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Politics

Feb 16, 2007

Anti-Semitism plays both ways

It's not very long since, even in countries like Britain and the US, many institutions had an official or unofficial system of quotas to keep down the number of Jews -- in schools, universities, businesses, and of course in immigration.

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It’s not very long ago since many institutions, even in countries like Britain and the US, had an official or unofficial system of quotas to restrict the number of Jews – in schools, universities, businesses and, of course, in immigration.

Just this morning, newly released letters allow us to read how 1940s Jewish refugees, including Anne Frank’s family, were unable “to break through the [US] State Department’s tightening restrictions”.

So it was morally shocking to read this morning of a visiting Israeli professor, Raphael Israeli, calling for numerical limitation of Muslim immigrants.

As quoted in the Australian Jewish News, he said: “You have to adopt some kind of preventative policy. In order not to get there, limit the immigration and therefore you keep [Muslims] a marginal minority, which will be a nuisance, but cannot pose a threat to the demographic and security aspects of a country.”

In The Sydney Morning Herald, professor Israeli said this was a “misunderstanding” of his views. But obviously not a serious one.

He was just as explicit to the Herald, saying “Greeks or Italians or Jews don’t use violence”, and that “in France, which has the highest proportion of Muslims in Europe at about 10%, it was already too late.”

There’s nothing new about this sort of diatribe, but this is an unusually explicit version. As usual, there’s no evidence for any of it. “[M]ilitant Muslims were changing [France]’s political, economic and cultural fabric”. Really? Where? How?

Certainly, France and other European countries have racial problems: African and Middle Eastern immigrants who’ve been ghettoised in desolate suburbs with no jobs and poor public services.

But none of that is remotely connected to religion. Nor is it of any obvious relevance to Australia, which lacks France’s historical and geographic ties to the region.

Prejudice has never required evidence. But it’s disturbing to find such prejudice being dispensed not by a street-corner agitator, but by an academic sponsored by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, who has “just begun a six-week stint as a scholar-in-residence at the Shalom Institute in Sydney”.

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