Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Last Word: Community standards

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Jeremy Jones


Some years ago, the federal body with responsibility for granting ratings to films was given the job of assessing a video which consisted of a speech promoting Holocaust denial.

The panellists were not required to pass comment on what appeared to be self-evidently defamatory comments about named individuals, but to concentrate on whether the material was unsuitable for any or all of children, teenagers or adults.

Despite the deleterious effect of racism on human civilisations over the millennia and the overt anti-Jewish incitement of Holocaust denial, as well as the criminal record and other notoriety of the speech-giver, the video was given a “G” rating.

Apparently, the lack of graphic violence or overt sexual acts meant that racist clap-trap was considered suitable for any Australian audiences, despite the fact that it breached state anti-racism legislation.

The government-appointed guardians of the moral good saw no community standard being breached by antisemitism.

Even in or era of heightened awareness of the harm to society inflicted by racism, many individuals in positions of authority and leadership seem completely oblivious to the nature and reality of antisemitism.

An example of inability to see and understand antisemitism can be seen in the willingness of individuals who would not otherwise attach themselves to racism staging, promoting and defending Caryl Churchill’s short play, “Seven Jewish Children”.

The theme of the play, to cite Dave Rich and Mark Gardner, two of the best credentialed and most intelligent contemporary observers of antisemitism, “is to accuse Jews of having undergone a pathological transformation from victims to oppressors.” The words Israel, Israelis, Zionists and Zionism are not mentioned in the play, although apologists for it conjure up a fantasy that it is a critique of the policies of a modern state rather than a mish-mash of traditional anti-Jewish tropes and images.

Supporters of the play included people who may be thought of as intellectuals, and it is well worth noting the observations in a recent piece by Barry Rubin on the way serious, respected British intellectuals were involved in the publication in the 1950s of an antisemitic forgery represented as the diary of a Communist official.

Rubin argued “Despite decades of documentation and explanation about antisemitism, a large proportion of the Western intelligentsia doesn’t understand it. For them, Jews – at least those who aren’t totally assimilated intellectuals either indifferent or hostile to their backgrounds – are incomprehensible. They don’t subscribe to traditional antisemitic – that is, medieval Christian and Nazi – stereotypes but are blind to their permutations”.

In one of the most outrageous recent manifestations of this inability to recognise even blatant antisemitism, the BBC broadcast on Feb. 18 comments from author Gordon Thomas in which he pontificated that all Jews, everywhere, are actually or potentially part of an organic, Israeli-directed, killing machine.

Thomas’ credentials as an expert included claims the Mossad murdered Princess Diana. The interviewer let him deliver his latest slander unchallenged and stand uncorrected.

While Holocaust deniers don’t bother to substitute the terms “Zionist” for “Jew”, many contemporary antisemites do.

It is not difficult to find examples of Israel and Zionists being accused of a range of charges historically levelled at Jews, such as seeking to dominate the world or specific governments, controlling media and finance, killing innocents for the most evil of purposes (most recently “organ harvesting”), and the list goes on.

As Barry Rubin puts it, those making such “transferences” do not “deal with Israel or Zionists or Jews as they really are but as they exist in the imagination of those making such portrayals”.

Those who have been propagating anti-Jewish fantasies and defamations, with few exceptions, are unlikely to stop simply because they are acting immorally and dishonestly.

But it is not unreasonable to expect those in positions of moral leadership and responsibility to become educated about the reality of antisemitism and take a firm stand against it.

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