Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Killing Fields

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The old antisemitisms

By Jeremy Jones

To Jewish people, Kishinev, the capital of the modern, post-Soviet Republic of Moldova, will forever be linked with the horrific events of just over a century ago. In a nearby town, a Christian child’s murderers, relatives of the victim, claimed that Jews had performed the evil deed as part of ritual practices. The result was the Kishinev Pogrom, when the brutality of the perpetrators and the lack of reaction by the government precipitated almost unprecedented emigration.

In mid-September, after meeting with leaders of the Jewish community of Moldova and speaking on Jewish Identity at a gathering hosted by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, I was driven around the streets where the inhuman acts took place and to the park in which the bodies of the victims were interred.

Standing in front of the modest, dignified monument erected in their memory, it was difficult not to reflect on the horrors which were the outcome of old, crude antisemitism.

In Australia, propagators of the myth of malevolent, grasping Jewish world conspiracy operate on the extreme fringes. One-person operations and small groups (in which every member believes they are best qualified to lead) regularly propagate hate material, with the internet providing a potential global reach even for those who fail to attract a single listener in the non-virtual world.

In court in Sydney in September, the hearing commenced in the Racial Hatred case, Jeremy Jones and on behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry v Bible Believers and Anthony Grigor-Scott.

Mr Grigor-Scott admitted in court to writing and placing on the internet a number of items which, singularly and together, insult, offend and disparage Jewish people, through his propagation of claims that the Nazi Holocaust never occurred and assertions concerning Jewish conspiracy and use and abuse of extraordinary power.

Some years ago, Mr Grigor-Scott, a former columnist for the extreme right wing monthly The Strategy, spoke at a meeting of the Australian League of Rights, Australia’s largest and historically most notorious conglomeration of antisemites, racists and conspiracy theorists.

Needless to say, the League continues to pump out anti-Jewish publications and prejudice, with a handful of new, seemingly enthusiastic contributors to its web-site and newsletters coming aboard recently.

Another Australian group which has earned notoriety over the years for dissemination of bizarre and offensive conspiracy theories and cult-like behaviour is the Citizen’s Electoral Councils.

The CECs (followers of US ex-convict Lyndon La Rouche) recently received media coverage for their attempts to gather Muslim support while simultaneously seeking to have an impact on the operation of the conservative Catholic-based National Civic Council.

A further constellation of far-right conspiracy theorists, thugs and racist nationalists came together recently for the annual Sydney Forum.

This rag-tag group lost their advertised star attraction, a colleague from Germany’s extremist NDP, as he was not given a visa to attend the talk-fest. They nevertheless managed to amuse themselves and gain encouragement from the presence of some of the more notorious racist theorists plaguing contemporary Australia.

Racism is not only offensive, insulting and intimidating, but has had, and continues to have, devastating effects on individuals, communities and peoples.

After leaving Moldova, I went to Kiev in Ukraine, where I took a short ride on the Metro from the very centre of the city to an open, green field which is a popular picnic and relaxation spot for the local residents.

Although no outer signage gave identification, monuments and memories did bestow a name on this place where Nazi murderers had robbed many, many thousands of innocent people of their lives: Babi Yar.

The first persons charged with commission of Nazi war crimes in Australia committed their crimes in Ukraine and I was quite aware that as I stood at Babi Yar a somewhat surreal discussion was taking place in Australia on the responsibility for crimes in Hungary during the Holocaust of Arrow Cross members.

On leaving Babi Yar, I took a short walk down a street lined with craft stalls. A number of vendors asked me whether I was American, and when I responded in the negative they showed me some special "Matroushka" dolls.

While sympathetic or neutral designs were publicly displayed, non-Americans were exposed to designs of Jews with large hooked noses, money clenched in fists, which could only appeal to purchasers who found these caricatures amusing.

I mentioned above that I had taken a subway ride to Babi Yar. The station at which I boarded the train was only a few metres from an underpass in which a young Jewish man, Mordechai Ben Avraham, had been viciously assaulted by antisemitic thugs a few days before I arrived in the Ukrainian Republic.

Nearby, a Ukrainian-speaking friend pointed out the public sale of antisemitic hate literature of a type which has an international provenance but a specific Ukrainian resonance.

The material promoted the myth of Jewish world conspiracy, which has some high profile supporters in Ukrainian public life, including the members of the Ukrainian Conservative Party and others who recently demanded President Yuschenko act on the alleged "extremism" of Jewish religious texts.

With good reason, much has been said and written over the past few years on the subject of "new" forms of antisemitism.

It is important, however, that we do not lose sight of the fact that this complements and supplements, rather than replaces, the ideologies which fed the hatred behind historic hate, pogroms and genocide.

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