Friday, 1 November 2013

30/10 the oz Dangerous anti-Semitism has no place in Australia

Dangerous anti-Semitism has no place in Australia

UNTIL now, many Australians who value the contribution of Jewish immigrants and their descendants in building our nation believed the vile spectre of anti-Semitism belonged to previous times and other places. That's why the unprovoked beating of five Jews walking home from Shabbat dinner in Bondi in Sydney's east early on Saturday and a deplorable incident at the University of NSW hours earlier are a sharp reality check.
Student campaigners Stuart Maclaine and Dom Foffani have apologised for dancing around a political opponent, an office-holder in the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, singing Springtime for Hitler and making Nazi salutes. The culprits were not hardened extremists but Young Labor activists from the Left, which suggests anti-Semitism has crept into small-l liberal student culture.
Such a trend must be stopped. It is not altogether surprising given the attitude of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Sydney University. Last year, the centre shunned a Hebrew University of Jerusalem academic who developed a civics course to unite Jewish and Arab students. Centre director Jake Lynch backed the oppressive boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. The existence of Israel is accepted in international law and by the UN but some Australian humanities academics think otherwise.
In supporting the Palestinian cause, the Left must not allow anti-Semitism to become an article of faith among young people and risk reigniting hatreds that festered across Europe for centuries before six million Jews perished in the Holocaust. Few Australian university students know enough history to understand why the Jews were falsely accused of various economic conspiracies and of spreading the black death in the 14th century. Nor would they be aware of the thousands massacred under the Russian and Ukrainian pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
If young activists are to have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they should understand the legitimacy of both sides' claims to a secure homeland. They should also realise Israel's Palestinian opponents have become more jihadist and that the influence of Fatah, the Palestinian faction prepared to negotiate a two-state solution, has been usurped since the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004. The menace of Shia-dominated Iran is a major stumbling block, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reiterating his nation's attitude last year when he said any deal that accepted the Jewish state's existence would leave a "cancerous tumour" threatening security.
Australia, a longstanding Israeli ally, supports a just, two-state Middle East settlement that can be built only on co-operation and pragmatism. Our reputation would suffer through any escalation of the violence at Bondi or other offensive, racist university stunts. As Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson wrote yesterday, Jews have "stepped outside the circle of offence in which minorities can be considered to have been offended against" and the door is wide open for those who "love to stroll guilelessly through to hate".
We share the sadness of the Jerusalem Post in noting "even Australia's Jews" are not immune to rising antagonism.
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