Jewish people and Australia's media have been telling us over the past few weeks that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and I find this mystifying.
In the first place, I don't understand why anyone would be hostile to Jewish people because they are Jews. Or to Italian people because they are Italian. Or English people because they are English.
I know that the Middle East is a hotbed of hostilities, many of them to Jews and the Jewish state of Israel, but the anti-Semitism we've been reading about is something other than that, something less defined, and moreover it is in Australia.
In the second place, with one exception I do not know anyone who claims or appears to be hostile to Jewish people because they are Jews or for any other reason.
In the third place, with the one exception just mentioned I have not seen or heard any expression of hostility towards Jewish people. Yes, that may be because I am not Jewish, but it is a marked absence of hostility over many decades.
That said, almost 15 years ago I read in this paper that the Newcastle synagogue was vandalised and painted with the Nazi swastika. Now, I am not doubting that anti-Semitism may be on the rise, I am stating that I find this mystifying.
Perhaps it is an essential plank of the extreme right, and perhaps the extreme right is attracting more adherents, but even these rabid people would be hard put explaining that anti-Semitism as even remotely rational. Yes, I know that Jewishness is not race, that it is any or all of ethnicity, religion and even family history, but anti-Semitism certainly presents as racism.
People who are afflicted with racial hatreds deny themselves the benefits of the extraordinary cultural mix that is urban Australia today.
The one person I know who is hostile to Jews told me years ago that she had grown up in a Jewish suburb in a big city overseas and had developed an intense dislike of Jewish people. She mentioned that hostility again only when I asked about it, and I asked about it because I was shocked. Perhaps she felt excluded because she wasn't Jewish, but if that is anti-Semitism it is remarkably similar to the account to me by another friend of her hostility to Indian people.
She'd lived with a strong Indian population in a Pacific nation and had been prejudiced against them ever since. Yes, against all Indian people everywhere, although I was interested that she liked to go to Indian restaurants.
I have read, as you have, that some anti-Semitic people seek to justify their prejudice by arguing that Jewish people control the financial world, and I have read, too, that in some parts of Europe centuries ago Jews became money lenders because they were barred from having any of the traditional occupations. Certainly there are many Jewish people in the financial world, especially in the US, but there are many more who are not Jewish.
Do these haters ramp up their prejudice against other racial groups who have a strong presence in other industries? In the cities and big towns of the Australian east coast in the past 15 years people who have arrived in Australia from India and Pakistan have become ubiquitous in the businesses of service stations and, more recently, taxis. Why would any rational person be hostile or prejudiced against these people or all Indians and Pakistanis because of this?
Some people are, I think. I have a niece who, with her Pakistani husband, owns and operates a number of service stations on the east coast, and she tells me that the people of India and Pakistan have had an opportunity to buy into the fuel business because the returns are too low and the hours too long for "other Aussies".
That's probably the case for taxis in these Uber days too. And a shopkeeper from an outer Newcastle suburb who arrived from southern India many years ago told me a few weeks ago that people arriving from India would often work for a fellow Indian who owned a service station, that the new arrival would learn about the industry and later buy into that industry because he knew its ins and outs, as he had done.
We need new Australians who will have a go, and these people are having a go. I see the end of the white Australia policy, surprisingly as late as 1973, and the subsequent multiculturing of Australia as one of the greatest contributions to my life in this country, and I wonder if I would have felt that way and if the new diversity of people here would have improved my life if I had harboured deep prejudices or racial hatreds.
People who are afflicted with racial hatreds deny themselves the benefits of the extraordinary cultural mix that is urban Australia today. Perhaps they feel left out, or isolated, and if so this probably accentuates the prejudices that have put them in that unhappy state.
I admit that I am not without prejudices. I want, for example, my doctors to have a western medical degree; I know that people of some cultures negotiate in a different way and I respond with that in mind; I believe that people of some races are more excitable or circumspect than people of some other races. But like almost all Australians I have nothing but goodwill to the people of all races, nationalities, religions and cultures.
While I loathe a few individuals or small groups of people, and like all who loathe I say I do so for good reason, it is beyond my capabilities to extend that to their fellows.
I could not be anti-Semitic if I wanted to be. That's the difference. People who hate want to hate, and they prefer an off-the-shelf package of hate because they see hating in consort as providing a validity.
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