Avraham "Avi" Yemini
|Occupation||Political activist and commentator.|
|Years active||2016 - Present|
|Political party||Australian Liberty Alliance|
Avraham Shalom Yemini (born Avrohom Sholom Waks, 17 October 1985) is an Australian right-wing, political activist, commentator and internet personality from the Australian Jewish community. On 4 March 2018, Yemini was announced as a member of the Australian Liberty Alliance to run as a Victorian candidate for the upper house. He has written for The Times of Israel and appeared on numerous Australian television shows including The Project, Sunrise and the Today show. In 2009, Yemini founded a line of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) training gyms in Melbourne, Victoria. He is also the founder of "J-Safe", a Jewish community group established in 2016 as a response to a growing number of home invasions in Caulfield and surrounds. Yemini works independently and creates video content online.
In January, 2017, Yemini raised over $140,000 for the Hakin family after a terror attack in Melbourne city. In addition, he ran a campaign in favour of a synagogue after it was rejected as a target of Islamic terrorism, despite a petition from the Jewish community of Bondi expressing concern to the synagogue's Rabbi that Yemini was bringing fascists and neo-Nazis to join him in protest.
Early Life[edit | edit source]
Yemini was born in Melbourne, Australia, and is one of 17 children. His family is Jewish. His father was Russian-Polish & his mother is Yemeni. Yemini attended Yeshivah College in East Saint Kilda until grade 8. When he was 13, Yemini became homeless as a result of rejecting his religious restrictions. After being in foster care for 6 months, he then moved between children's crisis homes. He admits in his online videos that he struggled with drugs - particularly heroin - when he was 16 to 18.
As an adult Yemini moved to Israel, gained Israeli citizenship, and became a sharpshooter in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) serving with the Golani Brigade from 2005 - 2008. Most of his active duty was spent in the Gaza Strip.
At the end of 2008, Yemini returned to Australia where he did a personal training course and opened his first IDF gym.
Career[edit | edit source]
Israeli Defense Gyms[edit | edit source]
In 2009, at the age of 21, Yemini opened his first IDF gym in Caulfield, Victoria followed by a second in Melbourne's CBD in 2016. The gyms teach Krav Maga, a self-defense techniques used by the IDF, martial arts and are open 24/7. In 2018, the gyms were sold to a private buyer.
Media Activism[edit | edit source]
After receiving an offensive message to the page that Yemini posted publicly, his business page was banned by Facebook for antisemitism. Following, Yemini started his personal Facebook page which has amassed over 140,000 followers since 2016. He began live streaming videos and attending rallies. He describes himself as an advocate of self-defense, counter-terrorism, Israel and law and order.
In 2016, Yemini made headlines for creating an online petition that demanded the legalization of pepper spray, which has been a prohibited weapon in most Australian states for more than a decade. He later appeared on the Today Show, describing pepper spray as the best, non-lethal, self-defense tool available.
In late early December, 2017, Yemini conducted interviews with Milo Yiannopolous for his Australian tour. After attending Yiannopolous's show, Yemini compared the scene outside the event to the Middle East, indicating that the amount of people protesting Yiannopolous was like the war zones he'd experienced in Israel. He also described Australia as being in the middle of a war on "freedom of speech" after anti-fascists and Muslims protested the Melbourne event. Fellow attendees of the Yiannopolous event in Melbourne attacked Jewish opponents with antisemitic chants of concentration camps, chanting “Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau.’’ Yemini attended the event with convicted antisemite and "fascist agitator" Neil Erikson.
Controversies[edit | edit source]
One Nation[edit | edit source]
Yemini headed a One Nation event in 2016 with Senator Pauline Hanson and Senator Malcolm Roberts for the Jewish community in Caulfield, Melbourne. The event expected 150 people to attend and was claimed by Yemini, Roberts and Hanson to be cancelled over "security reasons". Yemini noted how disappointed he was at the news, stating that it was a sad day for democracy in Melbourne. Parts of the Jewish are alleged to be the reason for the event shut down. Doubts have been raised over the legitimacy of the claim of cancellation for security reasons, with opponents citing the strength of Jewish community opposition to One Nation.
One of the concerns that was levelled at the event by the Jewish community was Malcolm Roberts previous expressions of climate change denial expressed as antisemitism, which conservative columnist Andrew Bolt felt "smacks too much of the Jewish world conspiracy theorising." In his claims about climate change, Roberts cited holocaust denier Eustace Mullins, an American neo-Nazi, anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Further concerns were raised by Jewish community members of Robert's appearance on the antisemitic conspiracy theory podcast "Jew World Order" where Roberts had discussed the "Climate Change agenda worldwide."
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and lobby group Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) are reported to have rejected One Nation and its leader, Hanson. The ECAJ launched a successful complaint against One Nation's newspaper, The Nation, in 2006, under 18C of Victoria's Racial Discrimination Act.
The event received widespread condemnation from the Jewish community. Local Jewish community members who opposed the Hanson and Roberts talk planned a loud protest, with bright clothes and musical instruments for a "street party to drown out racism". Those Jewish community members opposing the event invoked Holocaust memory as inspiration for protesting Hanson and Roberts. In a statement, protest organisers Jews Against Fascism claimed victory for shutting down the event. The Australian Jewish News likened the planned protests by Jews Against Fascism to the Battle of Cable Street, in which working class Jews and Irish stood up against Oswald Mosley and the Nazi sympathising British Union of Fascists.
Five Melbourne Jewish youth movements - Habonim Dror, Hineni, Hashomer Hatzair, Netzer, and SKIF - issued a joint statement against Yemini's One Nation event, claiming "we do not wish to be associated with any organisation that harbours hateful and derogatory views of others". The National Council of Jewish Women of Australia issued a statement against Yemini's event, noting "As Jews, we are particularly sensitive to the pernicious nature of racial hatred and hate speech." In a statement the Australian Jewish Democratic Society said that they would be protesting the event with others in the Jewish community to make clear "that we oppose the hatred and fear which One Nation – like other white supremacist groups internationally – foster in our society." The Australian Jewish News noted that "those of us who do not share those sympathies [of One Nation], who are prepared to stand up to bigotry and defend the rights of minorities, are entitled to protest: to say that while Hanson and Roberts may be speaking in our heartland, the majority of us do not feel they are welcome."
Senator Roberts, effectively denying the role the Jewish community had in rejecting him, claimed “The Jewish community have been intimidated by the horrid and vicious left wing, chased from their communities, and forced to hide by these vile extremists.”
Royal Commission[edit | edit source]
In 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began looking at abuse in a series of Jewish schools and institutions. Yemini was critical of the accusations made towards his former school, Yeshiva College. His brother, Manny Waks, who also attended Yeshiva College, came forward with sexual abuse allegations in 2011 against a former Yeshivah employee. Waks and parents, Zephaniah and Chaya Waks, were eventually ostracized from the Jewish community for reporting the abuse. Yemini was very vocal during the commission and criticized the hypocrisy of his father and his brother, stating that his father was abusive when he was young. After his father was ex-communicated from the Jewish community, Yemini stated his father was not a victim, despite acting like one.
Manny Waks sued Yemini for defamation after he refused to remove a post on his public Facebook page that claimed Waks and his parents hosted a paedophile in their home for monetary gain. Waks admitted that the family had hosted a convicted predator for a period of time.
Criticism from the Jewish Community[edit | edit source]
Yemini has had long-running tensions with particular Jewish groups within the community. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (EJAC) and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JVVC) made it clear that they do not endorse Yemini in his run for state parliament. They said that he does not have the official endorsement from the Australian Jewish community. The Jewish Community Council of Victoria President described Yemini's statements on “religious tolerance and immigration, are divisive and not consistent with the values of our multicultural society”.
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) has also expressed concern over the events and rallies hosted by Yemini, stating they believe he is creating fear, racism, and neo-fascism. The AJDS, while claiming that Avi Yemini is not a neo-Nazi, have described him as "ingratiating" himself to neo-Nazi gangs. Yemini is described as participating in "hate speech" and "racism, xenophobia and the rise of fascism in the community."
Jews Against Fascism have been outspoken critics of Yemini, leading protests against him. They have claimed that Yemini has formed "alliances with the breadth of ... fascist, neo-Nazi, and alt-right racists" Jews Against Fascism claim that Yemini "employs a raft of neo-fascist ideologies (right wing ultra nationalism, racism, xenophobia, anti-immigrant, etc etc), while participating in and fostering movements with white nationalists/supremacists, fascists and neo-Nazis."
The Australian Jewish News described some of Yemini's "bedfellows" as "unsavoury" (referring to Yemini's relationship with convicted antisemite and former neo-Nazi Neil Erikson), noting that "comments that he and others have posted on his Facebook page reveal a tendency towards the far right that does not sit comfortably with a people who have traditionally been first in the far right’s firing line."
Victorian state Jewish Labor MP Philip Dalidakis has called Yemini “an opportunistic far-Right reactionary’’ who “stands for nothing other than creating hate, fear and anger’’. “His contribution to Victorian politics will be to promote archaic, ineffective and intolerant policies and attempt to undo decades of progress that our great state has made.”
References[edit | edit source]
- ALA, "Avi Yemeni is joining forces with ALA" Australian Liberty Alliance
- The Times of Israel, "Authors" Times of Israel
- Rebekah Cavanagh, "Caulfield defence class attracts 200 people frightened by rise in Apex gang crime" The Herald Sun
- "Support for the Hakin Family after Melbourne rampage" My Cause
- Josh Hanrahan and Sam McPhee, "Controversial Bondi synagogue WILL be built after the proposal was initially blocked by council over fears it would be a target for Muslim terrorists" The Daily Mail
- Brull, Michael (August 14, 2017). "A Synagogue Beat-Up, Nazis In Bondi And The Strange Ambivalence From The Jewish Leadership". New Matilda.
- Bianca Hall, "Jewish business IDF Training banned from Facebook after sharing anti-Semitic post" The Age
- Safran, John (2017). Depends What You Mean By Extremist. Australia: Penguin Random House Australia. p. 267. ISBN 9781926428772.
- Bianca Hall, "Melbourne gym recruits members for Israeli army" The Age
- "Self Defence Classes, Martial Arts Melbourne, Muay Thai Melbourne, Boxing Melbourne". www.idftraining.com.au.
- Avi Yemini, "About" Facebook
- Holly McKay, "Caulfield North’s Avi Yemini petitions for pepper spray to be legalised" Glen Eira Leader
- Avi Yemini (8 May 2016). "Is pepper spray good for self defence?" – via YouTube.
- Victoria Craw, "Conservative activist Avi Yemini said protests outside Milo Yiannopoulos speech was like being in the Middle East" The Daily Mail. on May 2018 Yemini also took part in the #freeTommy initiation in the UK when Tommy Robinson was arrested and jailed for his political views and became the political prisoner in modern UK .
- Le Grand, Chip (12/6/2017). "Jewish woman confronted by Nazi hate chants". The Australian. Check date values in:
- Sparrow, Jeff (5 Dec 2017). "Milo Yiannopoulos speaks, and Australia's respectable racists howl their approval". The Guardian.
- "Joint Statement: Cancellation of Melbourne Jewish Event". 30 November 2016.
- Suzan Delibasic, "Police to attend One Nation meeting in Caulfield, to be hosted by IDF Training’s Avi Yemini" Glen Eira Leader
- Hall, Bianca (30 November 2016). "'Intimidated': Hanson, Roberts cancel plans to address Melbourne's Jewish right".
- Brull, Michael (December 2, 2016). "Jews United: Pauline Hanson And Malcolm Roberts Sent Packing".
- Hamilton, Clive (December 30, 2016). "One Nation, Climate Denial and those Jewish Bankers". The Conversation. Retrieved 30 May, 2018. Check date values in:
- Bolt, Andrew (August 6, 2012). "No, of course I don't endorse this stuff". Herald Sun. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
- "One Nation Senator rejects anti-Semite claims". 2016-10-22.
- "Jews against Fascism, if not now..." 28 November 2016.
- AAP (NOVEMBER 7, 2016). "Senator and climate change denier Malcolm Roberts walks out on bizarre press conference". News.com.au, AAP. Check date values in:
- Remeikis, Amy (7 November 2016). "Malcolm Roberts' climate change press conference starts bad, ends even worse". Sydney Morning Herald.
- "Not in our name: Melbourne's Jewish community does not support One Nation" The Guardian
- Jews Against Fascism. "Jewish community claims victory as Hanson event is cancelled". Facebook.
- "From Cable Street to Caulfield". Australian Jewish News. November 24, 2016.
- "Youth Movement Joint Statement Against One Nation". Habonim Dror, Facebook. 27 November 2016.
- National Council ofJewish Women of Australia (22 November 2016). "STATEMENT AGAINST RACISM IN OUR COMMUNITY". National Council ofJewish Women of Australia, Facebook.
- Australian Jewish Democratic Society, AJDS (25 November 2016). "AJDS Statement on One Nation Event". AJDS, Facebook.
- Joshua Levi, "Royal Commission slams institutions and rabbis" The Australian Jewish News
- Avraham Yemini, "Brother of Manny Waks says the Royal Commission is being told a distorted one-sided story" Medianet
- Bianca Hall, "Manny Waks Sues Brother For Defamation Over Paedophile Claims" The Age
- Peter Kohn, "Yemini Does Not Represent Us" The Australian Jewish News
- "AJDS Statement on Avi Yemini and the rise of far-right racism" The Australian Jewish Democratic Society
- Barrett, Simon. "Anti-racist protest dwarfs fascist rally in Melbourne". Red Flag.
- "Fuckin wow! So impressed by the turn out of Jews and supporters of Jews Against Fascism today as part if our little bloc". Jews Against Fascism, Facebook. 17 September 2017.
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- "Avi Yemini and his fascist/neo-Nazi friends". Jews Against Fascism, Facebook. 15 September 2017.
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- AJN EDITORIAL (August 11, 2017). "Unsavoury bedfellows". The Australian Jewish News.
- ""Right-wing Jewish figure Avi Yemini to run for Victorian upper house - +61J". +61J. 2017-10-26. Retrieved 2017-12-25.
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