One-on-one with Douglas Murray

British intellectual Douglas Murray speaks with Bruce Hill ahead of his visit to Australia about the recent upsurge in antisemitism worldwide.

British journalist and commentator Douglas Murray
British journalist and commentator Douglas Murray

Prominent British journalist and commentator Douglas Murray is coming to Australia.

He’s holding public events in every mainland state and is already attracting opposition. A campaign has been started to cancel his talk at a theatre in Sydney, with former ABC Weekend Breakfast host Josh Szeps on March 24. He stands accused of “fomenting anti-immigration, Islamophobic, anti-black, European civilisational moral panics”.

Murray, who was recently in Israel visiting the scene of the October 7 atrocities, says his support for Israel is driving some people mad. In a wide-ranging discussion, he touches on this and a plethora of related topics.

Since October 7 we’ve seen responses that have been frothingly unhinged. Speaking generally, what in your opinion has happened?

Well, I think several things. One is we’ve seen a massive upsurge in hatred, not just of Israel, of the West.

Every time Israel is involved in conflict, the antisemites and the bigots and the people who think they’re acting for social justice that are actually giving cover for terrorists have just burst out into the open.

And that’s happened in every Western country, Australia, America and Britain.

These are people who, sometimes just misguided and very ill-informed and sometimes there are people who are deeply prejudiced, specifically against the Jewish state but also against all the Western liberal democracies.

And these people are now out in the open.

Was that reality always like this? Was this vicious antisemitism simply lying dormant and we are only just noticing it now? Or has something changed?

Well, it’s an extension of something’s been happening for a long time that I’ve warned about.

Which is basically that we have people within our society who hate our society. And they hate Israel first, but everybody else next.

Antisemitism is a light sleeper. It can come from any direction. Historically it has come from the left and the right.

Douglas Murray walks through a Hamas tunnel in Gaza.

But at the moment it’s coming primarily from a part of the left and from Muslim populations in the West, who are indulging in a spate of very open bigotry, and they’re treating themselves to this.

A lot of these people thought this for a long time. And now they think they can just do it out in the open. To my mind, it’s very instructive. It’s instructive to the Australian public and for publics in the West, because you can see these people wanting to fight now.

You’ve seen some of the things that have happened in Australia, there was the “Gas the Jews”, or “Where’s the Jews?” incident as we’re told at the Opera House, there was a riot in Caulfield. Where does Australia sit in the scheme of things when it comes to antisemitism globally? Better, worse, or the same as everywhere else?

I think we’ll see when I’m there, but my impression is it’s similar to everywhere else.

There are leftists who believe they are acting in the name of social justice and are in fact anti-Israel.

And then there are the people who are of Muslim descent, who bring wars from their own countries of origin and bring them into the West, into Australia and elsewhere.

My impression is it’s the same in Australia as in Britain and elsewhere.

The bigoted types of people are just expressing their bigotry openly.

And it’s a great shame for Australia but I believe in Australia, in the sense of the Australian public and I believe that like me, they won’t be bullied by these people.

One of the problems in trying to confront this phenomenon is that in the world of social media and deep fakes, people are capable of choosing their own reality. I’ve had people on social media, as I’m sure you have as well, simply informing me that no one was killed in southern Israel on October 7, they were killed by the IDF – the whole thing was staged. How do you cope with this?

Well, that’s one of the reasons I’ve been here [in Israel]. I’ve been seeing it with my own eyes.

In Ukraine last year, for the same reason, there are people who deny what’s happening.

I knew immediately after the 7th that we’re seeing Holocaust denial in real time.

I’ve seen a lot of it with my own eyes at the sites of the massacres while they were still fresh, the families of the deceased, murdered, the families of the hostages.

I know these people who are denying this are liars on a historic scale, but I’ve seen this with my own eyes.

And I know that they’re lying.

And perhaps some of them know that they’re lying.

And there are those who have simply fallen for a type of Holocaust denial in real time.

Well, that’s fine. That can be their view but they have no right to try to destroy the public [facts] uncontested.

There’s a young Jewish woman I know on social media here in Melbourne, and she wanted me to ask you, how can we engage with people who simply refuse to accept objective, observable reality?

You have to engage with people and my view is there are a lot of people, as you say, there are a lot of people who refuse to engage in reality. Well, reality can catch up with you all pretty fast.

You know, there are some people who will never be dissuaded, just as there are some Holocaust deniers who will never be dissuaded.

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks famously said “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Antisemitism is the world’s most reliable early warning sign of a major threat to freedom, humanity and the dignity of difference.” What’s happening right now? It’s about the Jews, but it’s about a bit more than that. It’s about the West, isn’t it?

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks famously said “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews”.

Yeah, well, I mean, just take a very obvious example which is what we now see on the streets of Australia, Britain and America, support for the Houthis.

These people never see a terrorist they don’t like, so long as they’re anti-Western.

And the Houthis are firing at British American vessels in the Red Sea.

Why would anyone support that?

Particularly people who’ve only just heard of the Houthis and are probably confusing them with the Hutus in Rwanada.

So they start chanting against Israel and the Jews and they end up chanting against America, the British and end up chanting against Australia.

But they’re British, American and Australian themselves. Is this an act of self-hatred?

No, some of them are, some of them don’t feel that they belong to the West and don’t like the West .

Our enemies are currently making a great deal of noise. But are they really as dominant as they seem? Or do the Jewish people have friends and allies?

The Jewish people have many friends and allies.

And yes, we’re facing a resurgence with bullying.

On a global scale there are people who behave like two-year-olds. And like two-year-olds, they try to push and see how far they can get and how much they’ll be allowed.

And we have a lot of people doing that at the moment, but I don’t believe that the Australian public will be bullied. I don’t believe Jews will be bullied, I know I won’t be bullied.

But we have to rise, there’s a small minority of people who are very, very vocal and are trying their luck.

They want to see if they can intimidate us and I suggest that we should not be intimidated.

We’ll continue to defend what’s right, and we’ll continue to point out what’s wrong and they can have their say but we’ll have ours.

There’s obviously a danger in building our own more comfortable reality to crawl into and hide as a sort of mirror image of the way our enemies have constructed their own hermetically sealed worldview. I personally follow writers like Nick Cohen, who’s on the left but he’s moderate. He sort of keeps me honest. How can we keep ourselves honest and understand reality in all its complexity, and avoid falling into the same trap our enemies have?

Pro-Hamas prostesters outside the Sydney Opera House on October 9. Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Orient yourself towards truth, not towards political parties. A lot of people seem to think that they have to take the views of their tribe politically.

I urge people not to do that.

There are issues way beyond left and right, and antisemitism is one of them.

It’s not a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue.

It can come from the left, it can come from the right but it can be countered from the left and countered by the right.

The most important thing is for it to be countered by all decent people, countered by people with a knowledge of history, a sense of justice and a sense of truth.

And it doesn’t matter, somebody’s views on taxation or social welfare or anything else.

I think we can find some causes of common agreement and one of them is when people come to the Jews we stand up.

Our enemies include people who loudly insist they’re progressive and anti-racist, and yet they ally themselves with the most regressive imaginable forces. I mean, Queers for Palestine, really? Can they not see the problem or do they just see targeting the Jews as taking priority over everything else?

These are a set of people [who are] malcontents.

You can always find them in any community, in any group.

Queers for Palestine. Photo: Instagram

There are lunatics in the Jewish community on the fringes, people who want to abolish Israel and there are crazy people among gays as well.

Again, I would urge people to look at reality.

Some people make common cause with those who are not their friends.

It astounds me that people support the Houthis of Yemen who have just sentenced a bunch of young gay people in Yemen to death.

See how the Queers for Palestine get on with their so-called friends. They’ll find that it’s not a reciprocated love!

What is the role of the Jewish people in this struggle? What should we do?

Don’t be bullied or pushed around. Don’t be persuaded that the word Zionist is an offensive term.

Be proud of ourselves. Be proud of ourselves in the West, be proud of ourselves as Jews when we’re Jews. Be proud of ourselves as friends of Jews.

You’ve been to Israel, you’ve seen the response there. You’ve met people like Bari Weiss, a well-known Jewish journalist. Jews are really fighting back at the moment, aren’t they?

Journalist Bari Weiss has stood up for Israel. Photo: Josefin Dolsten

I’m deeply pleased and proud to see the number of people who have pushed back. It’s a great sign.

You shouldn’t be pushed around, especially by bullies and thugs and bigots.

And that’s what we’re dealing with.

And that’s what Jews are seeing, and they’re standing up.

And they should realise that.

That’s happening nowhere more than in Israel where the young generation of fighters in the IDF, young people across Israel, dropped everything to defend their people.

They should be an inspiration to the wider world.

You’re coming to this country shortly. What is your message to Australian Jews?

To be proud, to stand up, not be pushed around.

Every generation has its challenges.

This generation of challenges are fairly minimal in comparison to some previous generations.

And all we need to do is to stand up, be counted, not be afraid of being pushed around.

To say you know what, when the only Jewish state in the world becomes subject to international lies and opprobrium, we push back against those lies.

And when people who have expressed no concern over the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Syrians by fellow Muslims in recent years, maybe when people suddenly fixate on this very complex but in some ways also very clear conflict between Hamas and Israel; we can call people out for their bigotry for their double and indeed triple standard and say the truth that’s the most important thing.

It’s not a left or right issue. It’s a truth issue.

Live not by lies.

Live not by lies, absolutely, absolutely.

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