IN THE MEDIA

Rise of anti-Semitism echoes older, more dangerous eras

Mar 18, 2024 | Allon Lee

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

An edited version was published in the West Australian – 18 March 2024.

 

Everyone agrees that all Australians have a right to freely express their opinions, choose how they spend their money and support causes without having their loyalty questioned, or be accused of involvement in secret, nefarious conspiracies.

But not if you’re Jewish.

If you’re Jewish and support Israel, expect to be smeared as belonging to a vast conspiracy reaching into the deepest recesses of power in Australia and across the world.

Hamas’ October 7 massacre opened a Pandora’s box of libels about Australian Jews, including the claim they illegitimately use their “power” to muzzle anyone who dares to report or expose Israeli crimes against Palestinians. The most brazen articulation of this noxious allegation came in December, courtesy of NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong, who said at a pro-Palestinian event: “The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups” and “their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power and I think that we need to call that out and expose it.”

Comparing the Jewish people to an octopus with tentacles “infiltrating” organisations is a trope favoured by late 19th-century antisemites.

Leong subsequently apologised for her language but not her core message, and she isn’t alone.

Last week, the ABC reported a Northern Territory indigenous Greens candidate claimed on social media that Australia’s government is “owned” by “Zionists”.

Then, last Sunday, former Greens and now independent Senator Lidia Thorpe told a pro-Palestinian rally that Australia should resume funding to UNRWA – the controversial UN agency for Palestinians – but won’t, because “Penny Wong is too scared of others in her government, like the Attorney-General.” There is little evidence that Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, the only Jew in Cabinet, has any role in foreign policy.

Then there was the mass doxxing of 600 Jewish academics and creatives in a WhatsApp chat group – justified on the basis that its members were all part of a giant conspiracy to crush pro-Palestinian voices.

One anti-Israel group that endorsed the doxxing said the WhatsApp log “demonstrates collective actions taken by zionists to contact employers, funding bodies, publishers and journalists to censure anyone deemed to be a threat to the zionist narrative.”

Hardly. While a small number of participants proposed writing letters to oppose extremist pro-Palestinian biases, the overwhelming majority had joined to connect with others also worried about rising antisemitism post-October 7. Many members never commented at all.

Yet, every single member was scapegoated – and photos of over 100 and employment details of many were shared on social media so they could be further targeted – because of an unshakeable belief that groups of Jews discussing their concerns amounts to an ‘evil conspiracy’. The doxxing has had real consequences. One couple reported receiving a photograph of their five-year-old child with a note saying, “We know where you live,” while a musician was fired by his band. Other artists said they’ve struggled to find work.

The ABC’s Global Affairs Editor John Lyons also promoted the accusation Jews have the power to force the media to support their agenda.

In January, Nine Newspapers reported that Lyons allegedly accused the ABC of bowing to “a group of [pro-Israel] lawyers lobbying for a foreign power” to pressure the broadcaster to be more pro-Israel. Anyone familiar with the ABC will struggle to find its pro-Israel credentials – much less that this was because a small group of lawyers exercised their democratic right to write letters to ABC management.

Lyons’ insinuations that Jews have dual loyalty to a “foreign power” and have powerful, secret control over the media echo ugly tropes that long predate Israel’s existence. Nor is it the first time he’s insinuated such claims.

As former Age editor Michael Gawenda recently wrote regarding Lyons’ 2021 polemic Dateline Jerusalem, “his thesis about powerful Jews making cowards of virtually every editor and executive producer in the country was a conspiracy theory that did not stand up to any real scrutiny.”

Lyons is not alone in supporting this delusion. Despite none of Australia’s largest media organisations having Jewish ownership, a 2021 survey of non-Jewish Australians found that 20% agreed that “compared to other groups, Jewish people have too much power in the media.”

While most people won’t act upon these biases, the unprecedented attacks and threats directed at Jews over the past five months demonstrate a genuine risk.

ASIO chief Mike Burgess recently warned of the “realistic possibility of a terrorist attack or attack planning in the next 12 months,” citing “an increase in rhetoric encouraging violence in response to the [Gaza] conflict.”

The fact that noxious conspiracy theories about Jews are taken seriously shows how desensitised Australia has become to antisemitic tropes and false claims.

It is imperative for our social cohesion and the success of Australian multiculturalism that their use is quarantined before they spread any further.

Allon Lee is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC).

RELATED ARTICLES


(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Apr 18, 2024 | Featured, Fresh AIR, In the media
Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Apr 16, 2024 | Featured, In the media
Image: X/ Twitter

Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel was a strategic miscalculation. Can all-out war now be averted?

Apr 14, 2024 | Featured, In the media
Pro-Palestinian rally in Melbourne, Victoria (Image: Alamy Live News)

Contemplating ‘a return to Zion’ in the face of antisemitism

Apr 14, 2024 | Featured, In the media
A barge transporting humanitarian aid from the World Central Kitchen organisation off the coast of Gaza (Image: IDF)

Aid Worker tragedy should not be misused

Apr 12, 2024 | Featured, In the media
Foreign Minister Sen. Penny Wong at the ANU, Canberra (Image: Australian National University)

Peace won’t be achieved through speeches like Penny Wong’s

Apr 12, 2024 | Featured, In the media

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

RECENT POSTS

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

(Credit: Shutterstock)

Emboldened Iran is still seeking nuclear capacity

Ma60tyfA

Move to recognise Palestine comes at the worst possible time

Screenshot 2024 04 16 At 3.14.28 Pm

‘Flipping of the narrative’: Israel ‘depicted as victim’ after Iranian attack – Ran Porat on France 24 television

Large anti-Israel protest in Washington, DC, in October. No other issue turns out so many protestors so consistently and globally (image: Shutterstock/ Volodymyr Tverdokhlib)

Where is everybody when Israel isn’t involved?

Image: Shutterstock

AIJAC calls on Government to join coordinated international efforts against Iran in wake of attacks on Israel

SORT BY TOPICS