Would someone be good enough to tell the management of Radio National that on Thursday evening, May 5, 2005 Jewish communities in Australia, and around the world, were commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation from the death camps?
The ABC’s AM team certainly knew the significance of the date. At the same time that Perspective was being aired the news and current affairs team were taping the Jewish communal commemoration as well as interviews with survivors and their grandchildren which they broadcast the next morning.
The date in the Jewish calendar is Yom Hashoah, 27 Nissan, the date decreed by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as the day on which each year the Holocaust is commemorated. Each year the commemoration is designed to educate, so that never again will any people be the victims of genocide.
Six million Jews, including 1.5 million children, were murdered for no reason other than they were Jewish. The survivors and their descendants have rebuilt their lives in Israel, Australia and elsewhere in the free world. We are dedicated to not giving Hitler a posthumous victory, and wherever we see racial hatred, vilification and attempts to commit genocide on others, Jewish communities speak up in opposition. Israel and the Jewish people continue to search for peace, despite existential threats far from abating.
In remembering we do not hesitate to recall the genocide by the Nazis began with ethnic denunciation of Jews as seeking racial domination over the Aryan (German) neighbours. On Thursday May 5, 2005, live on Radio National, Paul Heywood-Smith QC went on Radio National’s Perspective and characterised Jews as persecuting Arabs, and in particular Palestinians. Mr Heywood-Smith, suggested that Zionism “reeks” of inhuman “racism”. He claimed Israeli Arabs are deprived of a constitution or a bill of rights, and because Jewish organisations promote the interests of Jews, they are discriminating against Arabs. His claims are misleading, and demonstrably false.
Zionism is no more than self-determination for the Jewish people. Regrettably, opponents of Zionism suggest that of all people on this earth only Jews are not entitled to self-determination. They portray the Jewish nation as perpetrators of some ongoing evil. Their tune has its obvious historical forbears.
When one selects out a particular people as ineligible for the right of self-determination, one is engaging in active racism. An anti-Zionist is someone who opposes self-determination for the Jewish people. The anti-Zionist would not be racist if the idea being pursued was opposition to self-determination for all peoples, but truth be told, they oppose it only for Jews. They are engaging in racism against Jews, and the name for such racism is anti-Semitism.
But distinguish these from the critics of Israeli policies who genuinely address harsh realities and suggest better ways to achieve Israel’s goal of peaceful coexistence with her neighbours, including a new Palestinian state, without the overhanging threat of daily terrorism.
Israel of course is the only operative democracy in the Middle East. It is the only nation in the region whose very declaration of independence guarantees rights for Arab and Jew alike. Both Hebrew and Arabic are official languages. Both Jew and Arab can and do own property, operate businesses, enjoy healthcare and public education, and importantly exercise the right to vote. Unsurprisingly, Mr Heywood-Smith failed to note these realities, and omitted also to mention that that there are Arab members of the Israeli Parliament.
Now contrast Israel with the Arab nations which surround it. They exclude the rights of Jews to practice their religion, to live freely and to enjoy basic rights.
To this day the Palestinian leadership has suggested that while all Palestinian Arabs should be allowed to live within the borders of Israel, no Jews should be allowed to live within the borders of a new state of Palestine. Israel offers equity, and her neighbours offer exclusion in return. In an Orwellian twist, Mr Heywood-Smith reverses the democrat and the demagogue.
In the course of many decades of conflict, both Jews and Palestinian Arabs were variously displaced and expelled. The harsh reality was that close to equal numbers of refugees left Arab countries to live in Israel, and left Israel to live in Arab countries. In the first few years after Israel's birth as a nation, Arab countries expelled or displaced their Jewish populations. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, many of whom had no particular desire to move to the newborn Jewish state, were forced to go. Israel was required to provide planes and ships to transport them from Iraq, Yemen and North Africa. These expulsions were retaliation for the displacement of Arabs from the Jewish portion of the British Mandate of Palestine.
The reason that there is no ongoing claim in relation to the Jewish refugees who fled from Arab lands is that Israel resettled them. Palestinian Arabs who fled, and their descendants, have not enjoyed any similar benefit. Their Arab brethren have refused to accept responsibility to settle them.
Both Jews and Arabs lived in the British Mandate of Palestine and numerous partition proposals were put forward to accommodate both Indigenous groups. Mr Heywood-Smith’s further submission that Israel removed the Indigenous inhabitants of Palestine from their lands in 1948, suggests that Jews were not Indigenous inhabitants of the land before it became Israel. This is another falsehood, used to make Jews the “other”. The Jewish claim for equal rights and indeed emancipation is twisted into a claim of inequality and exclusion. This tool of propaganda also has its obvious historical forbears.
Mr Heywood-Smith claims not to be engaging in anti-Semitism, but it is a claim that can safely be rejected by reference to the very broadcast in which his denial comes forth hopelessly implausible.
The role of Radio National in airing important issues for public debate is a vital one. In this instance, regrettably what was being aired was the promulgation of recognisable anti-Semitism.