Sunday, June 23, 2024

the AJA video and the media’s misinformation drawback

On October 9, two days after Hamas launched its assault on Israel, pro-Palestine protesters converged on the Sydney Opera Home. They have been there to display in opposition to the NSW authorities’s choice to mild up the constructing’s iconic “sails” in blue and white in help of Israel. 

I’m a Jewish Israeli-Australian who stands in solidarity with Palestinians calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and an finish to Israel’s occupation. I didn’t attend this protest, though there was a proud Jewish contingent — as there’s at each pro-Palestine rally. From this protest, a number of confirmed stories surfaced of some members of the group shouting anti-Semitic chants (one of many rally’s organisers would later tackle the media to sentence the chants and say that these accountable weren’t welcome within the motion).

The morning after the protest, a video emerged of a gaggle of attendees shouting a sentence again and again for a couple of seconds. The video was circulated on Twitter/X by the Australian Jewish Affiliation (AJA) with the caption “Muslim mob of 100s chant ‘gasoline the Jews’”. 

The AJA is an Australian Zionist organisation that even different Zionist neighborhood leaders search to disassociate from.

The video went viral nearly instantly and had a severe influence. Months later, it’s usually cited in media reporting and underpins claims that the streets of Australia are unsafe for Jews. NSW Premier Chris Minns used the video to attempt to ban future pro-Palestine rallies, a cynical transfer that pits Jewish security in direct opposition with Palestine solidarity.

The truth that this video circulated within the days after October 7 is important. Not solely did it consequence within the NSW premier and police attempting to stop different protests from taking place, and resulted in some Palestinian organisers being questioned by police, but it surely additionally sowed worry within the Jewish neighborhood, a neighborhood that was understandably shaken by listening to that “gasoline the Jews” was chanted. The video circulated the world, with retailers within the USA, Israel and the UK reporting on it with out scrutiny. 

However now, as reported by journalists Cam Wilson and Antoinette Lattouf in Crikey, there are legit questions raised by forensic audio and verification consultants in regards to the video in query. 

Studying that consultants — supported by testimonies from individuals who attended the rally — have solid doubt on the authenticity of the unique recording left me feeling indignant. Offended that the AJA, which claims to be an organisation “for the Australian Jewish neighborhood”, had no qualms about circulating confronting footage allegedly of a “Muslim mob of 100s chant[ing] ‘gasoline the Jews’” with out first verifying its authenticity. 

I’m indignant as a result of telling the Jewish neighborhood {that a} “mob of 100s” chanting “gasoline the Jews” can really strike worry in a neighborhood when tensions are already excessive, when persons are already afraid and unsure. I’m indignant as a result of anti-Semitism has probably been weaponised by Jews in opposition to different Jews. It additionally left me questioning what sense of duty the AJA has for the neighborhood it claims to signify, such that it had no problem about circulating footage that — knowingly — would make Jews really feel unsafe. It’s potential that the AJA shared this video to foment division between “Muslims” and “Jews”, and between Jews and the Palestine solidarity motion, however in doing so it acted with recklessness that has real-life penalties. 

Maybe, as some argue, it doesn’t matter what the phrase is. They’d say that whether or not the mantra was “the place’s the Jews”, “fuck the Jews”, or “gasoline the Jews”, it’s nonetheless anti-Semitic (though I disagree — invoking a type of homicide infamous for its use within the Holocaust is an incitement to violence completely different from asking “the place’s the Jews”, particularly given there’s a prison distinction).

However my level, finally, is that the harm is finished. That the video was circulated with out scrutiny and verification, firstly by the AJA and subsequently by numerous media organisations, has had grave impacts on the Palestinian solidarity motion that was tarnished as anti-Semitic and noticed protesters and organisers vilified. It feeds into dangerous stereotypes about Arab-Australians and reinforces the ahistorical concept that the battle between Palestine and Israel is in regards to the annihilation of Jews, reasonably than colonisation and dispossession.

I’ve little question that within the subsequent weeks and months we are going to study extra in regards to the phrases chanted within the protest. However my concern is that this video was circulated by a Zionist group with out verification, understanding that it’ll generate worry within the Jewish neighborhood. Doing so has had dire, real-life implications on folks. I do know, as a result of I’ve felt them. 

Over the latest months I’ve had conversations (or arguments) with folks from the Australian Jewish neighborhood who maintain completely different political opinions to mine. In these conversations, some have accused me of holding harmful views that put Jews in peril. To help their accusations, folks cited the AJA video as proof and used it to say that the Palestine solidarity motion is anti-Semitic. Of their eyes, I’m supporting an anti-Semitic motion, and getting used as a Jew by those that wish to trigger hurt to myself and different Jews. 

These allegations have been made by folks near me, folks I care deeply about. I take these allegations to coronary heart. Consequently, a rift has shaped between us. This division, a private one, is replicated all through the Jewish neighborhood at giant. Many Jewish folks witnessed Israel’s response to the Hamas assault on October 7 with profound horror. We’re struck by the extent of devastation in Gaza, and in addition by the deafening silence from peak Jewish our bodies, synagogues, and neighborhood and spiritual leaders who stay mute in terms of the struggling of Palestinians. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Jewish neighborhood is split, and this division has seen households sever bonds with one another and longtime friendships crumble. 

I do know this as a result of folks — at occasions whole strangers — have reached out to me to specific how remoted they really feel. To share that they really feel betrayed by the folks of their congregation, their rabbis, households and communities. Betrayed as a result of their views are silenced and marginalised, whereas Zionist views are elevated and given room. 

Many people within the left-wing Jewish neighborhood really feel unrepresented by so-called neighborhood leaders and peak our bodies that flip a blind eye to the horrors that Israel is inflicting upon Palestinians and justify Israel’s conflict crimes as “self-defence”. We’ve began constructing communities with one another in response.   

A surge of organising on the left — spearheaded by teams like IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace in North America, and Loud Jew Collective, Jews Towards the Occupation ’48 and Tzedek Collective in Australia — has responded to the conflict by calling for a ceasefire and organising alongside the Palestine solidarity motion. Correspondingly, on the best, Zionist foyer teams and people made claims that calling for a ceasefire is anti-Semitic, which makes use of the harmful logic that Jewish security is contingent on the oppression of Palestinians. 

These teams declare that any critique of Israel is anti-Semitic, which has grave implications for Palestinians, Jews and different allies. The absurdity and even hazard of this place must be plain to see. It treats Jews as a monolith and, worse, implicates Jews in all places with the state of Israel — a state many people stand in opposition to. In latest months, Jewish blocs in pro-Palestine protests have grown week by week with new members and supporters. We resist the flattening of Jewish id and values that right-wing Zionist teams impose on us. And we proceed to talk out for Palestine regardless of households turning in opposition to us, regardless of mates disappearing. On this present local weather, the results for talking up about Palestine have by no means been increased. 

On a private degree, the video circulated by AJA with out verification contributed to a deepening chasm within the Jewish neighborhood, which sees a few of us on one aspect, and our households and mates on the opposite. Presently of heightened feelings and impulsive reactions, media and civil society teams have to do higher by the communities they declare to serve — communities which can be already risky, fearful and precarious. The very least teams similar to AJA can do is confirm inflammatory claims. Because it stands, they now appear to be backing away from them.

Regardless, the harm is finished. The Australian Jewish neighborhood is ruptured. And regardless of allegations levelled in opposition to us, a rising variety of Jews reject the mainstream Zionist narrative and name for Palestinian liberation.  

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