Features Australia

A pox on both their houses

The hard right and the hard left are equally contemptible in many Jewish eyes

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

Mark your calendars. On 18 July the fricks and fracks of radical Australian politics will once again face off at duelling protest rallies in Melbourne. In one corner you’ll have the Reclaim Australia crowd, gathered to decry threats to ‘our white heritage’. Arrayed opposite will be another group of extremists; more literate and with better dental hygiene, but no less obnoxious. These latter zealots will march under the banners of Marxism, anarcho-syndicalism and any other leftist ‘ism’ you might care to name.

Insults are certain to be hurled, along with elbows and perhaps the odd beer bottle. Pity the police whose unenviable job is to stand betwixt and between; keeping socialists of the materialist variety from putting the boot into socialists of the nationalist variety.

On such occasions leftists invariably claim inspiration from the ‘Battle of Cable Street’, a street brawl that erupted in 1936 when the British Union of Fascists tried to stage a march through London’s East End. During her recent appearance on Q&A, anarchist-devotee Van Badham cited Cable Street as a source of motivation ‘to put my body in front of neo-Nazis’ at an anti-Reclaim Australia counter-demonstration. ‘We’ve learned from history’, proclaimed Badham, how ‘the Jewish community and the progressive community in London banded together to stop a march of Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts.’ But what might have been true in 1936 is not so 79 years later. I can confidently predict that the mainstream Jewish community will be notable by its absence from the coming clash because it views both contending parties with contempt.

The origins of Jewish distaste for far-right white supremacists are obvious and self-evident. But why would the Jewish community feel such an aversion to the transcendent ideologies of Marxism and anarchism that argue for the solidarity of all people regardless of creed or colour?

The answer to that question is quite simple – behind all those noble professions of universalist moral virtue lurks a vile agenda that is anti-Semitic in effect, if not in intent. In Australia – as in Europe and North America – the primary locus of agitation against the Jewish state is found on the left wing of the political spectrum. In fact, Israel-phobia has become a veritable article of faith for anyone wishing to assert his-or-her progressive bona fides in our time.

Yet to the vast majority of Australian Jewry, hostility towards the Jewish state is indistinguishable from hostility towards the Jewish people. Each Shabbat morning a prayer is recited in synagogues from Perth to Parramatta calling upon God to: ‘bless the State of Israel, the first flowering of our redemption’. And despite the best efforts of leftist ideologues to adorn their Israel-phobia with a patina of moral respectability, most Jews think of anti-Zionism as merely anti-Semitism in a different form.

That was precisely the argument made by former Soviet prisoner-of-conscience Natan Shransky in 2004 when he posited a ‘3-Ds’ test for the ‘New anti-Semitism.’

The first of Sharansky’s ‘D’s stands for demonization, which he defines as over-the-top criticism of Israel that evokes ancient anti-Jewish stereotypes or makes spurious comparisons to Nazism.

Sharansky’s second D stands for double standards, as when Israel is subjected to a set of behavioural expectations that are not applied to other nations in the world.

And his final D refers to the leftist campaign of de-legitimisation that seeks to undermine Israel’s right-to-exist as a sovereign Jewish state.

Organisers of the 18 July counter-protest are serial offenders against all three prongs of the 3-Ds test. Vashti Kenway of the Socialist Alternative National Executive exemplifies this hard-left breed of semi-professional protester. A founding member of Melbourne Students for Palestine, she was arrested in 2011 for her role in blockading a Melbourne outlet of the Israeli Max Brenner chocolate shops franchise.

Kenway has shown no hesitation about expressing her desire to advance the cause of Israel’s destruction, describing it as ‘a state for which there is absolutely no justification.’ She and her fellow hard-left anti-Zionist activists assure us that their animus is directed solely against Israel and they bear no ill will towards Jews or Judaism.

There was no such distinction to be seen in 2012 when Kenway was organising a raucous anti-Zionist rally to be held outside a Melbourne synagogue while Shabbat services were ongoing. The demonstration was only cancelled after the media began to pose awkward questions about why a Jewish house of worship in Caulfield was targeted for protest over events in the Middle East.

A similar fusion of Israel-phobic and Judeo-phobic messaging is in evidence whenever the hard-left joins with its jihadi political allies to stage Middle East-related street demonstrations.

The Hamas charter explicitly calls for the mass murder of every Jewish man woman and child on the planet. The New York Times has quoted Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah saying: ‘if Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.’

Yet these bona fide calls for anti-Semitic genocide haven’t deterred leftists from marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Hamas and Hezbollah flag bearers while hurling false accusations of genocide against Israel in the bargain.

Then there’s BDS – the left-wing Boycott, Divestments & Sanctions movement that is prosecuting a campaign of economic warfare against Israel. And lest there be any confusion about the ultimate aims of BDS, just last year the movement’s co-founder Omar Barghouti declared: ‘most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.’ In other words, the boycotters seek to wipe Israel off the map of the Middle East.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has defined anti-Semitism as: ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.’ Under this EU standard there can be no question that the anti-Zionist left is engaged in a slightly more sophisticated form of Jew-baiting that is masked by a pseudo-ethical façade.

So as left-wing purveyors of the new anti-Semitism get into some biffo with right-wing purveyors of the old anti-Semitism, the Jewish community response will be ‘a pox on both your houses’.

On 18 July we’ll be sitting that one out.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Ted Lapkin is a Director at the Zionist Federation of Australia

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