by Avi Davis
Legend has it that when my grandfather proposed to my grandmother in the late 1920s he told her ” we are going are to travel as far as we can, even to the end of the Earth, to get away from all the anti-semites in the world.”
Having confronted many obstacles placed before ambitious Jewish men in Poland and then the mounting animosity of the Arabs of Palestine, my grandfather was sure he had identified a corner of the globe where he could raise his family in peace and quiet.
That he found his longed for haven in Australia seems beyond question. While antisemitism certainly did exist in that country, he always knew that he could sleep at night, assured that it was not government policy to kill Jews nor that there would ever be a pogrom orchestrated by the government to strip Jews of their possessions and destroy their livelihoods.
The Australia in which I grew up in the 1960s and 70s was indeed a place of peace and quiet – as much for Jews as for all other minorities. And it appeared to me, even as a young boy, that a lot of other people had discovered this special secret. We grew up in a city where everyone’s father or mother seemed to come from another country. It was a city where our football heroes had names like Jesaulenko and Dieterich; where our car mechanic was Italian and our local green grocer Greek; As I entered my late teens I discovered what a fulsome range of restaurants from every part of the globe could be found in Melbourne where the cuisines of countries as far apart as Korea, Afghanistan and Iceland competed. It seemed every one wanted to live in the multicultural polyglot of Australia.
That image – of a country largely free of the kind of ethnic tensions which have rippled through so much of Western civilization, has never left me. I still think of Australia as a country of calm and balance – where one is not judged as much by who they are as by how they behave. The warmth and openness of Australians is not an exaggeration and there is almost no place on earth where ‘ the other’ is so encouragingly embraced.
So you can imagine the horror with which I, together with millions of other people around the world, watched this week the unfolding drama on the streets of central Sydney as a lone Muslim gunman took 17 people hostage inside a cafe and entered into a 16 hour stand off with Sydney police. Hostage crises happen every day in many part of the world and it didn’t seem as though this one would be any different. But as the gunman had his victims hoist a black banner, embroidered with a Muslim prayer in the coffee shop window, I felt as if a sudden wind of change had swept through my native land. The images all too often associated with Europe and the Middle East were now being plastered on the windows of Australian shops.
Perhaps I should not have been so surprised. For while this may have been the lone undertaking of one Muslim individual it cannot be seen in isolation from other events which have occurred over the past fifteen years.
Australia’s relaxed immigration policies had, over the past 30 years allowed many different nationalities to take up citizenship. Included among these were Lebanese immigrants who did not assimilate well into Australian society creating tensions between the second generation of immigrants and local Australians.
Racial tensions were already prevalent in the year 2000 when a series of sexual assaults committed by a group of up to fourteen Lebanese Australian youths against Australian women and teenage girls, as young as 14, took place. The nine men convicted of the attacks were sentenced to a total of more than 240 years in jail. So shocking were the concerted activities of these Lebanese youth to the sensibilities of Australian citizens that Judge Michael Finnane could describe them as events “you hear about or read about only in the context of wartime atrocities.”
In December, 2oo5 a string of riots in the Sydney suburb of Cronulla led by volunteer surf lifesavers against Lebanese youth who had been attacking – and raping – women on the beaches of Sydney erupted in the city’s northern suburbs. Retaliatory riots by the Lebanese took place for a few weeks, resulting in extensive property damage and several more assaults, including one stabbing and even some attacks against ambulance drivers and police officers.
Sydney was rocked in September 2012 when the protests against the same obscure ‘ Mohammed Video’ that the Obama Administration had fingerd to explain riots in Cairo and attacks on the
U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya occasioned protests which were proclaimed to be peaceful in intent yet transformed into violent confrontations and riots resulting in massive police injuries and damage done to public infrastructure in Sydney’s Western suburbs.
In Melbourne in September this year, 18-year-old Numan Haider used a small knife to attack an Australian Federal Police officer and a Victorian policeman before being shot dead with a single shot.When he was searched he was found to be carrying a much larger knife and an Islamic State flag. Police believe the plan was to follow instructions from the international terror group Islamic State and behead the officers, cover the bodies in the flag and then take photos to post via the internet.
Only days before this incident an apparent plot to publicly behead a random civilian on the streets of Sydney in support of ISIS, sparked counter-terrorism raids backed by nearly 1,000 Australian police in Sydney. Fifteen people were arrested in relation to plot in a predawn raid. It was the largest counter-terrorism operation in the country’s history.
Muslim immigrants are so involved in violent crime that the New South Wales police have a Middle East Crime Squad and hardly a day goes by without a shooting involving criminals of Middle East extraction. Unfortunately Muslim community leaders rarely ever take responsibility for any of this, preferring to always see themselves as victims and deflect attention away from their own culpability. A perfect example of this took place on Q&A (a show with a live audience on Channel 2 which offers a guest panel). The panel concerned the issue of local Muslims traveling to ‘fight’ in Syria and how the Australian Government maintains a policy of confiscating their passports and arresting them upon their return. The Muslim representatives, instead of decrying the loss of their children to extremism, complained vehemently about double standards, pointing out how Australian citizens also volunteer to serve in the Israel Defense Forces – as if any credible comparison can be made between the IDF and ISIS.
If I was to make a prediction it would be that we are only seeing the beginning of Australia’s ethnic related incidents and terrorist problems, not the end. The government and many news reporters are passing off the central Sydney incident on Monday as the work of a psychopathic loner who had no ties to organized terror networks. That may be true enough, but that banner, placed in the window of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, spoke more forcefully about his connection to the broader world of Islamic terrorism than ten years worth of uncovered emails ever could.
Maybe it is time for all of us to understand that there no places of ‘peace and quiet’ left in the West. We have all become targets – whether we live in Jerusalem, Los Angeles or Sydney. In general Muslims do not assimilate, are, by and large poorly educated, in many cases become criminals, then become radicalized, with the door to terrorism then opened. Islamism is a threat to all countries that have small or large burgeoning Muslim populations.
The killings in a mall in Kenya; the shooting of the children in a school in Pakistan, the depredations against young girls in Nigeria. They are all part of the same movement and the same ideology.
We have the choice now to recognize that we are at war and respond to any threat with force; Or else pretend that all incidents such as the ones related above are isolated ‘criminal’ acts, no more connected to one other than they are to regular robberies and burglaries in our inner cities.