A Small Victory Down Under
by Dr. Richard Benkin, Feb. 3, 2009An anti-Israel conference scheduled to be held in an official Australian state building was canceled after a small group of dedicated individuals revealed the conference leader’s anti-Semitic motives. Maqsood Alshams, an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, planned the conference to debate the issue of charging Israel with war crimes for its recent actions in Gaza. Since arriving Down Under in the 1990s, Alshams had become a darling of the Australian left and became known as a “human rights” advocate. It is within that context that spews his relentless anti-Israel venom.
On December 30, I received one of Alshams’ emails, which quoted Malaysia’s Foreign Minister condemning Israel for “disproportionate, indiscriminate and excessive use of force in Gaza and… collective punishment imposed by the Occupying Power on the Palestinian people.” The email fell back on the usual illogical set of human rights accusation against the Jewish state, including the allegation that Israel’s defensive war was a “crime against humanity.” There was nothing remarkable about the email, and I normally do not bother responding to them. But this one came from Australia where the anti-Israel propaganda war–largely over in Europe and in its infancy in the United States—is in full swing. Moreover, email recipients included members of the Australian media who seemed to believe that Alshams’ pro-Palestinian passion was prompted by nothing more than a morally pure commitment to human rights. So I responded. What I sent was this.
“Why didn’t these same people cry for ‘international intervention’ when the Palestinians–and Hamas in particular–thanked Israel for leaving Gaza by making it a terrorist base to lob missiles onto civilian populations in Southern Israel? Where were these same people when Israeli civilians were facing constant rocket attack from Hamas and its allies?”
What I got back was as much a surprise as it was a gift.
“The simple answer,” Alshams wrote, “is that you the Jews are real motherfucker bastards. In 1990 I myself entered in to the Jewish Consulate in Istanbul in Turkey as a law abiding citizen, met two Jewish Diplomats named Hayim Hosen and Eli Lev, I was stripped searched, sexually harassed, personally humiliated by Mohsad agents, you should keep your dirty mouth shut calling any Bangladeshi a brother, you guys are simply assholes. I don’t want to make this an international issue being secured in Australia. But simply Jews like you are the dirty scums… Stop playing the bloody victim games. You scums need to leave Palestine ASAP and give world a bit of peace… and keep your dirty mouth shut…I wonder why God himself hate the Jews…” (The dots are not of my doing. I have replicated Alshams’ email exactly as I received it.)
Not surprisingly, Alshams did not share these sentiments with the larger group; so I did. I also decided to find out more about him. Alshams has convinced Australians that he was a journalist in Bangladesh who had to flee for fear of his life. He alleges that he worked for a paper owned by one powerful party and was threatened by their political opponents. That would suggest he was pretty important. Yet, when Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury investigated, he found no one who could say if Alshams “ever worked with any newspaper here.” He also said that nobody at the National Press Club ever heard of Maqsood Alshams. Choudhury, by the way, is the Bangladeshi who Alshams did not want me to call brother. But when he was imprisoned and tortured for writing pro-US, pro-Israel, and anti-Islamist articles, I led the campaign that freed him. Alshams and his ilk did nothing. So when he emerged from the hell of that confinement, it was Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury who said, “When my own people abandoned me, my Jewish brother protected me, stood with me.”
Another person outraged by Alshams’ anti-Jewish tirade was Anna Berger, a child of Holocaust survivors and someone with ties to Australia’s official Jewish community. Alshams particularly irked her when he said Israel’s actions were worse than those of the Nazis. So she and I got to work letting others know about this. Eventually, she got the information to Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies. Similarly incensed, he contacted the Sydney Morning Herald, one of Australia’s most widely read newspapers, which picked up the story. A Herald reporter called me to verify my accusations, which I did. I also sent him Alshams’ damning email.
The jig was up; the masquerade over on January 28 when the Herald ran the story. Reporter Erik Jensen noted that Alshams at first tried to defend the hate-speech as a “private argument.” He said he was “not an anti-Semite at all. I have many Jewish friends.” Well, when he saw that no one was buying his “some of my best friends” defense, he apologized for what he said, blaming it on being “intoxicated and angry.” While Jensen’s article said that backers were not pulling out of the conference, a follow up piece the next day told a different story. The conference had been canceled. The revelations spoiled its public façade of being fair and conducted out of the purest of motives.
Alshams’ “I was drunk” argument did not hold water. He clearly had the presence of mind not to send the offensive email to the wider group for fear of damaging his reputation; not indicative of being drunk. He also telephoned me about two hours later, and repeated the anti-Jewish remarks in a voice not at all marred by slurred speech or the sort of incoherence that marks someone intoxicate. More to the point, being drunk would explain the bad judgment of making the remarks and revealing his bias, but it would not explain away the bias itself. As they say, in vino veritas.
The significance of this small victory goes beyond the episode itself. For Israel’s enemies have successfully—and fallaciously—appropriated the human rights high ground. Talking heads in academia, the media, and government in several nations have allowed them to engage in the worst sort of illogic and hate speech by adopting their version of history and morality. No hyperbole is out of bounds for them. They love to compare Israelis to Nazis and Palestinians to Jewish holocaust victims, though there is no similarity between the two. They have so terribly skewed the ideological playing field that Hamas can use Arab civilians as human shields then accuse Israel of human rights violations when those civilians become casualties of war.
Incidents like this expose the real motivations of the anti-Israel movement and stripped away its cynical use of human rights language. And it must be done again and again and again until the truth finally wins back the day.