Sunday, February 8, 2009

Anti-Semitism - alive and well in Australia?

 A sinister hatred kept alive when we turn a blind eye
Frank Devine | February 06, 2009
Article from:  The Australian
IT is improbable that I could bring myself to stay for long, if at all, in the same room with somebody who had described Jews as "real motherf--king bastards." Apart from this piece of abuse, Maqsood Alsham, an asylum seeker from Bangladesh, has described the Gaza invasion by Israel as a worse atrocity than the Holocaust.
Yet three universities - Sydney, Macquarie and the Sydney University of Technology - continued their support of a conference organised by Maqsood to debate whether Israel should be tried by the International Court of Justice for the invasion.
In an early defence, Maqsood ingenuously whinged: "Is it anything wrong to have a private conversation? This is not my public view."
But to hold and express such views privately or publicy is to put oneself beyond the pale.
The English Catholic schismatic "bishop" Richard Williamson has done that with his dogmatic assertions that "only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews" died under Nazi persecution and none in gas chambers.
Only 200,000 or 300,000 men, women and children murdered for the crime of being Jews! How trivial a transgression!
Williamson reiterated this view on Swedish TV just prior to Pope Benedict's lifting last week the excommunication orders imposed on Williamson and three other "bishops" of the breakaway Society of Pius IX, founded by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in rebellion against some of the conclusions of Vatican Council II.
Not being skilled at reading the minds of popes, I'm inclined to accept the official explanation that Benedict, having responsibility for preserving church unity, seeks to draw the Society of Pius IX back into the Catholic communion. The Pope's personality also makes it plausible that he cancelled the excommunication order, imposed on the four bishops by Paul VI in 1988, out of compassion for the individuals.
But Williamson! Great fools have achieved episcopal rank before, and you don't have to search widely to suspect their contemporary presence. Williamson is a special case, however.
Apart from his attempted trivialisation of the Holocaust, he has called Jews "the enemies of Christ" and claimed that they "aim at world dominion". (He also believes the US government engineered John F. Kennedy's assassination and that women shouldn't attend universities.)
The Pius IX Society superior, "bishop" Bernard Fellay, has told the Pope he has forbidden Williamson to speak out publicly about any historical or political question.
But who would want to listen to such a man speaking out in any circumstances on any subject? Unless, of course, he was able to pass himself off as a bishop and a man now in good standing with the Catholic Church.
At least, living in Sydney, where The Age does not home deliver, I am spared the temptation to provide the hospitality of my doorstep to a newspaper that publishes a column (by one David Backman) blaming Israel's "utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends" for "the bombs on London's public transport, bombs in bars in Bali and even the loss of the World Trade Centre in New York".
Backman tosses in a loonily non sequitur anecdote about how unpopular young Israeli backpackers are in Nepal because of being "rude, arrogant and arguing over trifling sums of money".
The allegation of arguing over trifling sums of money was, for me, the killer strike: the hate-filled stereotype of the avaricious, grasping Jew.
It brought back an imbedded memory of a long-ago poker game, during which a friend called John, whose surname doesn't matter, and a friend called Wally, whose surname does, battled it out for a pot of about 50 quid: double a journalist's weekly wage at the time. Wally had the cards and, with a joyful whoop, reached out to gather in the pile of coins and notes.
"You bloody Jew Ginsberg sorry Wally," John blurted. It came out in a single sentence. John's face turned scarlet with shame.
The poker game finished after a few desultory hands. It couldn't continue. Though, happily, no friendships were lost, we were all aware of having approached the brink of something unspeakable.
When I was 14, my father took me, to further my education, to a newsreel about Belsen concentration camp. The scenes of bulldozers pushing emaciated bodies into mass graves horrified me but the greatest horror was in the eyes and faces of the survivors, who had been to a place beyond nightmare and hell.
Given to adolescent self-romanticising, I felt, as a non-Jew, guilty about these sights. The guilt has not vanished. Whenever I read, reluctantly, about the Holocaust, I ask myself if I would be brave enough to resist officially sanctioned persecution of my neighbours because of their race.
Not being sure, I feel pain and shame when people such as Maqsood Alsham, David Backman and Richard Williamson get away with their sinister calumnies.

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