12 December 2023

Letter from the Editor: Amidst Gaza horror, don't confuse opposing Israeli actions with antisemitism

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Israeli and Palestinian flags

Continuing bloodshed in Gaza is sending shockwaves around the world. Photo: Yuliia Bukovsky.

Senior aid world leaders have described current conditions in Gaza as “apocalyptic”.

It’s estimated more than 16,000 people have died since Israeli operations commenced, at least a quarter of them children whose bodies are more vulnerable to explosive shocks, who lose blood more quickly, who are defenceless against military bombardment as the war front moves deep into southern Gaza.

Horrific stories continue to emerge from the 7 October Hamas assault on Israel, including deeply disturbing allegations about sexual violence perpetrated on Jewish women, in addition to the 1200 people murdered by the insurgents.

The distress caused on all sides in Australia is understandable and has, regrettably, also been very divisive.

Last week, Canberra’s ‘Anita Gelato’, an Israeli-owned ice cream shop, was plastered with stickers advocating a boycott. The stickers showed a red line crossing the Israeli flag, which features both blue and white lines and the Star of David.

There was anger on all sides – from pro-Israeli groups who levelled accusations of antisemitism and from pro-Palestinian activists who defended their right to suggest withdrawing economic support for Israeli businesses.

Antisemitic vandalism

Stickers covering the Israeli-owned Anita Gelato in Canberra. Photo: Australian Jewish Association.

But here’s where the problem lies: Israel is the only modern Western state based on a religion. So how do you disentangle a long, long history of reprehensible racist actions against Jewish people from the right to protest Israeli Government actions?

Antisemitism is defined as “hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people”, while traditionally Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in an area where people who describe themselves as Palestinians, mostly Muslims but including some Christians, already lived.

This is not ancient history.

I well recall interviewing an Australian author of Palestinian descent whose grandfather, she told me, wore the key to his confiscated childhood home around his neck and retained title deeds to the property his family lost when the state of Israel was formed after the Second World War.

Israel has a right to exist, a right to defend itself and the history is complex. Not all Israelis and not all Jews support the current government, or the scale of its response to the Hamas terrorist attacks. Not all Palestinians support Hamas and the hell they’ve brought upon millions of innocent civilians.

But characterising everyone who disagrees with the actions of the Israeli Government as a bigoted antisemite is inaccurate and undemocratic.

READ ALSO ‘There’s no place for that sort of hatred’: Vandals behind antisemitic stickers on Civic gelato store could face legal action

More civilians have been killed at a higher rate in this war than any other action since World War II and ordinary Australians are perfectly entitled to protest this horror and urgently seek help for Palestinian citizens as well as Israelis.

The decision by the US House of Representatives to declare that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism” has been framed with the aim of combating a recent and distressing rise in antisemitism across the US.

But it should also be read in a political context that escapes most Australians: Republican support for Israel is strongly tied to US evangelicals for whom biblical prophecies about Israel are a precursor to the end times and Christ’s reign in Jerusalem (with or without the assistance of Benjamin Netanyahu, that bit isn’t clear in the Book of the Apocalypse).

This is transactional American politics at its most transparent. The Republican right needs the Christian right and are prepared to trade with them, just as they’ve done with abortion rights.

There is broad support among US voters for de-escalating the horrific violence in the Middle East, but this is less important to political bean counters in an election year. Let nobody imagine that Donald Trump gives two damns about either issue beyond the votes he can harvest.

Australia does not (currently) suffer from this level of bitter political divide. We are a centrist and mostly secular nation where equality of rights for all citizens – the fair go – is a fundamental value.

Long may that last – it’s what unites us as a nation.

We should repudiate any and all religious prejudice energetically. There is no place for antisemitism in this country or this city. But there is also no place for stifling and shaming the voices of genuine dissent by using religion as a prop.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on Riotact.

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wayne waldock8:38 am 20 Dec 23

wind farms?? i dont live out your way,me I’m a coal fired power station bloke,at least they work.but the lands out your way seem to be empty,may I say,get on your bike and visit Crookwell oodles of wind turbines there, same as south of Goulburn.

wayne waldock8:35 am 20 Dec 23

to all of those who are not happy with the dramas in the Gaza strip,as a show of faith both sides, should go there and give your voice to that lot,just like your doing here,what would the out come be for you ??

Gisele Dussault2:16 pm 12 Dec 23

Please note, Anita Gelato Australia is an Australian-owned and registered business.

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