A report in the Australian said ‘anti-Semitic’ hate crimes are on the rise in America – and the FBI and the NYPD are launching new community outreach programs and patrols in affected neighbourhoods. They say recent conflict in the Middle East saw a 77 per cent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes. The term ‘anti-Semitism’ was coined in 1851 by Thomas Carlyle and means ‘prejudice, hostility, or discrimination towards Jewish people’ (Oxford English Dictionary). During the shooting war between Hamas and Israel there was a lot of media and political criticism of Israel—some very angry in tone. The odious South African word ‘apartheid’ was applied to Israel repeatedly on the ABC’s Q+A. So much so that management had to send a memo to staff telling them not to use ‘apartheid’ when reporting on Israel. The question that troubles me is this: when does anti-Israel or anti-Zionist anger cross the line and become anti-Semitic? There is no easy answer but as left-wing politics becomes more supportive of Hamas and the pro-Palestinian movement the question must be asked. The official policy of Hamas is that the state of Israel has no right to exist and should be abolished. Iran takes the same line. It is difficult to see how such a policy is not anti-Semitic. (And those two bodies are often Holocaust deniers). How can any prominent Australian support Hamas (and/or Iran) without having fallen across that line into anti-Semitic territory? I think it’s something we should be worried about in Australian public life. Rowan Dean in these pages said we need to take this further and stop using the word ‘anti-Semiticism’ (too sanitised, he says) and call it what it is—Jew hatred. He challenges the defenders of Hamas to show us their banners saying Jewish Lives Matter. You’ve nailed it, Rowan, and we need to use honest language about so-called ‘pro-Palestinian’ talk.
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