Erasing hatred

August 7th, 1997


Despite the proved falsity of history’s most notorious anti-Semitic book, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the book itself and the myths within it are far from dead and buried. For that reason the article by Michael Ross in the Arabic-language Sydney publication El Telegraph this month may well be a significant document in Jewish and Arab relations, at least in this country.

Ross, a former associate editor of El Telegraph, wrote his article as the result of a Conciliation conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) under the Racial Hatred Act. The complaint, by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, followed an article in El Telegraph that cited The Protocols as a source for understanding Israel’s attitude to the Lebanese people and to non-Jews in general.

The publication of the article was an indication that the Racial Hatred Act can provide proper recourse to the victims of racial vilification, appearing as it did on the front page of the newspaper and, it is to be hoped, read by the audience exposed to the original slander.

The offensive article was written by Charlie Ayoub, publisher and editor-in-chief of the popular Lebanese-based publication Al-Diar. The article alleged a “covenant” in the Bible to the effect that “the Lebanese fields must be burnt” and claimed that Jews, who were described as “snakes”, have a plan to establish a “Global Order” in which “all the people will submit to the Jews”.

The article by Ross bore the stark headline ‘The Protocols: We Were Wrong’. In it, Ross placed the Protocols in the history of Christian anti-Semitism, including the “blood libel” which accuses Jews of killing Christian children for ritual purposes.

He referred to the way Arab governments and prominent figures within the Arab world had promoted the Protocols, generously conceding that some who did so were “perhaps ignorant of the fact that the Protocols are a forgery”. He warned readers “one cannot be so thoughtfully inclined towards many partisan writers and propagandists in the Middle East who deliberately invoke the Protocols to encourage racial hatred of the Israeli State and the Jewish religion”.

Ross surveyed the distribution of the Protocols in Australia and elsewhere and summarised successful prosecutions of its publishers and distributors. El Telegraph also published a feature which I co-authored with Peter Wertheim, President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, entitled “Free Speech is Not a Licence to Spread Hatred”.

A precedent has now been set which will assist other aggrieved parties who seek to settle complaints arising out of material published in the mainstream media, including non-English language media.

A constructive relationship evolved during the course of discussions between the Jewish community and the publishers of El Telegraph, which is now a relationship firmly rooted in trust and respect.