About 8 years ago, when I first came to Australia and was looking for a job, I applied for an editorial role at the Australian Jewish News (AJN).
Before the interview, I browsed a copy of the AJN to get my head around the content.
At the interview, I remember I was asked a lot of questions about my views on Israel and Zionism and very little about my writing experience.
Not surprisingly, I never got the job – though I remember babbling something meant to suggest I was on top of the subject matter; at the time I was rather desperate to find work.
My second acquaintance with the AJN was when I read Robert Magid column titled “Curb your compassion” of which much has been written.
(If you have not read it you can download a copy here.)
The opinion piece really made my blood boil, but I am grateful for one thing, I’m glad I never got that job.
Robert Magid has defended himself on the ABC’s Lateline program that he is not prejudiced, but it’s hard to believe when you read what he’s written.
He begins by talking about boat people – calling them illegal queue jumpers, but by the end of the article he’s talking about “extremists in the Muslim community”.
So it’s not really hard to read between the lines to get at the real message, which to my mind is:
“Keep the Muslims out.”
Sadly, Robert Magid is not alone in sharing this view.
Both in my native South Africa and in Australia, there are sadly a number people in the Jewish community, who hold vehemently anti-Muslim feelings and jump up and down, banging their fists, each time a new mosque is threatened to be built
(Thankfully many more are enlightened).
These are the same people who believe that any criticism of the Israeli government is a mask for anti-semitism.
These are the people – I kid you not – who believe that the BBC is anti-semitic.
Of course Robert Magid is right that many of those seeking asylum in Australian and arriving by boat are Muslims (like Tony Abbott he calls them “illegal” despite seeking asylum being a legal human right).
Many of them are the Hazaras of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Hazaras are “a community who are easily distinguishable because of their Asiatic appearance” explains Hadi Zaher, an Afghan-Australian undergraduate student, in a recent article for left-wing journal New Matilda.
Hadi Zaher goes on to write that members of the Hazara community “are the target of execution style killings and massacres by Taliban and Al-Qaida affiliated militants who have vowed to rid Pakistan of the presence of minorities such as Hazaras. The frequency of these attacks has gone from a few attacks a month to multiple attacks per week.
“The first victims of the attacks were lawyers, doctors, teachers, and public servants. Today, it’s the vegetable vendors, taxi drivers and passengers, students, labourers and the ordinary men, women and children who bear the brunt of the latest atrocities.”
Paragraphs you could easily transpose to the fate of the Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War.
But according to Robert Magid “it is unconscionable to bring the holocaust into the discussion” about boat people, because European Jews “fled certain death”.
Perhaps, what he is really saying is that a Jewish life is more valuable than that of a Muslim refugee fleeing persecution?
Robert Magid is a very wealthy man.
Even if he did not publish such nonsense he would be easy fodder for anti-semites as he fits the caricature of the Jew with the bulging pockets of money.
But the truth of the matter is that having all this wealth and privilege and power and then so publicly expressing such prejudiced views will do more to cultivate anti-semitism than any propagation of the old stereotypes by those who did not need any encouragement.
And the greatest irony of all is that Robert Magid is himself the son of refugees.
Isador Magid – his father – came to Australia from China in 1951 as a refugee and became a highly successful property developer with a personal fortune of around $180 million.
But perhaps it would be unconscionable to mention that fact too.