events is extreme, violent and often antisemitic. On the Al Quds Day Melbourne Facebook page, organisers shared a lecture by a Shi’ite researcher who ‘explains’ in Urdu that Jews were responsible for the death of Mohammed.

If past events are any indication, Melbourne and Sydney‘s Al Quds Day rallies will likely include venomous hate speeches against Israel, as well as enthusiastic calls to align behind the oppressive Islamist regimes of Iran and Syria, and in support of Hezbollah and other terrorist groups committed to the destruction of Israel.

This year’s local Al Quds Day rallies will feature the regular list of extremist speakers, including radical anti-Zionist priest Dave Smith and disgraced academic Tim Anderson, notorious for showing University of Sydney students material featuring a Nazi swastika imposed over the flag of Israel. Anderson’s fellow travellers will also be given stage time during the rally – Drew Cottle from Western Sydney University,  who, like Anderson, is a member of the pro-Bashar al-Assad and pro-Hezbollah organisation, the Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies; as well as Anderson’s colleague, Jay Tharappel, who is happy to wear a badge with the slogan “Death to Israel”.

Also scheduled to address local Al Quds Day events are Hussein Dirani of the Ahlul-Bait World Assembly, an Iran-based organisation dedicated to spreading Khomeinist ideology; and former Palestinian diplomat Ali Kazak, known for extreme rhetoric and spreading anti-Israel untruths, for example, the discredited ‘Plan Dalet’ fable about an Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing in 1948.

In this case, what is right for YouTube, is valid for Australia in general. Supporters of terrorist organisations, such as Hezbollah, as well as those spreading antisemitic hate, should not be able to advance their cause in Australia under the guise of Al Quds Day.

One way to prevent this from happening is for the Government to designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, which would make actively supporting the group illegal. After extending its own ban on Hezbollah earlier this year, police in the United Kingdom are poised to intervene if Hezbollah flags or banners are flown on British streets this Al Quds Day.

Until a similar ban is extended in Australia, local police are powerless to stop public displays of support for a terrorist organisation that has perpetrated mass killings around the world, continues to seek the destruction of Israel and, as has been previously reported by AIJAC, is active at some level in Australia.

The Al Quds Day events underline once again that it is time for the Government to extend its ban to the entirety of Hezbollah.

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