Reclaim Australia rallies Right and Left 

July 21, 2015 by Julie Nathan
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Neither Jews nor Israel were the issue, nor were there any signs of antisemitism, at the Reclaim Australia rally and the counter rally in Sydney on Sunday…a news report by Julie Nathan.

Sydney rally poster

Sydney rally poster

Nevertheless, the series of rallies and counter rallies around Australia, in April and over this weekend, and at other times, and the movements behind them, are of concern to the Jewish community.

The Sydney Reclaim rally on Sunday was unmistakably against Islam and Islamist terrorism. There were Australian flags, Eureka flags and an Aboriginal flag. The speakers included Pastor Danny Nalliah, a Sri Lankan born Christian, Shermon Burgess, leader of the United Patriots Front and gun enthusiast, and a woman who spoke of being raped by a gang of Muslim men. The crowd of around 200 were generally well-behaved, although at times ugly chants of “Filth!” referring to Muslims who had committed violence were heard. The rally was attended by various right-wing groups under the Reclaim Australia banner – Party For Freedom, Rise Up Australia, Concerned Citizens, Australia First Party, and others.

Sydney rally poster

Sydney rally poster

The counter rally in Sydney was organised by socialist groups, mainly Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance, and Solidarity. There were plenty of banners, and the rally was unmistakably anti-Abbott, anti-police, anti-Nazi, pro-Muslim, and pro-Aboriginal. The crowd of around 400 were rowdy, with several attempts to break out of the police blockade, and angry speakers often accusing the police of protecting the Reclaimers, while the crowd chanted “Nazi scum” at various times. Speakers included Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Rahaf Ahmed of the University of Technology Sydney Muslim Society (and of Palestine Action Group), several Aboriginal speakers, and others.

Police and the riot squad were out in force with several hundred officers determined to keep both rallies separate and apart. They formed a blockade around each rally, and had a police presence in the city blocks of Martin Place in between the two

Sydney rally poster

Sydney rally poster

rallies. The aim was to avoid the violence that had featured in previous protests. Arrests were made in both Sydney and Melbourne.

From a Jewish community perspective, both the far right Reclaimers and the far left counter groups of socialists include individuals and groups who are hostile to Jews and/or to Israel as a Jewish state.

Reclaim rallies have included neo-Nazis, and other far Right people, Pauline Hanson as a speaker, white pride groups, racist sentiment, and swastika tattoos. One major Reclaimer, neo-Nazi Neil Erikson, was convicted of making abusive and racist phone calls to a Melbourne rabbi. Australia’s most prominent neo-Nazi, Ross ‘The Skull’ May, has given support to Reclaim.

Sydney rally poster

Sydney rally poster

Reclaimers also oppose multiculturalism. All ethnic and religious communities in Australia have the right to maintain and express their traditions, within Australian law. The Jewish community is a prime example of how an ethnic and religious minority can maintain traditions and still be integrated into Australian society. Multiculturalism is a decades old government policy that reflects Australia’s make-up and encourages social cohesion. Muslims, as Australians, are also clearly entitled to practice their religious traditions along with every other Australian, as long as it is within Australian law.

The anti-Reclaimers are often touted by themselves and by the media as “anti-racist” but this is simplistic and inaccurate. In their activities, forums and protests, the only communities they show support for are the Muslim community and sometimes the Aboriginal community. Racist sentiment and incidents against other

Sydney rally poster

Sydney rally poster

communities like Indians, Chinese or Arab Christians do not rate a mention. Their opposition to Islamophobia is consistently coupled with opposition to the Abbott government. It is as though support for Muslims is predicated on opposition to the federal Liberal government.

In addition, the organisers of the anti-Reclaim rallies are generally the same people who organise anti-Israel rallies, including the annual al-Naqba rallies, the weekly protests against Israel during the Israel/Gaza war in 2014, and other anti-Israel protests. At these protests, anti-Jewish chants of “Khaybar Khaybar” and the chant calling for the destruction of Israel “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” are common. Placards equating the Jewish Star of David to the Nazi swastika and other Jewish/Israel equivalence with Nazism are increasingly a standard component. Other placards have been reminiscent of the Blood Libel, accusing Jews and Israel of deliberately targeting and murdering children in a ritual blood lust. Australia’s most prominent neo-Nazi, Ross ‘The Skull’ May, has attended Al-Naqba rallies, in a show of support for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Neither the Reclaim groups nor those who protest against them exhibit a vision of a democratic Australia built upon multicultural diversity, social harmony, and opposition to all forms of extremism. Instead, they each promote their own forms of intolerance, bigotry, and divisiveness.

Sydney rally poster

Sydney rally poster

Mainstream Muslims are an intrinsic part of the solution to Islamist violence, despite what the far Right and far Left would have us believe. By placing all Muslims in the ‘bad’ basket as the far Right do, and by the Left denying or ignoring the problem of Islamist violence around the world, neither are producing solutions, only scapegoating and blame.

While pro and anti-Reclaimers organise and hold their street rallies, shouting abuse at each other, perhaps it is time Australians of good-will, across the religious and ethnic spectrum, sat down with Australian Muslims and came together to discuss how we can all counter both Islamist extremism and Islamophobia, as well as other forms of extremist violence, bigotry and racism, including antisemitism.

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



5 Responses to “Reclaim Australia rallies Right and Left ”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    There is an “air” of deja vue, of strategic staleness , of a void in generating new, better timely adjusted initiatives in activating our communal , Jewish, values.
    Marching with the same slogans, hinging on the same “ideologies” not only isolates us, Jews, from the tachles of the local social fevers, but , in some justified eyes, places the Jew, once again, in that “ghetto” niche with all associated adjectives we’d rather do without.
    Our collective chochma seems relegated to “smart” comments while GOOD BRAINS are badly needed at the coal face of social disturbances.
    Certain practices, such as the exuberance around important passages in the Koran, have taken possession of our otherwise civilised CBD and beyond and we still sing the praises of that jingoistic “multiculturalism”, the same “reason” fora such as ABC’s infamous “Q & A ” gather week in week out all manner of anti Zionist mobs to teach…. us, Jews, how to behave.
    In some hyperbolic pseudo intellectualism, we still comb finely the sterile syntax of phrases so superfluous, so redundant, notions which NEVER had any reasonable traction , that , by now we find it almost impossible to wake up in the morning NOT looking for a quick rhetoric fix to render our spiritual haloymes useful through the dreaming light of a useless day.

    Time to get into a new, realistic gear and make our GENUINE grievances heard, to march WITH those Australians who DO want immediate reversal of fortunes, away from the tangible menaces in our midst.

  2. Alan Baden says:

    Thanks for your balanced report on this. However i do question your proposed solution that we engage ‘mainstream’ Muslims as appropriate stakeholders.

    On 26/8/2014 Newsweek reported that 16% of French citizens support ISIS…The survey asked;
    “From what you know, please, tell me if you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant otherwise known as ISIS”?

    Considering that Muslims, now, make up a high percentage of French citizens, this clearly shows that thousands of “mainstream” Muslims are in fact not so mainstream. 500,000 Australian Muslims translates to 80,000 Australian Muslim ISIS supporters. It would be a difficult exercise to weed out those 16% hiding under the ‘mainstream’ banner.

    The safer solution is to fortify Australian law against those things that are intolerable to Australians… I think the Koran might provide us with some clues of what those things are.

  3. Ben Derusai says:

    The Reclaim Australia movement is not extreme – have a look at their website.

    What is extreme are the neo-Nazi thugs from the United Patriot Front that have hijacked the movement, and the unwashed rabble from the Socialist Alternative who agree with human rights, but only if it is from their side of politics.

  4. Henry Herzog says:

    You have got to be joking. Neo Nazis with swasticas not a Jewish issue! And we constantly complain about trivializing and dening the Holocaust?

  5. Jim Stack says:

    Too much literal ‘Islam’ is the problem. It excuses any action. This leads to a reaction. Australian once was one nation. Now there are too many divisions.

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