By Daphne Anson
I blogged here about a nascent and long overdue organisation Down Under, the Australian Jewish Association (AJA), formed by people utterly fed up with the current direction and thrust of communal leadership bodies, such as the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, hijacked as they evidently have been by the forces of political correctness, which too often results in a softly softly approach to issues that should be tackled head-on. They pussyfoot when it comes to Islamic Jew-hatred but not when antisemitism (real or imagined) from non-Islamic sources are concerned.
AJA’s impressive president Dr David Adler had a fine article about this sorry state of affairs in the March 2017 issue of The Spectator (Australia), focusing on the legislative segment known as 18C, under which in 2011 conservative columnist Andrew Bolt was convicted.of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act.
‘As anyone who has closely followed the 18C debate knows, the major secular Jewish communal bodies, particularly the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) have lobbied vigorously for the retention of 18C & 18D essentially in their current form. They also claimed a consensus in the Jewish community. However, in doing so they have misrepresented Jewish values and interests, and misled the Parliamentary Inquiry.
It is blatantly untrue that there is a consensus of support for 18C within the Jewish community. Simply reading the various Jewish publications would demonstrate this is a hotly contested subject. Various submissions were made and supported by numerous members of the Jewish community who oppose 18C.
Prominent members of the Jewish community have published articles in support of free speech and the repeal of s.18C of the Racial Discrimination Act or amendment by deleting the criteria of ‘insult’ and ‘offend’. The Rabbinical Council of NSW has publicly made statements on 18C possibly inhibiting rabbis speaking out on moral issues if such speech may insult or offend someone. The Australian Jewish News reported this in April 2014 in an article titled ‘NSW Rabbis clash with leaders over 18C’. Leading Jewish barrister Geoffrey Bloch, in an article published in the online Jewish journal J-Wire, argues for repeal of 18C. He cites a prominent international Jewish expert, Prof. Michael Berenbaum who was involved in establishing the renowned Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. Even in the case of Holocaust deniers, he argues, it is far preferable that they not be silenced, but rather be discredited and have their anti-Semitism publicly exposed.As recently as 1 December, 2016 owner and publisher of the Australian Jewish News, Robert Magid, wrote ‘When Jews act to restrict freedom of speech they undermine their argument against people like Jake Lynch and his cohort, who prevented supporters of Israel from presenting their point of view at Sydney University’. In other words, it is a dangerous two-edged sword. Magid has also published views in specific opposition to 18C in this magazine.
….It is argued by some Jewish secular bodies that 18C is needed to deal with anti-Semitism. There is not a single place on earth where this has actually worked. These laws have never solved the problem of anti-Semitism or reversed the trend of anti-Semitic incidents. We only need to look to Europe where there is now the most anti-Semitism since WWII. Many European countries have laws like 18C, some go further. The evidence is the reverse. The ECAJ, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Australia, reported an increase of approximately 10 per cent from 2015 to 2016 despite the presence of 18C. France in addition to 18C-type laws has had a law for over 20 years to address a specific form of anti-Semitism, namely Holocaust denial. However, there is now more Holocaust denial across France than when the law was introduced!
Further, 18C is very rarely used by the Jewish communal bodies which argue for retention – since 2010 there has been only one case litigated. 18C has never been used against anti-Semitic Islamic hate preachers. Both ECAJ and AIJAC were provided with the video of Hizb ut-Tahrir cleric Ismail al-Wahwah’s infamous racist and hateful tirade calling Jews ‘the most evil creature of Allah’ who have ‘corrupted the world’ and will ‘pay for blood with blood’. He called for the death of Jews, and declared ‘Who will set the world free from the Children of Israel so that the world will be able to say that it has rid itself of this hidden evil? This mission will be accomplished by none but you, O Muslims… The ember of jihad against the Jews will continue to burn.’ No 18C complaint was filed. [Emphasis added]
…. Of course, legislation like 18C does not directly prevent citizens from reporting suspicious activity to police. However, it does contribute to a general environment of inhibition of certain speech. What 18C does is to unreasonably constrain free speech in a manner inconsistent with Jewish theology, academic development and values. There is no evidence that 18C is an effective tool in changing a trend of anti-Semitism (there are much more effective tools) and such a law risks serious adverse consequences.’
The footage of Ismail al-Wawwah mentioned above was shown by Dr Adler at the Melbourne launch of the AJA last Sunday, at which Dr Adler and local Anglican clergymen the Rev Dr Mark Durie, rightly billed as a “world-renowned” scholar of Islam, gave the 200 or more people present glimpses into the nature of Islamic antisemitism past and present.
Dr Adler prefaced his talk with the explanation that he was speaking only about “a minority” of Muslims. Dr Durie concentrated on Islamic religious texts, ably demonstrating the deeply entrenched Jew-hatred to be found in them and refuting the rose-coloured view of, for example, historian Professor Bernard Lewis.
Neither speaker preached hatred against Muslims. The only hatred, fascism and incitement was in the Islamic anti-Jewish statements they quoted.
Without any knowledge of what Drs Adler and Durie were going to say, the following prejudiced demand was issued by certain far left and wet naive Jews in Melbourne:
‘We, the undersigned, wish to protest in the strongest terms the Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre booking of an event titled ‘The Threat of Islam to Jews’ by ‘Nothing Left’ and ‘Australian Jewish Association.’
We call on Beth Weizmann Centre to immediately cancel the booking. We call on all other Jewish community spaces to refuse bookings of far-right conspiracy theorists that bring racism, bigotry and hate into our communities.
We believe that not only are talks like this a direct threat to the safety and wellbeing of people of the Muslim faith in our community, but a direct threat to Jews also. Hatred and racism of all forms will only continue to foment as long as Islamophobia is fostered. We are all in this together.
As Jews we remember where this hate takes us. There is no place for racist hate in Beth Weizmann or anywhere in our community.’
Since the event, far left Jews have been at it again, with many of them, males and a certain female alike, ranting and raving online in language involving much use of the F and C words that does them no credit.
One of the far leftists, who demonstrated outside the location of the talk that finally went ahead on Sunday, and hastily rejected an invitation to come out of the biting evening chill and join the audience, has started an online petition (as with the previously-mentioned one I’m not linking to it because there is only a limited amount of oxygen I want to give these misguided people, who just will not accept that the meeting, at which they were not present, was anything but a hate fest).
This petition insults and misrepresents Dr Durie, beginning:
“The signatories to this letter come from many different political orientations, but this is a shameful moment in the history of the Melbourne Jewish community that demands a united response.
Several hundred people attended a meeting organised by the so-called ‘Australian Jewish Association’ at South Caulfield Hebrew Congregation on Sunday night, 11 September 2017 turned up to hear Mark Durie. He is not a specialist in Islam or contemporary problems in the Muslim world, but an Anglican priest, linguist and autodidact. He argues for a literalist interpretation of Islam and Islamic culture and history to demonstrate the inherent violence and intolerance of Islam, and by implication, the treachery of all Muslims.This is Islamophobia….
“Wonder if this talk has contravened Section 18C of the racial discrimination act” is one of my favourite comments by a signatory, highlighting as it does the sheer prejudice, hypocrisy and irony of condemning an event of which the signatory has no personal knowledge.
Also of that ilk is this comment by a former president of a Melbourne synagogue who was also, unless I need the immediate services of an optician, not at the AJA event, and of whom I would have expected a fairer approach on those very grounds:
“While the wording may not be accurate (bigotry might have been a better word), I absolutely support the intent of this petition.”
But the best comment of all? That comes from Mark Durie himself:
“I consider it an honour to be vilified and lied about for calling out antisemitism”
Skoyach!, Dr Durie. Kol Hakavod, sir.