Films, chants, and antisemitism – the protest at Verona…writes Julie Nathan

August 22, 2014 by Julie Nathan
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The protest against the Israeli Film Festival went ahead in Sydney last Thursday evening, despite the preceding court drama.

The NSW Police had obtained an order in the Supreme Court to prohibit the protest from being staged outside the Palace Verona Cinema in Oxford Street, Paddington.

protest3 The Palestine Action Group (PAG), the organisers of the protest, were not gracious losers. Reverting to type, they complained of a vast, dark conspiracy to deny their right to protest. Shopworn tropes about a Jewish conspiracy were shamelessly aired on their news websites and social media.

Raul Bassi, a member of PAG and Socialist Alliance, blamed “the Zionist lobby” for the adverse court order and asserted that the NSW Police were “under pressure from the zionists and its allies” to prohibit the planned protest.

In the same article, Ray Jackson, another anti-Israel activist, also accused an “all-powerfull jewish lobby”[sic] and the “pervasive zionist lobby groups here in sydney and around the country” who he claimed were trying to “subvert our right as citizens.”

protest2On the PAG Facebook page, many of the comments also made unsubstantiated and conspiratorial claims against Jewish communal organizations. Comments included “This just shows how powerful, organized and well equipped the Zionist lobby is. Supported by our main stream media & many of our politicians unfortunately” and “Perhaps, the jews comunity is pressing the police comissioner or the NSW goverment to take this action” [sic]. After the court ruling, it was posted that “It is very obvious that the Zionist lobby group has once again gotten its’ way.”

There was not a flicker of recognition that the police might have had valid concerns about the safety of pedestrians (including protesters) on a main artery out of the city at peak hour, and the disruption caused to workers trying to get home. Or that after five anti-Israel protests in Sydney in five successive weeks, the anti-Israel movement had already had more than a fair go. Or that police resources are limited and needed urgently elsewhere.

protest4One commentator even suggested that the police should be checking those attending the Israeli Film Festival for “war criminals” when she wrote “How abominable that the NSW police are not investigating the individuals attending to see who will be tried for war crimes next year. Special attention should be paid to audience members who have served in the IDF.” How abominable that she is so out of touch with reality.

The target of this protest was the screening of Israeli films. It was said this would “whitewash Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians.” Interestingly, at the same time, there is an Arab Film Festival in Sydney, also with many great films. However, there are no known demonstrations against the Arab Film Festival to protest the Syrian civil war which has seen 200,000 people killed, or the atrocities of the new IS Caliphate in Iraq, which crucifies and beheads those it opposes, including children, or a myriad gross human rights violations in Arab countries, including the subjection of women, gays and ethnic and religious minorities.

Nick Riemer, of the ‘Sydney Staff for BDS’ (based at the University of Sydney) declared that “No matter how pacifist, liberal and committed to justice a film’s message might be, the best thing to do for peace in Israel-Palestine is not to passively consume it, but to actively boycott any festivals in which it might be shown when these are sponsored by the Israeli state.” Riemer, a senior lecturer in the departments of English and linguistics at Sydney University, denounces pacifism, liberal values and justice. Riemer also opposes both freedom and national self-determination, at least when it comes to Jews and Israelis. He routinely refers to Israel as “a country whose founding was a crime” and asserts “Israeli filmmakers have no right to an audience.” Really? Well, I’ll be attending anyway.

protest1In spite of the court ruling, PAG made the decision to go ahead with their planned protest, but changed the venue to Taylor Square, some 400 metres away from the Verona, out of sight and out of earshot. Technically, the court order did not actually prohibit the protest but removed the immunity from prosecution that protesters otherwise have for disrupting traffic and obstructing the public. Despite all the mainstream media publicity, and claims that 1,000 people would protest, only about 150 turned up. A similar number of police attended to ensure public order was maintained.

At Taylor Square, placards from previous rallies re-emerged, and there were new ones. One new placard read: “The root of all evil in the world is Zionism!!! Zionism created the new World Order 6 6 6”. This is a bizarre accusation that the Jewish right to national self-determination in their homeland is not only evil, but the root of all evil. The numbers 666 is from the Christian Book of Revelations and is said to be the number of the Devil. Demonisation doesn’t get cruder than that.

policeOther placards used a film theme “Lights, camera, genocide” and “Your films can’t hide the killing” to accuse Israel of genocide. Put together, the theme makes the claim that Zionism, Israel, the national home of the Jewish people, is absolutely evil and genocidal. The appropriate word to describe the condemnation of a whole ethnic group is racism, in this case, antisemitism.

During the speeches, several of the speakers referred to the NSW police prohibiting the protest outside the Verona. They claimed it was a trend around the world. They cited several times that in Paris three anti-Israel protests had been banned. Riemer said that the banning of the three Gaza protests in Paris and a tightening of restrictions in Australia were part of the same trend. Even on their Facebook page, PAG posted that “Today’s decision recalls the banning of a protest against the Gaza war in Paris last month.”

Not once, did these speakers even acknowledge that the reason for the Paris bans were that protestors turned into a violent mob and attacked synagogues and Jewish owned shops in Paris. Hundreds of Jews were trapped inside a synagogue while the mobs outside bayed for their blood. It was these actions by anti-Israel protesters that led to the banning of protests in Paris. When protesters ignored the bans, and took to the streets again, synagogues and Jewish shops were again targeted with arson accompanied by chants of “Death to the Jews” and “Hitler was right.” In all, eight synagogues in France were attacked. Anti-Israel protests were permitted in other cities in France, where there had been no violence against Jews. For the Australian protesters to claim the Paris ban was akin to the Sydney ban is utterly dishonest.

Ridah Hassan, of Socialist Alternative, made repetitive claims about the “Zionist Australian government”, asserting that “Israel is a racist terrorist state” and that “the racist police are trying to shut down our protest.” In fact, the police quietly stayed back and allowed their protest in Taylor Square to proceed.

When it was announced that they were going to march down to the Verona, the police formed a cordon to prevent the protesters from crossing the road. To get around the court prohibition, the protesters in small groups moved away from the street corner, and crossed over further away. Some went through back streets and came out on the east side of the Verona while some came from the western side, another group were across the road from the Verona. The protesters were corralled into several groups by police, and were unable to get closer to the Verona. The city-bound direction on Oxford was closed off by police vehicles to allow the police to manage the protesters.

After 20 or 30 minutes of incessant chanting and attempts to get to the Verona, the protesters were ordered to move on, away from the Verona. Police followed them to ensure they did not double back or take a side street to the Verona. As the protesters walked, they continued with their angry chants.

A male driver in a passing car, having seen them and heard their anti-Israel chants, yelled out “Kill the Jews!” I spun around to get his number plate, but it was too dark. That hateful and murderous call was a direct result of the anti-Israel protest. I doubt many of the protesters would agree with his call, but the sentiment may resonate, given the protesters’ rhetoric, chants and slogans, which aim to destroy the Jewish state, where six million Jews live.

This murderous call by the driver comes only two weeks after thirty Jewish primary school students, aged between 5 and 12, on a school bus were verbally assaulted and threatened with “All Jews must die”, “Heil Hitler”, and “we’re going to slit your throats”. This attack occurred only a few kilometers away. The fact that there are publicly and unashamedly calls for the killing of Jews is of great concern.

Those who protest against Israel, its existence and all things Israeli, need to understand that they are becoming part of the vanguard for a very dark and sinister sub-culture that is moving toward a re-enactment of medieval anti-Jewish barbarism or rehabilitation of a Nazi-like extremism.

Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry





2 Responses to “Films, chants, and antisemitism – the protest at Verona…writes Julie Nathan”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Section 18C of the antidiscrimination legislation outlaws any act that is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or harass. The demonstrators were clearly insulting, humiliating and harassing the movie goers. The Jewish leadership, as usual, did nothing but deny oxygen, mostly to themselves and anyone who is not as clever and diplomatic and gutless as they are themselves.

    The demonstrators were defying a court order. The police did nothing to enforce the court order and again our leadership – did I say leadership?? ; shouldn’t I have said misleasdeship? – did nothing.

    Yet again, our enemies won and we lost. So far we only have lost face. But if we don’t start to get active we will soon be having our faces lost through forceful rearrangement.

  2. Elaine Black says:

    “KILL THE JEWS” – I doubt many of the protestors would agree with his call”.

    Oh My G-d Julie, I don’t believe you said that! Your charmingly considered and polite observation of a hate fuelled mob who would not only like to kill us given half a chance, but who also happen to hate our guts and our existence – is beyond belief. It’s quite one thing to be dispassionate and contained and quite another to miss the point so completely. It’s highly likely that the man in the car was one of the mob, and not just a passing motorist on his way out to dinner.

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