'The line must be drawn"

The enemies within our community

These extremists have become a threat to the Jewish community's safety.

Robert Gregory
Robert Gregory

Following October 7, the Jewish community has united more than ever before. Even previously unconnected Jews rediscovered their Jewishness.

This isn’t surprising. Polling consistently shows that the Australian Jewish community is overwhelmingly Zionist and connected to Israel. Descendants of Holocaust survivors and immigrants from places like the Soviet Union and South Africa understand the Jewish state’s critical importance.

Our community has successively united against outside enemies who wish us harm, but we’ve neglected those within.

Fringe radicals opposed to everything our community values, always existed. Someone using their Jewish-sounding name to sell books, a poisonous Facebook group or a few young misfits staging stunts like ‘anti-Israel Megillah readings’. I always dismissed them as harmless individuals to be pitied or cries for help.

I was wrong to be so dismissive. These extremists have become a threat to the Jewish community’s safety.

Last week, it became apparent that two such tiny groups have been slandering the Jewish community. The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) and the newly formed Jewish Council of Australia hijacked a Senate inquiry into right-wing extremism, to name and target Jews and Jewish organisations.

The AJDS complained to the government about Jewish organisations, from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to the Australian Jewish Association (AJA) and even the Chabad movement. As the grandson of Holocaust survivors and someone who regularly receives threats from actual right-wing extremists, I’m shocked to see Jews make a mockery of this real threat.

The AJDS admits to helping rabid Israel critic, Labor MP Julian Hill target Jewish charities fundraising in Australia and has called for sanctions to be imposed on Israel. Perhaps most dangerous, was a false smear directed against a synagogue. Given the increased security threat, this could risk the safety of congregants. Extremists of all kinds are monitoring this inquiry.

The newly formed Jewish Council joined the attacks, targeting the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), The Australian Jewish News and others. Their smears against the Never Again Is Now (NAIN) rallies, which combat antisemitism, fell flat, when committee deputy chair, Senator Paul Scarr, revealed that he had proudly attended one.

Turning an inquiry into right-wing extremism into an attack on the Jewish community is a repugnant inversion of history. If these attacks were coming from gentiles, they would be labelled antisemitism. Our community should tolerate diverse views but must draw the line at those endangering the community’s safety.

Within their first sentence, the AJDS claimed undeserved legitimacy by noting their affiliation with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV). The JCCV should immediately expel them.

The far-left Jewish Council is rejected and ignored by the Jewish community, but their social media has attracted a healthy following among antisemites. Those hostile to us frequently cite the Jewish Council’s positions to justify their own smears.

The voice of this absolute minority of Jews is amplified by left-wing, anti-Israel media, like the taxpayer-funded ABC and SBS. In a recent SBS television interview, I was asked to comment on some ridiculous statement from the Jewish Council. I explained that it was a tiny group formed a few weeks prior, supported by fewer than one per cent of the Jewish community. Predictably, my answer was excluded.

While ABC recycles the same handful of Jews to attack their own community, I can’t recall them ever promoting an Australian Muslim who rejects that community’s anti-Israel demonisation.

The phenomenon of Jews turning against their own community is not new.

Historically, informers denounced sacred Jewish texts, causing countless Jews to be burned at the stake. People like Theobald of Cambridge, who invented the first blood libel, or Johannes Pfefferkorn, who left Judaism after committing a burglary and called to enslave and expel his brethren.

In the Soviet Union, the Yevsektsiya turned in their fellow Jews and destroyed synagogues. It didn’t save many of them from Stalin’s purges.

The sickness of anti-Zionism is so great that there was even an anti-Zionist, pro-Nazi group in 1930s Germany, The Verband nationaldeutscher Juden. The Gestapo imprisoned its leader anyway.

Jewish chess master Bobby Fischer hated his people so much that he wrote to Encyclopaedia Judaica, demanding they remove his name.

The Jerusalem Post termed anti-Zionist Jews, “as Jewish as the Westboro Baptist Church is Christian”. Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy coined the term, “unJews”.

The deadliest day for Jews post-Holocaust was a wake-up call for the 99 per cent. An important lesson from October 7 is the importance of Jewish unity. I sometimes disagree with other Jewish organisations, but I’ve tried hard not to contribute to public conflicts. I know that I’m not alone.

I am inspired to see left-wing Jews who spent the prior year protesting Israel’s government, joining hands with right-wing Jews. The Jewish community is a broad tent with room for supporters and critics of Israel’s government and the Jewish establishment.

The line must be drawn at those who endanger our safety and make a mockery of the Holocaust. Like the Pesach seder’s wicked son, they have chosen to cut themselves off from the Jewish story. We must make it clear that they are not part of us.

Robert Gregory is CEO of the Australian Jewish Association (AJA).

read more: