Where is the line drawn between humor and incitement? This very question is being kicked around in Australia after visitors to a popular website for high school students posted racist statements against Jews on its message boards. Many of the site's visitors claimed that the provocative anti-Semitic postings were merely a joke. However, an Australian Jewish group – the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies – claims they are blatantly anti-Semitic.
The Jewish organization filed a complaint with the website Bored of Studies, popular among Australian high school students, after pictures of the Israeli flag going up in flames alongside pictures of swastikas were posted on the site. Alongside the pictures were statements like "let's make them a holocaust." Another post included details on the locations of synagogues in and around Sydney along with instructions on how to make a Molotov cocktail.
Another thread, titled “F—- Israel”, included a posting from a blogger, which read: “Kill all da f—-ing Jews … f—-ing hate every single one of them … I hope Iran nukes them big time.”
Swastika on Australian high school students' forum
There are more than 290,000 members on the said site, with an average of 7 million visitors per month. Many educational facilities recommend that their students use the site as a useful study tool.
The site's publishers removed the inciting comments and blocked the offensive group from the site. Many visitors praised the swift ban of the perpetrators, while others criticized it saying that the posts were just teasing.
"Most of the posts were satirical and humoristic in their exaggeration," wrote one of the visitors in a thread discussing the issue. "Those of you who don't have a sense of humor are in all honesty stupid enough to take these comments seriously."
Another visitor noted that poking fun at people is part of Australian culture, saying that not taking oneself too seriously is a central characteristic of the community. The same user asserted that "all the fun people have been banned."
'No student who doesn't use site'
However, the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies said that the posts were expressions of hate-based racism. "There is nothing humorous in encouraging people to kill others, and this is what was written in many of the comments on the site," said NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff, who originally brought the material to the publisher’s attention.
"It isn't an official or government site, but it's a site that every school is familiar with and recommends," said Alhadeff. "There is not a high school student who does not use the site at least once during his studies. I contacted the marketing director of the site, and he immediately apologized and said he would ban the users who wrote these racists comments.
"The anti-Semitic material was indeed removed within 24-hours, but a few days later we went into the site again and saw more racist material written by the same people. I contacted the director again, and he apologized again and said he would ban the user. They do take it seriously. The problem is that the damage is already done, and a lot of people saw the material," explained Alhadeff.
According to him, Australia is not known for being racist, but that it is hard not to notice the rise in anti-Semitic incidents on the continent.
"There are pockets of racism here and there, and this is a repulsive live example of this. We are in a constant battle against anti-Semitism, and, unfortunately, there is always more work to do," added Alhadeff.