Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

Anti-Semitism in Australia

By Paul Gardner and Manny Waks - posted Monday, 18 June 2007


Anti-Semitic episodes occurred in the earliest days of British settlement in Australia. Early in the 19th Century, a little Jewish boy was insulted and kicked in the streets of Hobart. Almost two centuries later, a Melbourne man, walking home from synagogue, was insulted and punched by some members of a country football team, travelling in a bus driven by an off-duty policeman.

Fortunately, such episodes are relatively rare. Australian Jews rightly consider our nation to be a tolerant place, where we are free to practise our faith. The situation is worse in other countries. A Jewish community worker was murdered at the community’s headquarters in Seattle. An American journalist covering the Middle East was beheaded by a terrorist group because he was Jewish. A yeshiva student reading the Bible was stabbed on a London bus. These shocking events have no parallels in Australia.

Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency. Anti-Semitism still exists in Australia. The frequency of antisemitic episodes is closely related to events in the Middle East. The second Intifadah following the failure of the Oslo Accords, and the war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, were both associated with rises in anti-Semitic incidents. In 2006, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) recorded 442 incidents, 47 per cent above the annual average. Serious or violent incidents were 74 per cent above average. Anti-Semitic graffiti was at its highest level since records have been kept.

Advertisement

In earlier times, traditional anti-Semitism was commonly expressed as religious bigotry or racism. The medieval portrayal of Jews as Christ-killers and members of a superseded faith fortunately has little traction in modern Australia. The scapegoating of Jews for political purposes by portraying them as the masterminds of massive conspiracies reached its horrendous peak in Nazi-controlled Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Echoes of this theme can still be found in the rantings of Holocaust deniers and far-right conspiracy theorists.

Some extreme elements in the Islamic community have taken up these themes. The notorious Sheikh Hilali of Lakemba has expressed doubts about the Holocaust, and racist CDs by Sheik Feiz Mohammed continue to be on sale. A Sydney-based Islamic website has reproduced the virulently antisemitic Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

While the Australian Communications and Media Authority regulations cover violence and pornography, its policy guidelines fail to mention the promotion of racial hatred and religious bigotry.

A more recent form, sometimes called “the new anti-Semitism”, focuses on Israel. This takes the form of attempts to delegitimise Israel’s right to exist, to demonise it through false accusations, and to require of it standards of behaviour not demanded of any other nation. The new anti-Semitism emanates from elements of the Arab and Muslim community, encouraged by sections of the radical left. Friendly support is given by some journalists. The ECAJ notes that, “some commentators can be identified who use different criteria for judging Israel than they do for any other state”.

It is of course not antisemitic to engage in rational and even passionate debate about Israeli policies and actions. It is antisemitic to compare Israel’s actions in building a security fence, designed (successfully) to prevent terrorist acts against civilians, with the actions of the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto or those of the South African government in the days of apartheid.

Anti-Semitism is a complex and persistent phenomenon, and one that is unlikely ever to be eradicated completely. However, a society that is committed to ethnic and religious harmony, as Australia is, can do much to contain it and reduce its harmful effects.

Advertisement

Politicians, civic and faith leaders can speak out when episodes of racial hatred and bigotry occur. Media organisations should be held accountable for publishing biased material. Education authorities need to ensure that curriculum content dealing with Jews and Israel is soundly based. Swifter legislative procedures need to be put in place for dealing more effectively with hate-mongers who persistently disseminate antisemitic material.

With that said, it is important to maintain a sense of perspective. Australia is, generally, a peaceful, tolerant and just society. While Australia’s Jewish community is justifiably concerned, anti-Semitism is not a major source of alarm.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

First published in Australians All in April 2007.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

123 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Authors

Dr Paul Gardner is the immediate past chairman of the Bnai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission.

Manny Waks is the founder of the Capital Jewish Forum.

Other articles by these Authors

All articles by Paul Gardner
All articles by Manny Waks

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 123 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy