Victorian Jewish community and Internet hate: the victim becomes the perpetrator

The cover of the April 29 2010 edition of the Australian Jewish News (Melbourne) features a story on the spread of anti-Semitic hate on the Internet.  This leads into the main story on page 3, another story by the Washington Post on page 20, an editorial on page 22 and finally a pictorial comment by cartoonist Kron on page 23.  That makes 5 pages of coverage on the topic.  One would think the paper has taken the topic of Internet hate fairly seriously.  But has it?

Wind back to August 7 2009 when the AJN Watch blog posted a choice piece entitled “Australian Jewish News, Australian Goyish News or Australian Gayish News?”  You can read it here.

For the unenlightened, AJN Watch describes itself:

About Me

AJN WATCH
Melbourne, Australia

AJN WATCH observes & comments (mainly) on prejudice, misrepresentation and monopolistic abuse of power in the pages of the Australian Jewish News – especially regarding the observant community. The AJN is the main source of information to and about Australian Jewry and aims to set the agenda and influence attitudes. It is this blog’s mission to spotlight errors, expose misrepresentations and vigorously respond to items that malign or defame the Orthodox community. AJN WATCH also posts and comments on a variety of topics of interest to its readership. We invite Guest Posts as well as topic suggestions.

It’s clear from reading this that the blog is based in Melbourne, it represents a segment of the Jewish community and it’s on the Internet.

In this particular AJN Watch blog on August 7, 2009 you can find the following comments:

there are no less than 9 items(!) about the AJN’s current sweethearts – the homosexuals (or to use the full label – “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transvestites”).

…a couple of repeat letters from the usual Torah-hating, gay-loving, single-issue-obsessed letter-writers (see top right) and of course a Kron cartoon.

Just like Browne and Bersten, we too have no idea who the TA gays killer is. But there is as much a chance – in fact far greater – that it was another homosexual (jealous lover’s tiff, maybe) as it being the work of an ‘ultra-orthodox’.

The last thing their readers are interested in is what is happening in Tel Aviv snakepits of dreck and perversion.

Your comment that “Israel is one of the more gay-friendly countries in the world and you don’t have to spend too much time in the more vibrant sections of Tel Aviv to become aware of a strong and tolerant gay culture” indeed nauseates, depresses and disgusts not only Hamodia readers, but all decent, civilized and moral people – of all religious beliefs. Your pride and delight that Israel has become a world-leader in depravity and debasement says much about you and your publication.

The last two paragraphs quoted above are especially offensive and adequately qualify as hate language.

I raised this issue at length with both the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) and the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission (BB ADC) at the time.  In doing so I found out that the BB ADC is in fact an arm of the JCCV.  Further, it has since been clarified to me by B’nai B’rith Australia that the BB ADC no longer has an official connection to B’nai B’rith Australia and that the only connection is a legacy use of the name.

I phoned John Searle, President of the JCCV, and arranged to meet with him to discuss a number of issues including the August 1 2009 Tel Aviv massacre and the subsequent hate language in the August 7 2009 AJN Watch blog.  John Searle suggested we meet at his house and so I went and visited him on the evening of Wednesday August 19 2009.  At the meeting I handed John Searle a copy of this letter.

I expressed my concern to John Searle about the hate language used in the AJN Watch blog and that it was necessary for the JCCV to speak out against this vile hate and intolerance.  As the JCCV had a history of speaking out against terrible acts perpetrated within the Jewish community, such as when it commented on the sexual abuse case at a Jewish school, it was my firm belief that the JCCV must also speak out against this terrible situation unfolding within the Jewish community.

The single response from John Searle to my request of the JCCV was “Ignore it and it will go away.  Don’t give it oxygen”.  I was stunned at this callous and insensitive response.  They don’t ignore anti-semitic hate.  They don’t ignore sexual abuse.  Yet they want to ignore homophobic hate.

After this meeting I contacted the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission.  I felt they would be able to help, as their web site states:

B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission Inc. (ADC) is the human rights arm of B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand. The ADC is dedicated to the elimination of antisemitism; to combating racism, intolerance and prejudice; and to seeking to secure justice and fair treatment for all.

Not aware then that the BB ADC was a part of the JCCV I asked them to respond to the AJN Watch blog.  I explained that it was unacceptable that a member of Melbourne’s Jewish community was able to post hate material about gay Jews on the Internet and get away with it.  The response from the BB ADC staggered me.

From: Deborah Stone <ResearchDirector@antidef.org.au>
Date: 31 August 2009 09:54
Subject: Homophobia in the Jewish community
To: Michael Barnett <michael@aleph.org.au>

Dear Michael,

Thanks for the material regarding your campaign to fight homophobia in the Jewish community. Unfortunately my board is not prepared for our organisation to engage with discrimination issues beyond our specific remit of antisemitism and racism.

Good luck with your work.

Regards
Deborah

Peace 和平 Paco سلام שלום

Deborah Stone
Research Director
B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission
03 95725770
0414 946489
http://www.antidef.org.au

This response confused me because their web site clearly claimed they were dedicated to combatting intolerance and prejudice.  I sent another email:

From: Michael Barnett <michael@aleph.org.au>
Date: 31 August 2009 12:46
Subject: Re: Homophobia in the Jewish community
To: Deborah Stone <ResearchDirector@antidef.org.au>

Hi Deborah,

This is clearly an attack on Jews by Jews.  If anyone knows how to handle any sort of attack on Jews it would have to be your organisation.

Is your organisation not prepared to stand up against this extreme level of hatred against members of the Jewish community?

Regards,
Michael.

to which I received this final response:

From: Deborah Stone <ResearchDirector@antidef.org.au>
Date: 31 August 2009 12:48
Subject: RE: Homophobia in the Jewish community
To: Michael Barnett <michael@aleph.org.au>

Hi Michael,

The truth is no it isn’t. You have my personal support but the ADC as an organisation is not prepared to get involved.

Kind regards

Deborah

So that was it.  The BB ADC was only prepared to fight certain types of intolerance and prejudice against the Jewish community.  Clearly homophobic attacks on gay Jews were not the right sort of hate and intolerance.

Now this is where it gets interesting.  The JCCV has since formed a reference group to investigate what sort of mental health issues gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in the Jewish community are facing.  There are proven links between intolerance of homosexuality and alarmingly high rates of mental health issues, self harm and suicide.  The JCCV knows this because they put out a media release claiming so.  The JCCV also controls the BB ADC, an organisation that selectively speaks out against hate.  If the hate is on the Internet and it is targeting Jews then they’ll take an interest.  If the hate is on the Internet and it’s just targeting gay Jews, they don’t want to know.

So here we have it.  The JCCV says it is trying to combat mental health issues in gay Jews on the one hand, and on the other hand it silently stands by and allows people within the Jewish community to spew virulent anti-gay hate in all directions.

The Jewish community needs to sit up and ask a few questions of the JCCV.  For starters, the question needs to be asked why the JCCV (and under it the BB ADC) allows harmful homophobic hate within the Jewish community to go unchallenged, whilst simultaneously it has a zero tolerance policy on anti-semitic hate.

If the Jewish community is to be taken at all seriously when it cries victim about anti-semitic hate on the Internet, it must first deal with being a perpetrator of anti-gay hate on the Internet.  Only then should anyone care.

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5 Responses to Victorian Jewish community and Internet hate: the victim becomes the perpetrator

  1. Naomi says:

    Outstanding summary of an unforgivable stand being taken by an organisation that purports to represent me as a member of the Jewish community of Melbourne. I am embarrassed and horrified to know that in 2010 these appalling double standards still exist. Under what kind of rock is the President living? I should answer that – a big one!! The community deserves more honest representation.

    Like

  2. Michael,

    It’s about time people started naming this intolerance for what it is. Homophobic religious rhetoric. It has no place in our modern society, it continues to harm those least able to defend themselves and the silence is reprehensible.

    Keep moving things forward!

    Like

  3. Jonathan Danilowitz says:

    Michael Barnett – thank you for the amazing and carefully documented chronology of the vile attitude of self-styled anti-discrination fighters, who themeelves spew hatred and injustice.
    Michael, take strength in knowing that your battle is not going to be in vain. Take strength from worldwide support (I am in Tel Aviv) against primitive ideas that have to washed away in the 21st century. Please continue to battle against the forces of darkness & intolerance.

    Like

  4. […] gender identity as he is to vilification on the grounds of race?  He has a concerning record of ignoring the former when presented with it, claiming that by not giving it oxygen it will go away.  He told […]

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  5. […] ADC, according to this blog from Mikeybear, is an arm of the JCCV.  There also exists a community group called the CSG, the […]

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