Hamas-Israel War and Islamophobia

There is a lot of data and discussion about the sharp rise in antisemitism, both in person and online, since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack. Online Islamophobia, and anti-Arab racism, has also been rising but there is less data on this and some who are outright denying it exists. This article provides and discusses some examples of this online Islamophobia. It also includes a couple of examples of antisemitism which came up in the course of this research.

In our October 10th article, “Antisemitism from the Hamas-Israel War of October 2023”, we discussed the pro-Palestinian rally outside the Sydney Opera House the previous evening. The rally saw crowds chanting “Gas the Jews” and celebrating the terrorist attack. We also looked at a written statement from the organisers which in seeking to dismiss the incident made claims that, from viewing the video of the incident that went viral and was shown on the news, were plainly false.  

This article follows up on this incident. After political leaders strongly condemned the pro-Palestinian rally, Channel 9 interviewed one of the rally organisers and posted the video of the interview to X / Twitter. The Islamophobic comments below were made in reply to that posting.

The interview itself left many people incredibly angry as the interviewee appears unapologetic and one reasonable interpretation of some of her answers is that she supports the Hamas terrorist attack. Specifically:

  • She was shown a clip of the Premier of NSW saying “And I think they were abhorrent. I think they are the opposite of what we want in our modern multicultural community. To have some people celebrate atrocious indiscriminate killing and kidnapping in Israel is appalling.” Ask if the comment is fair, the protest organiser said it was unfair because “context was taken out of place”. She then spoke about Israeli occupation. This looks like a justify for the terrorist attacks and for celebrating them.
  • When told the police will be looking at footage to see if there is any explicit support for Hamas, which is illegal as it is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia, the protest organiser says she is not surprised as “Hamas is framed as a terrorist organisation”. This seems to reject the idea the attack itself was terrorism despite very clean evidence of Hamas deliberately setting out to brutally kill civilians, including women and children, as well as kidnapping others.

Given the nature of the interview responses, it is unsurprising there was a level of anger from viewers, but that does make Islamophobic responses acceptable.

Mesages of Hate

Legal scholar Jeremy Waldron explained that there are two messages of hate.

This first says, “[d]on’t be fooled into thinking you are welcome here”. This is a message to those who are being targeted. The second message is addressed to the broader community and says, “[w]e know some of you agree that these people are not wanted here… know that you are not alone… there are enough of us around to make sure these people are not welcome… [and] to draw attention to what these people are really like”. The messages work together to take away the target groups “assurance that there will be no need to face hostility, violence, discrimination, or exclusion by others” as they go about their daily life.

To “them”: You’re not welcome here

The Premier’s comments “I think they are the opposite of what we want in our modern multicultural community” is a statement about our shared values and what is expected in our shared community. It is not a call for those who don’t live up to those shared values to be deported, or a suggestion this makes them “not real Australians”.

The idea people aren’t “real Australians” is racist. The assumption Muslim Australians are immigrants is also racist. Many Australians of all faiths or none are immigrants, and many are born here. The Muslim community is no different. The idea people should “go back where you came from” is classic racism. We’re wroitten about this before when looking at anti-Asian racism. These racist ideas appear repeatedly in the comments from multiple people:

This next example doesn’t generalise to all Muslims, but suggests her, her family, and her friends should all “go back” to the Middle East. It’s really pushing the false idea that she isn’t part of the Australian community or in anyway connected to it..

This next example adds dehumanisation to the mix:

To “us”: Some of you agree, and we know what they are like

The second message of hate, directed to everyone else, also appears multiple times and in various forms.

This first example promoted the Islamiphobic narrative that all Muslims are violent and want to kill all non-Muslims.

This next example is directly targeted against the interviewee, not a generalisation abotu all Muslims, but it is still Islamophobic as it dehumanises / demonises her by describing her as “a devil”.

This next one promotes the message “know that you are not alone… there are enough of us around … to draw attention to what these people are really like”. It seeks to include the anti-Asian and anti-Muslim politician Pauline Hanson in the discussion and to remind people she agrees with the sentuments about “these people”.

This next one make generalisations about all Muslims claiming: they are not part of the community but are an invading force occupying other countries, they seek to impose their beliefs on others, and they are all terrorists / support terrorism. Each of these is an Islamopobic stereotype.

This next comment promotes the idea Muslims are uncivilised and a drain on society. Frankly it reminds us of Islamohpobic memes that were common around 2015 that sought to portray all Muslims as violent and backwards.

This final comment is expressed unironically by an account that claims it is about free speech, but the sentiment it expresses is classic xenophobia. This is the sort of white supremacist “free speech” account that is more often about free speech for antisemitism and racism, and particularly Holocaust denial.

In this case it is worth looking at the account a little deeper… here is the account’s cover photo and profile picture.

The profile picture is classic antisemitism, using an octopus, a face of an old Jewish man wearing a hat (of a sort some Jews wear) with a Jewish star on it for emphasis (no the hats don’t have that for real), and pointy teeth turning him into a monster, also spewing a rainbow which promotes a conspiracy theory that Jews are behind the LGBTIQ+ movement and using it as a weapon to attack whitenationalists / traditional values. There’s a LOT of antisemitism in the profile picture. The cover picture is a panicing Musk corned by a Jewish crowd with a man waiving a flyer with “Holocaust Memorial” on it. It looks like a promotion of an antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish power and Holocaust remembrance being used to threaten Musk.

More recent posts by this account focus on being pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, but with some direct Holocaust denial and Holocaust inversion thrown in. Here is an example:

To them and Us: Both messages

In some cases both messages of hate appear together. This first one tried to make a point that disregarding the murder of innocents is unAustralian, but then goes on to say people should “go back where they came from”.

This next one promotes the idea Muslims, or perhaps just Palestinians are not “real Australians” because they describe themselves as part of a minority community. This is complete nonsense. All minority communities describe themselves as members of their community when in Australia. It is only when outside Australia that it becomes relevant and worth noting that someone is Australian.

Turning it around

Antisemitic disinformation

Of course one responder not only supports the interviewee, but they trying to invert the Hamas terrorist attack through disinformation. This sort of response makes no attempt to engage with reality or facts. The response is antisemitic both for making a false allegation against “Zionists” (Jews / Israel) but also for completly dismissing the reality of the antisemitic attack by Hamas.

Religious vilification

This comment attacks religion in general, describing it as evil. It comes from an account that is heavily involved in promoting bitcoin and claims to belong to a 54 year old tradie.