MELBOURNE (Jun. 18)
An international seminar on “Anti-Semitism and Human Rights” concluded here this week with warnings from several speakers on the “trans-ideological convergence” between extreme right and extreme left in contem porary anti-Semitism.
The seminar, sponsored by the Univeristy of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs, brought together international scholars and Australian experts in the first such seminar held in this country.
Amongst the overseas guests were the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, Immanuel Jakobovits; Zwi Werblowsky, professor of comparative religion at the Hebrew University; Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, head of the Dayan Centre on Middle Eastern Affairs, Tel Aviv University; Emanuel Litvinoff, Anglo-Jewish writer and authority on Soviet Jewry; Dr. Stephen Roth, director of the Institute of Jewish Affairs, London; and Shimon Samuels, director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Paris.
Papers were sent by a number of invitees who could not attend. They included Dr. Allan Gerson, special assistant to the U.S. permanent representative at the United Nations, Dr. William Korey, director, international policy research, B’nai B’rith International, and Abraham Foxman, associate national director of the ADL.
AUSTRALIA PROPOSES ANTI-RACIST LAWS
The two-day conference discussed the historical contemporary dimensions of international anti-Semitism, neo-Nazi movements, the emergence of anti-Zionism, the role of the Soviet Union, relationships with the Christian churches, the Islamic revival, attitudes in the Arab world and the problem of the United Nations.
In the session dealing with “the Australian experience” leading Australian lawyers examined proposals now before the Australian Parliament for legislation making incitement to racial hatred and group libel an offense.
Special attention was given to the “new revisionism”, the claims by the neo-Nazi right and its pseudo-academic supporters that the Holocaust neveroccurred.
The co-chairmen and founders of the Australian Institute, Isi Leibler and Richard Pratt said they were greatly encouraged by the unexpectedly high degree of interest the seminar had aroused in Australia.
Leibler, president of the executive council of Australian Jewry, is a member of the World Jewish Congress Governing Board. Pratt, who is active in the United Israel Appeal-Keren Hayesod is also a co-chairman of the WJC International Institute of Jeiwsh Affairs.
‘BAROMETER OF TOLERANCE’
Summing up the conference Leibler said that anti-Semitism provided a “barometer of tolerance” which affected all of humanity. Tragically it remained “the abiding prejudice” and served as a constant reminder of the need for vigilance.
In addition to being the first conference of its type to be held in Australia, the seminar represented a number of other “firsts” for Australian Jewry. It was the first public project of the recently formed Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs, a privately funded organization modelled on the WJC Institute in London. Its aim is to co-ordinate research on anti-Semitism and prejudice in Australia and to provide a forum for debate on related issues.
The seminar was also the first occosion in Australia on which rabbis joined Jesuit fathers, Catholic theologians, Anglican priests and United Church ministers on the same platform to discuss Christianity and anti-Semitism.
Attended by academics, clergy, and representatives of the media from all over Australia and New Zealand the seminar attracted wide media coverage, was featured on national television and was the subject of editorial comment in a number of leading newspapers.
The seminar was held in the midst of a controversial public debate in Australia about the increased level of immigration from Asia in recent years. The growing number of Asian migrants, mostly Indochina refugees and their families, has been used by a number of extreme right-wing racist groups to step up hate propaganda. Many of these groups have a long history of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism.
Although there was general agreement that the amount of anti-Semitism in Australia was and is very low by international standards, some speakers pointed out that Australia was not immune to the disturbing growth of anti-Semitism found elsewhere.
Dr. W. Rubinstein of Deakin University, Melbourne noted that extremist groups on the anti-Semitic far right, the anti-Zionist far left, and some mainstream churches friendly to the PLO and hostile to Israel, provided the current sources of Australian anti-Semitism. There has also been a reported increase in incidents of vocal abuse, swastika daubings, and even physical violence against Jews in known Jewish neighborhoods in Melbourne.