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Antisemitism: A Good Idea to Find the Real Culprit

April 23, 2014 – 11:22 am17 Comments

By Sol Salbe:

anti-semitism1While translating an article about antisemitic attacks in Sweden it occurred to me that the automatic  blaming of the usual suspects occurs here, in Australia, as well.  Several incidents of antisemitism and/or attack on the Australasian Union of Jewish Students [AUJS} have occurred  over the past month or so. I’m far from convinced that the conventional wisdom that blames left-wing organisations especially Socialist Alternative [SAlt] is correct.

It isn’t as if there is too much love lost between me and that organisation. Of all the Left formations I’ve come across in 45 year of political activism it is  among the least rigorous in terms of scholarly research. So when Mick Armstrong a member of their National Executive sent me a leaflet  which had the Jordan river running 500 metres uphill, I wasn’t impressed.  On a more personal level, a large number of SAlt turned up to a debate where I discussed whether the Left should support the BDS campaign. They made sure their point of view was heard again and again from the floor. That was their democratic right but I wasn’t amused when of their leading members spent her shpiel time countering something I allegedly said. Never mind that I said the exact opposite — she had her prepared speech and wasn’t going to waste it just because she couldn’t guess what I would say.

But I’m a journalist and a sceptic so despite the popular acceptance that  members of the ANU Jewish Students’ Association were harassed and intimidated by members of the ANU Socialist Alternative I remain  sceptical. To my mind track record is no proof. Just like I queried the acceptance of a case of alleged bad behaviour by Sara Netanyahu. If you accuse somebody you have to have evidence, not a track record.

But a far more  profound reason is what I’d call linguistic DNA. All political organisations have their jargon, favourite words, common acronyms  and style. think of which parties would talk in terms of “refugee rights” and which in terms of “border protection”.  It’s particularly pronounced among the Left. Late last year I attended a memorial  meeting for an old housemate of mine where at the end of the formal part, the MC  had to step in and conduct separate singing of the Internationale. two groups of people present were singing different words!  These days we can use Google to search through piles of material.

So to return to the antisemitism, the easiest bit concern those obnoxious antisemitic comments in Adelaide.  Jew World Order is definitely not a left-wing term. One would associate it with those right-wing conspiracy theorists who see the hand of the Rothschilds  behind everything bad. I am not much of a connoisseur of right-wing tendencies but just Google Jew World Order combined with “the illuminati” or people like David Icke   and you’ll see what I mean. These people are very much opposed to the “Global Warming scam” which they often blame on the Leftists and the Jews. Socialists (of any kind) they are not.

Next I want to look at something else raised by AUJS. Quote: “Moreover, following various refusals to take pamphlets by Jewish students on the day, extremists responded ‘that’d be right, Israeli bitch’, and ‘filthy Jew’.  Mmm, you don’t have to be an extremist to decline a leaflet, any leaflet. Try it, you’ll find out.  And unlike my days on campus 40 years ago, these days you don’t need a  hard-line of any sort to be angry at Israel. At the park where I take my dog  I hang around with a cross section of society and when the subject comes up it’s hard to avoid the observation  that Israel is on the nose with many ordinary people.

But back to the language. Again bitch, is not part of the Left lingo and hasn’t been in my experience since the advent of the first Women’s Liberation groups  circa 1970.  You want to know who uses the word bitch? Take a look at the carbon tax demos presided by our current Prime Minister. On the other hand check the sa.org.au website and you’ll find in quotes from others and in cultural section where a poet bemoans the way political correctness is under attack.  It’s sexist and not to be used.

So we finally come to the big one: the paper aeroplane.  Pretty tasteless and as unsophisticated as they come. Take a good look at the pic. Two things struck me.  The first thing is the way our “scholar” referred to Hamas. Everyone who reported it instinctively  corrected it to Hamas but the writer actually used HAMAS as if it were an acronym. It is an acronym but of three words in Arabic not five. [Just like my parents’ old Mapam was an acronym of three words in Hebrew.] Therefore the writer is not only uninformed in relation to the conflict, s/he was not an Arab or Israeli either.  “Zionist entity“, however, is as Wikipedia puts it, a phrase used by Arabs[and Muslims as a pejorative for the State of Israel.  No left -wing friend of mine uses it on Facebook, but to be on the safe side I checked not only the Socialist Alternative but their rivals in the Socialist Alliance as well.  There are three  references all from overseas (and two of which are translated from Arabic) on the SAlt web site and none on their new newspaper site: redflag.org.au.  A search through Green Left Weekly which has had its 1000th issue out recently found 3,820 allusions to Israel and  8 allusions to the Zionist Entity [One a report of this  story,3 news quotes from Hamas and 4 outsiders’ comments.] Frankly You’d have hard time convincing an independent jury on the basis of this that we are dealing with members of left-wing organisations

But before anybody jumps to conclusions and starts talking false flag operations etc: don’t be stupid! Where is the cost/benefit? Why take a risk of somebody accidentally photographing you in the act (students carry cameras and you may be caught in the background of someone’ selfie)?   A high risk and what for —  to convince  the converted, get your artwork on the front page of the Jewish News? Really? I think whoever did this is a political idiot (no shortage of those) with minimal knowledge of the conflict. The only thing we know about them beside foolishness is that they picked up their raw material  from a SAlt stall.

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  • Joe in Australia says:

    Sol: I can’t access the AUJS report you linked to, but the Woroni news story on the incident makes it clear that the the anti-Semitic statements were made when Jewish students refused to accept the leaflets being handed out. The people handing out the leaflets are the ones being identified as “extremists”, not the people declining to accept them.

    With all due respect, you and I are a long way away from both ANU and campus life. Your critique seems to be founded on the assumption that a leftie would never use a harsh word like “bitch”, nor a student spell “Hamas” using capital letters. Perhaps things are not what they were in your day, but misogyny can be found even in socialist organisations, and spelling errors are rife even in the groves of Academe. The complainants deserve to be taken seriously; if you’re calling them liars then give us a substantial rebuttal. Without that, you may call it scepticism but I think it’s merely cynicism.

  • Philip Mendes says:

    Sol – this is such a rational analysis. But one of the things you do here is assume that any member of the Socialist Alternative or for that matter any other far Left group is a genuine Marxist internationalist who may be anti-Zionist, but still an opponent of all forms of racism – i.e. not dissimilar to Sol Salbe. However, there is loads of evidence to suggest that a not insignificant number of people who join the far Left today in Europe particularly but also in Australia come from very different political/cultural traditions – i.e. many have Arab/Muslim backgrounds – and don’t share the in-principle internationalism or anti-racism that is assumed. That may possibly explain some of the manifestations described here. I should add that I don’t personally view anti-Zionist fundamentalists as genuine internationalists. Rather, I would call them supporters of Palestinian nationalism and ethnocentrism, but that is another matter comrade.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I thought the most simple explanation would be some smart-arse wrote the comments on the plane and threw it thinking that it would be a great joke to play upon the words that they have heard/read somewhere in their generally shallow reading/understanding of the conflict, and hoped to elicit a negative response from the Zionists/Jews – and now, short of definitive external proof, they will never admit their involvement due to the rapid and unexpected escalation of the matter and the personal ramifications for them if they admitted responsibility.

    Typical uni shenanigans emblematic of the adage ‘a little education can be a dangerous thing’.

    The verbal confrontation is an entirely different matter and should be investigated seriously – these are not things that would be hard to find witnesses for in that location/time and anyone found guilty of harassment of their peers at university should, ideally, be expelled. That would be the only way to teach people to moderate their behaviour and engage in reasonable discussion of serious topics.

  • Chris Warren says:

    “Joe in Australia” is wrong.

    There is no useable evidence that anti-Semitic statements, verbal or textual, were made.

    The insertion of “filthy” and “bitch” are not part of Australian Left culture and, in a politicised environment, can be generated by others for political gain.

    The paper evidence only shows an anti-Zionist expression. This is world’s apart from anti-Semitism. There is no problem with opposition to Judaism either. It is a obnoxious, oppressive religion that creates deep wedges in societies,like many other religions.

    It is contemptible that Jewish and Zionist politicians would deliberately misconstrue attacks against such theories as attacks based on racism.

    If “Joe in Australia” wants to point at anything that is clear: It is clear that not all Jewish believers are Semites, not all Zionists are Semites, and that some Semites struggle against Judaism and are victims of Israeli power, and that some Semites struggle enthusiastically against Zionism.

    Anyone who conflates Judaism and Zionism with Semitism are simply playing politics.

  • frosh says:

    It seems hardly a day goes by without some amateur etymologist informing us all that Semite refers to both people of Arabic and Jewish extraction. These excellent logicians go on to surmise that anti-Semite therefore does not refer to prejudice against people of Jewish descent.

    Perhaps if our government were to ever allow motorcyclists to ride in the bicycle lane, these eager correspondents would write in to inform us that such legislation would not be anti-cyclist, since after all, motorcycle riders are actually cyclists too.

    Of course, such an argument is fit only for an idiot. In case these amateur etymologists are also aware that idiot derives simply from the word for private citizen, I wish to assure them that I am using the term as it is used in the common vernacular.

    For the record, the term anti-Semitism was coined by ‘The anti-Semitic League’ in 1879 specifically to make clear that they hated all people of Jewish descent, regardless of their actual religious affiliation.

  • TheSadducee says:

    @Chris –

    -note that you use the words ‘many other’ rather than ‘all’ which suggests that you think there is a religion or religions that don’t create deep wedges in societies. Would you care to tell us which one/ones you are thinking about?

    -also Zionism isn’t really a theory anymore – it’s actually a fact because Jewish cultural self-determination has been achieved in Israel. Thus it wouldn’t be contemptible to suggest that an attack on Zionism, as realised in the Israeli polity, could be motivated by racism and/or ethnic/cultural bigotry.

    -and the bit about Semites is interesting. Do you agree that anti-Semitism is anti-Jewish prejudice or are you one of those types that try to redefine the term to play politics?

  • Chris Warren says:


    It is not necessary that there be evidence of religions that do not create wedges in society. I, unlike you, merely admit to the possibility.

    Jews have every right to oppose anti-Judaism – but they have no right to opportunistically conflate this with racism.

    Zionists have every right to oppose anti-Zionism – but they have no right to opportunistically conflate this with racism.

    Anti-Semitism is not anti-Jewish, because some non-Semites are practicing Jews and, in the same vein, some Semites are atheists or practice other religions.

    Your little ploy of trying to impute some “redefining … to play politics” was juvenile.

    Remember it was others who redefined an anti-Zionist leaflet at ANU as an “anti-Semitic attack” [See top of thread].

    So you know who you should be wingeing to – it ai’nt me.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Frosh: well said.

    TheSadducee: the argument about the meaning of anti-Semitism is invariably made in bad faith. If Chris Warren were genuinely perplexed by the meaning of the word he could consult a dictionary. I have no patience for that sort of nonsense.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Initially I thought you were presenting more noxious views however reading your last reply assures me that you just don’t know what you are talking about.

    You seem to be unaware that Jews consider themselves more than merely a religious group – we consider ourselves a people with distinct cultural and historical shared values, common societal and national languages and self-determination rights.

    Anti-Jewish sentiments are almost always motivated by more than merely religious perspectives and hence are often racist in intent if not at least in expression.

    As noted before, anti-Zionism can be racism depending on its content. It is not always opportunistic to note this, but I concede that it does happen in shallow analysis of a criticism. Expressions like ‘death to the Zionist entity’ pretty clearly fall into racist discourse because it is clearly blunt – the association with Hamas reinforces this.

    Your redefinition of Semite and it’s application to anti-Jewish sentiments etc is playing politics and just wrong – refer to frosh’s comment above.

  • Chris Warren says:

    [Editor: This argument is going around in circles. I will allow Sadducee a right of reply and ask you to desist from any further comment on this matter. Failure to comply will result in suspension of your account.]


    Thanks for your insults.

    Please do not try to divert attention attention to some issue as to what Jews consider themselves to be. No doubt there are atheist Jews who come from, or associate with, an identifiable Jewish culture apart from religious impositions.

    I suppose there are atheistic Armish, and atheistic Catholics as well.

    Anti-Zionism is not by itself anti-racist.

    But this was the driving assumption of this original post titled:

    “Antisemitism: A Good Idea to Find the Real Culprit” when the actual evidence only showed foul language and anti-Zionist pro-Hamas propaganda.

    The point of the original post was not to “note” some possibility that “anti-Zionism can be racism depending on its content” but to explicitly, and erroneously to immediately jump on this bandwagon.

    However maybe it was just an example of a shallow analysis by the top author.

    I see nothing racist about ‘death to the Zionist entity’, just as there is no racism in someone saying ‘death to the Catholic entity’ or ‘death to 4 wheel drivers’.

    I have tried not to redefine Semite and judging by its behaviour “frosh” is not part of any sensible dialogue. I have only clarified Semite as a ethnicity, and Zionism as a obnoxious creed.

  • Henry Herzog says:

    Chris Warren ought to have a look at Hilter’s definition of a Semite in the context of anti-Semititism, although it may prove a bit taxing.

  • Josh says:

    This is a bad article – anyone who has dealt with the SA knows they are as far from politically correct or anti-racist as possible, and the fact that Jewish students refused to accept leaflets means they would have been able to tell who was handing out the leaflets.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I’m not sure if you understood the point of the article? – it was to question whether it was appropriate to automatically blame left-wing organisations for the antisemitic/offensive incidents.

    The author isn’t suggesting that the incidents were or weren’t motivated by racism or whether it was appropriate to label them as antisemitic. You are doing that in your comments by suggesting that anti-Zionism isn’t racist and/or antisemitic.

    Your inability to recognise racism in a statement like ‘death to the Zionist entity’ is truly odd.

    How can someone calling for the abolition of a people’s national self-determination rights (which have been realised because the Zionist entity is Israel) be anything other than racist?

    What makes Jewish people inferior to other people so as to prevent their right to national self-determination as a people?

    And your categorisation of Zionism as an obnoxious creed – what do you exactly mean by that? What type of Zionism? All types? A particular type? I’m curious to find out what you mean by that.

  • Eliyohu says:

    Socialist International and its’ ilk on the far left may or may not be anti-semites, but regardless, they’re a warped excuse for human beings. I’d like to quote David Horowitz, even though I’m no fan of his:

    “Compassion is not what motivates the Left, which is oblivious to the human suffering its generations have caused. What motivates the Left is the totalitarian Idea. The Idea that is more important than reality itself. What motivates the Left is the Idea of the future in which everything is changed, everything transcended. The future in which the present is already annihilated. In which its reality no longer exists.

    What motivates the Left is an Idea whose true consciousness is this: Everything human is alien. Because everything that is flesh and blood humanity is only the disposable past. Because all that exists deserves to perish. This is the consciousness that makes mass murderers of well-intentioned humanists and earnest progressive, the Hegelian liberators of the socialist cause.”

    Now I think Horowitz strikes far too broad a brush, but for those on the fringe, he has a point. In any case, the Soviet Union was testimony to Socialist “utopia”. I think pointing out the generally warped nature of the far-left is more productive than focusing on its’ anti-semitic elements.

  • TheSadducee says:


    A couple of thoughts on your post;

    i. If you’re not a fan of Horowitz and you think that the quote you use ‘strikes far too broad a brush’ then why use it at all?

    ii. The USSR was certainly far from any testimony to Socialist ‘utopia’ and only a cynical provocateur would suggest so in the early 21st Century in the light of what we know now about it.

    iii. It is provocative to state, but I think its worth exploring that hasidic communities in the 18/19th Centuries were closer to socialist realities than anything the USSR did incidentally.

  • NoNukes says:

    If the topic is “anti-semitism” and trying to find the real culprit, why do we get such school-boy posts as from Eliyohu?

    If Eliyohu cast a wee-bit further they would find that:

    Compassion is not what motivates capitalism, which is oblivious to the human suffering its generations have caused. What motivates the Capitalism is the totalitarian Idea. The Idea that is more important than reality itself. What motivates capitalists is the Idea of the future in which everything is changed, everything transcended. The future in which the present is already annihilated. In which, as thatcher noted; society no longer exists.

    What motivates Capitalism is an Idea whose true consciousness is this: Everything human is alien. Because everything that is flesh and blood humanity is only the disposable past. Because all that exists deserves to perish. This is the consciousness that makes mass murderers of well-intentioned humanists and earnest progressive, the Hegelian liberators of the bougeois cause.”

  • Eliyohu says:

    Nonukes, sorry, but I’m not going to reply to you. I have long learnt that having debates with cynical people is a totally pointless exercise, and your post is positively dripping with cynicism. IF, by some stretch, you can post a reply without the cynicism, I shall endeavor to reply to you, but I’m not holding my breath. I suspect you fiercely protest the nuclear arsenals of countries like the U.S., the U.K., and Israel – but have seldom if ever made a peep about the nuclear weapons of a China or a Russia.

    TheSadducee, I shall, however, endeavor to reply to you. By no stretch of the imagination am I a “pure capitalist”, “hard-line conservative” or a member of the far-right. Pure capitalism, the Jewish sages teach us, was the reason Sodom was destroyed. They were a rich city, and (in the interests of maintaining their wealth) they had a strict “no charity” policy.

    What I’ve noticed about many on the far-left, though, is that whist they tend to be extremely harsh towards “western” evil, they can often be fierce apologists for “non western” mass murderers. Notice SA and its’ ilk’s deathly silence on the bloodbath in Syria? If ONE PERCENT as many Palestinians (literally!) were killed by Israel, they’d be holding mass protests and boycotts. To be fair, those on the far-right can be just as bad, supporting brutes like Pinochet and Suharto. But I’m going off-topic.

    i. I agree that quoting Horowitz isn’t ideal.

    ii. As I’ve just stated, many of this breed of western far-left fanatical-socialists were avid apologists for the Soviet Union, and their heirs continue to support equally evil regimes to this very day. For example, many of the anti-Iraq-war protesters (remember them) were genuinely anti-war (and reasonably so), but there were a significant element who were in fact pro Saddam. No softening that reality.

    iii. If the hasidic communities in the 18/19th Centuries were able to create a grassroots “bottom up” (rather than “top down”) form of socialism which actually worked in practice, all credit to them. I suspect that this was largely sustained by shared Jewish values of charity, as opposed to the orders-from-above coercion-based style socialism which the Soviet Union and its’ ilk were based on.

    iiii. Just the rephrase my initial post, I was saying that I don’t see how the anti-semitism on the far left (and for that matter, the far right) can be separated from a generally warped extremist totalitarian ideology. In this sense, it’s different to the “amaleki” anti-semitism (such as that of the Nazis), which is very specifically targeted at Jews.

    iiiii. Just to stress, my words are directed at the FAR left, not the moderate leftist. I feel equally exasperated with puritan far-righters like Andrew Bolt or the Institute for Public Affairs.

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