For years Israel and its lobby around the world have been trying to normalise their relations with Arabs and Muslims without solving the Palestine question. One of the methods they resorted to in the last few years is using human rights, community organisations, interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism to achieve this objective.They further seek to isolate the Palestinians, marginalise the Palestine question, end Israel’s isolation, and prevent criticism of Israel, knowing that these organisations would be the first to stand against Israel’s violations, racial and religious discrimination. The group responsible for this task in Australia is The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)”; its Director of International & Community Affairs, Jeremy Jones, is in charge of lobbying religious community organisations, specifically Muslims and Christians. Consequently he convened the Faith Communities for Reconciliation, founding participant in the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations and the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews.
AIJAC is a private political propaganda group. It is recognised as the main Israeli lobby in Australia. It coordinates its activities and works intimately with the Israeli embassy in Canberra and different institutions in Israel. It is privately funded by Jewish businessmen. It closely monitors Australian politicians, the media, ethnic and religious groups, (especially Arabs and Muslims), unions and academics on their stands towards Israel and the Palestine question. AIJAC’s task is to spread Israel’s misleading propaganda, target all those who oppose Israel’s violations and foil the Australian government and community from taking a stand in support of Palestinian rights. Its mouthpiece was “Australia/Israel Review” renamed later “The Review”. The fact that, as a professional pro-Israeli lobby group and not a religious organization or representative of the Jewish community, AIJAC’s self-appointment to represent Judaism and the Jewish community highlights the political objectives it is trying to achieve by serving Israel’s interests and infiltrating ethnic and religious community organizations under the pretext of ethnicity, religion and “religious dialogue”.
Stephen Rothman, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President, said “AIJAC is a private think-tank. It is not a body that is in any way elected or in a democratic sense representative of the community” (“It was mishandled – community president” in Australian Jewish News (AJN) on 7 Nov. 2003). Adding to this irony is the major role AIJAC has been playing for years in inciting against Palestinians, Arabs, Islam and Muslims in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Region by inviting and organising speaking tours of anti-Muslim racists, and underneath the surface of its representative Jeremy Jones’s sweet talk and attempt to climb to the highest steps of morality, virtue and principles which he tries to impress his audience with and outbid everyone else, there is an ugly reality that speaks to the contrary.
Let me give you some examples. Jones was reported in the AJN, on 19 Feb.1988 as saying “I am concerned at the fact that Islam is today the major non-Christian religion in Australia”! Imagine if someone expressed their concern at the number of the Jews in Australia? This is the man who is disguised as working for reconciliation, the partnership of religious organisations and dialogue. Jones’s hostility towards Palestinian human and national rights goes back to his activism in the Jewish Union of Students on campus. He intentionally confuses between anti-Semites and critics of Israel’s crimes and violations whom he accuse of having a hidden anti-Semitic agenda. In his “Media Watch” column which Jones wrote in the AJN for eight years, as well as his column in The Review, he was renowned for attacking all critics of Israel’s crimes from community group leaders, politicians, academics, journalists and Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders such as the Neturei Karta. Furthermore he attacked the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees and called for the Australian government to use its contribution to pressure the UN organization to adopt policies suitable to Israel, the perpetrator of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
Federal Member of Parliament, the Hon. Leo McLeay, said in a speech to parliament ‘It amazes me how intolerant Mr Jones and the pro-Israeli lobby can be. If you are not an enthusiastic supporter of the Sharon version of the Berlin Wall, you are considered to be anti-Jewish. When will the Jeremy Joneses of this world understand that criticism of the Israeli government and its actions is not anti-Semitism?’ (Hansard 11.8.2003 House of Representatives) In a letter to the editor F. Pojer wrote in the AJN of 8 November 1991, commenting on the “Media Watch” column “as a loyal reader of the AJN over many years I am speaking, I believe, on behalf of many others, about the content and tone of the regular feature Media Watch. The articles are always written in an aggressive and antagonising manner rather than in a rational and conciliatory style more acceptable to the majority of peace-loving people.” This comment is not in isolation but typical of people who objected to Jones’s extremism. In 2003 Jeremy Jones, then president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, vigorously attacked the Sydney Peace Foundation for awarding the Sydney Peace Prize to Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent Palestinian activist, academic and member of Parliament who has been a tireless worker for justice and peace in the Middle East.
Throughout the years AIJAC has been inviting and organising speaking tours of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racists. One of the speaking tours they organized in Australia and New Zealand was for David Pryce-Jones, who was reported in The Weekend Australian of 1-2 Dec. 1990, as describing the Arabs as having a ‘culture of violence’, saying ‘aggression and war are nearly inevitable in the Arab world’ and that ‘Arab culture is a closed circle of status-seeking from which the Arabs cannot escape’. ‘When the West tries to be understanding and progressive in its dealing with the Arabs, it is really making the mistake of thinking that the Arabs are just like us’. And on another speaking tour also organised by AIJAC he was reported by the Melbourne Herald-Sun on 7 Nov. 1995 as saying ‘to shoot one’s prime minister is what the Arabs do, not what the Jews do’, ironically he said that at a time when Israel’s prime minister Rabin was shot by an extremist Jewish terrorist. He furthermore, described the Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, as assassins, lawless and living like animals. Arab society, he says, is a violent society.
But this time as a result of a complaint by the Australia Arabic Council, under the Racial Hatred Act, AIJAC was forced to make a public apology which appeared in the Herald Sun on 23 Dec. 1997. If you think that AIJAC’s apology was genuine, you are mistaken. More speaking tours were organized by AIJAC for David Pryce-Jones. Another favourite and regular guest of AIJAC’s is Daniel Pipes, who built his career on preaching hate against Muslims and Islam. A review of one of his books in the Washington Post in 1983 found his work exhibiting ‘a disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims…and frequently contemptuous of them.’ He has repeatedly called into question the loyalty of American Muslims and singled them out as somehow anti-American. On a visit to Australia in 1998 Pipes vilified and offended the Australian Muslim community. His aims were to stereotype Muslims and incite the public against them, especially the Jewish community by deliberately mixing Zionism with Judaism and showing Muslims as anti-Jewish rather than against Zionism and Israel’s occupation and racial discrimination.
He was reported in the AJN of 18 Dec. 1998 as saying ‘Anti-semitism is now primarily a Muslim phenomenon…I advise Jewish organisations to take their eyes off the Christians and start focusing on Islam.’ And to a question about Palestinians who favour peace? He replied ‘Show me a moderate Palestinian.’ In an article in The Nation on 11 Nov. 2002, Kristine McNeil wrote ‘Pipes is notorious for calling Muslims ‘barbarians’ and ‘potential killers’ in a 2001 National Review article, and accusing them of scheming to ‘replace the [US] constitution with the Koran’. In a 1990 National Review article [he] insisted that ‘Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene…All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.’ Another AIJAC guest, Professor Raphael Israeli, was reported by the AJN of 16 Feb. 2007 urging Australia to cap its intake of Muslim immigration, warning ‘life will become untenable, unless the Muslim population is kept in check … then they control a whole section of the economy … even students who apply to come from Islamic countries to the West’ and called for a ‘preventative policy ‘ to protect national security and ensure Muslims remained a ‘marginal minority’. Only following a storm of protest over his racist comments, AIJAC was forced to withdraw its support.
An article in the AJN on 23 Feb. 2007 titled ‘A few facts in the service of gross distortion’ expressed the views of many Jews who are unhappy with the extremist activities of some mainstream Jewish organisations and AIJAC. Dr Mark Baker wrote ‘One needn’t be a prophet in an age of Google to predict what Professor Israeli would speak about behind open doors. The same can be said for Melanie Phillips, the author of Londonistan, whose visit is being sponsored by AIJAC to provoke the same message of fear and discord. No doubt, the invitation has also been extended to Bat Yeor, author of Eurabia, along with the annual visit by Daniel Pipes, thought-patroller of western academia.’ And Mr. Gordon Drennan wrote ‘My congratulations to Mark Leibler and Dr. Colin Rubenstein at AIJAC. It’s quite an achievement to arrange things so that you get to have your cake and eat it too. They invite Professor Raphael Israeli to Australia, knowing full well he’s an Islamophobe. They could not know, they could not have invited him for any other reason – he’s written 20 books. Then they make sure his views end up in the mainstream media so they then get the chance to disown him and say his racist views are repugnant to Jews. But he still gets to stay here, give his talks and spread his race hate, and he gets way more publicity when he does. Masterful.’ (AJN, ‘AIJAC Achievement’ (9.3.2007)
Those are only some examples of the anti-Muslims and anti-Arabs amongst the numerous guests of AIJAC and some other Jewish organizations in Australia. It is an absolute farce to have Israeli apologists in an “interfaith dialogue” when Israel is grossly violating both Christian and Muslim Palestinian human and religious rights, ethnically cleansing Muslims and Christians and preventing return to their homeland just because they are not Jews and preventing those under occupation from moving freely in their own country to go to their churches and mosques to worship in Jerusalem. Since its creation in Palestine in 1948, Israel has destroyed and desecrated thousands of churches, mosques and cemeteries and turned some historic mosques into restaurants-bars.
To mention but a few cases: the mosque of the village of Ain Hud in the Haifa district has been transformed into a restaurant bar. The mosque of the village of Caesaria similarly serves as a restaurant bar. The mosque of the city of Safad in the Galilee has been transformed into an art gallery, while the central mosque of Beer Sheba serves as the city museum. The Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel and the adjacent park, named Independence Park, are built on the site of Abed Al-Nabi Muslim cemetery. The Jerusalem Plaza Hotel and the adjacent park, also named Independence Park, are likewise built on the site of the Mamilla Muslim cemetery. The pillaging of the historic Islamic cemetery of Mamilla Cemetery with thousands of graves is still ongoing today to build housing, shops and the so called “Museum of Tolerance”!!
This is not to mention the massacres, such as Al Aqsa Mosque massacre (8.10.90) and the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre (25.2.94), the frequent desecration and arson attacks against churches and mosques carried out by Jewish extremists who are armed and protected by the Israeli army, and their recent murderous arson attack on the Dawabsheh family, burning alive the father, mother and 18 month old baby, leaving a 4 year old boy orphaned with second-degree burns on more that 60 percent of his body.
In their government-funded schools, Jewish religious extremists teach hatred and racism to the pupils. One example of this is a song sung by children of Kiryat Arba settlement in the West Bank in an SBS Australian Television documentary “A Season inside God’s Bunker”, screened on 3 May 1994. The song went as follows: ‘All the world hates Arabs, And the main thing is to kill them one by one, With these feet I stepped on my enemy, With these teeth I bit his skin, With these lips I sucked his blood, And I still haven’t had enough revenge.’ AIJAC has never condemned Israel’s racial and religious discrimination against non-Jews in Israel and the 1967 Palestinian occupied territories. How could one support the rights of one indigenous people and not another? Or support multiculturalism and equal religious coexistence in one country and not another?
There is nothing wrong in interfaith dialogue; in fact it is a civilized and healthy conduct if held in good faith, for understanding and against all form of religious discrimination. But what is wrong here is that a lobby group which does not represent Judaism or the Jewish community is using dialogue to advance a political agenda on behalf of one of the most oppressive and violator of religious rights in the world today. This is contempt and an affront to the other parties of the dialogue and to the society as a whole and should not be acceptable.
Unfortunately, some Muslim groups acceptance of AIJAC in Australia, out of ignorance of its role, and the establishment of relations with it has given AIJAC credibility and misled other Muslim organisations overseas, such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in Indonesia, the world’s largest membership Muslim organisation, which hosted Jeremy Jones recently and introduced him as “a friend of NU and a pioneer in Jewish-Muslim dialogue”. Prior and subsequent to his visit, Jones embarked on a speaking tour organised by NU participants in this January’s Muslim-Jewish dialogue in Israel hosted by AIJAC. It was reported that during his visit, he met “politicians, political advisers, human rights NGOs, representatives of both the historic and new organisations of Jewish Indonesians, academics and religious leaders, represented Judaism at the Jakarta Interfaith Hallal BiHallal (a post-Ramadan event designed to improve interpersonal relations).” Muslim group leaders in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere need to review their relations with AIJAC and Jones and put the interest of equality and peace in Palestine above personal and other interests.
Ali Kazak is a former Palestinian ambassador.