18th December 2013
by Julie Nathan,
Executive Council of Australian Jewry
The Facebook page of Amnesty International Australia (AIA), an organisation which professes support for human rights, has attracted a spate of anti-Jewish comments in response to a posted story about Palestinians in a West Bank village. The same page also attracted some anti-Muslim and anti-Arab comments in response.
One comment called for the genocide of Jews: “I’m more proud to call myself a Muslim. May god send another Hitler and eliminate the world from the cancer called the Jews”. This comment remained on AIA’s Facebook page, Amnesty Oz, for nine days, and was only removed after it was publicly exposed on the online news site, J-Wire.
Other anti-Jewish comments on Amnesty Oz include: “That lot have been making up stories about their suffering for 5,000 years. The whole Jewish cult is based on stories about how they are the most suffering ‘people’ on the planet” and “…2000 years ago God was so disgusted with the practices of the Jews that he send his son to earth (a Jew) to lead them out of the darkness of tribal and rabbinical law”. Both these comments were first posted on Amnesty Oz on December 8, and remain there as of the time of writing this article.
Another comment consists of a list of 54 ‘quotes’ which are fabrications or distortions of the Talmud in order to depict Jews as racist and evil, including the false claim that Jews believe that ““Only the Jews are humans, the Non-Jews are not humans, but cattle” (goyim = human cattle)”.
Yet another anti-Jewish comment plays to both a conspiratorial theme and to Islamic eschatology: “Founded by Rothschilds (King of the Jews). Your satanic occult bullshit called Zionism is in it’s last days. Every rock, every tree in Palestine will whisper your names when you try to hide for your sins Jewish people.”
Both these comments were only removed on the evening of December 17, after being online for ten days, and two days after the J-Wire exposé.
Although most of the bigoted and vilifying comments are directed at Jews, there was an anti-Arab comment expressing the hope that “every last one of you sand nig’s use every last shot against each other”, and an anti-Muslim comment stating: “the less muslims that populate this planet the better!!!” The first comment, but not the second, was removed after the J-Wire exposé.
The catalyst for this outpouring of hate was a posted story by Amnesty International Australia on its Amnesty Oz Facebook page which stated: “SIGN NOW. End the violent harassment of Nabi Saleh villagers protesting Israeli settlement”. This post linked to an AIA article and petition on the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
It is ironic, but no longer surprising, that a posted story by a human rights organisation on its own Facebook page has attracted bigoted comments and even a call for genocide. There is a lesson for AIA. It needs to clean up its own backyard before preaching to others.
Amnesty International was formed in 1961 to lobby and fight for prisoners of conscience. In the 1990’s this brief was expanded to include other human rights causes. Amnesty Oz requests people not to post “racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive content.” Sadly, these have proved to be hollow words.
After a week of racist comments, AIA posted the following message on Amnesty Oz: “We encourage lively debate folks, but please do keep it respectful. Personal attacks or comments inciting hate and/or violence will be removed, and repeat offenders may be blocked.” This warning was posted only after the J-Wire exposé. AIA then removed some comments but many highly racist comments were left online, mostly directed against Jews.
Even after AIA issued an apology the next day via J-Wire, “for any offence that was caused”, most of the antisemitic comments have remained online. These include the comments previously quoted. The apology made no mention of antisemitism.
To its credit, AIA has now notified the Executive Council of Australian Jewry that this incident “has given us cause for review regarding our monitoring capabilities”. But there are deeper, more troubling questions that AIA needs to consider. What is it about the images and rhetoric it is promoting which attracts such hateful and genocidal anti-Jewish racist comments in the first place?
It is a recurring theme that online articles and posts critical of Israel are a magnet for antisemites and are used as a vehicle to express their Jew-hatred. This means that those responsible for publishing material critical of Israel need to be especially vigilant and screen out anti-Jewish and any other racist responses.
By leaving antisemitic comments on its Facebook page even after the JWire exposé, AIA is demonstrating that it appears to have difficulty in recognizing many derogatory generalisations about Jews as racist. As an organisation it needs to educate itself and its people about the history and nature of antisemitism, and to understand its traditional and contemporary manifestations.
Jews too are entitled to human rights, along with everyone else. Racism and bigotry, regardless of who it is against, is never acceptable.