When shameful ignorance comes from a minister of education: an open letter to Alan Tudge

Aug 8, 2021

As a Palestinian refugee who was ethnically cleansed with my mother by Zionist terrorist groups, and separated from my father when I was a few months old, I am deeply distressed and disappointed, like many in the community, to read your article in The Australian (“Left’s anti-Zionism is just the oldest hatred in disguise”, 5.8.2021) in which you are either deliberately or out of shameful ignorance conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, and showing a complete lack of knowledge of Zionism and the Palestine question. 

Together with nearly one million Palestinian refugees, my mother and I were denied our right of return to our home, and to reunite with my father in the city of my birth, Haifa, just because we were not Jews, when any Jew from anywhere in the world can immigrate to my country and get citizenship on arrival just because they are Jews.

Nowhere in your article did you distinguish between those who you claim are “disguising their anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism”, and legitimate anti-Zionists who decry Israel’s colonialism, racial discrimination, and the crimes it is committing against the Palestinian people and the denial of their inalienable and legitimate rights. Therefore, you are equating all anti-Zionists as anti-Semites.

Are you aware Jews were the first to persistently oppose Zionism, and until Nazism, the great majority of Jews throughout the world had rejected Zionism? Do you believe they are also anti-Semites?

Zionism is a political ideology developed in 1896 by an Austrian Jew, Theodore Herzl to colonise Palestine and turn it into a Jewish country by bringing Jews from around the world to it and ethnically cleansing the indigenous Palestinian people from it, in order to make the Palestinian majority a minority and the Jewish newcomer minority a majority. Thus, it is a colonial-settler movement, racist in theory and practice.

Just as anti-Semitism is against Jews, Zionism is anti-Palestinian. Both are racists and must be fought against.

The fathers of the Zionist movement have acknowledged the benefits gained by the rise of anti-Semitism. Herzl himself wrote in his Diary “The anti-Semites will become our most loyal friends, the anti-Semite nations will become our allies.”

Ze’ev Jabotinsky, one of the Zionist leaders said in 1925 in an essay entitled ‘The Iron Law’, “If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison for the land, or find a benefactor who will maintain the garrison on your behalf … Zionism is a colonizing adventure and, therefore, it stands or falls on the question of armed forces.”

Yeshayahu Ben-Porat, Israeli writer and journalist said in the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot in 1972, “One truth is that there is no Zionism, there is no settlement and there is no Jewish State without displacing Arabs and without confiscating land and fencing them off”.

I do not intend to narrate to you in this letter our history, the massacres, gross violations and crimes committed against our people and still being committed for the last seventy-three years, but I would like to address some of the points in your article.

With your deceitful accusation, you are vilifying Sir Isaac Isaacs, the Australian Governor-General, and tens of millions of honourable Jews and non-Jews alike, in Australia and around the world, liberals, leftists, religious, non-religious … who see anti-Zionism as a human and moral obligation.

Do you think Avraham Burg, former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Speaker of the Knesset, and Interim President of Israel writing “Zionism in Israel today means only one thing: racism!” is anti-Semite? Or former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who in an article titled ‘Proto-Fascist government must be stopped’ wrote: “…the Israeli government is following a fascist path and that Major General Yair Golan’s warnings about similarities to Nazi Germany in the 1930s are coming to pass … 12 out of 14 ‘symptoms of Fascism’ exist in Israel today.”

The comparison between anti-Jewish Nazis and anti-Palestinian Israelis is made by many Israelis. Take for example what Zeev Sternhell, an Israeli historian, political scientist, Holocaust survivor and an expert in 20th-century European fascism and extreme nationalism who wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz:

Like every ideology, the Nazi race theory developed over the years. At first, it only deprived Jews of their civil and human rights. It’s possible that without World War II the “Jewish problem” would have ended only with the “voluntary” expulsion of Jews from Reich lands. After all, most of Austria and Germany’s Jews made it out in time. It’s possible that this is the future facing Palestinians.

I am not sure whether you have relied in your article on the “specialist information” offered to politicians and journalists by the Israeli lobby ‘The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council’, but it is clear from your article in conflating and confusing between Jews and Zionists and between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, that you need to practice what you preach to the Greens and Labor Party and study Zionism and the Palestine question.

The slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is not against Jews as you proclaim, but against the Zionist colonial apartheid system. It calls for the replacement of Israeli apartheid, which occupies historic Palestine from the river to the sea, with a democratic system, where the inalienable legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the refugees right of return, will be restored and all people, Jews, Christians and Moslems will be equals under the law. Are you against this?

The Jewish Nation-State Law ratified recently by the Knesset and the Israeli Supreme Court, institutionalised racism and racial discrimination by stating:

The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people … The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people [alone] … The state will be open for Jewish immigration … The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”?

By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people – wherever they live around the world – Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favouring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of institutions.

This law is not different from the anti-Semitic and racial Reich Citizenship Law in Nazi Germany enacted by the Reichstag (parliament of Germany) on 15 September 1935, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens; the remainder were classed as state subjects, without citizenship rights.

This is not the only discriminatory law. According to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), there are currently over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens in Israel and Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory on the basis of their national belonging.

In 2008, former cabinet minister Yossi Sarid wrote, “What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid.” And former Education Minister and Israel Prize laureate Shulamit Aloni said that Israel “practices a distinct and even violent form of apartheid against the native Palestinian population in the West Bank.”

Renowned Israelis such as journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, Israeli ambassadors to South Africa Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel, lawyer Lynda Burstein Brayer, writer and marketer Roy Isacowitz and advisory board member of the One State Foundation Jeff Halper are among countless Israelis who have made the apartheid comparison and called on the international community to act.

Leading South Africans, Jews and non-Jews, such as the well-respected South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African former Minister and ANC Jewish hero in the fight against Apartheid Ronald (Ronnie) Kasrils, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia and founding executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America Rabbi Brian Walt, Professor Emeritus at Universities of Leiden and the Witwatersrand, former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory John Dugard, and South African higher education minister Blade Nzimande all affirm following to their fact-finding visits to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories that Israeli apartheid is worse than the apartheid regime of South Africa.

Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela and African National Congress MP, said in a 2018 article in The Guardian:

Like Madiba and Desmond Tutu before me, I see the eerie similarities between Israel’s racial laws and policies towards Palestinians, and the architecture of apartheid in South Africa. We South Africans know apartheid when we see it. In fact, many recognise that, in some respects, Israel’s regime of oppression is even worse.

Add to this the thousands of prominent people all around the world and reports by the well-respected Israeli Information Center for Human Rights (B’Tselem) titled ‘A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid’, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’s (ESCWA) report titled ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’ and the Human Rights Watch report titled ‘A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution’.

If Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was right to be imposed against the South African apartheid regime, it is right to be imposed against Israel’s apartheid regime.

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