THE AUSTRALIAN – AUGUST 09, 2014
LAST month in France, a mob surrounded a synagogue, yelling “Hitler was right!” and “Death to the Jews!”
In Berlin, a demonstration allegedly concerned with the safety of the population of Gaza included the chant of “Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come out and fight on your own”.
This week in Sydney, Jewish schoolchildren on a bus were threatened by a group of teenagers whose verbal abuse included “Heil Hitler” and “We’re going to cut your throats”.
A Hamas official, on Lebanese television, claimed Jews killed Christians to use their blood in making the unleavened bread eaten on the festival of Passover.
A Turkish singer was supported by civic and political officials when she tweeted: “If God allows, it will be again Muslims who will bring the end to those Jews”, and then “May God bless Hitler”.
A speaker at a rally in Antwerp led the chant “slaughter the Jews” and an imam in Italy called for Jews to be killed “one by one”, claiming Jews’ “hands are soiled with the blood of the prophets”.
A Sydney-based Facebook group provided a platform for contributions such as “we don’t want Jews in Australia – go back to Europe, another Hitler can appear and finish you scums off”.
When the rabbi of the Jewish community in Casablanca, Morocco, was badly beaten as he walked to synagogue, passers-by ignored his appeals for help.
The hashtag “Hitler was right” went viral last month.
Tweeted by people claiming to be Arab, African and of other types that Nazi racial theory condemned as lower than human, and permitted on moderated discussion sites hosted by self-declared leftists, it featured in demonstrations through the streets of Sydney. Emails I have received during the past fortnight have included phrases such as “Jews are just shit”; “kill Jew women and kids”; the Jews’ “evil nature” is a global problem; and “what a repulsive race you Jews are”.
In 25 years of documenting anti-Jewish activity in Australia, I have never before witnessed so many overt, unapologetic expressions of anti-Semitic vitriol.
My colleagues in Europe are going through much worse as social media provides a megaphone for malevolence and extreme right-wingers, Islamist fascists, cynical Marxists and Christian supercessionists, creating an amorphous, mutually reinforcing subculture of racist bullies. When a Belgian doctor refuses emergency medical care to a Jewish woman, it hardly matters if the motivation is far-Right, extreme Left or Islamic or Christian quasi-theology.
When a Spanish writer calls for the expulsion of the country’s entire Jewish community, when Jewish people, in country after country, on every continent, report abuse and assault, all who think seriously about the state of humanity recognise there is a real problem that needs addressing.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s Social Democratic Foreign Minister, put it this way, in a piece published on July 31: “Unfortunately, we have been familiar with the phenomenon of latent anti-Semitic sentiment, which manifests itself in excessive criticism of Israel, for a long time.”
He concludes: “Yet what we are experiencing now is still shocking: people have shouted slogans expressing a hatred towards Jews which beggars belief. It makes anyone’s blood run cold.”
The chairwoman of the European Network Against Racism, who declares open “support for the Palestinian cause”, made an unprecedented call for other Palestinian supporters to stop “perpetrating racist calls and denying the rights to security and protection of European Jews”, concluding: “Hatred is hatred, wherever it comes from and whatever its shape.” Her statement came after a Berlin imam claimed Jews “act like sole rulers of the entire world and disseminate corruption” and urged God to “kill every last one of them and not have pity on any of them”, and demonstrators from Antwerp to Australia chanted “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Mohammed is returning”, an anti-Jewish battle cry.
Last year, hundreds of men and women from many countries, cultures and creeds came together in the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, after which I was appointed to chair the working group on interfaith dialogue as a means of combating anti-Semitism, and am in contact with many Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and others – all of whom report increasing confidence and confrontationalism from bigots within their communities.
Muslim figures in Britain have expressed concern at the behaviour of Muslims involved in anti-Jewish behaviour. The Asian Image newspaper has attributed to Muslims attacks on a Jewish school and a rabbi, calls for the bombing of synagogues, physical violence against a schoolboy and vile social media campaigns.
“Hate crimes,” it editorialised, “only serve to make a bunch of brainwashed and easily influenced individuals feel a sense of superiority and satisfaction that they have ‘done their bit’ to help fellow Muslims.”
The Council of Mosques and the Union of Moroccan Mosques in The Netherlands also issued a call for tolerance recently, specifically to Jewish “brothers of the holy book”. Conversations I have had with Muslim Australians have reflected a genuine unease at the degeneration of serious political conversation to a pretext for racist anti-Jewish propaganda.
Between October 1989 and September last year, on behalf of Jewish community organisations in Australia, I logged reports of 616 incidents of physical assault on individuals and damage to property, 1446 examples of harassment and intimidation not involving physical contact, 959 instances of anti-Jewish graffiti, and more than 2700 telephone calls, faxes, emails, letter campaigns, posters and leaflets targeting Jewish Australians with threats and abuse.
Anti-Jewish commentary in the media, activities by organisations and individuals designed to defame, demean and intimidate Jewish Australians, anti-Jewish religious preaching and other manifestations of anti-Semitism have been documented on an infrequent but regular basis in the same period.
What is unprecedented is the volume of anti-Jewish comments given platforms on social media, the viral spread of anti-Semitic slogans and defamation, and the domination of so much public discussion by racist loudmouths.
An essential element of successful cultural diversity, and an important component of combating anti-Semitism and other racism, is unambiguous, authoritative condemnation of such behaviour by political, religious and other leaders.
Despite everything I have written being on the public record, there seem to be more Australian politicians willing to excuse the racism at anti-Israel rallies than to condemn it.
In the past, bodies tasked with promoting community harmony have issued declarations to the effect that foreign conflicts should not be the pretext for racism in Australia, but they have been all but invisible in recent weeks.
Jewish Australians should not, must not, be the loudest voices condemning an ill that affects society as a whole.
Jeremy Jones is director of international and community affairs at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, and a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.