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EXCLUSIVE: The antisemitic underbelly of Australia’s anti-lockdown groups

The Jewish Independent
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PLUS61J 53 (10)

Published: 28 September 2021

Last updated: 4 March 2024

A The Jewish Independent investigation has identified 24 groups, with nearly 100,000 followers, that espouse antisemitic or neo-Nazi views. They also pursue a political agenda with endorsements of right-wing politicians

“Satanic Jews run the Health Industry.”
- Adelaide Freedom Rally organising page.  July 21, 2021

“What is it going to take to be free from Jewish enslavement? When are the Jews finally going to get the message that we don’t want them in our civilisation anymore?”
- Post shared by Lockstep Australia.  May 24, 2021

“No vaccines, No vaccine passports, execution for the Zionist, Bolshevik, Communist tyrants. Do what they hate the most, unite.”
- Post shared by No Vaccine Coercion.  September 3, 2021

“The Jews own about 96% of the media around the world, so they control the narrative. They also work there. This is where the virus comes from.”
- Sydney Freedom Rally organising page.  May 20, 2021

“Zionism: The Synagogue of Satan. Jewish bankster wars, debt slavery, criminals, root of all evil! Sons of Satan! Now you know the enemy of the world.”
- Post shared by Wake Up Australia.  May 17, 2021

IN THE WAKE of Melbourne’s turbulent anti-lockdown protest in August, a string of stickers appeared in the CBD accusing Jews of responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The stickers confirmed that what were predominantly online hate movements are shifting to physical-world political activity.

The Jewish Independent

Today’s anti-lockdown movement combines a widespread enthusiasm for extremist right-wing politics and antisemitism.

An investigation by The Jewish Independent has identified 24 Australian anti-lockdown groups that espouse antisemitic or neo-Nazi views. Together, these groups have approximately 98,000 followers.

And in an alarming development, they are now promoting outspoken federal parliamentarians Craig Kelly, who left the Liberal Party last month to lead Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP), and National Party MP George Christensen. While both men insist they have no control over these groups’ activities, Labor’s Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally, told The Jewish Independent that the groups’ expressions of solidarity with elected politicians have helped legitimise them by taking their extreme views from the social media echo chamber to the floor of parliament.

Unlike, hard-right groups of old, which struggled to recruit more than a few hundred followers, today’s anti-lockdown extremist channels have attracted mass support. One of them, Wake Up Australia, has 17,000 subscribers – a membership figure exceeding that of the NSW Labor Party.

In August, two weeks before the appearance of the 9/11 stickers, Wake Up Australia posted an image of a Star-of-David clad George Soros puppeteering the Prime Minister. In June, the group claimed: “idolatrous Jewish heresy ... is a key element to the New World Order plot to destroy humanity.”

The Jewish Independent

Wake Up Australia is not a lone wolf but a hub. The platform on which it operates, Telegram, hosts dozens of affiliated groups that proudly share its prejudices.

From the organisers of several “Freedom Rallies” to some of Australia’s largest vaccine-hesitant online communities, Telegram provides a podium for these networks to spread antisemitic ideology.

In “No Vaccine Coercion,” which has 5000 members, administrators combine grizzly accounts of alleged vaccine reactions with a steady stream of antisemitic commentary. Not only are the speeches of well-known neo-Nazis Thomas Sewell and Blair Cottrell shared periodically, but so too are an accompanying litany of alleged Jewish plots.

Jewish CEOs of pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, are presented as evidence of a global plot against the unvaccinated. They reposted a video titled “JEW BRAGS ABOUT JEWS BEING BEHIND THE VACCINES.” On September 3, the group’s administrators escalated the rhetoric, sharing a post calling for the execution of Australia’s Zionist and Communist tyrants. 

In Lockstep Australia, an anti-lockdown group with 4000 supporters, administrators ponder the “Jewish question” publicly and without euphemism. In May, followers were provided with a reading list that included Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In April, Lockstep Australia reposted the following statement from Sewell: “The Jewish parasites that dismantled the white Australia policy … want White people outnumbered, weak, emasculated, dehumanised, uncultured, subjugated and finally - ethnically cleansed … all we want to do is be free from them.”

As antisemitism spread through in the anti-lockdown community, it was soon adopted by regional organisers of the highly publicised “Freedom Rallies.” In July, the Telegram page for the Adelaide Freedom Rally page, with 1100 members, posted a cartoon from the Nazi Party magazine Der Sturmer. The illustration depicts a caricatured Jewish doctor vaccinating an infant. On September 12, Adelaide Freedom Rally shared a post captioned:

“Hitler tried to eradicate them throughout Europe in WWII by placing them into concentration camps ... Now we have to fight the same satanic freemasons and the Jewish Zionists again.”

The Jewish Independent

In the Perth Freedom Rally group, administrators take a different stance. When a member argued that Adolf Hitler was a Jewish agent and the Jewish people are the cause of the world’s problems, a group leader interjects:

“We are trying to address immediate issues in Perth and Australia. We can deal with that stuff later.”

Millions United Australia, an anti-lockdown group with 4000 members, has used Telegram to incite violence against journalists and circulate antisemitic literature. On September 20, Millions United shared a graphic photograph of German soldiers and collaborators being hanged for war crimes, but untruthfully alleging they included journalists.

Text in the image reads, “sometimes history needs to be repeated.” In the caption, Millions United released the personal contact details of a Nine Network journalist who reported on the CFMEU anti-vaccine protest. A group member comments: “We’re going to reward you with a nice new tie [name of journalist]! It’s made of rope.”

In the Reignite Democracy Australia chat group, an organisation with 26,000 followers nationally, a new member responds to a slew of racist memes by asking: “Is RDA  a Jew-hating group?” The response arrives in less than a minute: “You seem to be a long way behind the rest of us mate - Every group should be an anti-Jew group because they want you exterminated. That's fact.”

Jews are not the focus of anti-lockdown groups; discussion is about vaccine reactions [and lockdown issues]… followers get antisemitism thrown into the bargain.

However, it must be emphasised that in all anti-lockdown groups it is not Jews that are the focus. Instead, discussion is dominated by vaccine reactions, anti-lockdown politicians and the alleged positive effects of the drug Ivermectin - audiences and followers are getting antisemitism thrown into the bargain and appear to have developed a tolerance, at the very least, for these views. Neo-Nazism on its own may have a limited appeal, but its combination with anti-lockdown messaging has proven potent.

It should now be evident that we are no longer dealing with a few bad apples. It was not a bad apple at the Adelaide Freedom Rally who claimed Hitler “turned Germany into the most successful and happy country in the world” – it was the organising page. It was not a stray commenter who shared a dossier of Nazi literature to the Freedom Fighters Australia group chat – including ‘Did Six Million Really Die?’ and ‘The Doctrine of Fascism.’ It was the group administrator.

But the antisemitic instinct could be a case of the tail wagging the dog, according to Andre Oboler, CEO of the independent harm prevention charity Online Hate Prevention Institute and former co-chair of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.

“This situation starts not with anti-lockdown groups who conflate their messaging with rabid antisemitism, but with rabid antisemites seeking to build a popular base out of the anti-lockdown movement. Some of these antisemites aim to turn themselves into leaders people recognise and trust, and to use that trust to indoctrinate their supporters into antisemitic conspiracy theories.”

It starts not with anti-lockdown groups who conflate their messaging with antisemitism, but with antisemites seeking to build a popular base out of the anti-lockdown movement - ANDRE OBOLER.

Dr Oboler observes the widespread acceptance of conspiratorial thinking in anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown audiences. He cautions that this may render them especially receptive and open to far right antisemitic ideology.

“The anti-lockdown movement is drawing together those people most susceptible to conspiracies, including antisemitic conspiracies, and it is going to accelerate the spread of antisemitic ideas.”

The movement has also demonstrated its political ambitions through its ties to federal parliamentarians Kelly and Christensen.

Both defended and encouraged the spate of violent anti-vaccine protests in Melbourne last week, with Kelly captioning a live stream of the demonstration with “Wish I could have been there with you” on September 22. On Telegram, these politicians have achieved a cult following, receiving endorsements from both the most fanatical and the most moderate anti-lockdown networks.  

Nearly all of the antisemitic anti-lockdown groups described have promoted Kelly and Christensen.  Even those most overt with their neo-Nazism, such as Adelaide Freedom Rally and Lockstep Australia, have been supportive. 

In many cases, such groups have gone further than simply endorsing Kelly and Christensen. Adelaide Freedom Rally urged its members to join the UAP and shared a live stream of the party’s relaunch.

Lockstep Australia, which shares Kelly’s posts almost every day, instructed its members to “put differences aside” and get behind Kelly and Christensen as they “are defending us from lethal jabs.” Freedom Fighters Australia, previously mentioned for distributing Nazi literature, regularly prompts members to join the UAP.

In July, the No Vaccine Coercion group invited members to follow Kelly’s Telegram page, commenting, “show him that we are ALL behind him.” In October last year, 10 days after sharing a graphic video claiming Australia was under attack from Jewish sects, Millions United Australia informed its followers that “Craig Kelly is a politician who has done his homework and isn’t afraid to tell the truth.”

The tireless work of these extremists to funnel support towards Kelly and Christensen has yielded stunning results. More than 42,000 tune in to Kelly’s Telegram Channel and 18,000 to Christensen’s. In the past few weeks, the UAP has achieved what conventional political wisdom would regard impossible –30,000 new members during a non-election year, with almost no in-person campaigning, and a party leader banned from Facebook and Instagram.

Given the context, this extraordinary influx of members demands scrutiny. While it is not known how many far-right extremists have joined the UAP, it’s clear that far-right leaders have worked tirelessly to sign them up. With a combined audience of 80,000, they have been extremely successful.

It is of tremendous concern that a registered political party with the financial backing of billionaire Clive Palmer receives endorsements from organised neo-Nazi and far-right extremist cells. It is equally alarming that these same fringe groups endorse two sitting parliamentarians, including one from the party of government.

If there are antisemites or racists posting online about what someone says about ending lockdowns, isn't that the same as them posting about their favourite sports team or movie? - GEORGE CHRISTENSEN

The Jewish Independent asked both Christensen and Kelly for a response to the endorsements they received from hate groups that espouse antisemitic views. We quoted the statements made by these groups and provided evidence of their racist activities. Christensen, in his reply, was unwilling to admit that antisemitism was even an issue in the anti-lockdown movement:

“I'm sure that there's people who hold antisemitic or racist views who support lockdowns just as much as there are who oppose lockdowns but the issue has nothing to do with race! … If there are antisemites or racists out there posting online about what someone says about ending lockdowns, isn't that the same as them posting about their favourite sports team or movie?”

In response, The Jewish Independent asked Christensen to clarify whether he rejects the endorsements received from extremist antisemitic groups. Christensen did not answer this question, stating only, “I oppose antisemitism and discrimination.” His statement is published in full at the end of this article.

Christensen’s affiliation with the anti-lockdown movement has caught the attention of his fellow parliamentarians. In a statement provided to The Jewish Independent, Labor’s Keneally, who has strongly pushed for the parliamentary inquiry into right-wing extremism, notes how Christensen’s activities can serve to legitimise far-right groups and their ideas.

Those in the Government who give credence to Covid disinformation have been celebrated in far-right social media groups. As a result, extreme views are given credibility - KRISTINA KENEALLY.

“Those in the Government who give credence to Covid disinformation have been celebrated in far-right and ultra-nationalist social media groups. As a result, extreme views are given credibility and a sense of respectability as they have been taken from a social media echo chamber to the floor of parliament.”

Keneally argues that Christensen’s actions reflect a broader failing by the federal Government to adequately address far-right extremism.

“Mr Morrison’s continued failure to call out his own MPs who disseminate disinformation along with his failure to proscribe extreme right-wing groups as terrorist organisations, is another example of too little too late from a prime minister who doesn’t … take any responsibility for anything.”

The Jewish Independent also raised this issue with the Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, who concurred that “the threat of religiously and ideologically motivated violent extremism is real and growing,” but did not comment on antisemitism in particular. She also defended the Government’s track-record on addressing the increase in extremism caused by the pandemic.

“Just [last week] my department launched an online platform called ‘Fearlessly Australian’. It is designed to engage young Australian men in particular … Earlier this year, the Government made a record $1.3 billion investment in ASIO’s most sensitive capabilities, which will help the agency detect and deter extremists.”

A Department of Home Affairs spokesman told The Jewish Independent that between January and July 2021 the Government has referred 3481 units of online extremist content to social media platforms to let them know of its existence.

However, for a post to be referred to a social media platform by the Government, the department stipulates that it must provide instruction to commit an offence associated with terrorism, be extremely graphic in nature and/or expressly advocate violence. While this includes the most extreme types of online antisemitism, it does not cover its more commonplace conspiratorial forms which seldom advocate violence explicitly.

The United Australia Party has no connection or ties to any violent or other antisemitic group - CRAIG KELLY

The Jewish Independent contacted the United Australia Party about its recent surge in membership and how it may correspond to the concurrent recruitment drive in antisemitic hate groups, and also approached Kelly about the endorsements he received from extremist groups.

Kelly asserted that “the United Australia Party has no connection or ties to any violent or other antisemitic group,” and that any suggestion otherwise was “false and highly defamatory of myself as the leader of the party”. Citing his “many close friends who are Jewish,” Kelly stated that he rejects any claims of antisemitism and that the UAP would not accept endorsements “from anyone that preaches hate, discrimination or vilification.

It remains to be seen if Kelly will act on this by publicly distancing himself from the antisemitic groups which have promoted him and continue to do so.

The Jewish Independent

On October 18, Christensen will be a keynote speaker at a Canberra anti-lockdown rally held at Parliament House. Alongside him will be Serene Teffaha, an anti-lockdown activist who, in August, told her 17,000 followers, “Israel is derived from pagan sacrifice philosophy … as an occultist testing hub globally.”

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, a former guest of the Jew World Order website, and Bethany Cherisse, who, in May, shared a post predicting that “political Zionism” will be the inevitable cause of World War III, will also address the rally.

It is hard to predict what will come from this embrace of antisemitism by the anti-lockdown movement. But if extremist currents remain free to profess their ideas and expand their audiences, the Australian Jewish community, and the broader community, will be put at risk.



The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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