Iran debate brings out conspiracy theorists and Israel bashers

An attacked oil tanker near the Persian Gulf has sparked debate in the media about Iran policy

In recent weeks, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, and the Australian have published a number of different pieces analysing or reporting on the current international policy debate regarding Iran. The pieces themselves included expressions of a range of views on Iran policy, yet the comment sections all unfortunately featured a similar sprinkling of conspiracy theories about Israel and Jews.

Even though Israel is not mentioned in any of the articles, the comment sections were crawling with conspiratorial accusations of Israel’s involvement as well as antisemitic claims concerning the supposed dubious role of the “Jewish lobby.” Similar to AIJAC’s previous reporting of an innocuous Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece on political cartoons that attracted antisemitic comments, these mainstream analyses sparked hateful comments demonising Israel, even though Israel is of little or no relevance to the issues in question: Iranian behaviour, the US Administration’s efforts to exert “maximum pressure” on Iran, and how Australia should respond to these realities.

AIJAC’s Dr Colin Rubenstein was especially targeted in the comment section under his opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. His analysis did not mention Israel at all, but readers were quick to assume that a “Jewish Affairs spokesman” must have motives of “extreme bias” by representing “the Jewish lobby” which forces Israeli opinion on the Australian public.

Similar themes continued throughout the comments in multiple articles and news sources. The quotations documented below are taken from comment sections of seven articles published in June 2019 from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, and the Australian.

Some found it easy to blame Israel for the “anti-Iran propaganda,” because, as one keen reader of the Age put it, “Anything bad that happens in the Middle East generally has Israel and Saudi involvement.” One comment under Rodger Shanahan’s Australian article debating policies to contain Iran’s provocations even claimed that Israel was “trying to get third parties like Australia involved in another middle eastern war,” assigning Israel responsibility for “warmongering against Iran.”

Commenters go so far as to argue over decades-old Israeli-Palestinian history, bringing up Israel’s wars in 1948 and 1967 for no reason other than to falsely proclaim “Israel invaded Arab lands” and has continued to rely on “stolen” land- which, aside from its falsity, has no relevance to the issues being debated.

Antisemitism becomes apparent in another common theme of the comments: conspiracy theories that Israel is orchestrating the recent events in Iran, dictating US foreign policy, and/or inciting war for Israel’s own political agenda. The US and Australia have supposedly been “hijacked by Israel using Western puppets to eliminate her enemies,” using “her rich and powerful pressure groups in Washington and New York” to control their policies. As “the only nation wanting war,” one comment asks how we can “stop the Israeli tail wagging the American dog,” because, of course, “Trump is in the pocket of Netanyahu in Israel.”

Moreover, some commentators were convinced that “the Israeli’s (sic) are masters of covert operations,” and therefore were likely behind the tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf that have been widely blamed on Iran or its proxies.

Finally, the most irrelevant and bizarre espoused view was the insistence that the situation with Iran is really about Palestinian suffering and would easily resolve if Israel stopped perpetrating this oppression.

These comments speak for themselves.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

From the Sydney Morning Herald under Colin Rubenstein’s piece:

From the Australian:

From the Australian:

Apparently under the influence of the inexplicable but all too widespread belief that all regional problems stem from the failure to adequately address Palestinian grievances, these readers have somehow conflated the Iranian issue with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At a time of growing antisemitism internationally, these comments are yet another sign that Australia is hardly immune from this dangerous reality, not only in the darker corners of the internet, but also out in the open on the websites of our own mainstream media.