By Julie Nathan, The Jerusalem Post
July 4, 2012
After Brendon O’Connell, who had attended an anti-Israel action in Perth organized by Friends of Palestine WA (FOPWA), was convicted by a jury of racial incitement, Alex Bainbridge of FOPWA announced that the group “makes a conscious policy of condemning expressions of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.” He added, “We are friends of Palestine, not enemies of the Jewish people.”
Regardless of how genuine Bainbridge’s claims were, there is very real and insidious anti-Jewish content within the discourse of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel people and organizations in Australia. Many supporters of the Palestinian cause claim their support is based on a social justice and antiracism platform. Anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian individuals and organizations often make the claim that they are simply anti-Israel and not anti-Jewish.
However, many of these people and organizations cross the line from legitimate criticism of the State of Israel into outright anti-Semitism.
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel organizations utilize both websites and facebook to promote their beliefs, propagate articles and news and advertise upcoming protests, forums and other actions. Organizations set up many different facebook sites, often for specific events. Facebook is one area in particular where members can post comments, links and other material. It is on these official websites and facebook pages that anti-Jewish content is to be found.
When anti-Jewish comments, such as the post “i don’t give a f***, jews are pricks!!!!!” and another post advocating to protest in a “major jewish [sic] suburb” in Melbourne, are posted on the facebook sites of Students for Palestine (Melbourne), and are not removed, then a tolerance, or even approval, for anti-Semitism can be produced.
Videos are another means of propagating anti-Jewish sentiment, conspiracy theories, or similar sinister insinuations about Jews. Such videos, posted on the facebook site of the Australians Friends of Palestine Association (AFOPA), based in Adelaide, include videos entitled “Zionists are a Satan worshiping Cult!,” “Dangers Of A ‘Jewish’ State,” and “The Hitler Speech They Don’t Want You To Hear.”
The first two titles sound anti-Israel, yet the synopsis of the first states: “To help you understand the difference between the “true Israel” and the Synagogue of Satan.” This is the familiar terminology of far-right religious anti-Semitism.
The second video repeats this theme, as it states: “Jewish elitism has permeated every aspect of our nation’s infrastructure....
If this trend continues then a Judaic tyranny never before experienced in American life will dismantle all that Christianity has bequeathed to our once free and prosperous nation.”
The third video claims to be the English translation of a speech by Hitler which blames Roosevelt for WWII and portrays Hitler and the Nazis as innocent and peaceful, which is a standard neo-Nazi theme.
When, for example, AFOPA allows anti-Semitic videos which demonize Jews and sell Hitler as a hero to be posted and kept on their facebook page, this belies the claim that they are only anti-Israel. It shows, at best, an unacceptable tolerance for those who are deeply and overtly hostile to Jews.
When pro-Palestinian websites, like Australians For Palestine (AFP) and AFOPA, republish articles from overseas which use anti-Semitic language, this only reinforces the negative portrayal of Jews. An example is an article which uses the term “Talmudic rituals.”
This term, a coded expression for attacking Judaism, is used on many Islamic websites such as IslamOnline, and by Arab journalists such as Khalid Amayreh.
As one study of anti-Semitism has noted, “The term ‘Talmudic rituals’ used by Amayreh (2009c) and Islam-Online (2009a) in reference to Jews near Al-Aqsa is a coded allusion to some sort of ‘sinister’ Jewish rituals, given that historically the Christian authorities condemned and burned the Talmud as an allegedly sinister Jewish text in an effort to convert the Jews to Christianity” (ADL 2003).
In comparison, a less active website, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Melbourne, has the same story but from the Maan News website, where the article contains nothing inflammatory or anti-Semitic. This shows that there are various ways to choose to tell a story and that anti-Israel organizations like AFP and AFOPA have chosen to use and republish articles with anti-Jewish language and content rather than articles that are not anti-Semitic.
Of even graver import is when pro-Palestinian websites republish anti-Semitic articles. Australians For Palestine (AFP) reproduced in full an article from the anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying website Institute for Historical Review.
Anti-Semitic claims in the article include: “In reality, the Jewish hold on American life is far more dangerous...
Throughout history Jews have time and again wielded great power to further group interests that are separate from, and often contrary to, those of the non-Jewish populations among whom they live... Now we are engaged in a great, global struggle – in which two distinct and irreconcilable sides confront each other. A struggle that pits a self-assured and diabolical power that feels ordained to rule over others, on one side, and all other nations and societies – indeed, humanity itself – on the other.”
By publishing such blatant racism, and from an avowedly anti-Semitic website, AFP clearly shows that underlying its anti-Zionist veneer is a tolerance at best, an identification with at worst, Holocaust denial, anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and the demonizing of the Jewish people. AFP is a major website of the pro-Palestinian movement in Australia, reproducing many articles and news reports.
AFP also reproduce classic anti-Semitic accusations, for example: “Such are the practices of the Jewish-owned media such as Murdoch and his ilk.
And it follows that the government is no better. In fact, being a government of feckless politicians, they too are manipulated in their decisions by the local Melbourne Zionist fraternity, well organized and who have many such politicians under their control.”
Such statements serve to reinforce anti-Jewish conspiracy theories reminiscent of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Cartoons are another means of expressing anti-Jewish racism on pro-Palestinian websites. One particular cartoon appeared on at least three pro-Palestinian facebook sites, including “Social Justice Network” and two others.
This cartoon plays directly on the 2,000-year-old depiction of Jews collectively as Christ-killers, an accusation which has incited centuries of persecution and butchery against Jews and was repudiated by the Catholic Church 50 years ago.
The cartoon is rich in traditional anti-Semitic religious imagery. Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis falls squarely within the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EUFRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.
An egregious example of willingness to engage in actions specifically targeting Jews, rather than Israel, was the decision by two pro-Palestinian organizations, Students for Palestine and Socialist Alternative, to protest outside a synagogue in Melbourne last February.
Not only did they target a Jewish place of worship, but the protest was to be staged on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
The target was stated to be Joseph Gutnick, for his alleged support of families living in settlements in Hebron; yet Gutnick is not a member of the targeted synagogue, nor does he attend services there.
Students for Palestine and Socialist Alternative considered targeting a synagogue an acceptable anti-Israel action.
This also shows that the protest organizers do not distinguish between ordinary Australian Jews and Israel.
The publication of anti-Semitic content on pro-Palestinian websites can lead to contempt toward Jews, and incitement of racial hatred, but it also lessens the credibility of the organizations that elicit and permit racist content.
Many of these organizations claim to be only against Israel and not against Jews, and yet their websites and facebook pages tell a very different and disturbing story.
Julie Nathan is the research officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the officially elected representative organization of the Australian Jewish Community.