Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Last Word: Hearts of Darkness

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Jeremy Jones


The murderous attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket in Paris quickly became, for far too many commentators, nothing but pretexts for polemics and platitudes.

The reality was that men and women were brutally, cruelly murdered, leaving many bereaved friends and relatives, and that other victims, hardly accorded any recognition, have been severely affected physically and emotionally.

They are not symbols or ideas, but human beings.

The men who somehow rationalised and justified their actions in causing this suffering were also human beings - but with free will they effected terrible crimes.

In Sydney, only a few weeks earlier than the Paris attacks, another individual decided he had a right to impose violence and the outcomes of an abhorrent worldview on others, with the result being innocents killed and injured, as well as bereaved and traumatised families, friends and community.

That individual, whose name does not deserve repetition, was well-known to Australians who have an interest in issues of hatred and incitement.

I personally had received a series of abusive, hate-filled faxes and notes from him over the years, as well as knowing from others more about his association with vile forces.

And it is the promotion of hate, and the horrendous results it can produce, which must be discussed if we are to pay respect to the victims of recent acts of politically rationalised violent murder in France, Pakistan, Central African Republic or anywhere else.

Everyone, from terrorism experts to pop psychologists, seems to agree that terrorists generally have developed political or theological outlooks which see the world in terms of absolutes - of clear good and evil with the right (or duty) of the good to engage in an existential struggle with those to whom they arrogate qualities of enmity and hostility.

They accept and promote a worldview which is premised (to varying degrees) on conspiracy theories which explain complex issues in simple ways. Intellectual laziness is treated as if it is a virtue, while complex religious and cultural traditions are infantilised to produce a lack of nuance, internal consistency or ethics recognisable to modern societies.

It is common for these worldviews to identify a section of humanity as the source of all woes, and then rationalise killing all those so identified. The shoppers in Hyper Cacher in Paris were murdered because they were Jewish.

Elsa Cayat, the only woman murdered at Charlie Hebdo, was selected because she was Jewish.

In Mumbai, terrorists went to great lengths to find Jewish people, with the single purpose of killing them.

In Europe (and not only in Europe) security agencies have upgraded security of Jewish institutions when it has been discovered that terrorists plan to act.

Somali Muslims have told me of the ridiculous, yet pervasive, image of Jews as the cause of all problems in that nation. Meanwhile, there are the examples of crude and vile anti-Jewish stereotyping in the mass media in Muslim-majority countries such as Iran and Egypt, the demeaning and destructive depictions of Judaism and Jews in government-controlled Palestinian media, while negative caricatures of Jews throughout the Arab world have been well-documented, right up to the present day.

In the main bookstore servicing the religious needs of Muslims in Sydney, and even at the main events supporting multiculturalism and communal understanding, I have found overtly anti-Jewish texts, some written especially for young children, sold openly and unapologetically.

This material, which seems designed to promote hatred, is supplemented by many works which the writers doubtless considered fair, if not generous, in their descriptions of Jewish people, beliefs and behaviour - but which, in actual fact, accept and reinforce some horrible stereotypes.

As long as this antisemitism is ignored, rationalised or accepted by religious reformers or glossed over by political leaders, we can expect to see new generations of vile ideologues with violent acolytes. These may begin with anti-Jewish acts but will soon grow to include other, more broadly-defined, targets and victims.

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