Brendon O’Connell (here’s his blog) is a 40-year-old pro-Palestinian activist who is now serving a three-year prison sentence for violating Australian laws intended to suppress White concerns about the utopian multicultural future by restricting speech. His troubles began when he went to a protest at a store selling fruit from the occupied West Bank and got into a confrontation with a pro-Israel Chabadnik. O’ Connell videotaped the confrontation (see here and here). The only physical contact comes at 3:41 of the second link, but it’s difficult to see what’s happening and, in any case, that incident was not part of the criminal proceedings. It’s great video and definitely gives on a snapshot of Brendon’s very outgoing, colorful personality.
As I write at the end of my brief, we need more people like him — people willing to be assertive and in-your-face about the outrages surrounding us. Most White Americans would rather munch on snack food while watching TV and then move away when the neighborhood gets overrun by non-Whites. They cower in fear at the thought of offending the powers that be. Of course, Brendon is living proof that those fears are well founded.
Brendon sought out my support for his case and I agreed to participate. The idea was to have me testify live via a video hookup. However, in the end, he decided not to use the brief I had written on his behalf and he dismissed his lawyer as well. Things did not go well at the trial (here’s a newspaper account). The “victim” states that the three-year term “is not enough.” Presumably nothing short of a death sentence would satisfy him.
In my brief, I decided not to simply defend everything that Brendon had written but to defend what I felt comfortable defending and to attempt to cast his statements as reasonable and understandable given his circumstances. He was an active blogger, and his blogs became part of the case against him. Brendon sent me a compendium of the blogs that were involved in the trial (see here [pdf]). Whatever else one may say about him, he is a very entertaining writer. My brief was therefore focused on the blogs.
Finally, readers should realize that O’Connell is not at all a White advocate and, as he wrote in an email, has “zero ties with ‘neo-nazi’ or other such groups.” He describes himself as a Christian — “Catholic but with strong ties to the Russian Orthodox Christian Church.” Interestingly, he writes that “If I was in Ireland I would most definitely be a White Nationalist of some type. However, I still feel a stranger in this land — 3 generations on — I cannot bring myself to feel I have a right to this land while my fellow Australians refuse to acknowledge the injustices done to the native people’s. That being said…THANK GOD FOR THE BRITISH EMPIRE” (his emphasis). This relates to his political views: “My political bent is actually Monarchist/Constitutionalist with a great love for the British Empire and Parliamentary Democracy — Magna Carta, Common Law etc. … The best description would be ‘Conservative Liberal’.”
Obviously, he feels very deeply the plight of the Palestinians, and sees an analogy between what the Australians did to the Aborigines with what the Isrealis are doing to the Palestinians. I think that that is his main emotional motivator.
Statement on Brendon O’Connell
I can easily see why Jews would be offended at some of the things that Brendon O’Connell has said and written. His statements and written work are filled with outrage, mainly focused on the behavior of the Israelis toward the Palestinians and the hypocrisy of Diaspora Jews who portray themselves as exemplifying moral virtue while supporting or at least turning a blind eye to the reality of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Israel. My view as a psychologist is that people like Mr. O’Connell see this brutality and the hypocrisy. They become very angry and frustrated at their powerlessness to change things or even get a fair hearing in the media. They suffer all sorts of harassment that not only results in well-grounded fears for their personal safety and the safety of people close to them, but also threatens their ability to make a living. The resulting anger leads them at times to go beyond the evidence and to make accusations that are not true or are at least overly general. Mr. O’Connell also has a very blunt, street-fighter style that doubtless makes his statements offensive and unappealing to educated people. For example, in the video, he repeatedly calls his accuser “a racist, homicidal maniac.” Nevertheless, a careful perusal of Mr. O’Connell’s work shows that he is well-informed on the issues. Many of the links he uses are, in my view, entirely appropriate and show someone who has thought long and hard about these issues. And he is aware that whatever his sufferings, they pale in comparison to the suffering inflicted on the Middle East where, as he notes, “1500 Gazans are dead; 1 million plus Iraqis.”
There is no question that some of his statements are unfounded. For example, his theory that Israelis were responsible for the murders at the Texas army base is not credible from anything I have read. His statement that Jews have “total domination of the planet” is the type of exaggeration typical of someone who is aware that Jews are indeed quite influential and powerful but goes beyond the available evidence. On the other hand, despite such statements, Mr. O’Connell is quite correct to call attention to the power of the Israel Lobby in the United States and how that affects what happens in the Middle East; see, for example, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Another common failing of many people attempting to comprehend Jewish influence is to over-attribute Jewishness to people he sees as enemies. For example, he incorrectly claims that American leftist radical Bill Ayers is Jewish.
His alleged stated intent in a phone call to a Jewish day school that we would “finish off the kids” or his allegedly saying he wanted Jews “wiped out” are the sorts of thing that, if true (and, of course, he denies it) are completely unacceptable.
Further, Mr. O’Connell’s use of the term “Holohoax” is needlessly offensive and is an example of the tendency to overattribute malevolence, resulting in misstatements of fact. On the other hand, his reference to “Holocaustianity” and “HolocaustTM” may be seen as a clever way of getting at the central role of the Holocaust as a cultural icon in the West analogous to a new religion brought about by Jewish activism. This is well-grounded in fact; see, e.g., Michael Novick’s The Holocaust in American Life and Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry.
In addition, his claim that some Holocaust memoirs have been fabricated is certainly accurate (e.g., Binjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragments, Shocken Books (US edition, 1996). And his claim that Simon Wiesenthal was a liar relies on an article from a reputable source, the Times (London), which begins: “His is reputation is built on sand. … He was a liar — and a bad one at that.” (See here.)
Harassment of critics of Israel is a well-known phenomenon likely to motivate more extreme statements and behavior by its victims. O’Connell links to a video of Alison Weir (see here) in which she was subjected to a phone message death threat. Ms. Weir is a very effective activist against the oppression of the Palestinians. She specializes in how the mainstream media systematically distorts the facts about what is going on in the Middle East. (This is her website.) I have absolute confidence in Weir’s integrity and have often cited her work in my own writing. She is an honest leftist universalist—that is, she abhors ethnic hatred and longs for a world free of ethnic strife. She correctly sees that the Israelis have established a racialist, apartheid state bent on ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
I therefore accept that it is common for critics of Israel to be harassed, and I take at face value Mr. O’Connell’s claims that he and his friends have had to put up with death threats, “brake-line cutting, break ins, computer hacking” and “gang-stalking.” I accept it as quite possibly true that in fact Mr. Mike Mazzone “directly threatened to rape, torture, ‘gut’, and hang by a ‘meat hook’, an American female friend of [O’Connell’s].” This is the sort of thing that might lead anyone to extreme hostility toward his perceived enemies, even to the point of exaggerating or over-generalizing their negative traits and saying and doing things that he would not ordinarily do.
O’Connell’s comments on Jewish influence are not fabricated out of thin air. For example, he links to an article in the Los Angeles Times by Jewish writer Joel Stein who concludes, “I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.” (See here.) One can certainly sympathize with O’Connell’s views when they are supported by a well-known and respected Jewish columnist writing in the mainstream media. In my opinion, an adequate account of Jewish influence would require a much longer and more detailed account. Much of my writing has attempted to assess Jewish influence in an honest and factually based manner (e.g., my book, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in 20th-Century Intellectual and Political Movements). Jews do not have “total domination” but they are indeed influential in exactly the areas mentioned by Mr. O’Connell.
O’Connell’s citation to a website that has detailed the role of the ADL in advancing hate-crime legislation in the U.S. is also entirely appropriate. Indeed, the ADL is quite proud of its preeminent role in enacting such laws at the state and federal level in America, and other Jewish organizations (e.g., the Board of Deputies of British Jews) have played the same function elsewhere—a point that I have noted in my writing (see, e.g., here). And, as Mr. O’Connell notes, it is well-known that the ADL in America has been actively involved in spying on and violating the civil rights of its perceived enemies.
Moreover, his statement that the “Middle East … must be ‘reshaped’ for the jews [sic] benefit” reflects an accurate understanding of the actions of American neoconservatives who successfully lobbied for the war in Iraq and are now fomenting a war with Iran. The idea that American neoconservatives were a critical force in bringing about the war in Iraq is an entirely mainstream idea; see, for example, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy cited above. This is not to say that all Jews were in favor of the war in Iraq (far from it). But it is a legitimate statement of the influence on U.S. foreign policy of a group of strongly identified Jews with close ties to the Likud wing of Israeli politics.
On the other hand, I did not see any support for his claims that Jews dominate the Information Technology industry, including “the design and fabrication of computer chips, surveillance technology – data intercepts, voice recognition–internet security, database collation–storage, linking, analysis.” His comments on the Sayanim are well-founded, but that’s a far cry from making the case that, for example, Leon Wende has compromised the Australian military because of his loyalty to Israel.
A critical issue for Mr. O’Connell is whether Jews are correctly seen as an ethnic group. To begin, it should be noted that Jews have not had a consistent view on whether they want to be classified as a race or a religion. For example, in the United States in1909, Jews successfully lobbied Congress to reject a recommendation of the U.S. Census Bureau to have the category of ‘Jew’ for recording immigrants. For strategic reasons (e.g., avoiding classification as “Mongolian” and therefore not eligible for immigration), Jewish lobbyists insisted that Jews were a religion, not a race, despite heated arguments to the contrary in the U.S. Senate (See Eric Goldstein, “Contesting the categories: Jews and government racial classification in the United States,” Jewish History, 19(1), 107–131). As Goldstein notes, “When contemporary readers encounter the term “race” as applied to the Jews, they normally understand it as a relic of nineteenth- and early-twentieth- century antisemitism. Despite its use by antisemites, however, the notion of a ‘racial’ Jewishness was often embraced by Jews living in Western societies in the period before World War II” (p. 81). “During the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s, rabbis and communal spokesmen had used racial discourse freely to describe themselves and their community. By the early twentieth century, however, many leading ﬁgures, like philanthropist Jacob H. Schiﬀ and American Jewish Committee activist Louis Marshall, began to deny, at least publicly, the existence of a distinct Jewish racial identity” (p. 86).
However, as a result of the success of their lobbying campaign, Jews were categorized by Americans as a religion on a par with Protestantism and Catholicism rather than as a race on a par with Blacks and Whites. Jews actively sought and succeeded in being allowed to perform the functions of other religions at public events, such as leading prayers at Congressional sessions or other civic events along with mainstream Protestant sects and Catholics. As a result, the vast majority of Americans would say that Judaism is one of the three traditional American religions: Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish.
On the other hand, within the contemporary Australian context, it is clearly advantageous for Jews to be classified as an ethnic group because the hate crime laws are framed in terms of race and ethnicity, not religion. I am sure that if the organized Jewish community thought that it would benefit by rejecting a racial or ethnic classification, it would have no difficulty summoning arguments in favor, as they did in the United States, and at least some of them would be identical to those used by Mr. O’ Connell.
The question of whether in fact Jews are properly considered an ethnic group is complex. My writing (e.g., my book, A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy) and more recent genetic studies have emphasized several points:
· Population genetic evidence clearly shows that there is an ethnic coherence to Judaism. Widely dispersed Jewish groups (e.g., Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews) are far more closely related to each other than to the peoples they have lived among since the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora.
· Jewish groups have been very concerned to severely limit the influx of non-Jewish genes. In traditional societies and in the more conservative and fundamentalist Jewish groups today, Jews who married non-Jews were forced to leave the Jewish community and their families were discriminated against within the Jewish community.
· Beginning in the 19th century, the Jewish concern with excluding and discriminating against people of non-Jewish ancestry has led to the perception by many that Jews, especially traditional Jews, are deeply concerned to retain their ethnic purity.
· Nevertheless, there are groups of people who are regarded as Jews despite rather tenuous ethnic connections to Judaism. The fact that conversion is possible within Judaism is a prime argument that has been used by Jews to defuse the idea that Jews are an ethnic group when such a move is seen to be in their strategic interest. In contemporary Israel, the Orthodox Jewish establishment has control over conversions. This ensures that conversions will be rare and difficult so that they do not threaten the ethnic integrity of Judiasm. However, in the Diaspora in Western countries, more liberal versions of Judaism are common, such as Reform Judaism. In these countries, conversions not recognized as valid by Orthodox Jews are common and these people are legitimately seen as Jews. Moreover, groups like the Lemda and Ethiopian Jews which resulted from mating between Jewish traders and local women are considered Jews despite a very large genetic admixture from non-Middle Eastern peoples.
· Mr. O’Connell’s point about Ethiopian Jews is therefore well taken. On the other hand, the genetic evidence provides scant support for the Khazar hypothesis which Mr. O’Connell supports. Nevertheless, Mr. O’Connell cites a very respectable and influential source, Arthur Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe, in support of his views, so they must be at least regarded as reasonable.
Mr. O’Connell often refers to Jews as a “kult” and as “racist.” Regarding “kult” he writes, “ALL of these doctrines revolve around this basic “promise” given to them by their god…“you (jews) shall rule from Jerusalem over the Goy (non jew) as masters and they as slaves.” Now I understand that such statements are correctly seen as not accurately characterizing Judaism as a whole. Nevertheless, such sentiments are within the mainstream of contemporary Jewish thinking. For example, as widely reported (see for example, the article by the Jewish Telegraph Agency), Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the head Sephardic rabbi in Israel and spiritual head of the Shas political party, recently said in a sermon, “Goyim were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel. Why are gentiles needed? They will work, they will plow, they will reap. We will sit like an effendi and eat.”
Mr. O’Connell is being reasonable when he highlights similar statements by Jews within the mainstream because these statements are based on passages in the Old Testament and other canonical Jewish writing. Even though such attitudes may not reflect the opinion of most Jews, they form a component of the Jewish mainstream. Again, Rabbi Ovadia is a very central figure in Israeli religious and political circles. Attitudes like those of Rabbi Ovadia are particularly common in Israel which now has by far the most right-wing, expansionist government in its history—a government that has systematically oppressed the Palestinians and treated them as second class citizens.
Similarly, Mr. O’Connell writes, “What you saw in Gaza was the ‘essence’ of so called “judaism” [sic] – crush, destroy, maim and slaughter ALL who get in you’re [sic] way” (emphasis in text). He further writes about his accuser Stanley Elliot “Keyser belonging to a long tradition of homicide, hatred and ethnic cleansing.” In support, Mr. O’Connell refers to a document by an Israeli academic discussing the legitimacy of applying the concept of Amalek to the contemporary enemies of Israel. The Old Testament (1 Samuel 15:2-4) states the appropriate behavior toward those designated as Amalek: “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Indeed, the Old Testament contains numerous such passages. They would mean nothing except that they are an aspect of the ideology of a significant mainstream Jewish movement in the Diaspora and especially in Israel.
Again, such statements surely do not characterize Judaism in general. Nevertheless, they do characterize the attitudes of a significant proportion of mainstream ethnonationalist and religiously fundamentalist Jews, particularly among the settler movement that is on the front lines of creating an apartheid, racialist, and expansionist Israel. Just recently, as noted in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 300 Israeli rabbis endorsed a “written religious ban on selling or renting homes, apartments, and lots to non-Jews, particularly Arabs” (see here). Indeed, Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director of Human Rights Watch recently noted that “Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits. While Israeli settlements flourish, Palestinians under Israeli control live in a time warp — not just separate, not just unequal, but sometimes even pushed off their lands and out of their homes” (see here). Indeed, so powerful are the ethnonationalist and religious fundamentalist Jews within Israel that Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, has noted that there is no “meaningful political activity” by Israelis on the left able to challenge the ethnonationalist status quo (see here).
Because of the particular nature of these charges, Mr. O’Connell is quite reasonable to point to a video in which a former Israeli minister and activist on the left Shulamit Aloni notes that critics of Israel are routinely portrayed as anti-Semites. (See here). He is also quite reasonable in pointing to the fact that Israel was built on homicide and ethnic cleansing. No one would deny that the United States was built on ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. But the reality of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians both in 1948 and since 1967 on the West Bank and East Jerusalem is routinely greeted with charges of anti-Semitism.
Ethnonationalist and religiously fundamentalist Jews are the main force behind the current Israeli government and their influence is sure to grow in the future because they have by far the highest fertility of any Jewish group. Discussing the views of these Jews is therefore highly pertinent to understanding how very powerful groups entirely within the mainstream of the Israeli political spectrum see the Palestinians and how they conceptualize the project of settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing. To a considerable extent, their thinking is framed by the Old Testament where God gave the descendants of Abraham all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates, certainly including the presently contested areas of the West Bank. I gather that this is apparently the view of Stanley Elliot Keyser, one of Mr. O’Connell’s accusers. Such an ideology is a recipe for continued Israeli expansionism and war with its neighbors.
Generalizing such beliefs to all Jews is certainly incorrect, and Mr. O’Connell is careful to deny that he has characterized all Jews as racist. However, ignoring the extent to which such beliefs are a prominent part of mainstream Jewish thinking with a very large influence on Israeli politics is also a gross oversimplification.
Mr. O’Connell emphasizes the connections his accusers have with Chabad Lubavitch and he characterizes this group as “racist” and one rabbi in particular as “racist homicidal.” Mr. O’Connell is referring to an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz describing the views of Rabbi Manis Friedman who, when asked how to deal with Arabs, stated, “The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).” If Israel acted in his manner, there would be “no civilian casualties, no children in the line of fire, no false sense of righteousness, in fact, no war.” “I don’t believe in Western morality. Living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations who suffer defeat because of a disastrous morality of human invention.” (See here.)
Again, I want to emphasize that such views are not typical of all Jews. Nevertheless, the Lubavitchers are a prominent part of the very mainstream ethnonationalist, religiously fundamentalist Jewish mainstream in Israel as well as the Diaspora. It is therefore noteworthy that Mr. O’Connell’s accusers are openly identified with this group. Indeed, the Lubavitchers are well known to be very racist. Here is the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a putative Jewish messiah and the unquestioned leader of the group until his death in 1994, describing the difference between Jews and non-Jews:
We do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather we have a case of . . . a totally different species. . . . The body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the body of [members] of all nations of the world . . . The difference of the inner quality [of the body] . . . is so great that the bodies would be considered as completely different species. This is the reason why the Talmud states that there is an halachic difference in attitude about the bodies of non-Jews [as opposed to the bodies of Jews]: “their bodies are in vain”. . . . An even greater difference exists in regard to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness. (In I. Shahak and N. Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, pp. 59–60.)
One can readily understand Mr. O’Connell’s attributions about this group. ‘Racist’ almost seems too mild a term.
Fundamentally, Brandon O’Connell is outraged by the brutality and aggression he sees being perpetrated in Israel against the Palestinians. He is outraged by the hypocrisy that he sees in so many Jews who are very much in favor of ethnic tolerance in the Diaspora while ignoring or facilitating apartheid and ethnic cleansing in Israel. I believe he performed his actions because he feels that is the only way that he will be heard.
Mr. O’Connell is accused of very serious crimes which carry the possibility of a long prison sentence that would effectively ruin his life. He should not be convicted if in fact many of statements are well-founded, as indeed they are. He should not be convicted when there is reasonable suspicion that he was subjected to harassment that would have the natural effect of hardening his attitudes and making him angry and frustrated, especially when it has proved impossible for him to get a fair hearing in the media. Such anger and frustration easily explain the instances where Mr. O’Connell has gone beyond the evidence in particular cases. And, as he would doubtless note, his transgressions amount to nothing compared to the crimes that are daily being committed against the Palestinians.
We need to keep voices like Brandon O’Connell in the public square because, quite literally, such voices have been completely shut out of the mainstream media.
Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
California State University–Long Beach
Long Beach, CA 90840-0901