Smears of antisemitism over Palestine ring hollow

As the death toll mounts and hunger stalks Gaza, supporters of Israel are finding it harder to defend the genocide. Instead, they are turning to smearing supporters of Palestine as antisemitic.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Jews among the crowd at a Christian Zionist rally in Sydney last month, “On too many occasions you found isolation, and even abandonment, and even persecution, in this, a free country. Instead of safety you were confronted with threats and even hatred.”

According to Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin, “Any lingering delusion that pro-Palestinian means anything other than pro-Hamas, pro-rape and pro-murder is crumbling.”

Such claims simply don’t match the experience of the many tens of thousands who have marched for Palestine around the country since October.

The rallies are inclusive and anti-racist. They frequently feature Jewish speakers—and Jewish groups and individuals opposed to the slaughter are welcomed, not harassed.

Indeed, Jewish opposition to Israel’s slaughter and the Zionist agenda has grown. Activist groups now include the Loud Jew Collective, Doykeit Meanjin, the Tzedek Collective and Jews Against the Occupation. And progressive Jews have set up a new collective voice, the Jewish Council of Australia.

Supporters of Israel made much of claims that a handful of protesters at a rally at the Sydney Opera House chanted “Gas the Jews”. But even the NSW police belatedly admitted there was no evidence—and fact checkers found that clips featuring the slogan circulated by the hard-right Australian Jewish Association had been doctored.

There was also an outcry when Palestine supporters revealed details of 600 members of a Zionist chat group, with Labor promising new laws against doxing (maliciously revealing people’s private information). But Palestine supporters had redacted the leaked transcripts to remove photos, email addresses and phone numbers.

The leak was not in any case an exercise in targeting Jews as Jews, as claimed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. It was an act of whistleblowing, revealing the way the chat group members had been organising to encourage the ABC to sack journalist and broadcaster Antoinette Lattouf for sharing a social media post about hunger in Gaza.

Cultural safety

Many organisations are turning to the language of “safety” to shut down pro-Palestine voices. They include the ABC and state education departments but include a growing number of “progressive” bodies.

Instead of outright accusing supporters of Palestine of being antisemitic, they instead imply that opposing the genocide is somehow putting supporters of Israel (and Jews in particular) at risk—as if opposing the horror in Gaza is an attack on Jews.

So the State Library of Victoria has terminated the contracts of four pro-Palestine writers and poets who were hired to deliver youth writing bootcamps on the spurious grounds of “child and cultural safety”.

The CERES environment park in Melbourne has told staff they cannot wear keffiyehs or Palestine badges at work as “these actions may exclude some staff, customers and community members and compromise a sense of inclusion and safety for all”.

Sadly, the media union, the MEAA, cited similar safety concerns to justify refusing to back rank-and-file rallies for Lattouf outside ABC offices in early March.

Organisations hiding behind the language of “cultural safety” are refusing to take a stand against the genocide and the very real and daily threat to safety of more than two million Palestinians in Gaza.

Palestine activists must continue to campaign for the right to organise—and hold “progressive” organisations to account.

Far right

Antisemitism must be fought wherever it is found, including on the left, as with any form of racism. But the real threat to Jews comes from the far right.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry report on antisemitism in the year ending 30 September 2023 makes that clear. The 495 anti-Jewish incidents logged were peppered with disgusting references to the Holocaust such as “it is a pity that Hitler did not finish with you Jewish rats”.

Yet the Zionist establishment is fixated on the left and the Palestine movement, which lets the far right off the hook. Activists on the left with a lifetime of anti-racist organising are painted as more dangerous than Nazis.

As two Jewish Council of Australia writers put it recently, conflating criticism of Zionism with antisemitism to silence opponents of Israel’s ongoing violence “weakens the label of antisemitism to the point that it becomes almost meaningless … at a time when we need to be able to call out actual antisemitism.”

The fight for Palestinian liberation must be part of a broader struggle to rid society of all forms of racism.

By David Glanz


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