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Jeremy Jones: Thinking Locally, Acting Globally

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Just over 25 years ago, in a place very close to Vienna (in Australian eyes) – Brussels, a huge gathering of politicians, diplomats, Jewish leaders, civil society, intellectuals, academics and activists, convened to celebrate a new era – after the fall of the Soviet Union – in which antisemitism had been relegated to the gutters from which it had emerged.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 At “My Brother’s Keeper: World Conference on Anti-Semitism and Prejudice in a Changing World”, [1] the optimism was all but pervasive. A number of keynote speakers and assorted experts exuded a faith in both the present and future. The handful of dissenters – of which I was one – were relegated to the sidelines for suggesting so little as that it was too early to know what we were witnessing, let alone what the future may have held.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The serious activists amongst that assembly – and from the multitudes not included in it – have generally concentrated efforts not just on documenting antisemitism but taking initiatives to maximise the chances that antisemitism would, at the very least, be socially unacceptable and that it would serve to impede the political progress of any who espoused it.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Which may explain why these deliberations are taking place at a time when, wherever one turns, one sees what I will call “non-antisemitism” – where any actor rejects the label of being antisemitic, despite objective evidence.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 In the United Kingdom, many loud, occasionally dissonant, voices articulate the view that the “non-antisemitism” in the British Labor Party should be promoted as an innate left-wing value,[2] proclaimed from the rooftops of Labor boroughs, as this is part of the Momentum[3] towards inevitable rebuilding of that venerable democracy.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 In Norway, Bjornar Moxnes a member of Parliament who previously had an international profile just a little below that of a Scottish 3rd division football team, has been proclaiming the “non-antisemitism” of his move to have the bullies, defamers and slanderers, the so-called BDS movement, receive a Nobel Prize.[4] He was reported to have said his political stance was “completely free of antisemitism”.[5]

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The intense “non-antisemitism” in discussions of one individual, in an episode perhaps best labelled the Tsures[6] of Soros, has been reaching fever-pitch in recent weeks.[7]

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Organisations such as Sunni-badged Hamas, and the-clearly-in-no-way-related Shi’a imperialists of Iran[8], are keen to promote their “non-antisemitism” to the West, often recruiting the virtually talentless street performers from the miniscule and theologically deviant Jewish sect, Neturei Karta,[9] to act as the chorus to the Islamist virtuosi.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Is it ungenerous to not welcome the prevalence of this “non-antisemitism” ? After all, it is partial acknowledgement of quite a dramatic change in the state of public discourse, at least for much of the West and those parts of the planet upon which European philosophies have had the greatest impact. It may be that we live in an unusual time.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 How often, in how many places, in all of recorded history, would attitudes towards members of an out-group be cause for great reflection, much less potential embarrassment? In the religious sphere, treating others with contempt, vilifying those who refused to acknowledge any variety of the One True Way, endowing characteristics upon them which furthered one’s own claim to moral superiority and contributing to their misery, thus providing further testimony to one’s own righteousness, be anything others than Articles of Faith? Judaism, and its both subjectively and objectively confusing adherents, has been a religion which has coexisted with numerically superior, passively or not-so-passively aggressively others, for millennia. Literature testifying to feelings of embarrassment by those in the intellectual leadership of movements declaring Judaism and Jews as deserving of contempt, maltreatment and even hatred is far more difficult to locate than are rationalisations for this behaviour.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Factor in the emergence of two world faiths which developed in ways which meant Jews and Judaism were inevitably part of serious theological deliberations. Christianity included Jewish religious texts in its Holy Canon, reliant on some of these for the very essence of its own narrative of Divine Intervention in the affairs of humanity. It developed as a rival to Judaism. The Gospel was first shared with Jews. Early Christians and Jews shared communities and from the very first there was an issue of the attitude of Believers in a Revealed Truth meant for all humanity towards those who knew and could have accepted the Way but refused to do so. In the essential principles of each, only one interpretation could be correct. Further, it mattered very much to Christians that this was the case. Add to this admixture the accusation of Deicide, and you have some powerful motivators at work. For most of the past two millennia, anti-Judaism was de rigeur, not a cause of discomfiture or something of which to be embarrassed or ashamed. That is not to suggest for a moment that the translation of this attitude into persecution, mistreatment and murder, was never an issue for devout Christians – only that Jews and Judaism were particularly confronting.[10]

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 One should not underestimate the cathartic impact of the Shoah, particularly given the cultural Christianity of the societies from which Nazism and its supporters emerged and the overlap between religious preaching of hatred and the acceptance of “racial” antisemitism. It is barely half a century since the overhaul of Catholic teaching at the Second Vatican Council,[11] a little over 30 years since the first Papal descriptions of antisemitism first as deplorable [12] and then as a sin,[13] with most Protestant theologising and Eastern reflection on the subject of the nexus between a self-defined religion of love and the consequences of human interpretation of a Divine moral code even more recent.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The position of that other World Religion, Islam, is in a sense more nuanced with its antagonisms towards Judaism and Jews taking different forms which have often lacked the Manichean overlay of Christian conceptions. As is the case with Christianity, there are direct references to Jews and Judaism in Holy Teachings. The Faith developed in the presence of and proximity to Jewish believers who had the opportunity to accept The Truth. The Quran includes significant references to personalities and episodes familiar to Jews and commentary is included which makes (generally negative) references to Jews, leaving it open to interpretation as to what these references mean. Additionally, there are Hadiths, testaments of the words and actions of the Messenger, by various contributors and in a number of compilations, which have been used to form attitudes towards Jews and Judaism.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 It is not difficult to find emphasis on passages which paint Judaism as it is practised, the behaviour of specific Jews or Jews as a group in a negative light in the Islamic world, just as it is not difficult to find emphases on Judaism as Monotheism (in a superior class to Christianity) and on passages promoting goodwill. It is as disingenuous to deny that there are not significant numbers of Muslims who say in prayers – for many 17 times a day – that they seek guidance to avoid becoming like the Jews,[14] or that apocalyptic visions of a war with Jewish enmity to Islam defeated are not very common, as it would be to deny the streams which both promoted and practiced a far gentler attitude to the religion and its followers. But it must be noted that those who held even the most negative of views or carried out the worst excesses of discrimination and persecution would not have felt any need to proclaim that they were not true believers in the morality and theological buttresses of their activities.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 The above references to religion were selected to remove doubt that discomfort or embarrassment, let alone regret, were not hallmarks of the presentation of the Oldest Hatred even from movements which include such concepts in their essences.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 It should be self-evident that those who define Jews as racial, let alone religious, existential enemies of all which is good, would not pretend that they were embarrassed to be anti-Jewish. Indeed, one can gain wry amusement in observing how the different strains of racist antisemitism compete to prove which of them hates Jews more, and which has better strategies in intimidating, upsetting, offending and hurting Jews individually and collectively. In one relatively recent example, we had well-known English self-immolator and a-historian David Irving chastise open Denier of the Holocaust, Fredrick Toben, for having an “antisemitic website” which gave misrepresentation of historical truth a bad name.[15]

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 For a variety of historic factors, not least of which was intellectually opportunistic anti-Colonialism and another the weakening of institutions of liberal democracies, proclaiming anti-racism (including “non-antisemitism”) has become an essential part of rhetoric from significant segments of contemporary self-defined left-wing movements. No matter how self-evident leftwing racism (and I am not only referring to antisemitism) may be, these selectively-progressives will argue, until they are green in the face, that they cannot possibly be racist _because_ they are of the left.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Remember Durban, 2001, the UN World Conference Against Racism and the accompanying Youth and NGO Fora? My personal memories include not just leaflets bemoaning Hitler’s failure to kill every Jew on the planet or cartoon booklets containing images of Jews as hook-nosed, clawed, blood-dripping-from-teeth subhumans or the sale of obscene anti-Semitic texts on sovereign UN soil, but the way so much of the human rights world accepted this as a legitimate (if slightly unsavoury) part of a legitimate political struggle.[16] The other memory that came from that period was the way an email address I established specifically for that conference suddenly received steady traffic a few days after I returned home – and just after the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York. These emails stated variously the terrorist attacks were good things, the terrorist attacks never happened or that Jews were responsible for so-called “false flag” attacks.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 I was at the UN Conference in Durban as a delegate appointed by the Government of Australia and a t the NGO Conference representing the World Jewish Congress. It was my privilege to present at a session organised by the Jewish caucus against antisemitism, and to take part in the activities of the Australian NGO Caucus and with colleagues in the Indigenous caucus. I spoke on the manifestations of antisemitism as the new Millennium was beginning, in what is arguably the world’s most Jewish-friendly country, Australia, and how we were dealing with it.[17]

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 First, we had engaged in widespread education. We tried to help all Australians see opposition to antisemitism as one of, or at least consistent with, what it meant to be a good Australian.[18] This was particularly significant given that Australia is a country of immigration, with high proportions of the population born outside Australia and even higher proportions having one or more parent born overseas. It is significant that we saw antisemitic parents not passing on hatred to the next generation – because the next generation wanted to be “Australian”.[19]

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 Understanding that this task required more hands than the maximum of two each from every Jew, we had been building alliances, coalitions, partnerships and cooperative ventures.[20] Our national protestant Uniting Church had taken aboard the need for Christians to not only purge their souls from antisemitism but to help purge the national soul of the same evil.[21]

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 We had used the law, to the extent that editors, internet service providers, employers, political parties, religious institutions and civil society understood that antisemitism could have consequences (beyond hurt to the targets/victims). Arabic papers in the Middle East may publish anti-Semitic pseudo-analyses of world affairs – but Australian Arabic newspapers could not reprint them.[22] Holocaust denial on the internet, if posted by an Australian resident or hosted by an Australian server, could have courts order its removal.[23] Years of leafletting anti-Jewish slanders could be ended with one complaint, as laws developed.[24] (Later cases demonstrated that protected political speech did not include promotion of antisemitism in a party’s paper and that freedom of religion did not include freedom to promote hatred of others).[25]

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 We had, with a large degree of success, developed local responses to global phenomena and, to some measure, expanded the understanding of the destructive nature of antisemitism beyond national borders. Jewish leaders of the generation of my parents could proudly speak of the way the Australian Lutheran Church, for example, had led other Lutherans in thinking of Judaism as a living faith and not something superceded millennia ago.[26]

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 Australia’s nearest neighbour is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia. The Muslim population of Indonesia approximates the Muslim population of the Arab League. Two Indonesian Muslim movements, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have claims to be the largest Muslim movements in the world, the first claiming to have between 40 and 60 million adherents, the latter up to 45 million. For most of the recent period, NU has had significant elements which have been positively inclined to Jews and a willingness to be open to discussion about Israel. Muhammadiyah has also contained elements which have worked to promote inter-religious understanding. Both have played essential roles in defining Indonesian identity – and have been conscious of the potential of Indonesian Muslims to impact on Global Islam.

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Over 10 journeys to Indonesia and countless interactions with Muslim Indonesians in Australia, it has been interesting to observe a range of attitudes towards Jews.[27]

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Most Indonesians have never met a Jewish person. For many, real, living Jews are of little interest. “Palestine” is an important social cause, but understanding of the history and contemporary situation of Israel and Palestinians is generally superficial.[28]

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Knowledge of Jews – as a concept rather than a segment of humanity – comes from a variety of sources. Many of my visits to Indonesia have been directed at Muslim centres of scholarship and social organisation, and the Quran is a primary informer of ideas of Jews. Various readings of the Quran permit positive, negative or mixed views of Jews as monotheists gone astray through to deserved objects of contempt, with the historic burden for transmission of understanding falling upon religious teachers. Which hadiths are accepted, taught and emphasised, which tasfir (exegesis) is given prominence and what is included in weekly khutbah (Friday “sermons”) provide the religious overlay on understanding of how Indonesians feel they are meant to understand Jews.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Another source is the behaviour of role models. Former NU leader, and the first elected president of democratic Indonesia, Gus Dur (Abdurahim Wahid) was, indisputably, a serious international proponent of not just dialogue but of good relations with Jews. His legacy lives on, in a far more significant way than that of Amien Rais, a former Muhammadiyah leader who was hostile beyond the call of duty.[29]

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 The new kid on the block is global communications media. In Question and Answer sessions on campuses, in pesantrans and in NGO round-tables, there is one introduction to any question which can chill the spine – “I have done a lot of reading on the internet…”. Far be it from me to belittle the internet as a source for genuine information and thoughtful opinion, but this introductory comment seems to be invariably followed by base antisemitism, distortion of history or invented events. In Indonesia, critiques of Jews drawn from the internet are generally uncontradicted.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 I have escorted numerous groups from majority Muslim countries through the Sydney Jewish Museum and this, together with the groups of Islamic leaders I have accompanied to dialogue meetings in Israel, has prompted my invitations to educate in Indonesia.[30] But to do this with any level of effectiveness and credibility, it has been necessary for me to learn a great deal about Islam.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 If asked by an engaged Muslim if one has read the Quran, it is better than not to be able to answer in the affirmative. Familiarity with Islamic prayer, observances, cultural nuances and more are, in my experience, essential for meaningful relationships and respect.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 A Jewish person in much of the world is a novelty, a curiosity. But not an unknown, due to religious texts, in the Muslim or Christian worlds. In my experience, there is a thirst for understanding how Jewish people live, what is believed by Jews, where Jews differ from each other and from Muslims and adherents of other faiths. It can be very difficult to begin the conversation and requires a great deal of work to develop the skills for constructive inter actions, but if one is serious about combatting antisemitism, the effort is worthwhile.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Despite geography, the Australian and Indonesian circumstances are, objectively, worlds apart. But they are linked by both being subjected to major impacts by growing globalisation.

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Australian education for multiculturalism is now in competition with online education for racist, national assertions of identity. Global connectivity has fractured a model of responsibility, engagement and a localised social contract. It is not helpful that this is coinciding with a lack of respect for many traditional institutions.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Australian benchmarks for acceptable discourse are not respected in a globalised communication world. While laws assert acceptable discourse in any specific constituency, online environments have no such understandings, even where online activity is subject to domestic law.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 Efforts by local religious leaders to live well in multi-identitied environments, which can be careful, nuanced and sophisticated, can be undermined due to the ability of remote figures to engage and influence. This is a problem in Australia, but a far greater problem in Indonesia.

So what can be done?

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 First, we need to rethink our strategies and priorities. We can no longer think globally and act locally and think that will be good enough. We can not abandon local action, but must recognise the changed contexts in which we operate.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 The internet and associated social media is global. It is international. Informational battles need to be engaged on many fronts and it does not matter where a person addressing disinformation is based. The issue is sorting out priorities and maximising human and other resources.

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Christianity is global. There are identifiable hubs of supercessionism and other forms of antisemitism. We need to address local, national and regional Churches, but also work with them to fight evil internationally.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 A Eurocentrism in the fight against antisemitism may lead to the conclusion that there are not many Jewish people who have had engagements with Islam similar or greater than Jewish Europeans have had with Christianity. But there are Jews who have lived in Islamic societies and others who have taken the time and made the effort to learn about Muslims and Islam and are equipped to engage and help break down misconceptions. That said, we need more people, Jewish and otherwise, who can and will devote themselves to work in this area.

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Perhaps, as a first stage, we need to map the universe of antiantisemitism. Who and where, how and how successfully. We also need to identify role models, inspirational figures, with standing and/or celebrity.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 It is possible that the time when “Non-antisemitism” will be proclaimed by antisemites may pass – and sooner rather than later.. Whether we progress to genuine absence of antisemitism or a tsunami of overt antisemitism, to no small degree depends on our skills in understanding the challenges and effecting intelligent strategies.


Notes

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 [1] Brussels, Belgium, July 6-8, 1992, Proceedings Published by the World Jewish Congress.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 [2] See D Rich “The Left’s Jewish Problem”, London, Biteback Publishing 2018 (AS Book) and D Hirsh “Contemporary Left Antisemitism” London, Taylor & Francis Ltd (publishers/Taylor-Francis-Ltd) 2017

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 [3] Momentum is a mass membership organisation in the British Labour movement. For its relevance to this discussion, see R. Marchant “We need to talk about Momentum and anti-Semitism”, labour-uncut.co.uk, 17 January 2018

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 [4] Times of Israel 11 February 2017 “Norwegian MP defends nominating peaceful BDS Movement for Nobel Prize”.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 [5] For a good discussion on the relationship of BDS to antisemitism, see KL Marcus “Is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement Anti-Semitic?” in C Nelson and G N Braham (eds) “The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel” Chicago, Wayne State University Press, 2015 pp 243-258.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 [6] Tsuros is the yiddish/Ashkenazi rendering of the Hebrew word meaning “troubles”.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 [7] For background see E.D. Guerrero, A Schonberger “The Nationalist Hungarian Government is endangering Jewish people with its smear campaign against philanthropist George Sorors”, The Independent, 3 December 2017.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 [8] C. Glick “Column One: Hamas and the Nexus of Global Jihad”, Jerusalem Post, 5 February 2015

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 [9] See D Sugarman “A Short Guide to the anti-Zionists favourite fringe Jewish sect”, Jewish Chronicle (UK), 11 September 2017

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 [10] W Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, London, Jason Aronson 1993, presents a good overview.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 [11] Ecumenical Council Vatican II: “Declaration of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate (No.4), 28 October 1965.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 [12] John Paul II: Allocutru in the Great Rome Synagogue, 13 April 1986.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 [13] Address of John Paul II to the Representatives of the Jewish Community, Sydney (Australia), 26 November 1986.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 [14] S A Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh, The Fatiha and the Culture of Hate: Interpretation of the 7th verse throughout Centuries, Create Space Publishing 2015; “Egyptian Writers Criticize The Negative Attitude to Christians and Jews Reflected in The Common Interpretation of the Fatiha, The Opening Surah of the Quran, MEMRI Special Dispatch No.7025, 25 July 2017

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 [15] D Irving Action Report 20 July 2000.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 [16] J Jones “Durban Daze: When Anti-Semitism becomes Anti-Racism”, Australia/Israel Review, 26 October 2001.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 [17] J Jones “Confronting Reality: Anti-Semitism in Australia Today”, Jewish Political Studies Review 16:3-4 (Fall 2000).

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 [18] S Rutland “Negotiating Religious Dialogue: A Response to the recent increase in anti-Semitism in Australia” E B Coleman and K White (eds) Negotiating the Sacred: Blasphemy and Sacrilege in a Multicultural Society Canberra ANU Press 2006

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 [19] M F Havelock “Muslim Refugees’ archaic views of Jews, Women, Infidels”, One News Now, 23 January 2017

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 [20] J Jones “The Jewish Community of Australia and Its Challenges” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs No.13, 15 October 2006.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 [21] Reports on the activities of the Uniting Church in Australia/Jewish Community National Dialogue (1991 to present), the Annual Conversation of the Jewish Community at the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference (1998 to present), the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews (2002 to present) and other national, regional and informal dialogues can be found in the Annual Reports of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (1992 to 2018).

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 [22] J Jones “Erasing Hatred” Australia/Israel Review, 25 July – 7 August, 1997.

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [23] Toben v Jones [2003] FCAFC 137 (Judgement of full bench of the Federal Court of Australia).

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 [24] Jones v Scully [2002] FCA 1080 (2 September 2002), (Judgement of Federal Court of Australia).

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 [25] Executive Council of Australian Jewry Media Release “One Nation’s Publication of Anti-Jewish Material Declared Illegal”; Jeremy Jones and on behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry v The Bible Believers Church – [2007] FCA 55, 2 February 2007.

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 [26] Council of Presidents of the Lutheran Church of Australia Lutherans and the Jews July 1997

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 [27] AJN Staff “Jones Makes Interfaith History” Australian Jewish News 18 August 2015.

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 [28] J Hadler “Translations of Antisemitism: Jews, the Chinese and Violence in Colonial and Post Colonial Indonesia”. Indonesians and the Malay World Vol.32 No.94, November 2000.

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 [29] G Barton “Islam and Politics in the New Indonesia”, J F Isaacson and C Rubenstein (ed) Islam in Asia Changing Political Realities, London, Transaction Publishers 2002, pp 37-38.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 [30] A report of one such visit can be found at “Indonesian Muslim Leaders promote dialogue in Israel and Palestinian Authority”, JWire.com.au, 30 January 2017

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