IN THE MEDIA
Boycott campaign “very ugly” – Colin Rubenstein on 3AW
Nov 8, 2023
Neil Mitchell: This hate speech though, it’s becoming a real problem. It’s coming from one side – Palestinian supporters – fringe supporters perhaps, but that’s them no less. We’ve got a Sydney mosque preaching hate. We’ve got rallies here doing the same, Adam Band in the middle. We’ve got local councils jumping in to support levels of abuse. Two points. One, the Middle East isn’t that simple. And second, nobody likes to see the mass death in Gaza or in Israel.
Israel is being urged to show restraint. It can’t do that if it means the threat increases. And remember, the hostages are still there. It’s awful.
But even if you criticise Israel, do not criticise, don’t turn into hate speech. Don’t criticise Jews in Australia. They are Australians entitled to the same respect as anybody else. Heaven’s sake, there’s even a group organising a boycott of Jewish-owned companies, the Spotlight Foundation amongst them. It’s just madness. It’s unfair. It’s racist. God help us if this is the mood in the country. It takes us back to the 1930s Germany. There’s a problem. Blame the Jews. That’s what’s happening. Come on, come on.
We’re better than that. We must be better than that. Time to stand up on that. This targeting of the Spotlight foundation, for heaven’s sake, it’s a charity linked to fabric and craft stores Spotlight.
Stand for Palestine Australia is urging a boycott of the foundation because they say it’s owned and run by Zionists. They’re promoting it on Instagram. Dr Colin Rubenstein is on the line executive director of the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council.
Neil Mitchell: Good morning.
Colin Rubenstein: Good morning Neil, I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more.
Neil Mitchell: Spotlight Foundation is a charity too, isn’t it?
Colin Rubenstein: Absolutely, of course it is. I highly respect that and very generous charity in this country.
Neil Mitchell: Is this happening elsewhere? Have you heard of companies being targeted because of Jewish ownership?
Colin Rubenstein: Look, I think there’s some of this going on around the world. Of course, it goes back also to the BDS movement, the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, which is equally contemptible and disgusting. And I think in Australia, I think Australians are better than that. I think you’re right. This is the fringe extremist group, whether it’s boycotting this foundation or the violent anti-Semitic sentiments on their placards or on the internet.
We have to treat these people with contempt. They don’t have popular support. It’s not the Australian way. It’s very ugly. It undermines the cohesion of our otherwise very successful democratic and multicultural society, which, as you correctly say, depends on mutual respect and tolerance here.
So I think it’s very worrying, of course. There is apprehension in the broader society, in the Jewish community. I’m not underestimating that at all. But I think Australians will regard this sort of behaviour shameful and contemptible and does nothing, not only in terms of our own cohesion in this country, but in terms of the very profound problems in the Middle East, where you cannot make any moral equivalence between the perpetrators of this evil, the barbaric, genocidal, Hamas, and everything that represents, and the attempts of the democratic Israel to protect itself and its citizens.
And by the way, I think in the end, to protect the true interests of the Palestinian people are also the victims of this evil organisation, Hamas, inflicting war crimes on them, treating civilians there as human shields, as we know.
Neil Mitchell: But in the way it’s not, if you do hold a view that Israel should show more restraint, that’s not anti-Semitic and it’s acceptable. But if you, that’s the people, that’s some, as you say, is probably a fringe who are taking that argument and turning it into hate in this country.
I mean, is it being, I don’t know, is it being aggravated by things like the walkout in the Senate, by the council decisions? Is that, I don’t get it. Why is this happening?
Colin Rubenstein: I think you’re right. It is definitely very inflammatory for the Australian Greens, not only to walk out on the Senate in such a despicable manner, but they’ve shown in their support for slogans committed to Israel’s destruction, like “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”.
They’ve put themselves outside the responsible mainstream political debate in this country because what they’re saying there makes no mistake. They’re not only denying Israel the right to defend itself and to dismantle this genocidal terrorist movement. They’re committed actually to the obliteration of Israel. That’s what from the river to the sea means and they know that. So yes, they have definitely put themselves in the camp of Israel haters.
They’re certainly not a group of Jewish people who rely on any political or moral support and I think they’ve put themselves out of responsible debate in this country. They lost their credibility and they deserve to be condemned and they are fomenting hatred in this country.