MELISSA PARKE.- Criticism not same as racism (The Herald Sun 26.03.2020)

Apr 8, 2020

“Let’s reserve the term ‘anti-Semitic’ for those who truly deserve it”

There are a number of deeply disturbing trends in the world, but two I want to highlight today. One is the rise in global anti-Semitism, that is, hostility to or prejudice against Jews, of which the Holocaust is the most extreme example.  

The other disturbing trend is the rise in accusations of anti-Semitism levelled against people – including many brave Jews – who have criticized Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. 

Recently 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars expressed their concern about the mis-use of allegations of anti-Semitism, noting that: 

“…The threat of anti-Semitism does not originate from Palestinian rights activists, but mainly from the extreme right and from Jihadist groups. Denying that could alienate Muslims and Arabs from the vital struggle against anti-Semitism and hamper the possibility of building true solidarity between Jews, Israelis, Muslims and Arabs in fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.”

When the pro-Israel lobby spends much of its time in a relentless vendetta against critics of Israeli state policy, they debase the true meaning of the term ‘anti-Semitism’ and they let real anti-Semites – mainly far right white nationalists – off the hook.

This week saw the release by ASIO of its annual threat assessment, which noted the increasing danger to Australians from the rise in right wing extremism. In Australia this includes neo-Nazi groups such as Antipodean Resistance.

A number of recent mass terror incidents, for example in Christchurch and Pittsburgh, have been perpetrated by individuals from like-minded groups.

This ideology of race and terror is the very antithesis of what those campaigning for Palestinian human rights believe. To stand up for human rights is to fight racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism; it is to uphold the rule of law against illegal actions; it is to seek justice where there has been injustice.

To say that Israel has become an apartheid state is not anti-Semitic; it is a simple statement of fact and international law. 

The so-called Trump ‘deal of the century’ merely makes transparent for all to see the travesty of justice endured by the Palestinians for decades.

Calling for Israel’s compliance with international law and respect for Palestinian rights is not the same thing as hostility to or prejudice against Jews. Indeed, there are many Jews who believe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is illegal and immoral.

Let’s reserve the term ‘anti-Semitic’ for those who truly deserve it. 


Hon Melissa Parke is the former federal Member for Fremantle and a long-time advocate for human rights.

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