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Beating antisemitism will help save society

Jan 30, 2023 | Joel Burnie

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

Daily Telegraph – 30 January 2023

 

In 2006, in a rare moment of moral clarity, the United Nations adopted resolution 60/7 designating January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

During the second commemoration, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said “We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world.”

But it seems today, the lessons that Ban Ki-Moon correctly said should be remembered, are not being heeded.

By all accounts, antisemitism globally has reached alarming levels and shows few signs of abating. In terms of reported incidents, the USA has seen significant growth, including an increase of 61 percent of planned violence against Jewish institutions and over 350 incidents reportedly occurring on university campuses, while 74 percent of French Jews told interviewers they have been victims of antisemitism. In the UK, there has been an increase of reports by almost 30% in educational institutions.

Australia is not immune, with reports of antisemitic incidents increasing by 35% from 2020-2021.

There are stories behind each of these incidents, and those who commit them often do so, not just from the darkened fringes of society, but openly in full public light.

When Harry Sheezel become the first Jewish AFL footballer in over 20 years to be drafted, he was subjected to a barrage of antisemitic messages which appeared as comments to a Facebook report about his drafting. They were playing on age-old tropes of Jews and money and making light of the Holocaust – the mass murder of the Jews of Europe, which would have been traumatic for the Holocaust survivors living in Australia today.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has sincerely and heartfeltly apologised for wearing a Nazi uniform at his fancy dress 21st birthday party. But what does it say about the education concerning racism if some young adults even consider treating as a joke the garb of a murderous regime, that caused so much misery not just for Jews but for many other Australians especially those who fought and died for Australia against this evil blight on humanity.

It is in the young where, more often than not, these views are formulated. At present, five former students of Brighton Secondary College are suing the school and the Department of Education for allegedly failing to protect them from years of antisemitic abuse and attacks.

Meanwhile, in popular Elwood Beach in Melbourne, a group of neo-Nazis, including a child, gathered and proudly performed a Nazi salute while the leader of the far-right European Australia Movement, Thomas Sewell, also openly gave a Nazi salute outside the Melbourne Magistrates Court, just moments after avoiding jail time for what the magistrate deemed a “sickening” assault on a security guard in Docklands.

These incidents did not take place in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, but in Australia today! And there’s a reason why it’s Jewish schools, and synagogues, that sadly need to employ security guards.

Even now there is a debate about whether rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West) should be granted an Australian visa. But it’s hard to see under any circumstances how he could ever pass the required test of being of ‘good character’ to be granted entry after the series of antisemitic statements he has made over the last few months, including praising Hitler and denying the Holocaust.

One could argue that Ye, with his over 30 million followers on Twitter alone, is more influential and dangerous than a number of people previously disbarred from entering Australia. Allowing him entry could send a dangerous message that could embolden those Australians who already share his odious sentiments. His celebrity should not be used as a shield against his hatred.

Racism is not just a Jewish problem, but a societal one. We are challenged to reject hatred in all its forms – whether it comes from the far left or the far right, from the notorious to the famous, whether it’s an individual screaming insults outside a synagogue, or a celebrity blasting out poisonous words on social media. And if we, as a society, do not condemn antisemitism with the same vigour as we condemn all racism – no matter where it comes from, then we do not condemn antisemitism, but accommodate it.

As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said quite prophetically, “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”

The fight against antisemitism is not just about the human rights of Jews, but about saving society itself. On the day in which the world remembers the victims of the most evil regime in history, that lesson could not be more important.

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