The moral degeneration of the right continues apace, with the announcement that hard-right Catholic Senator Cory Bernardi has won support for his inquiry into halal food certification. The halal certification furore — the suggestion that it is somehow being used to fund Islamist terror abroad — is known in other Western countries, but only in Australia has it become a dominant obsession. If they have any evidence of halal certification companies funnelling money to shady groups overseas, they should present them to the police. There has been none, and the bizarre inquiry is simply a way of harassing and disrupting Muslim religious practices.
Bernardi is simply continuing his long and obsessive history of trying to construct Muslims as non-citizens, outside the rights and freedoms extended to everyone else. His position — celebrating “Australian values” in this — is utterly incoherent, since one of the few codified rights we do enjoy comes from section 116 of the constitution, guaranteeing freedom of religious observance. His focus on Muslims comes from his chauvinist Catholic beliefs — a conviction that there is not merely one truth, but The Truth, and that all others must toe the line. For chauvinist Christians of this type, Muslims are particularly egregious, because their religion breaches the injunction contained in Revelations, the final book of the Bible, that nothing should be added to the holy books after that one. That Muslims incorporate Jesus into their traditions and treat him as a prophet but do not recognise his divinity drives people like Bernardi wild. They can’t let it go.
Of course, there was another religion that the Catholics couldn’t leave alone for centuries, and that was the Jews. They came before, not after, and that meant they didn’t not accept Christ’s divinity either. Furthermore, their maintenance of taboo practices was an affront to Christianity. Christianity is simply a fusion of Jewish monotheism with the universality of the Pax Romana that had conquered Judaea. The Pax Romana said that all who lived under the empire were part of it, from Cumbria to the Persian border. The Pax Christi adapted that and said that all humanity was open to salvation, not simply one tribe — and, in doing so, said that tribal taboos were thus abolished by Christ’s divinity, by God coming down to Earth in human form.
For that reason, Jewish taboo laws formed the focus of Christian persecution for centuries — and would become central to it when, in the late 1800s, some obscure Russian-Christian sect created an earlier hysteria about “certification” and argued that the blood of Christian children formed part of Jewish food rituals. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion formed one strand of the refocusing of Jew-hatred/anti-Semitism that would end in the Holocaust.
Let’s be clear about this: halal and kosher are pretty much the same thing, with variations, and an attack on halal is an attack on kosher — and on the concrete practice of religions that involve taboos and observance. Concerns about the alleged money trail of halal certification is, paradoxically, a cover for an obsessive interest in the “purity” of food that has been subject to halal certification. For Muslims, halal food is pure, or at least, permitted; for the obsessive right, the very act of halal certification is a form of contamination. It is a part of the Australian right’s intellectual collapse into myth and magical thinking. It’s inevitable that Bernardi is joined in his obsession by Andrew Bolt.
Personally, I have no doubt that there is no trace of Jew-hatred/anti-Semitism in either Cory Bernardi or Andrew Bolt, but in pushing their line on halal they are playing with fire, because many in the Reclaim Australia and other movements that hang on their every word are Jew-haters and channel every shitty obsession about Jews that has filled the 20th century. Islamophobia? That’s a substitute. Islam was a separate world for centuries, and could be warred with or dealt with as seen fit. Judaism lived at the heart of Christendom for two millennia, and would not die, and its community had solidarity and enterprise — and thus it is a standing abomination to Roman Catholic chauvinist thinking, which has to see the Roman/Christian version as originary and without precedent. It is this need to eradicate the original, Jewish, root of Christianity that has fuelled the frenzied nature of Jew-hatred/anti-Semitism in the modern era.
And its time Jewish peak bodies, rabbis and others got a bit interested in this — not merely out of solidarity with a fellow taboo-anchored religion, though that would be nice — but because Jew-hatred/anti-semitism is on the march again in Australia. Not the confected kind, whereby anyone who crticises Israel is an “anti-Semite, the real kind, channelling all the obsessions of the last century. Talk to bikies — not all bikies by any means — at a Reclaim Australia rally, and you’ll hear the old Jew-hatred, anti-Semitism, the “socialism of fools”, all the old tunes: how sneaky the Jews are, how they run things, how an ordinary bloke can’t get ahead, 9/11, Building 7, the works. Then ask them about Israel, and you’ll find they’re Zionists to a core. Why? Well anti-Semitic Zionism has a long history, but in this case it’s about plain sight. Israel is “the good Jews”, i.e. landed, nationalised and not a tribal presence in Christian society, who are the “bad Jews”.
This crap is spreading again in Western society, and the cynical determination of Jewish/Zionist peak bodies to label all critics of Israel as anti-semitic has helped it spread far and wide. Jew-hater/anti-Semite used to be a serious charge — it’s junk now, used to forward Israel’s foreign policy, with the interests of non-Israeli Jews coming a distant second.
In Australia, Jewish community peak bodies need to get really interested in this — because an attack on halal is an attack on kosher, an attack on the legitimacy of relatively autonomous cultural communities within a wider whole. They need to understand that the current no longer runs with them as it did in the hey-day of multiculturalism. Quite aside from actual Jew-hating fascists in Reclaim Australia, there is a reduced tolerance for difference in echt middle-class society, compared to say the 1980s. The neo-atheism of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc, has had its effect — there is less tolerance for, say, the orthodox communities of Caulfield, with their strange clothes, their gender-assigning roles, etc, than there once was. Anti-halal can easily flow into anti-kosher, and when they come for the gefilte fish, and I said nothing because gefilte fish, meh … if only there were a poem that said all this.
The leaders of a lot of Jewish community peak bodies are so desperate to run interference for Israel that they won’t speak up about this stuff. They need to. If they don’t, then groups of prominent Jews need to, to defend the right of religion to organise itself without harassment. That’s solidarity. But it’s also forward defence, against an Australian right that is, bizarrely, channeling every crackpot and pernicious obsession of old Europe, at pace, and disguising it with a cloak of pseudo-rationality.