IT’S no easy feat to defeat antisemitism, but as always, it is a fight worth having.
When I discovered that David Icke, a serial hate-monger and conspiracy theorist who says that Jews played a starring role in spreading evil around the world, was visiting our shores to deliver sold-out shows, I knew that we had to sound the alarm bells.
We could not run from this issue, because denial has never been our strategy. We had to stand up and call it like it is, because combating the normalisation of antisemitism has to begin with the Jewish community.
We were going to delegitimise David Icke, name the blood libels and ancient pathological prejudices that he mouths, and say that he has no business being here. We were determined to disrupt his dangerous speech, and to ensure that he does not misuse our freedoms to travel around with a bullhorn, spouting his putrid lies.
The easy thing would have been to sweep this under the rug and to turn a blind eye. After all, he had been here before.
But complacency is never in order when dealing with a man who has made mendacious, demonising, dehumanising allegations about Jews.
Especially not in these supercharged times when all forms of assaults against Jews have skyrocketed, when once taboo trip-wires are being crossed, and when boundaries of mainstream expression are transgressed.
As history has taught us, polite silence is acquiescence, and acquiescence is complicity. As Bonhoeffer said, before being murdered by the Nazis, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act, is to act.”
Avoiding a conflict and the kind of abuse I know would rain on me, could not come at the expense of our community’s wellbeing and sense of security. We had to fight the darkness that Icke spews with light, and the lies he delivers with truth. Ignoring this individual with his poisonous rhetoric, would have signalled to everyone that we find it acceptable, okay and normal to defame Jews.
As always, I thought of the victims and the Holocaust survivors, who would wake up in the morning knowing that a man who claims that the Jews funded Hitler is free to roam here and to spread his harmful and contemptuous canards. And so, we launched a public media campaign, calling on the government to revoke Icke’s visa.
Icke’s antisemitism is often cloaked by trading sound bites about his ‘lizard theories’. I knew that we had to provide the government with a smoking gun, with irrefutable evidence. Though it made my skin crawl, I delved into the cesspool of his speeches and writings, and analysing, page by page, his book And The Truth Shall Set you Free.
Looking through this dark text, it provided me with a truckload of quotes that demonstrated, beyond doubt, Icke’s antisemitism.
For the first time ever, I can reveal parts of the information that we provided to the government in making our ironclad case.
Here is some of what Icke claims: The Jews are responsible for WWI, WWII, the Russian Revolution and, “financed Hitler to power in 1933 and made the funds available for his rearmament”; the Jews wrote The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; violent neo-Nazi organisations like the “‘far-right’ group, Combat 18, is a front for the sinister Anti-Defamation League, the United States arm of the Israeli/Rothschild secret service, Mossad”; Jews are responsible for the slave trade and control the Ku Klux Klan; Jews are behind antisemitic attacks such as desecration of graves, assaults and terrorists attacks; Jews bankrolled Hitler and the Holocaust; the Global Elite (the Jews) along with the Mossad were responsible for the Oklahoma bombing; Holocaust denial should be taught at schools, and those who deny the Holocaust are not Nazis or apologists for Hitler.
This decision was a victory for decency and for our core values of equality and respect for all, and I applaud the Minister for Immigration, David Coleman, for the admirable act of unflinching moral courage. It reaffirmed that freedom of speech has to be balanced with the need to limit hate, and that being safe from racial and religious vilification is a core guarantor of any democracy.
I am also heartened that the Liberal and Labor candidates for Macnamara, Kate Ashmor and Josh Burns, locked arms with me in joining the chorus of voices advocating for a ban.
It’s been a tough week for the three of us as the sewer lids have been taken off. We have been rocked by a flood of blood-chilling messages and threats, most too horrifying to reprint. These unvarnished displays of venom tell us that we are not home yet, that there is a long road ahead in ensuring that antisemitism never becomes deeply embedded in the inner core of Australia’s culture.
I’m also gratified by the scores of phone calls and messages, from people across the social, ethnic and political spectrum, and from around the world, who have saluted our stance.
Let’s face it, no one stomped on Icke’s freedom to express his noxious views. He can do so from England and on his social media. But not here.
Words of hate and incitement matter, and often escalate into thuggish intolerance and real-life violence.
When people are told that Jews are bad and malevolent, members of a shadowy cabal responsible for the world’s ills, they feel empowered to harass, demean, degrade and carry out attacks against them.
This cancer invalidates our dignity, it says that we are not Australians, that we are not worthy of respect, that we should go back where we came from. It makes our kids, in particular those who proudly wear their Judaism on their hearts and sleeves, feel less safe and less comfortable walking the streets or in school.
And to those who still wishfully think that we are somehow immune from the lows of Europe, I say, “We should not wait until Australia becomes another Malmo, Brussels, Toulouse, Copenhagen.”
At the end of the day, this righteous decision communicates the message that Australia stands for better, that it will continue to be a safe haven for us all, and that the likes of David Icke are not welcome here. And may it always be so.
DVIR ABRAMOVICH is chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission.