Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

The Last Word: The Persistence of Prejudice

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Jeremy Jones

The Persistence of Prejudice  

The Jewish community has special security needs

Members of the internet social networking community “Facebook” in August saw naked, unambiguous antisemitism in comments posted to the group “FU Ajax Cricket Club”. One of the contributing bigots wrote “Being of german [sic] heritage, I think I need to apologise… my grandparents tried to get them all [Jews]… but its [sic] easier said than done when they are walking around in sewers trying to find change.” This and other submissions testified to the stupidity and ignorance - with respect to both Jews and Australia’s anti-racism laws - of group members.

Around the same time, a Qantas passenger alleged that he heard a series of boorish and repulsive anti-Jewish comments from a flight attendant, and when he let her know that he was Jewish, the attendant added more insults, causing further disgust and offence.

While these incidents received coverage and condemnation in the press, they are only two of literally hundreds of examples of anti-Jewish bigotry which have been recorded so far in 2007. While the Facebook goons identified themselves and the flight attendant is identifiable, the perpetrators of acts of violence and vandalism far too often are able to conceal their identities.

At the time of writing, the gutless thugs who attacked and assaulted a young Jewish man in Melbourne’s Balaclava and damaged property, in what appears to be an act of unadulterated racism, have not been identified. It is imperative that they not only be apprehended but punished to the full extent of the law.

Some victims, sadly, seem to accept that anti-Jewish prejudice and hatred has always existed and always will exist, and tolerate what should always be intolerable.

Many others recognise that all racism is unacceptable and contribute to the proper monitoring, analysis and response to it.

One of the complicating factors in dealing with antisemitism is the number of sources of bigotry which can provide rationale, inspiration and justification for attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions.

The street gutter bigotry of the Facebook users, the addle-headed prejudices attributed to the Qantas worker and the fanatic “dislike of the unlike” of street thugs are directed sometimes at Jews and sometimes at other identifiable minorities.

But Jews in Australia and elsewhere are also subjected to threats and attacks motivated by belief in conspiracy theories which place Jews at the centre of an imagined force in existential enmity to the rest of humanity; far-left wing fanaticism which simplifies society in a way which depicts Jews as fair game in pursuit of a broader agenda; anti-Israel extremists who fail in political arguments so turn to insult and assault; and religious extremists who think that by fighting Jews they are fulfilling divine injunctions.

With over 2,300 examples of anti-Jewish assault, vandalism and harassment documented in Australia between 2002 and 2006 and another 300 in the first half of 2007, it is understandable that the Jewish community seeks not only to have perpetrators identified and punished but wants to do all it can to make sure members of the community are protected from racist, as well as terrorist, attack.

Following many years of argument and advocacy, it is encouraging that the federal government has recognised the enormous burden of providing security weighing on the Jewish community and has set in place a process which should provide some material relief. The federal opposition has also recognised the special circumstances which confront the Jewish community and, while the parties’ approaches are different, the acknowledgement of the problem is consistent.

Uninformed, sarcastic media commentators may portray support for Jewish community security as cynical “vote-buying”, but they are as wrong as they are ignorant.

Racist bigots and terrorists are real, Jewish individuals and institutions are amongst their declared targets, and political decisions which recognise this genuine state of affairs deserve acclamation rather than sarcasm.

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