Another day and yet more faux outrage by the Murdoch press and Israel lobby in Australia.
First this (via the Australian on its front page):
Julia Gillard has denounced the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ahead of anti-Israeli protest action planned at the University of NSW today.
BDS action at UNSW has turned ugly, with anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying material appearing on a Facebook page opposing the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus. Postings on a Facebook page promoting today’s protest have attacked “Jews and Jew lovers” and said the figure of six million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany was an exaggeration.
“Tell us again how there was no hidden Zionist agenda with the Holocaust and the eventual creation of the state of Israel,” one reads.
The Prime Minister said yesterday through a spokeswoman that the government had always been firm in its opposition of the BDS movement, which equates Israel with apartheid-era South Africa.
“This campaign does not serve the cause of peace and diplomacy for agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine,” she said.
“I welcome the strong ties our universities have with Israeli researchers and academic institutions, and I hope those ties will deepen in the years ahead.”
The University of Sydney Student Representative Council this month called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, including severing the university’s ties with the world-renowned Technion in Haifa.
The Prime Minister’s comments come a week after she became the first Australian politician to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism.
“In the face of anti-Semitism, there can be no bystanders,” she wrote. “As citizens, as leaders and as nations, we must act.”
The gesture has been seen as bridge-building after a row with the Jewish community last year over Australia’s abstention from a UN vote giving Palestine non-member observer state status.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry chief Peter Wertheim welcomed Ms Gillard’s remarks yesterday.
“The BDS campaign against Israel over the last few years has been a spectacular failure,” he said.
“It has been forcefully repudiated by every political party represented in the federal parliament and in every state and territory parliament.”
Some Greens, including NSW senator Lee Rhiannon, have backed the movement in the past. Support for BDS is credited with dashing the Greens’ hopes of winning the seat of Marrickville in the 2011 NSW election.
The group Students for Justice in Palestine has called for a boycott of the University of NSW Max Brenner outlet, due to open in June.
BDS activists claim the chain is owned by the Israeli Strauss Group of food and confectionery manufacturers, which produces some rations for the nation’s defence forces and accuse it of complicity in “Israeli war crimes”. However, the local management insists it is wholly Australian owned and operated.
Australian Union of Jewish Students spokesman Andrew Goldberg said: “The boycott Max Brenner movement has turned into a hotbed of blatant anti-Semitism. Classical anti-Semitic comments have been made, clearly irrelevant to discussion about Max Brenner. The organisers have effectively endorsed these comments by dismissing legitimate concerns about anti-Semitism as ‘trying to shut down debate about Israel’.”
Mr Goldberg called on university officials to “ensure that those with an anti-Semitic agenda will not be allowed to spread their hateful and discriminatory agenda on campus”.
The Australian was unable to contact the Facebook site’s operators. However, one prolific poster apologised “to any of the Jewish people on this page who were upset and offended by comments”.
When the University of NSW surveyed staff and students about which new stores they wanted on campus, a Max Brenner chocolate shop was the equal second most popular choice. This has not deterred the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine UNSW from seeking to impose its own preferences on the rest of the campus community.
They accuse UNSW, and presumably staff and students who voted for Max Brenner, of supporting “Israeli war crimes” and “apartheid”.
Beyond this baseless calumny against Israel, local Max Brenner shops are wholly Australian owned and operated.
Yet if that was the extent of SJP’s response, it would hardly rate a mention.But what began as student activism, has ended up in a social media campaign of anti-Jewish vilification, to the point where many Jewish students on campus feel unsafe.
The Facebook page RALLY! Say no to Max Brenner at UNSW was set up by SJP via the Boycott Max Brenner at UNSW Facebook group. It has hosted dozens of comments that cover the gamut of anti-Jewish stereotypes, claiming that Jews are cursed by God, are money-hungry, control the media, and are dirty and evil.
Other posts deny the Holocaust and simultaneously, with textbook cognitive dissonance, blame the Holocaust on the Jews.
The racist postings include a reference to “evil greedy money-loving nature of Jews”, and the claim that “Only news (that) Jews are happy with goes through via media”. Another post reverts to classical religious bigotry: “Of course I have a problem with Jews. You are not the cursed people and were not Banished from the holy land for nothing lol.” Non-Jews who defend Jews come in for opprobrium with the comment: “Tip rats = Jew lovers.”
An especially vicious post rails against “the dirtiest most evil people on earth using the holocaust to their advantage as leverage to establish the state of israel. it was all planned.”
The UNSW Student Representative Council Ethnic Affairs Officer, Charlotte Lewis, was so shocked she posted: “Reading over these comments has left me gobsmacked at the outrageous anti-Semitic slanders mentioned on this event. If I see one more antisemitic comment, I’m taking this to the University.”
In a later post, Lewis stated: “I am the Ethno-Cultural Officer, meaning I need to look out for any hate speech towards any ethnic group. I have witnessed many accusations that the Holocaust didn’t exist, and that Jews are money-hungry pigs. Due to this, several Jewish students actually feel unsafe to step foot into the University, meaning I actually DO need to solve this problem.”
Lewis informed the page owners that the UNSW Chancellery had been made aware of the page, and its anti-Jewish content, but the university administration appears not to have taken action.
The present National Anti Racism campaign slogan, “Racism, it stops with me”, seems to have fallen on deaf ears among the administrators at UNSW, which has one of the most culturally diverse campuses in Australia.
It has been left to other UNSW students who share Lewis’s disgust to establish their own Facebook page Defend Max Brenner at UNSW, featuring screenshots of the anti-Jewish posts on the RALLY page to highlight the racism it has spawned. These students posted their own comments on the RALLY page, protesting its anti-Semitism and demanding an end to the anti-Jewish vitriol. For the most part, their demands went unheeded. Some anti-Jewish posts were deleted, but were replaced by others.
SJP has yet to ask itself why it provides a sympathetic home for naked Jew-hatred. SJP organisers wax indignant at the merest suggestion they are complicit in fomenting anti-Semitism. Instead, they accuse anyone who points out the raw racism they attract of trying to “censor” them with the intimidating charge of anti-Semitism. It is difficult but necessary for them to understand their own role in attracting and hosting content which expresses racism against Jews. It is easy, but false, simply to assume any claimed offence is merely feigned for political or other advantage.
Peter Wertheim is executive director and Julie Nathan research officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the national peak body of the Australian Jewish community.
Familiar and tired tactics. Anti-Semitism should be condemned whenever and wherever it occurs. No tolerance allowed. But note the complete absence of any discussion about why BDS is growing globally. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is deepening and becoming more brutal. Whatever accusations are throw at peaceful activists trying to raise these points will have no impact on Palestinians. The reality on the ground is what’s being suppressed by whatever means possible. Israel will become more isolated. Sanctions will come. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s minions and the Israel lobby will be writing articles about the anti-Semitism of breathing the word, “Palestinian.”
A small group of protesters has gathered at the University of NSW to protest about a chocolate shop which they say has links to Israeli war crimes.
The protest against the Max Brenner brand was organised by Students For Justice in Palestine (SJP) UNSW, with 175 people indicating on the group’s Facebook page that they would attend.
However, by midday Tuesday only around 20 protesters had gathered on the lawns of UNSW to hear speeches.
The SJP says the Max Brenner brand is owned by the Strauss Group, a corporation which sponsors the Golani and Givati Brigades of the Israeli Defence Force.
The group has accused the brigades of war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and ethnic cleansing.
Protester Lutfi Zayed, 20, accused Max Brenner of being complicit in Israeli war crimes, but denied the group was anti-semitic or had made anti-semitic comments on its Facebook page.
“Those comments made on Facebook, we don’t know about them,” he told AAP.
“What would you say about Islamaphobia on Facebook? We see that too.”
A university spokesman said the chocolate shop was under construction and due to open in June.
He said the university had no plans to revoke the lease signed with the operators.
Comment was being sought from Max Brenner.