The Intolerance of Anti-Semitism – The House of Dior Takes a Stand

March 8, 2011 by Ian Sandler
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Anti-semitism has reared its ugly head again this week.  Balanced on top of the couture neck of Dior’s top designer John Galliano….

A snapshot tour of this global media event renders a drunk Galliano verbally abusing a woman in a bar declaring his love of Hitler and ranting how her family should have been victims of the gas chambers. Click here to view.  Galliano’s celebrity has ensured that a media frenzy has ensued but one has to wonder how many similar conversations take place that are never addressed, identified or reported.

In such a sophisticated and cultured world, the emergence of such archaic and vicious sentiment was reviled.  The backlash for Galliano was huge – he has been fired from Dior, Oscar winning actress and Jew Natalie Portman has publicly come out and expressed her outrage and I’m sure more than a few items of his clothing have made their way to various Op Shops around the world.

In the same breath, many of his fellow designers, models and fashion stylists have fobbed it off as a drunken misdemeanour.  Excuses such as him making a theatrical statement, being overly under the influence or unfairly filmed have fallen on the deaf ears of the general public who will no longer tolerate such blatant hatred.

In Australia and in New South Wales particularly, JCA member organisation The Jewish Board of Deputies is confronted daily with reports and incidences of antisemitic behaviour.  CEO Vic Alhadeff regularly visits radio stations to bring a balanced point of view to an argument where Jews are vilified and racism is made to seem acceptable.  The print media often place biased and misleading articles on the stance against Israel and its policies – again requiring an immediate response and action.  Only by educating our community as well as others can we hope to stem the rising tide of this hatred.  The BOD run regular advocacy courses for adults and students, equipping them with the information and rhetoric to defend themselves and their fellow Jews locally and globally.

Another JCA organisation on the forefront of advocacy and education is the Sydney Jewish Museum.  In 2010 the Sydney Jewish Museum hosted more than 19,000 adult visitors and more than 16,000 school students as part of the NSW curriculum.  By creating enough educational touch points we are empowering both Jews and non-Jews to stand up against antisemitic and racist behaviours.

Without these support mechanisms in place, our existence and freedom as we know it would be severely under threat and our security compromised.


And unfortunately racial hatred is not only limited to Jews.  Today headlining in the news was an all out brawl at a high school in Sydney’s West which erupted yesterday following a series of racial slurs and tensions on Facebook between Aussie and Muslim students.  Anti-semitism and racism in any form against anyone is unacceptable in today’s society. A few weeks ago, in our own backyard, Marrickville Council adopted an anti-Israel stance which was slammed and ridiculed by political groups and the public across the board.

I’d like to leave you with some words from a woman who is a legend in our community, Sabina Van Der Linden Wolanski (a child Holocaust survivor) who was quoted at the opening of the 2005 Berlin Holocaust Memorial “I have learned that hatred begets hatred. I have learned that we must not remain silent and that each of us must fight discrimination, racism and inhumanity.”

What lengths would you go to to defend your community?  Would silence be an option in an uncomfortable situation?


Ian Sandler is the CEO of JCA


One Response to “The Intolerance of Anti-Semitism – The House of Dior Takes a Stand”
  1. Ian, for an article on racism it is surprising you use the phrase “Aussie and Muslim students”. I realise your point was to identify that racism in Australia was not limited to the Jewish community, however, such a phrase is problematic. Consider the implications form the phrase you used. Des that mean that Muslim students involved are not Australian? Imagine how you would respond if the phrase “Aussie and Jewish students” or “Aussie and Christian students” or Aussie and Buddhist students”?

    Secondly, I agree, John Galliano’s comments if true are outrageous and condemnation is justified. However, to try and link Galliano with Marrickville Council is unfair and a smear tactic (whether intentional or inadvertent). Sadly, when it comes to criticism of Israeli there are those who try and explain it away by smearing the critic as anti-semitic or the like. Instead as people of good will we should be looking at what is happening to the people of Palestine? And look at ways to help alleviate their situation. This is in the best interests of the people of Israel and Palestine.

    One can vehemently disagree on tactics eg the use of BDS as a tactic to bring about change. But what should never be forgotten is the underlying goal ie to seek a way for there to be peace for the people of Israel and Palestine. Continuing to build settlements on Palestinian land only harms Israel because it only makes the job of evictions harder. The Palestinian state is inevitable. The smaller and more fractured that state becomes the more difficult it will be for Israel and Palestine to find sustainable peace.

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