Jewish Council of Australia launches to provide expert voice on antisemitism and racism in Australia

Feb 8, 2024
Waving flag of Israel and Australia.Image:iStock

A dynamic coalition of Jewish scholars, historians, human rights lawyers, and writers has joined together to establish the Jewish Council of Australia.

In response to the pressing need for an independent expert body to address antisemitism and racism in Australia, a dynamic coalition of Jewish scholars, historians, human rights lawyers, and writers has joined together to establish the Jewish Council of Australia.

The Council was formed to fill a void in Australia of an independent expert Jewish body which can speak about antisemitism in Australia and which acknowledges the diversity of views within the Jewish community in regard to the State of Israel.

The Council disagrees with the idea that all Jewish people, and the Jewish community, fully support the military actions of the State of Israel. We are concerned that many Jewish representative organisations in Australia fail to recognise that the Jewish community has diverse views on Israel’s military actions and conflate criticism of Israel, and support for Palestinian human rights, with antisemitism.

The Jewish Council recognises that there is no one single Jewish community, and that Jews across the country hold differing political views and have rich traditions of debate and questioning. In one 2023 survey of Jewish people in Australia, nearly one quarter of respondents said they did not identify as Zionists. Almost 1,000 Jewish people in Australia have signed an open letter condemning Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire, and each week more and more Jews are participating in activities in support of Palestine and local Palestinian communities.

The Council recognises the long history of Jews who have been critical of the State of Israel and its policies. Antisemitism is the hatred of Jewish people as Jews,  it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel’s military actions or support Palestinian freedom and human rights.

The rise of the far right internationally and the mainstreaming of anti-migrant politics threatens a large number of people. The Jewish Council will in its work consider the effects of fascist and racist politics in Australia.

The Council, committed to fostering strong relationships with other ethnic and faith communities, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, stands strongly against all forms of racism. We will understand and address antisemitism as part of the broader problem of racism in Australia, rather than as a special case.

The Jewish Council of Australia will provide an expert voice on issues of antisemitism, far-right extremism and racism in Australia, ready to engage with media, policymakers, and the public to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Jewish perspectives.

Quote from Emeritus Professor Andrea Durbach AM

“In the current environment of global political extremes and the relentless devastation in Gaza, the manipulation of language by those desperate to justify the indefensible, is perhaps an inevitable response. Amidst these distortions, many of them racist in character and impact, it is refreshing and essential to see the emergence of new voices committed to challenging and remedying crass and obsolete opinions. The establishment of the Council importantly seeks to reset the record and provide perspectives informed by principles of accuracy, transparency, and justice.”

Quote from Louise Adler AM

“The Jewish Council is an important initiative. The next generation of Australian Jews is resisting the pressure applied by the Jewish establishment to defend Israel and the Occupation. Refusing to toe the line comes at a real personal cost so I commend the individuals involved for their moral courage and commitment to peace and justice.”

Quotes from Sarah Schwartz, human rights lawyer and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council of Australia

“There are thousands of Jewish people here and around the world who support Palestinian human rights, freedom and equality. We founded the Jewish Council because most of our Jewish representative organisations in Australia fail to represent Jews who are critical of Israel and support a ceasefire and freedom for Palestinians.”

“We are concerned about the rising discourse in Australia, promoted by Israel lobby groups, which conflates antisemitism with support for Palestinian human rights. This discourse inaccurately and dangerously paints all Jewish people as being supportive of Israel’s military actions and human rights abuses.”

“The idea that any criticism of Israel – including through protests, social media posts, or boycotts – is inherently antisemitic is a total fallacy. No government or country is beyond criticism and accountability.”

Quotes from Dr Max Kaiser, Historian and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council of Australia

“As Jews, we understand deeply what it is like to be oppressed and to be victims of genocide. Many Jews feel a strong moral obligation to show solidarity with other oppressed groups and people facing genocide.”

“We are concerned about the way accusations of antisemitism are being used in order to shut down legitimate criticism of Israel and its military. Antisemitism is discrimination and hostility towards Jewish people because they are Jewish. Criticising the State of Israel does not fit this  definition.”

“Antisemitism is a real and evolving threat perpetuated by fascists and the far right. The only viable way of combating these forces is working together with other groups facing racism, not stoking fear and racial division.”


The Jewish Council of Australia, whose members form part of a wide variety of Jewish communities and streams of practice, aims to work with journalists, politicians, and policymakers to include perspectives which better reflect the broader Australian Jewish community’s experiences of antisemitism in their decision-making.

READ: As Jews, we don’t accept that criticism of Israel’s government is antisemitic

Feb 6 2024

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