Dismay over failure to charge al-Wahwah

Ismail al-Wahwah.

NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Stepan Kerkyasharian has backed the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ (JBOD) call for the state’s race hate legislation to be reviewed after police decided last week not to charge Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Ismail al-Wahwah with racial incitement.

Kerkyasharian had referred two videos to the police for investigation, having concluded that they breached the serious vilification section of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act.

In one video, al-Wahwah called all Jews corrupt and a “hidden evil”, and said “the ember of jihad against the Jews will continue to burn”.

In another video, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), al-Wahwah allegedly called Jews “the most evil creature of Allah”, adding: “Moral corruption is linked to the Jews. Prostitution in the world began with the Israelites. Usury and gambling began with the Israelites. Killing began with the Israelites … They will pay with blood for blood, with tears for tears, and with destruction for destruction.”

However, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione reportedly advised Kerkyasharian last week – just a week-and-a-half shy of the deadline to prosecute – that there was insufficient evidence to mount a case.

In response, JBOD president Jeremy Spinak said the law needs to be fixed as a matter of urgency.

“If this example of vile hate speech cannot be dealt with under the existing act, than it is useless.

“We cannot put it any more clearly than that, and we will be dedicating our efforts in the coming weeks and months towards that outcome. I fear that it’s going to take an incident before people realise the law needs to be strengthened,” Spinak said.

He added that JBOD would not be launching a civil action under Section 18C of the federal Act “because this is not a Jewish issue; it is a crime and needs to be identified as such and prosecuted as such”.

Kerkyasharian said, “This highlights the need for that piece of legislation [the NSW law] to be reviewed.

“It is about a piece of legislation under which there has never been a prosecution, even though in my 12 years in the position I have referred a number of incidents to the DPP, I have come to the conclusion that they were in breach of the legislation,” he said.

“The law which is there to deal with it appears to be inadequate.”

In 2013, at the instruction of then premier Barry O’Farrell, a Legislative Council Law and Justice Committee inquiry was conducted into racial vilification law in NSW and in particular, the effectiveness of section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, which creates the offence of serious racial vilification.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton told The AJN the state government was considering the issues the inquiry raised.

Also unclear is why the police seemingly appeared to pursue the uploader of the videos and not al-Wahwah himself, saying in a statement that “at this time, it is not possible to identify who uploaded the footage in question or charge him or her for uploading the offensive material”.

Questioned on this by The AJN, a police spokesperson simply responded: “NSW Police treated this matter seriously and investigated it thoroughly. It cannot be progressed any further.”

B’nai B’rith Anti Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said: “The fact that someone can make such a public display of hate, urging others kill the Jewish people, and not be charged is outrageous.

“The message being sent here is that it’s open season on Jews and other ethnic minorities and that those who want to advance their agenda of radicalism can do so without consequence.”