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ADC Accuses Websites of Anti-Semitism

July 8, 2009 – 9:34 pm19 Comments

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By Yoram Symons

Recently an article appeared in the Jerusalem Post that detailed how the Bnei Brith’s Anti Defamation Commission had prepared a thorough report accusing two self proclaimed online news sources of being anti-Semitic in their representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While I do not necessarily dispute the conclusions of the ADC’s report, I have grave reservations about the ADC pursuing these accusations in a public way.

I hold these reservations for the following reasons:

While we are members of the Jewish community and have the right to act in our own perceived self-interest, we are also citizens of the broader Australian community. As such, our actions as an ethnic-religious minority will be perceived by the broader community within this context.

In a liberal democracy people have the right to express views that we may find unpleasant or even unconscionable. Yet it is the right of the community to be able to both express and consume any opinions that they want, provided they do not cross clearly demarcated boundaries.

And while the boundary of anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism may be clearly demarcated within the Jewish consciousness, and arguably under the Racial Vilification laws it can be defined in a legal context as well, it has no such clear demarcation within the popular consciousness as do issues like arson or terrorism.

No matter what we do, the population at large will never fully share our fear or disgust at negative representations of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Attempts by Jewish organisations to silence voices they find unpleasant or unconscionable has two effects, both extremely negative for our community.

  1. It reinforces the notion that an entrenched Jewish establishment has a need to utilise legal mechanisms to silence voices that it disagrees with.
  2. It provides oxygen to the perpetrators.

There are timely and newsworthy events that communal organisations should be at the forefront of combating. There is also valuable work that community organisations do in exposing not only the biases, but the ulterior motivations of certain high–profile figures. However, this does not mean that it is in our interest to go about creating news stories where none existed in the first place.

The clearest case in point for this was the community’s handling of Antony Loewenstein. By reacting so vocally and so vociferously to his opinions and to his book, we aided and abetted the creation of a mountain from what could have remained a molehill. The community’s incessant demonisation of Loewenstein only served to give him even greater legitimacy in the eyes of his supporters, and the volume of our campaign against him brought many more into his camp.

As a community we cannot afford to create another Loewenstein.

The internet sites in question are not news services on the scale of a major publication like The Age or the Australian, rather they are niche services that cater to niche readerships, presumably with strong left-wing biases to begin with.

Should the community actively pursue this issue and find it hurled into the public discourse, we run the risk of placing them front and centre of a media furore that will only serve to broaden their readership and begin to legitimise their platform in the eyes of many Australians for whom free speech is a fundamental value.

Before we go about creating a new Loewenstein, we as a community need to seriously rethink our approach to dealing with anti-Semitic media, and to do it in a way that will not effect the creation of even larger enemies.

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