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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anti-Semitism in Australia and how to fight it

In Australian Jewish world, Jeremy Jones discusses the right-wing and Muslim campaign of racist violence against Australian Jews. His position is somewhat peculiar, but the situation he paints is grim:  
... As the 1980s continued, the Australian Jewish community saw incitement against it from a temporarily resurgent extreme right wing, and from the most visible Muslim personality in Australia, Sheikh Taj a-Din al-Hilaly. Despite the similarity of rhetoric from the gutter racists of the neo-Nazi fringe and the imam, the latter had more than a few apologists in the media and his own religious community. This was far more of a concern than the comments he made to a public forum at Sydney University.
In a short period in the 1990s, no less than a quarter of Sydney's synagogues were subjected to arson attacks, and Jewish organisations since that time have been logging reports of abuse, intimidation, assault or vandalism on a daily basis.
...The easiest place to pick up overtly antisemitic literature in Australia at present is at a self-titled Islamic bookstore....
Terrorism, as many speakers noted, needs to be addressed on a number of levels. Security, policing and intelligence gathering are important parts of the equation.....
This presentation raises many issues. Jones is certainly wrong about the easiest place to get overly anti-Semtic literature. The easiest place to pick up overtly anti-Semitic literature in Australia or anywhere else in the world, is the Internet. It is free and ubiquitous. Practically everyone except Jones seems to have an Internet connection. Even third world kids will be connected to the net through $150 notebook computers. The Jewwatch Web site tops the list of Web sites returned by the Google search engine for keyword Jew. The Australians can certainly be "proud" of their contribution in this field. The foul Ziopedia originates in Australia. Biblebelievers Australia has the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at its Web site.
What is to be done? Jones tells us:

Terrorism, as many speakers noted, needs to be addressed on a number of levels. Security, policing and intelligence gathering are important parts of the equation. To combat the activities of those who seek to recruit, inspire and direct individuals to acts of extremist violence, including terrorism, requires additional elements, such as counter-education and positive interfaith and inter-communal relationships placed before them as ideals.
I am not sure it is "terrorism" - it is racist violence. Where can we draw the line? When young hoodlums called me a "Jew bastard" in Brooklyn, it was not "terrorism." Was lynching of civil rights workers in the Southern USA terrorism? Attaching the word "terrorism" to this violence is not necessarily helpful.
Jones' suggestions are peculiar in a number of ways, because of what is missing from them, and because of his continuing bizarrely naive optimism. A band-aid will not cure cancer. Interfaith activities are not going to help much. The people who read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the followers of Sheikh Hillal are not likely to participate in interfaith dialogue.
Jones considers only Australian authorities and Australian solutions. But the Muslims come from abroad and are supported from abroad. The hate originates in the Middle East. The problem of Internet hate is also an international issue. This suggests that the problem must be dealt with at an international, as well as a national level. In the best of all possible worlds, the UN would be doing it, but they won't. The Jews however, have international resources as well, and the state of Israel that must assume the responsibility of protecting Jews wherever they are, and we have strong American organizations as well. "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la zeh" - all of Israel are responsible for each other. Google, Wikipedia, Dmoz and other Internet institutions that help propagate hate literature should be targeted in a concerted campaign. Hate groups may have freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean that they must be given prominence by linking to their Web sites. Without those links and listings, almost nobody would see the hate sites. The Internet is open to Jews and those who hate racism as well, and we can make Web sites and Web pages that compete with the hate literature.
Beyond that, Jones and other Australian Jews have to consider the significance of the fact that Sheikh Hillal got so much local support. A few hoodlums can be combatted by police action. A large segment of public opinion is a more stubborn danger, and there comes a point when you have to consider whether all the authorities and their representatives are really on your side. Complaining to police about anti-Semitic violence might be less than optimally effective if the officer who takes your complaint is a reader of Ziopedia or a follower of Sheikh Hillal.  If Australian Jews really are feeling the heat, perhaps it is better for them to come to Israel where they are wanted, rather than staying where they are not wanted.
Jones' article: The Fear Factor

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