“Zionists” blamed for Moselmane investigation

Controversial NSW Labor MLC Shaoquett Moselmane

The latest major issue to receive the Jewish conspiracy theory treatment is the news that NSW legislator and Labor powerbroker Shaoquett Moselmane has been caught up in an investigation into alleged foreign interference in Australian politics.

In recent months, numerous global news stories have been quickly and conspiratorially linked to Jews or Israel. This has been particularly acute on social media, where a single post can reach an enormous global audience. From coronavirus – and the nonsensical rumours that continue to circulate social media that Jews were spreading it and/or somehow benefiting from its spread – to the Black Lives Matter movement, which some activists have tried to turn into an Israel-bashing movement. Their attempts include a bizarre conspiracy theory that Israel is somehow ultimately responsible for violent tactics by US police – a conspiracy theory that led British Labour leader Keir Starmer to sack key frontbencher Rebecca Long-Bailey late last week after she retweeted an article containing the falsehood.

In this instance, Moselmane is allegedly being investigated over possible links between him, or his parliamentary office, and the Chinese Government. There is no suggestion that this investigation has any connection whatsoever to Israel, nor to the local Jewish community.

Some though, have chosen to make this link. This is possibly because Moselmane has come under fire in the past, from both within and outside the Jewish community, for his inflammatory anti-Israel language in Parliament, including comparing the Israeli military to Nazis. Moselmane was also publicly slammed by his Labor parliamentary colleague Walt Secord after he refused entry to the executive director of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies at a Labor Party multicultural event to which he had been invited.

Despite there being no connection between the ASIO investigation into foreign interference and Moselmane’s past clashes with the NSW Jewish community and vituperation against the State of Israel, controversial former University of Sydney academic Tim Anderson went ahead and drew a link anyway.

Disgraced academic Tim Anderson meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2013

Anderson, readers may recall, was sacked by the University of Sydney for superimposing a swastika over an Israeli flag in material he presented during a lecture. He is also notorious for his support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, has made “solidarity visits” to both Syria and North Korea and calls Israel a “sectarian European colony” that engages in “ethnic cleansing”.

In a series of tweets to his 31,5000 followers on June 26, Anderson said Labor MPs have not defended Moselmane during the investigation because of his “views about #China” and his “criticisms of #apartheidIsrael”.

Anderson continued: “Shaoquett Moselmane MLC has been suspended from the ALP for his privately funded visits and links to #China. What about these eight MPs who recently went on paid ‘MPs study tours’ to #apartheidIsrael?” This comment was linked to a photo of seven NSW MPs, three of whom represent Labor, who travelled to Israel with the support of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Of course, Anderson is not only making an absurd connection, but is just wrong about the investigation – it is presumably about illegal activities, not perfectly legal ones like taking trips to China or having “links” to China. Moreover, Moselmane himself says he is not a suspect in the matter being investigated.

But Anderson did not stop there – he posted a subsequent tweet with a comment from a research publication by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) on overseas trips taken by Australian Government MPs, noting “the largest sponsor of all non-Australian Government-funded trips for federal parliamentarians (2010-2018) was #AIJAC”.

This could well be one of the oldest tricks in the conspiracy theory book: inferring and assuming that because some MPs have travelled to Israel with non-government organisations, they then become forbidden from speaking out on completely unrelated issues, and that the effect of these open and duly declared trips paid for by private Australian organisations is the same as alleged covert, and presumably illegal, attempts by the Chinese Communist Party to control Australian politicians.

And here’s the thing, those trips to Israel do not come with a caveat that muzzles participants on their return. Also, ASPI’s research did not even consider trips taken by state MPs, so the link is sloppy, not to mention weak.

Finally, most Labor MPs have neither defended nor condemned Moselmane at this stage, given the investigation is ongoing and no charges have been laid. NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay has suspended Moselmane from the party due to the seriousness of the allegations, and Moselmane has taken a leave of absence from NSW Parliament.

Anderson followed up his June 26 tirade with another three days later, sharing a link to a seven-month-old news report that the NSW and Israeli Government had signed a memorandum of understanding to share knowledge of water resources. Anderson wrote: “Amid the fake #China hysteria, the NSW government signs a deal with #apartheidIsrael”, as if there is any sort of link between the two items.

Apparently, if we do not allow covert agents of the Chinese Communist Party to plot to secretly control our elected representatives, that means we should not share knowledge about managing water resources with Israel? Even if you are critical of Israel, that is a real leap to make.

Beyond their sheer ridiculousness, Anderson’s comments are helping feed the currently well-trodden highway of material blaming the Jews for all of society’s ills.

It was this path Moselmane’s own brother decided to take when he told media on June 26 that the Labor MP was a “victim of racism” and part of a government conspiracy run by “Zionists”.

While Anderson may be part of the far-left fringe and Moselmane’s brother just another cranky commentator, social media allows these views to spread like wildfire.

As well as the TV audience for Moselmane’s brother, the video of him blaming the MP’s woes on Zionists has been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube alone. Meanwhile, Anderson has more than 31,000 followers on Twitter and his claims linking Israel with the investigation concerning Moselmane have been shared or liked by dozens of them.

And the so-called Twitter Rules, designed to address hate speech and other related behaviours, do not appear to allow for Anderson’s conspiracy theory to be removed.  Twitter prohibits the spreading of “fearful stereotypes about a protected category” but only when it targets individuals. Anderson’s tweets do not target any individuals – although they do mention AIJAC, an organisation – so they are unlikely to be removed by Twitter moderators. This is just one reason of many why the Twitter Rules do not adequately protect users from hate speech.

Such conspiracy theories are dangerous, whether they are linked to coronavirus, Black Lives Matter or Moselmane. They incite hatred of Jewish people, they demonise the Jewish state and the outright falsity of them distorts civic debate.