Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pro-Israel writer issues fatwa against FAMSY

The Australia-Israel Jewish Public Affairs Committee is one of a number of Jewish organisations claiming to speak for Australian Jews. Though in its treatment of its critics from within the Jewish communities, one would have to doubt its credentials. And if you don't believe me, just ask this chap.

The reality is, of course, that AIJAC is more concerned with identifying (and at times defaming) even the midlest critics of a certain Middle Eastern country. At times, it does provide useful material on a range of anti-Semitic activities. However, it also provides space in its publications for a range of other anti-Semites, which undermines its claims to being a force against racism.

In recent times, one of AIJAC’s front men has refused to disassociate himself from vile racist remarks made about Muslims and Arabs by people supporting his viewpoints on the forums of Online Opinion. It is difficult to know what to make of this refusal. I guess sometimes silence speaks louder than words.

A cursory glance at these forums shows this fellow's aversion to the "r" word (r for racism) which he sees as a politically correct tool used by people on the left of the political spectrum. Again, this aversion to identifying racism reflects poorly on AIJAC.

Now an article in the April edition of AIJAC’s Review declares war on a small Muslim youth and student body which does little more than organise an annual conference, publish a magazine entitled Salam (meaning literally “Peace”), sell devotional books and invite speakers from the UK and US to lecture in Australia.

AIJAC accuses the ambitiously named Federation of Australian Muslim Students & Youth (FAMSY) of being a front for that nebulous entity known as “radical Islam”. AIJAC’s main source is the notorious Steve Emerson, a Muslim-hater frequently sprouting conspiracy theories about Muslims in North America and Europe. For AIJAC to cite Steve Emerson as a source would be akin to my citing David Irving on the Holocaust.

AIJAC’s other source is Robert Spencer, whom, they describe as a “Middle East expert”. In reality, Spencer is an inveterate Islam-hater who is associated with a number of pro-Israel and/or Christian fundamentalist organisations from the deep-south of the United States. He is also known to be linked to Opus Dei, a catholic lay order whose supporters include a NSW MP named in the Australian Jewish News for his links to far-Right anti-Semitic individuals and groups.

The fact that AIJAC regards such extreme Islam-haters as “authorities” and “experts” on Islamic movements is an indication of perhaps AIJAC's own thinly-disguised hatred toward even the most moderate forms of Islam. And if it isn’t, AIJAC’s governing board should act swiftly to distance themselves from the offending article in the same manner that Mr Downer distanced himself from a provocative cartoon published recently in The Australian.

Given that members of AIJAC’s governing board include prominent members of the Jewish community involved in inter-faith and anti-racism issues, their response to what is clearly an offensive and defamatory article will be seen by mainstream Muslim Australians as a litmus test of the value AIJAC officers place on maintaining good Jewish-Muslim relations in Australia.

In the past, AIJAC has allowed the pages of its publications to be polluted by anti-Muslim extremists such as Mark Steyn and Daniel Pipes. Mr Pipes, of course, is known for an article in which he called for the lynching of Muslim minorities as a means to combat kidnapping of Western civilians by Iraqi dissidents.

The article in the April edition of AIJAC’s Review features a photograph of respected Muslim speaker and pharmacist, Dr Zachariah Mathews. Dr Mathews migrated to Australia from South Africa and has been involved in numerous youth and inter-faith initiatives across Australia and New Zealand. He is a former editor of the Australian Muslim News, the official publication of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. Dr Mathews is one of the most respected Muslim leaders in Australia.

Yet the article seeks to paint Mr Mathews and FAMSY to al-Qaida and other extremist groups. It does so by claiming that FAMSY is inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is in turn apparently responsible for inspiring Usama bin Ladin.

Of course, such reasoning could just as easily be used to link AIJAC to extreme Jewish terrorist groups inside Israel who, like AIJAC officers, are inspired by the philosophy and activism of Theodore Herzl.

What the Review article fails to mention is the bin Ladin was never a member of the Brotherhood. Indeeed, one could just as easily argue that the Holy Qur’an inspired al-Qaida. Does that mean that the Qur’an should be exposed as an extremist text?

The entire piece is laced wth a combination of far-fetched associations and half-sourced quotations more befitting of tabloid publications than of serious public affairs writing.

I am reluctant to write much further on this topic given my past experiences with a predecessor organisation to AIJAC known as "Australia-Israel Publications". This small unincorporated body threatened myself and the editors of a small newsletter known as "The Muslim Monitor" with defamation proceedings back in 1995. That matter did resolve itself.

Time will tell if AIJAC instructs solicitors to write to me seeking a retraction and apology for this blog entry. I will keep you all posted. Be sure that any and all correspondence from AIJAC and/or their solicitors will be posted on this blog. I will also keep readers informed of possible moves by FAMSY and its various bodies to proceed against AIJAC and the author of the defamatory Review article.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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Antony Loewenstein said...

Good on you for writing this, and exposing the bigots at AIJAC. Important and necessary work. Sadly, their belief in Jewish superiority reflects badly on all Jews.


boredinHK said...

have read many of your comments on webdiary ( as a useful forum may it rest in peace )and on various blogs. Many are balanced some are a bit deluded amd some are tendentious.
In this piece you write Daniel Pipes "called for the lynching of muslims ". No he didn't .
He wrote about two responses to violence and kidnapping and lets the reader draw their own conclusions. You do your reasonable position no good bullshitting people.