20 June 2015

Police arrest 61 Queenslanders with ties to neo-Nazi gangs

From Algemeiner, 19 June 2015:

Queensland police discovered this Nazi lair at the home of a 48-year-old self-described white supremacist. Photo: Courtesy.
Queensland police discovered this Nazi lair at the home of a 48-year-old self-described white supremacist.

The discoveries this week of a bevy of Nazi paraphernalia by Australian police across Queensland sent a “shudder” through the local Jewish community, the president of the northeastern state’s Jewish Board of Deputies said on Friday.

“It is a disturbing reality these raids uncovered the vile link between right-wing extremism and organized crime,” said QJBD President Jason Steinberg.

“Revelations like this also send a shudder through the Queensland Jewish community, who have been concerned about the rise in antisemitism across Europe and other parts of Australia,” he said.

Steinberg said the solution to these problems rests in education, and he called for the establishment of a Holocaust and Tolerance Museum in Queensland to help counter the trend.

Steinberg’s comments came after Australian police arrested 61 people in Queensland this week with ties to neo-Nazi gangs.

As part of the raid, police seized a bevy of Nazi paraphernalia, including flags and symbols of the Third Reich, and even an apparent shrine filled with flags, banners, pendants and painted symbols, in a shed at one activist’s home.

Steinberg noted a “significant surge in antisemitic attacks” in Australia last year, which dovetails with a global trend.

Australia registered 312 anti-Jewish attacks in 2014, up from 231 the year before, according to research by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University.

Among those attacks last year, in Sydney, eight teenagers boarded a bus of Jewish schoolchildren, terrorizing the children by screaming “Heil Hitler” and threatening to slit their throats. A Melbourne man wearing an IDF T-shirt was attacked by two assailants who called him a “Jewish dog,” around the time of the summer war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. And Rabbi Avraham Shalom Halberstam of Jerusalem was attacked at a Perth shopping center by six youths accusing him of “killing babies in Gaza.”

“Until we have such an avenue to educate the general public, antisemitism in all its forms will prevail. We can’t let that happen,” said Steinberg.

Divided Voice: How a Union Campaign Ad Reopened Old Wounds

20 June 2015

This essay, by Jesse J. Fleay, responds to the recent publication of a campaign advertisement by the South-Australian Branch of "United Voice"

We are in an age of convergence: a competitive global matrix in which multiple parties find themselves justifying their very purpose and their identity. If we learned anything this month, it’s that the global human still has much to learn from the past.

A recent campaign advertisement by the South Australian branch of United Voice lashed out at a number of minority groups, as if they are unworthy hindrances, sickeningly stereotyped and in the way of a very dirty form of mob rule. This is not what democracy was ever meant to be about, nor the labour movement that the union known as ‘United’ Voice is meant to represent.

A general precedent of union activity is to act for the benefit of all people in the workforce, not for the humiliation and the intimidation of particular individuals, for personal motives. It is trivial to say the least, that a mob of outrageous left-wingers would lash out at the individuals that they claim to represent in their Marxist hegemony.

But when it comes to their disturbing portrayal of my mate, the Jew, they have really overstepped the mark. In a distorted and malicious stroke of cruelty, reminiscent to the ‘Eternal Jew’ of Nazi Germany’s exhibition and film, United Voice reopened old wounds and showed us a glimpse of the deeply embedded prejudice that still exists within Australian society. We see a stereotyped Jew, reaching in a beggarly way, much like that of a desperately uncreative campaign organiser, who is here today and hopefully gone tomorrow.

There was nothing to like or commend about the campaign ad at all. Ultimately, the purpose for the exploitation of human diversity was not a worthy cause and nor could it ever be for obvious reasons. It was evidently a shocking attempt to be seen as hard-hearted, even Machiavellian, in a now competitive political system of polarised division and manipulation. This is pure insanity, especially from an organisation that calls itself ‘united’.

If the South Australian branch of United Voice has any shred of moral fiber, their leaders—especially those responsible for the campaign—will apologise without qualification to the Australian Jewish community.

Anyone who has watched the full ad knows that apologies should not stop there, but that is a matter for the other communities that took a beating this fortnight. I say now, outright, that a shred of maturity from the extreme left is long overdue.

11 June 2015

A new low in fake "moral equivalence"

From the Australian-Israel Review, 11 June 2015, by Allon Lee:

Notorious Aussie ISIS fighter Mohamed Elomar.

Australia's distinction as a major source of recruits joining "Islamic State" has been used as a pretext for a variety of commentators to defame Israel, through the morally vacuous argument that the phenomenon is no different to that of Jewish Australians who serve in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).

A typical example was Phillip Adams writing in his Weekend Australian column that "the government is understandably concerned by the indoctrination of local youth who head off to Iraq or Syria, though we've not expressed concern about the generations of young Australian Jews who've headed for Israel to join the army."

In the Canberra Times, ANU Professor Amin Saikal wrote, "some Western countries, including Australia, have had no qualms over some of their Jewish citizens either joining or fighting for the Israeli security forces, and have not viewed their return with trepidation. It is not surprising to hear Muslim voices raised about double standard."

And in the Courier Mail columnist Paul Syvret wrote that "all religions and societies tend to breed their own brands of extremist ratbaggery", and then inveigled against "young Jewish Australians who ‘make Aliyah' with a return to Israel and service in that (foreign) country's military - an armed force well schooled in bloody regional and religious conflict".

There are many other examples I could provide.

This tendency to react to any mention of the problem of Australians going to join ISIS by immediately responding "What about Israel?" is now so common that one could be forgiven for thinking that Jewish Australians are enjoying some unique dispensation to serve in a foreign power's armed forces.

But as Alan Shroot pointed out in a letter published in the Canberra Times last week in response to an earlier letter by Rex Williams (which had pushed the moral equivalence angle)
"sixty-four countries have universal conscription - including major Australian partners like Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand. But, apparently, it's only Israeli citizens who become terrorists if they meet their legal obligations to serve in their national forces."
Shroot is indeed correct, as this website shows.

Moreover, he could have further mentioned that the 64 nations with universal conscription include both other countries with substantial immigrant populations in Australia - such as Greece and Turkey - and large and powerful countries - including Russia and Brazil.

While no statistics are available on how many Australian dual-citizens serve in the armed services of any of these countries - including Israel - it is definitely the case that at least some do. Yet this is rightly uncontroversial. Needless to say, this focus on service in the IDF alone when discussing Australians fighting for ISIS is a clear cut case of double standards and prejudice.

While some will doubtless argue that they single out the IDF because of its "alleged human rights abuses", this also doesn't hold water intellectually.

Indeed, most reasonable people would agree that many of the 64 countries listed as having compulsory armed service have armies and governments whose human rights abuses dwarf anything Israel has been accused of.

Let's look at Thailand. Just this week Fairfax's Southeast Asia correspondent Lindsay Murdoch reported that "Thai security forces, which operate with impunity, are accused by human rights groups of abuses including arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings that cause more reprisals" in its long running conflict with Islamist rebels in the country's south.

And in 2014 the Thai army overthrew the elected government and since then there have been numerous reports of human rights abuses.

Then there is Turkey's army - whose conflict with the PKK in the country's Kurdish region in the 1980s and 1990s allegedly led to "over 19,000 deaths, including some 2,000 death-squad killings of suspected PKK sympathizers, two million internally displaced, and more than 2,200 villages destroyed" according to Human Rights Watch. More recently, the crushing of nationwide protests by the Turkish security forces in 2013 involved "human rights violations on a massive scale" according to Amnesty International. And then there is Turkey's continuing occupation of northern Cyprus since 1975.

And that's without bringing up current Russian aggression in the Ukraine and past aggression and human rights abuses in Georgia and Chechnya.

So why, with dozens of countries to choose from, do so many try to normalise Australians joining Islamic State by singling out Israel or at least stigmatise only Israel by drawing this false parallel with the bloodthirsty terrorists of ISIS?

Many of those suggesting a moral equivalence have long track records of anti-Israel commentary. Any excuse to bash Israel will apparently do. And some apparently employ a sort of twisted logic which says we should address "Muslim grievances" to deal with people going to fight for ISIS, Israel is a key Muslim grievance, therefore whenever anyone brings up Australians fighting for ISIS, let's mention Israel negatively to show we appreciate and sympathise with these grievances.

In practice, given the obvious double standards involved, what this amounts to is saying, "let's single out and pick on Jewish Australians" to show our sympathy with Australian Muslims. Because, even apart from the fact that lots of Australians other than Jews are dual-citizens who may be obliged to serve in the armed forces of their second country of citizenship, it should be obvious that comparisons between dual national Australians who have served in the IDF and Islamic State's Aussie recruits are totally absurd.

Firstly, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Australians do not generally head to Israel with the specific aim of serving in the IDF.

Furthermore, Jewish Australians do not travel to Israel having first made a very public expression of their ideological and personal contempt for this country's way of life and moral values as so many Australian jihadists seem to.

But most importantly of all, as federal Attorney-General George Brandis noted in his response to an audience member on ABC TV's "Q&A" in November 2014, 
"there is no equivalence between the standing army of a foreign friendly state like Israel and a terrorist insurgency like ISIL and I'm not aware of a single instance that a Jewish man or woman who has been - who has seen service in the IDF has come back to Australia and perpetrated a terrorist crime."
It seems to be trendy to adopt the view that one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, and many people seem wary of making value judgements even about deliberately joining a terrorist army responsible for mass murder, beheading people simply because of their religion, enslaving women, and deliberate destruction of cultural artifacts.

But even if you adopt this absurd and morally vacuous position, singling out IDF service alone as the equivalent of joining ISIS makes no sense, given the 63 other countries which could also be cited. It is an expression of pure prejudice and should be called out as such.

04 June 2015

Major-party Parliamentarians denigrate Greens' leader Richard Di Natale

From The Australian, June 5, 2015, by Christian Kerr:

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has accused Greens leader Richard Di Natale of “caving in” to extremists after he denied endorsing Israel as “a Jewish state”.

Senator Di Natale was quoted discussing the two-state solution after assuming the leadership last month.

Asked by The Australian Jewish News if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, he replied: “Of course. How can you have a two-state solution when you refuse to acknowledge the right of one state to exist?
“It’s patently nonsense.”

The comments sparked a storm on social media among factions of the Greens, Palestinian activists and the broad left.

The Socialist Alternative weekly newspaper Red Flag accused the Greens leader of “back(ing) Israeli apartheid”.

Senator Di Natale’s office then wrote to the AJN saying:
“In Richard’s full response to the interview question, it is clear that he is talking about a state for Israelis and a state for Palestinians.
He had no intention for his comments to be interpreted as support for establishment of a ‘Jewish state’. It’s not a phrase that he used.”
This in turn has provoked a backlash from the Jewish community and criticism from the government and Labor.

Ms Bishop said she was “disappointed” by the episode.

“Richard Di Natale has caved in to the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions activists in the green movement,” she said.

Labor MP Michael Danby said the episode undermined “the image of moderation that the Greens political party is so desperate to cultivate’’.

He said other parties would be “excoriated” over such a reversal.

“It is an indictment of the media advocates in organisations like The Age that this promise and its reversal is not reported as it would destroy the part of the story that the Greens are not as hardline and militant as they were in the past,” he said.

Executive Council of Australia Jewry head Peter Wertheim said the senator had “been bullied by the far-left zealots in his party into adopting a position on this issue that is intellectually and morally untenable”.

"I now look forward to the Greens withdrawing recognition from the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran because of the unacceptable ethnic and religious identifiers in the official names of these states," he said.

“To lecture other countries about their identity, and to refuse to recognise and respect the way they define themselves, is a truly unique approach to international relations.”

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said the Greens’ approach denied the Jewish people the right to self-determination...

02 June 2015

Greens oppose a Jewish Homeland

Federal Greens Leader Richard Di Natale speaks to journalists at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
PALESTINIAN Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, new Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale says.

...Asked whether Abbas should recognise Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, Di Natale replied: 
“Of course. How can you have a two-state solution when you refuse to acknowledge the right of one state to exist? It’s patently nonsense.”
In a NewMatilda report on 28 May 2015, Di Natale's office issued the following retraction:

...“He had no intention for his comments to be interpreted as support for establishment of a “Jewish state”. It’s not a phrase that he used,” a spokesperson said.
According to his office, Di Natale simply agreed to a question put to him by journalist Gareth Narunsky, apparently missing the distinction being made....

In a letter to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, dated 2 June 2015, Di Natale writes:
Consistent with Greens policy, I have always supported a peaceful, two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict that upholds the legitimate rights and aspirations of both the Palestinian and Israeli people to live in peace and security in their own independent, sovereign states. My comments in the AJN piece were intended to reflect that view and that view alone.
I have never believed that the establishment of a ‘Jewish state’ (as opposed to an ‘Israeli state’) is conducive to this outcome and I absolutely do not support that goal.
I also have grave concerns regarding Israel’s illegal settlement activities in occupied territories, and the impacts this has on Palestinian people. We know that, as noted by numerous human rights organisations, many Palestinians face systemic discrimination that includes deprivation of water and other infrastructure and opportunities. I will continue to stand as a strong advocate against these injustices....