Antisemitism claims and the election

May 19, 2022 by Andre Oboler
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Media articles today about the “Angel of Death” are an abuse of Holocaust memory. I don’t mean the comments by Simon Holmes à Court, I mean the media articles themselves.

Andre Oboler

I have been concerned for some weeks now about attempts by people associated with the Liberal Party to frame independents as anti-Israel and/or antisemitic. They have been trawling for material that the Jewish community might dislike. That would be fair if done by a neutral party who was checking all politicians and applying the same standards. If one was to trawl Facebook for it, one would only need to look at the Liberal Party’s concerted attacks on 18C to find similar content the Jewish community was vocally concerned about from most Liberal candidates. The hate and fear being peddled is disingenuous and designed only to serve a partisan political purpose.

This case, however, takes it to an extreme. The label “Angel of Death” in relation to former Prime Minister John Howard came from an unnamed Liberal who was quoted in the Saturday Paper. They said, “I look at John Howard as the angel of death. You don’t send John Howard somewhere you don’t need him.”

They were trying to say Howard was an asset reserved as a Hail Mary, a desperate attempt to pull out all the stops when things are going awry. The allusion is to the Angel of Death that is said to have killed the firstborn in Egypt before the Jews went free from slavery. This was the last of the 10 plagues after the first 9 failed to change Pharaoh’s heart. Only the firstborn of the Jewish families who marked their doors lived through the night. The Angel of Death checked the doorposts, deciding who lived and who died. In this context, it suggests Howard was supposed to be the final attempt to salvage a situation, dealing a killing blow to the electoral chances of the party’s opponents. It has nothing to do with the Holocaust.

Nazi doctor Josef Mengele conducted deadly experiments on Jews. He is called the Angel of Death as he too selected who lived and who died. He experimented on twins, using one as a control who might live, and one as a test subject who usually died. His experiments were usually designed to be fatal. In the absence of any reference to the Holocaust, Nazis, or doctors, there is no basis for thinking a comment about the Angel of Death refers to Mengele rather than the original from the Passover story.

Simon Holmes à Court’s comment reflected the unnamed Liberal’s comment and used it in the same context. It was not a Holocaust-related comment. It was not an antisemitic comment. What we see now in the media is false claims of antisemitism, some using antisemitic tropes to present Simon Holmes à Court’s as some sort of Elder of Zion crossed with a Nazi. This is ridiculous. It is an abuse of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the Jewish community.

On the media side, the most extreme abuse was in the Daily Mail, with an article that carried the headline, “Multi-millionaire puppet master of wealthy independents attempting to tear down the Liberal Party denies comparing popular ex-PM John Howard to NAZI DOCTOR who tortured Jews – after being slammed by Aussie holocaust survivors”. The “Multi-millionaire puppet master” is a classic antisemitic idea (think Rothschilds). The reference to “wealthy independents” is a classic antisemitism idea (think powerful Jews). The allegation of “attempting to tear down the Liberal Party” smells like insurrection. Of course, the statements aren’t being targeted against Jews, so they are not actually antisemitic, but they are designed to push Jewish buttons. The use of Holocaust survivors in this way is just tragic, it is an abuse of our Holocaust survivors.

I’ve spent this week dealing with the fallout of real antisemitism. A Nazi and neo-Nazi inspired terrorist attack in Buffalo, New York. The victims were mostly Black, but the ideology behind the attack was deeply antisemitic. I was up through the night working to remove videos captured from the terrorist’s live stream as he shot and killed 10 people. After reporting 1 copy of the video, I watched the number of viewers climb from 100k to over 3.2+ million. Eventually, I managed to reach out to the Managing Director of the parent company of the service hosting the video, and I secured the removal of this extremism, stopping it from spreading and reducing the risk of further attacks.

Rather than discussing how they will tackle real antisemitism or support for those doing this work, we get trawling and smearing from political activists. Rather than reporting on an Australian win that significantly reduced the global spread of an extremist Nazi Inspired video, and therefore the risk of it inciting further attacks, some media give us headlines with false allegations shouting about Nazi allusions that don’t exist.

There are real neo-Nazis and real work that must be done to tackle them. It happens in civil society on a shoestring budget and out of the limelight. Can politicians and the media please start using their influence for good, rather than for harm? Abuses of Holocaust memory and false claim of antisemitism just makes it harder to tackle these Nazis and other incidents of antisemitism.

Dr Andre Oboler is an expert in antisemitism and extremism. He is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute, a member of the Australian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and has held a range of senior leadership roles within the Jewish community.



3 Responses to “Antisemitism claims and the election”
  1. Adrian Jackson says:

    I don’t think anti Semitism had any influence on the election outcome at all. Defeated candidates and defeated Parliamentarians were all across the political and religious/non religious spectrum.

  2. Henry Herzog says:

    Too, too, too right Andre,
    These Liberal dog whistlers are an absolute disgrace, using the Holocaust to garnish the Jewish vote. But what is worst is that our Liberal party Jewish MPs are assisting.
    Having the champion of free hate speech, accompanied by Josh Freedenberg and David Southwick to a Holocaust Museum event to help attract Jewish voters of Goldstein. How pathetic a sell out.

    • mdlewis999 says:

      The article and the HH comment are both reflexively anti Liberal. They could be written by Labor dog whistlers. The teals and their committees have pressed real anti Israel buttons. Let’s hope the electors in the relevant seats bear this in mind. I disrespect those who claim to stand up for the memory of the Holocaust in a one sided manner.

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