Netanyahu has given people an excuse to unleash their antisemitism

Dec 11, 2023
Profiles with Islamic and Jewish symbols.

There is, I think, the hint of a better future after the latest heartbreaking revelation to emerge from the Middle East that the Israeli government knew a year ago about Hamas’ plans for the horrific murders on October 7.

It knew. It did nothing.

Why is that knowledge good news? It means Israelis must be several steps closer to ditching Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man who must accept not just significant responsibility for the devastation and murders in Gaza, but also for the continuing despair of what remains of the Jewish diaspora. The man who pretends to be strong but is not. The man who could not even defend his own country despite considerable advance warning of the attack.

Dave Sharma, former ambassador to Israel and the newest Liberal senator, sees no way back for Netanyahu: “This security failure on his watch spells the end of Netanyahu’s prime ministership.”

Hello. My name is Jenna Price and I’m Jewish. It’s a line I use when I find myself facing raging antisemitism. It interrupts the conversation and warns antisemites I’m about to take them on. You’d be surprised by the number of people who think it’s hilarious to make jokes or tropes about Jews. I don’t share your sense of humour, if that’s what you call it. I don’t think it’s funny when you mock Aboriginal people or Indian people or people of Muslim faith. You are a bigot and a racist.

I’m appalled at what’s happening to Palestinians. I’m appalled successive Israeli governments have seized land that was not theirs and dispossessed men, women and children from their homeland. I’ve moved from being a person utterly wedded to the two-state solution to being one who despairs that there will ever be a solution of any kind, except a horrific one. Netanyahu’s popularity, and that of his party, Likud, is in the basement. Now Israel is in the most precarious position it’s ever been in: a brief reminder Israel exists because of the Holocaust.

Polls in Gaza show a majority did not want to break the ceasefire. Palestinians don’t want war either. No one does. But Israelis keep electing deranged right-wing populists, and some of them on more than one occasion.

Netanyahu’s desire to bomb the life out of Gaza is destroying Palestine and the Palestinians. He’s fuelling the existence of Hamas. He has murdered thousands of Palestinians to make it look as if he is doing something, anything. All that does is strengthen Hamas’ power and influence. Netanyahu is murdering Palestinians and he is also harming the diaspora. He is risking the lives of Jews.

These actions are fuelling a rise in antisemitism across the world. As a Jew who is not a Zionist (yes, there is a difference!) I have not seen levels of antisemitism this bad in this country since I was a child. Shops in Melbourne are being plastered with stickers calling for a boycott of Jewish businesses. At rallies, we’ve heard chants of “f— the Jews” and “gas the Jews”.

The attendant rise in rampant Islamophobia is terrifying. For some reason, Australians seem unable to tell the difference between Jews and Zionists and between Muslims and Hamas. It is possible to be one without the other. “Can all the reasonable voices get together?” one Muslim leader asks me.

This climate is provoking overreaction from Jews in Australia to acts I consider fall far short of antisemitism. Three young idealistic actors wearing Palestinian scarves at the Sydney Theatre Company? Pull yourselves together. It’s nice that the young and privileged are having a go, though actors engaging in after-show theatrics is probably the bare minimum. Jews giving up their support and subscriptions to the STC because three kids wore Palestinian scarves? Spare me. Empathy is not, should not be, either/or. They weren’t wearing Hamas flags or wearing badges which said Boycott Jewish Businesses. They were standing up for slaughtered civilians.

They were doing exactly what I did, about 40 years ago, and supporting the Palestinian people. (Admittedly my attempt was assisting with screen printing posters.) My mother was not pleased.

The current torrent of antisemitism is a direct result of the way Netanyahu has gone about Israeli business over decades. Power-mad. Embroiled in corruption charges. Surrounding himself with other military crazies. Propping up the Hamas terrorist group and playing it off against the Palestinian Authority. Murdering and starving the people of Palestine, who also have a right to their land, and to peace.

Can Jews and Palestinians co-exist peacefully? Not so far. But they have the right to try.

What doesn’t help is the peanut gallery. I’m shocked by the dimwits on either side of the debate who seem to thrive off commenting on others’ trauma, who don’t despise rape and murder no matter the victim. I’m shocked at the bandwagoning going on from people who have no idea, no skin in the game, no prior knowledge and no real sympathy for either Muslims or Jews. “Allow me to trend” on some social media platform is how I see it.

Sharma isn’t Jewish. And most non-Jews don’t think antisemitism exists in this country. But Sharma says: “I’ve now seen levels of antisemitism I didn’t think existed in Australia. This has shocked me. It is as if they feel they now have a licence to express it.”

When a girlfriend called me, mid-November, in pain and rage at what was going on, I asked her to calm down. Now I think the adage might be true: people don’t hate Jews because of Israel, they hate Israel because of the Jews. Netanyahu has given people an excuse to unleash their antisemitism. I pray he has also given Israelis the power to unleash their votes against him.

Republished from The Sydney Morning Herald on December 5, 2023.

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