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Palestine from a Jewish Australian perspective

By Jordana Silverstein - posted Thursday, 3 June 2021

Like many Jews around the world, I've been horrified by what's been happening in Israel. We've spent much of the last few weeks scanning social media, looking for news and messaging friends to check if they are safe. It's been horrible seeing a rise in antisemitic incidents around the world, with what's going on in Israel prompting violence towards unrelated Jews. This is not right.

Like many Jews, I've also been horrified watching what Israel is doing to Palestinians. Israel's massive bombing campaign against Gaza has killed so many people. But not only people - bookstores, media buildings, the one Covid19 testing facility in Gaza, roads to hospitals. Paths to a better future destroyed or damaged.

And then there is what's happening in other parts of Israel and Palestine. Palestinian houses and businesses attacked by Israeli thugs, Israeli settler organisations trying to kick Palestinians out of their homes, Palestinians being attacked by the Israeli army while at prayer in al-Aqsa during Ramadan, lynchings. Twenty-five Palestinians were killed in the West Bank by the Israeli military this month, and if history is any guide, people will continue to be killed.


The sheer violence has been grotesque.

Yet while the ceasefire recently announced was a huge relief for everyone, it's got me thinking: what will this ceasefire actually achieve?

The ceasefire should mean Israeli bombs will no longer be decimating homes and electricity lines and high-rise towers in Gaza. It should mean Israelis won't be running in response to air raid sirens.

But we're still seeing Palestinians being kicked out of their homes in East Jerusalem. At first, a few weeks ago, Israeli settlers were focused on claiming Palestinian homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Now they have also renewed their efforts in the neighbourhood of Silwan, threatening demolitions. While the court processes are paused, Palestinians are being banned from entering or leaving these neighbourhoods, and many have been made homeless.

It is from listening to Palestinians and learning from them that I've come to realise that while antisemitism pains me, and while I fight against it in my everyday life, at times like this it's not the most important thing that we need to talk about. I look around and I see the many different things that are going on, and I feel deep anger and sadness. But I know that when the violence is so disproportionately from the Israeli side, the urgent issue is to stop that violence.

Many Jews around the world understand that we can't make this moment about us. We need to be turning our primary attention to the violence of the far-right Netanyahu government. We condemn other far-right political leaders, governments and states around the world. Israel should not be an exception simply because those doing the governing are Jews.


The racism of Israel is confronting but it is also institutionalised. For example, it says that Jews can come and live in East Jerusalem, even though that is illegal under international law, but Palestinians cannot.

The international community has a responsibility to hold Israel accountable.

But rather than support accountability, Australia is invested in the status quo. Australia has commercial and military ties with Israel: in Victoria our government has a contract with Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. Former defence minister Christopher Pyne acts as their lobbyist in Canberra, and the Government spruiks the benefits of a free trade agreement between Australia and Israel.Additionally, Australia's opposition to the International Criminal Court's push for accountability on both sides means that the state's forces are given impunity while the stateless have no avenue to justice.

What is happening to Palestinians will never bring safety for Jews or Palestinians. Our joint safety can only be found when we are all living in a liberated and just society. It is not antisemitic to say this, nor is it antisemitic to criticise Israel and its actions. On the contrary, it is completely necessary.

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About the Author

Dr Jordana Silverstein is a historian based in Naarm. She is the author of Anxious Histories: Narrating the Holocaust in Jewish Communities at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century (Berghahn, 2015) and co-editor of Refugee Journeys: Histories of Resettlement, Representation and Resistance (ANU Press, 2021).

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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