In its  front page story titled “Troubling Times,”The Australian Jewish News (Sydney edition, Friday 22 June), accused The Australasian Muslim Times AMUST of veering “into anti-Semitic territory” for publishing three articles that were critical of Israel. The President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry Mr Anton Block labelled the articles as “sinister”.

Throughout his  rebuke of  AMUST, Mr Block stated that, “AMUST’s columns chant almost the entire creed of contemporary anti-Semitism” and “The errors and mindless bigotry are too systematic to be excused as an editorial oversight. The entire edition is a disgrace.”

The Editor-in-Chief of AMUST, Mr Zia Ahmad stated  that the severe accusations and harsh comments by Mr Block are unwarranted, unfortunate and highly offensive for a multimedia news platform that has worked tirelessly to promote  and work  towards community cohesion, harmony and peace in society.

“We publish articles on interfaith understanding and reports on events in our multicultural community including the Jewish community. We have published and continue to publish articles by several writers of the Jewish faith.  In fact, one of our regular columnists is Jewish. Notwithstanding, we find it incredibly repugnant therefore, to be tarnished by and accused of  anti-Semitism,” Mr Ahmad said.

It appears that the  NSW Opposition leader, Mr Luke Foley’s office was contacted and questioned as to why his Eid greeting was advertised in AMUST.  Reportedly his spokesperson informed The Australian Jewish News, that Mr Foley “disassociates himself with those articles” which stand condemned by AJN.

The articles published in AMUST in its June 2018 edition, which AJN is referring to were written in the context of Israel’s killing of Palestinian protestors in Gaza during the month of May.

Israel’s use of lethal force resulting in the killing of at least 130 unarmed protestors and injuring of over 3000 more with live ammunition and high-velocity military weapons and ammunitions has led the UN to launch a war crimes investigation.

Amnesty International described Israel’s response to Palestinian protestors as ‘an abhorrent violation of international law and human rights’ and a “murderous assault”, targeting “demonstrators who pose no imminent threat to them”.

Human Rights Watch has called Israel’s killing of unarmed demonstrators ‘unlawful’ and ‘calculated’.

It is a stark reality that any criticism of Israel in relation to  atrocities the state carries out against Palestinians or its policies in the occupied territories, is quickly dubbed as anti-Semitism by supporters of Israel.

While Israeli snipers were killing and maiming unarmed Palestinians in May, the Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman reacted to the cancellation of football match between Argentina and Israel in Jerusalem by saying that Argentina’s players “could not stand up to the pressure that Israel-haters are inciting” and “we will not give into these anti-Semitic supporters of terror.”

Justice demands that the atrocities being committed against Palestinian people should be highlighted and in doing so, there is indeed a fine line at times between criticism of the state of Israel and perceptions of anti-Semitism.

The authors of the articles condemned as being anti-Semitic were contacted for their comments on the AJN report and are presented below:

  1. Mr Bilal Cleland on his article ” The Gaza Massacre, Separating the sheep from the goats” said, “There is no reference or allusion to the mediaeval Christian myth of ‘blood libel’ in what I wrote on the Gaza Massacre. It is understood that the Israeli lobby feels aggrieved by the massive reaction around the world, including in the UN General Assembly, to the massacre of unarmed civilians by Israeli snipers but to claim that exposing such injustice and killing is anti-Semitic is a calumny. I have never written anything of such nature and I am most deeply offended by the suggestion that my article was anti-Semitic. If opposing the policies of Israel is anti-Semitic, then there is a major problem with the UN Security Council membership, the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. The policies of Israel cannot be identified with Judaism.”
  2. The author of the article “Australia cedes its foreign policy in support of a rogue state”, Dr Daud Batchelor, in reply to the criticism of being anti-Semitic, said, “My article and the associated image absolutely does not propagate any anti-Semitic conspiracy theory but provides factual evidence that is generally accessible to the Australian public. It points out that Australian blind support to Israel following the blatant pro-Israel policy of US President Trump heightens the threat of foreign influence over our sovereignty, which deserves to be brought to the attention of the Australian public and debated openly.”
  3. The author of the article “From Shoa to Nakba”, Ms Shifa Mustapha commented, “I have not written anywhere which pertains to Jews being responsible for the death of Jesus and in fact emphasised their plight in European history due to untruths which were unrelated to that subject. Yes, the duly acknowledged Holocaust may not be compared to Naqba in scale but are similar in substance when it comes to the suffering of Jews and Palestinians and the atrocities being committed against them by powerful state institutions.”