It Couldn?t Happen Here

As a Jewish boy growing up in an Anglo-Christian country like Australia, I often reflected on my parents? horrific experiences in wartime Poland.

Stan Beer

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As a Jewish boy growing up in an Anglo-Christian country like Australia, I often reflected on my parents? horrific experiences in wartime Poland.

I remember being fascinated that, in modern times, in the heart of the civilized world, innocent men, women and children could be slaughtered by inhuman thugs while ordinary people looked the other way. However, what happened to my parents and their fellow European Jews never really frightened me, because I felt it could never happen in a place like Australia.

?That could never happen here,? I would tell myself. ?Australians are too decent. We?re all Australians here, whether we?re Jews, Christians or whatever, and Australians would never do that to each other.?

Even when, as a student at a Christian boys? private school, I encountered the odd snide anti-Semitic remarks from a few of my peers, I never in my wildest imaginings could entertain the thought of real anti-Semitism taking hold of mainstream Australia. In fact, I remember clearly that when Israel smashed the Arabs in the 1967 Six Day War, many of my fellow students offered their congratulations, as if I had actually done something.

Then in 1972, the Australian Labor Party was swept into office, the first non-conservative Government in 23 years ? the first in my lifetime. As far as I was concerned, that was okay. In fact, I had voted for them. One year later, however, something strange happened, something I didn?t understand. Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur and fighting for its life, suffering many casualties. The newly elected left-leaning Labor Government announced that it was taking an ?even-handed? stance on the war. In other words, it favored neither one side nor the other in the conflict. The local Jewish community was stunned.

It was around this time that I also noticed a growing anti-Israel sentiment among left-wing students while I was a student at university. It seemed that all of a sudden it was cool to be anti-Israel and pro-Arab. The mainstream media, which had hitherto been strongly pro-Israel, also began to ever-so-slightly turn toward the Left and an Arab view of the world. From that time on, Israel?s stocks were on a downhill slide in the ever more Left-dominated mainstream media.

Fortunately, however, Australia has remained a fairly steadfast supporter of Israel to this day, regardless of whether it has been governed by the left-leaning Labor Party or the conservative Liberal-National coalition. The conservatives under the leadership of John Howard have been in the driver?s seat for the past eight years. During that time, however, the Labor opposition, which had been previously led by Israel- and US-friendly centre-left pragmatists, such as Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Kim Beazley, has taken a dramatic lurch to the left. The new Labor opposition leader is a young hot head called Mark Latham. He has been highly critical of the US and the Iraq war, promising to withdraw all of Australia?s troops immediately if he wins the national election, due to be held sometime in the next four months. However, he has visited Israel and belongs to a faction of his party called Labor Friends of Israel. Unfortunately, many of his Labor colleagues do not feel the same way and are openly hostile to Israel.

For a glimpse of what a new Labor government could mean for Australia?s policy toward Israel and Jews in Australia, it may be useful to take a short trip across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, which has been governed by leftists for some years. Recently, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark suspended diplomatic relations with Israel because two Israeli men were convicted of trying to obtain false New Zealand passports. Ms. Clark then took the unprecedented step for a democratic leader of stating publicly as fact that the two Israelis were Mossad agents ? even though there was no evidence to support this allegation and the men were not accused by authorities of being spies.

Not satisfied with creating an unnecessary diplomatic incident involving a friendly nation, Ms. Clark, egged on by the local leftist media, sought to humiliate Israel by demanding an apology and an explanation for what its two citizens had done. When Israel refused to respond, Ms. Clark went further and suspended diplomatic ties between the two nations. It is hard to imagine that if the two men apprehended had been Belgian, French, Danish, American or even Egyptian, that Ms. Clark, absent proof of any espionage, would have taken equivalent steps.

In fact, Ms. Clark has deliberately sought to demonise Israel in the eyes of the local populace and the world. As far as the local populace is concerned, she appears to have succeeded ? the world doesn?t need convincing. There was already a high level of anti-Israel sentiment in New Zealand. However, now the fires of anti-Semitism have also been stoked. Jewish graves have been vandalised and desecrated in the immediate aftermath of Ms. Clark?s actions, yet she had the temerity to claim that there was no proof of any connection between the two events. One can only surmise, then, that to Ms. Clark, proof is a nebulous concept that can be used or discarded when it is convenient. Absent of any proof, she stated as fact that two Israelis were Mossad agents, acting at the behest of the Israeli government. Yet she demands proof of links between her anti-Israel actions and subsequent anti-Semitic acts in her country.

Were the two apprehended and convicted Israelis Mossad agents? Perhaps they were or perhaps they were just part of an organised criminal enterprise. Regardless, there was absolutely no necessity for Ms. Clark to create a major international diplomatic incident over the matter. This was not an event of the scale of the Rainbow Warrior demolition by French agents, where people were killed. If Ms. Clark and her government had wanted to, they could have sought answers and registered their dissatisfaction behind closed doors. They would have more likely gained a higher level of cooperation from Israel?s authorities. Clearly, however, this was never the New Zealand government?s intent. It wanted Israeli diplomatic blood and public humiliation. After all, did not New Zealand?s Foreign Minister, Phil Goff, recently pay a visit to terror master Yasser Arafat against the expressed wishes of the Israeli government?

Meanwhile, the almost exclusively anti-Israel New Zealand press has been gorging itself on a feast of Israel bashing in the wake of this incident. One paper, in an editorial, labeled Israel a state that ?routinely sanctions assassinations,? while another paper maintained that Israel is an arrogant nation that is thumbing its nose at the world. Of course, in light of the current situation, we could not expect any balance, such as Israel?s assassinations being targeted killings of some of the world?s leading terrorists. Neither could we expect these ?objective? editorials to recognise the constant stream of venomous rhetoric that Israel has had to endure at the hands of ?the world?, because it has had the temerity to successfully thwart all efforts at its destruction. Furthermore, unlike New Zealand, Israel is doing far more than its fair share in the global war on Islamic terror.

Meanwhile, one can only imagine how vulnerable New Zealand?s small Jewish community of 5,000 must feel right now. They have a government that is fanning the flames of anti-Israel and, as a consequence, anti-Jewish feeling. Jewish cemeteries have already been desecrated. Should we now expect synagogues to be vandalised or, G-d forbid, Jews to be attacked in the street? Let us hope not.

And what of Australia and its 100,000 Jews if a leftist Labor government is swept into office in a few months? Will they emulate the anti-Israel antics of their loony Left cousins in New Zealand and, in so doing, stir up anti-Jewish feeling in Australia? There are nearly 400,000 Muslims in Australia and their population is exploding at eight times the growth rate of the general populace. It would be frighteningly easy to get an anti-Semitic juggernaut rolling if an anti-Israel government came to power, supported by an already anti-Israel press. Already, most Australian synagogues and Jewish day schools have permanent security guards, at a great cost to the local community. Terrorist bombing plots have been uncovered. I don?t remember these things 20 years ago. These days, unfortunately, only a fool would say, ?It couldn?t happen here.?