The very public campaign waged against the Abbott government's proposal to drop Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act was largely orchestrated and spearheaded by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), one of the prongs of Australia's Israel lobby, allegedly because 18C was needed as a defence against an imminent outbreak of Fredrick Toben-style Holocaust denialists. (See my posts George Brandis Launches Zionist Festival of Hypocrisy (30/3/14) and Why I Can't Get Too Excited Over Section 18C (1/5/14))
The pressure and the hype duly worked its magic and the government backed down. Of course, Abbott couldn't possibly admit to be heavied by the lobby, so some other excuse had to be found. And found it was:
"The Prime Minister said he had made a 'leadership call' to abandon the changes, because they had become a 'complication' in the Government's relationship with the Muslim community. 'When it comes to counter-terrorism, everyone needs to be part of Team Australia,' Mr Abbott said." (Government backtracks on Racial Discrimination Act 18C changes; pushes ahead with tough security laws, Emma Griffiths, abc.net.au, 6/8/14)
Muslims again! The cynicism is breathtaking. As Herald columnist Waleed Aly put it:
"The announcement wasn't altogether surprising, but the context for it was. Suddenly section 18C would be left as a figleaf for Muslims; a kind of transfer fee for their recruitment to 'Team Australia'. Consider how that looks if you believe - as presumably the government still does - this section is an egregious attack on free speech. Apparently we must live under its yoke to appease Muslims in the hope they'll help us fight terrorism. We're being held to ransom again. Muslims are the Grinch who stole freedom. The truth, of course, is that Muslims are largely peripheral to both issues... [W]hilst I have met Muslims who were unimpressed by the government's plans for the Racial Discrimination Act, it seems an unusual red line for them to draw given that Muslims aren't even protected by it. The law doesn't regard Muslims as a racial group. So, whatever it is section 18C prevents you from saying about Aborigines or Asians or Jews, you can go right ahead and say it against Muslims." (Abbott's 18C puzzle linking terror and free speech raises interesting political questions, 8/8/14)
What Ali doesn't allude to, of course, is ECAJ's crucial role in the campaign to retain 18C, or the bizarre fact that, as far as the RDA is concerned, Jews are deemed a racial group. Nor does he allude to the real reason our Israel lobbyists fought so hard to retain Section 18C: its utility as a weapon against those who buck the party line on Israel.
"The controversial 18C provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act will be used in a complaint against The Sydney Morning Herald over its anti-Semitic cartoon and the accompanying article by former columnist, Mike Carlton. A Sydney-based engineer, Wayne Karlen, 60, has lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission arguing the publication of the cartoon and the column caused offence to Australian Jews. Mr Karlen also referenced the subsequent abuse of readers by Carlton, stating in the complaint that The SMH has committed an unlawful act within the meaning of the RDA. 'This cartoon racially vilifies Jews and the similarity to Nazi propaganda compounds the distress to those of us that had relatives fight and die in WWII,' he said. 'The absence of a strong formal censure for publishing this racist and offensive material conveys an appearance of official acceptance of same.' Mr Karlen, who is not Jewish, said he decided to lodge the complaint on Tuesday after the ABC's Media Watch defended the cartoon and Carlton the night before. 'The suggestion by the public broadcaster and others that this cartoon is acceptable must be refuted in the strongest terms and those responsible for its dissemination must be held responsible,' he said. 'The publication of this cartoon has caused offence to and racially vilifies Jews and was done to portray Jews as murderers of men, women and children for entertainment. The publication of this cartoon has caused intimidation and contributed to the Jewish community becoming afraid for their safety living in Australia and has offended their friends and supporters.' In addition to Mr Karlen, The Australian understands at least one member of the Jewish community has also lodged a complaint with the commission under section 18C, although Jewish organisations have stated they will not be taking similar action in light of the Herald's apology. Mr Karlen suggests the Herald should be publicly censured and receice [sic] a 'significant fine' that could be donated to an accredited Jewish charity... The Herald's editorial position supported the retention of 18C..." (18C used to sue Carlton for racial vilification, Sharri Markson, The Australian, 14/8/14)