Monday, January 31, 2011

Australian Bigot: a wake-up call to anti-Israel “social-justice activists”

Last week Brendon Lee O'Connell was convicted on 6 counts of anti-Jewish harassment and vilification in the Western Australian District Court by a 12-person jury, after a 2-week trial in which the accused prominently exhibited his guilt by repeating his crime ad nauseum in the courtroom. Today he was sentenced to a total of 3 years imprisonment.

O'Connell was at a Friends of Palestine protest in May 2009, against the sale of Israeli oranges, when he harassed and taunted a Jewish student, shouting that Judaism is a "religion and race of hate" and the student is a "racist homicidal maniac".

During the trial he compared Judaism to an organised crime syndicate, said he was proud to be associated with holocaust denier Fredrick Toben, and asserted that "Jews control the entire world".

He also referred repeatedly to a massive, well-worn volume entitled “Judaism Discovered” full of multi-coloured stickers apparently marking his favourite “juicy bits”.

This 1102-page antisemite’s textbook, which is banned from sale by Amazon, asserts that Judaism is a “Religion of Racism, Self-Worship, Superstition and Deceit …” His supporters claim that “Judaism is a horribly repugnant cult based on hatred of Christ, occultic doctrines, racial divisiveness, sexual barbarism, and voodoo rituals” and describe “Orthodox Judaism as the ideological survival of the most ossified traditions of Babylonian paganism, concealed beneath a complex system of dissimulation and misdirection”.

It is now clear that O’Connell’s poisonous rants and outlandish libels during the trial, and over many prior years of online antisemitic activism, were simply plagiarised from “Judaism Discovered”. It is therefore tempting to dismiss O’Connell as a narcissistic, muck-raking crackpot.

However O’Connell blends ancient lies with a new type of antisemitism, parading as a “social justice” campaign. So he also exemplifies the worst aspects of this new and recent anti-Israel “BDS” (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement that has attracted support from some fringe elements in Australia. Despite its semblance of “social justice”, it actually aims to destroy the Jewish homeland and vilify Jews.

Throughout his trial O’Connell repeatedly referred to “occupied Palestine”. When the jury retired, he shouted from the dock that it would be "an honour" to be imprisoned "for Palestine and Iraq". After the verdict was pronounced he shouted "Soon Benjamin Netanyahu will be in the dock …Free Palestine ...Free Iraq!"

While it is, of course, perfectly legitimate to criticise Israel’s policies, there is a red line that separates legitimate political expression from prejudice or bigotry. Natan Sharansky’s “3D test” defines that boundary: if it DEMONISES, DE-LEGITIMISES or applies a DOUBLE STANDARD, then it’s bigotry, whether the target is Judaism, Islam, Asians or any other group.

In “BDS, Anti-Semitism's New Face” published in Israel National News, 16 January 2011, Moshe Dann explains that
Anti-Semites around the world have found a new and more subtle form of attack: …BDS campaigns. Wielding clichés like ‘apartheid,’ ‘war crimes,’ ‘stealing Palestinian land,’ ‘oppressing Palestinians,’ and ‘end the occupation,’ these groups seek to delegitimize and isolate Israel as part of their program to destroy Israel …The goal of BDS campaigns …is not territorial, but existential.”
Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French philosopher, writes in Huffington Post, 25 January 2011 that
...we are faced here with a skilfully orchestrated but …bellicose, anti-democratic and, in a word, perfectly despicable campaign ... Regardless of what its promoters and its useful idiots say, the only real, accepted, hackneyed goal of this boycott campaign is to de-legitimize Israel...”
Levi also notes that the BDS movement doesn’t boycott Sudan, which is guilty of genocide in Darfur, nor China, guilty of massive violations of human rights in Tibet and elsewhere, nor Iran, nor those despotic Arab regimes whose citizens' have no freedom of expression.

Omar Barghouti, a founder of the “BDS”movement, has made it clear that his goal is “not two States but two Palestines.”  Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and BDS leader, equates Israel to Nazi Germany, conveniently ignoring the fact that it was the Palestinian Arab leadership in the 1930’s and 1940’s who were allies of the Nazi regime. And Sabeel, an Arab Christian group, provides a "theological" fig leaf by reviving the antisemitic concept that Christians replace the Christ-killing Jews as the Chosen People. (It’s interesting to note that extremist Islamists now apply their version of this Replacement Theology to Jews, Christians and other “infidels”.)

So the BDS movement fails the 3D test on all three counts. It DEMONISES Jews as “the new Nazis”; it DE-LEGITIMISES the Jewish nation; and by incessantly targeting open, democratic Israel for censure while ignoring many blatant human-rights abusers, it applies a DOUBE STANDARD.

As Michael Danby, Member for Melbourne Ports recently said: “What is next for [the BDS campaign]?  Are they now going to paint the Star of David on shops selling Israeli products?”

Seen in this light, the O’Connell phenomenon should be a wake-up call to the small bands of earnest-looking, anti-Israel “social-justice activists” that occasionally pop up in supermarkets and shopping malls. Whether these useful idiots are misguided, ignorant, just plain antisemitic, or some combination of them all, they promote neither peace nor the welfare of their purported “friends” in the Middle East. They are merely fostering and encouraging more crackpot criminal behaviour, like O’Connell’s.
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