Antisemitism flaunted at fourth Sydney rally

August 5, 2014 by Julie Nathan
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About 1500 to 2000 people attended Sunday’s anti-Israel rally in Sydney, for the fourth week in a row.  The event was again noticeable for its anti-Jewish expressions and for the prominence of the militant black flags of jihad.”

In contrast to previous rallies, there were slightly fewer yellow flags of Hezbollah, but more flags of The Greens, and again no Australian flags. Hezbollah t-shirts were being worn by some protesters.

Ophelia Haragli, the MC, began the rally by comparing the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto who resisted against the Nazis with the Palestinians resisting against Israel. She qualified that by saying that the Palestinians Arabs have it harder because their struggle against oppression has been for 66 years, while the Jews suffered only for seven years.

The speaker was either cynically seeking to minimise the enormity of the Holocaust, or is simply ignorant of the mass shootings, the ‘Final Solution’, the Wannsee Conference, the extermination camps, the mass deportations and the gassing and cremation of millions of Jews. Later, on introducing another speaker, Haragli stated that “Our struggles are not against Jews or Judaism” but are only against the Jewish state.

Peter Slezak proclaimed that he was speaking as a Jew. He decried the media characterizing the three previous rallies in Sydney “as hate-filled and antisemitic.” He correctly stated that “it is not anti-Jewish to be critical of Israel” but did not say whether he thought some criticism of Israel might be antisemitic and, if so, on what criteria. Slezak shamelessly played on his Jewishness and his family’s Holocaust background by declaring “I think I recognize antisemitism when I see it. I don’t see any antisemitism here!”

Being Jewish and the descendant of Holocaust survivors does not make Slezak an authority on Israel or on antisemitism. The vast majority of Australian Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants would consider Slezak’s views on Israel and antisemitism to be repugnant.

There was an abundance of anti-Jewish placards at the rally which Slezak was addressing. Two in particular were prominently displayed near him: “First it was Hitler… now it is Israel” and “Israel behaves like modern day Nazis”.

Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, or Zionism to Nazism, or the Jewish Star of David to the Nazi swastika, is recognized as antisemitic by virtue of it being a false analogy aimed at demonizing Jews, and by minimizing the evil of the deliberate and planned mass extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis, and in turn retrospectively justifying the Holocaust against the Jewish people.

Slezak claimed that “We have a weapon better then the well-funded Israel lobby – we have compassion, a sense of justice, and truth.” He urged the crowd to support the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign against Israel “until Palestine is free.” Given the chant at these rallies of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, Slezak’s words can be seen as a call for the destruction of the only Jewish state in the world.

Placards from previous rallies were brought out again, and new placards with new slogans were produced. New slogans on placards expressing the Nazi and Holocaust theme included “Stop Israeli war crimes” with the ‘S’ in “Israel” being a swastika, “Holocaust 1939-1945, Holocaust today”, “Israeli must stop holocaust in Gaza”, “Here is Gaza, this is the real Holocaust… Stop This Genocide”, “What Ariel Sharon learned from the Holocaust? Humiliation Tyranny Brutality Murder”, and “War on Gaza = Holocaust Genocide Ethnic Cleansing” with images of a Nazi flag = Israeli flag.

One placard had an image of a Jewish prisoner, of a Nazi concentration camp, in the shape of a swastika on a barb-wire fence with the words “Never again” next to a Gazan man also in the shape of a swastika on a barb-wire fence with the words “Over again”.

Another theme in placard slogans, continuing on from last week, was to accuse Israel of targeting children, including “Evil Israel killing babies every day”, “Stop bombing children” and “Children of Gaza have been murdered”. One placard had a drawing of Israeli planes shooting at a children’s playground and the words “War Israeli style”. A 30 metre long banner had the slogan “This is a war on kids Israeli style” repeatedly printed.

The most remarkable feature of the march around the streets of the city was the prominence given to the black flags of jihad. These jihadi flags were part of the front line that led the march. For all intents and purposes, these flags of jihad took precedence over the flag of Palestine. It was quite a scene in George Street to see these black flags, with the Islamic shahada emblazoned on them, flying high to the backdrop of the majestic buildings of St Andrews Cathedral, the Town Hall and Queen Victoria building.

After the march, back at Town Hall, Damian Ridgeway from the podium bragged about how he and thirty others had invaded the Max Brenner chocolate shop in Newtown on Friday, and had forced it to close. (Video footage shows staff and customers intimidated by the anti-Israel hooligans.) Ridgeway then urged chanting from the crowd, including “Max Brenner, come off it, there’s blood in your hot chocolate” – a chant which Jews find particularly odious given its connection to the medieval Blood Libel myth which falsely accused Jews of drinking gentile blood.

True to form, anti-Israel rallies attract their fair share of rabid Jew-haters, irrespective of the Arab-Israel conflict. One of these, a local right-wing extremist, was handing out leaflets quoting Bob Carr and Malcolm Fraser on the Jewish lobby. The leaflet, alluding to Jews, stated that “Parts of our government have been overrun by a small minority group. […] The same players donate to all the major parties in order to maintain their power regardless of who wins the elections.”

On the Facebook event page, created by Palestine Action Group (PAG), organizers of the protest, were many antisemitic comments and images. Many of these also, like the slogans on the placards, were based on the antisemitic motif accusing Israel of being a Nazi state. Others regurgitated stereotypes of Jews.

Comments included “HITLERISM / ISRAELISM = HOLOCAUST”, “The zionists in Israel are the greediest, most blood thirsty people on earth…”, “Israel has always had the rich media in their corner spreading propaganda and calling it news” and “kick out the isreali lobby that’s over taken our government”.

Several antisemitic images were posted on Facebook, including two images equating Israel with the Nazis. One image had pictures of Hitler and Netanyahu, both dressed in the same brown uniform and in the same pose, with the words “War Criminals” above them and under Hitler “Warsaw ghetto massacre” and under Netanyahu “Gaza ghetto massacre”.

Another image was composed of a photo of Hitler with the words “We are the Master race” and a photo of Netanyahu with the words “We are God’s Chosen People.” Such a comparison can only be based in either total ignorance or in anti-Jewish bigotry. Nazi racial theories classified the world’s peoples into a hierarchy of races, with one race ruling, and other races either enslaved or exterminated. The Biblical concept of the “Chosen People” is based on the Jewish people, through the teachings of the Torah, being an example to humanity on how to live a life and create a society based on justice and peace.

After four weekends of anti-Israel protests around the country, where anti-Jewish expressions at the protests and on their Facebook event pages were vile and pervasive, it seems clear and irrefutable that the anti-Israel protest movement in Australia, as it is elsewhere, is severely tainted with antisemitism.

As they chant for the destruction of the Jewish state, as they refer to Israeli Jews as Nazis, as they accuse Israeli Jews and Jews around the world of being evil and bloodthirsty and of manipulating governments, their words and actions have a ripple effect in the big pond of bigotry.


Julie Nathan is the research officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry




2 Responses to “Antisemitism flaunted at fourth Sydney rally”
  1. Matthew Johnston says:

    I must admit after 3 weeks of seeking to have to justify ones right to self defense including preemptive action be it against the Hamas or the Hizbullah. I finally did my block and got narky with much explicit language.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    Good report Julie, but just a couple of questions:
    1) why didn’t the police stop the hate speech and the defamatory signs in the same way as they take action against people who behave offensively against Asians?
    2) why didn’t the police act against a person who admitted a criminal act in public and why doesn’t anyone from the Jewish community insist that the police take action?
    3) why don’t the vocal defenders of 18C invoke it in the face of clear intimidation and humiliation?

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