Who will put a stop to the Jew hate in Australia?

Being a Zionist Jew has never felt at odds with being a proud Australian. After all, being a Zionist simply means believing that the state of Israel was established as a Jewish homeland in our ancestral land- a belief legally endorsed by our Australian government and the international community.

Since the horrors of October 7, however, the anti Zionist rhetoric in Australia has become an all-consuming eruption.

I write this as a Jewish Australian whose paternal grandparents arrived on these shores in time to avoid the monstrous fate that befell most of their family members in Poland, at the hands of the Nazis.

And yet last weekend pro Palestinians unashamedly marched in the streets of Melbourne holding blatantly antisemitic posters depicting Jews as Nazis.

Unashamed and unchallenged.

If you are shocked that this is occuring, you haven’t been paying attention.

One only has to look online to see how Jew hate is becoming normalised. I am not speaking of keyboard warriors who hide behind fake identities. I am referring to real, identifiable people who hold respectable positions in medicine, the arts, law, education and many other fields – yet are unafraid to spout hate and put their name to it.

‘Anti Zionists’ have become more emboldened each day to spew hate as there have been relatively few consequences or questions. In fact, it seems that, online at least, it is becoming fashionable.

How did we get here in Australia in 2024?

How did it become socially acceptable to openly criticise the Prime Minister of Australia for visiting the Melbourne Holocaust museum? To make jokes about Zionists going back to Europe where they belong? When did it become tolerable to write ‘no Zionists allowed’ on tents at universities? That is my children you are talking about.

Where was the outcry when lists of Zionists were written up and a Jewish couple were forced out of their neighbourhood for being Zionists? Why are Jewish businesses being targeted in the pretense that this will bring peace in the Middle East, with long detailed videos explaining the owners’ family trees and even showing their family homes?

When did it become sanctioned to say that Zionists do not deserve to feel ‘culturally safe’, or to chant on the streets that ‘All Zionists are Terrorists’ and place stickers saying as much?

When did it become socially permissible for women to vehemently deny the sexual violence that took place against Israeli women on October 7?

When did it become normalised to tear down posters of innocent men, women and children being held hostage in Gaza? And when did screaming ‘Zionist Baby Killer’ to a person holding a hostage sign at a rally not elicit a negative reaction from onlookers?

How did a member of parliament describe Jewish ‘tentacles’ and barely receive a slap on the wrist?

How did we get to a place in time where condemning  ‘Jew die’ written on a school needs to be followed up with a caveat stipulating that one does not support Zionism?

I wondered that day when I saw ‘Jew die’ written on the entrance of Mt Scopus College, whether the outrage would have been as great if it had simply said ‘Zionist die’.

I know the answer.

These are but a small handful of the hateful words and actions that Jewish people are confronted with daily in Australia. Even if one wanted to put their head in the sand, it would be impossible as a Zionist Jew not to see it, hear it and ever so deeply feel it.

I can already anticipate what the response to this will be from some- that demonising Zionists is not antisemitic. That they don’t mind Jews as long as they denounce their deeply help love for Israel. I am able to anticipate this response as I see this rhetoric daily as an excuse for inexcusable behaviour.

And to that I respond – Whether someone claims to be demonising Jews or Zionists, they are demonising the same people. They are demonising me and my family. They are demonising my whole community.

Call it antisemitism, Jew hate, Zionist hate – use whatever word you want to hide behind. You are not fooling us. Hate is hate is hate.

And hate should not be tolerated.

It has been nearly 9 long months since that infamous evening on the steps of The Sydney Opera House when ‘f the Jews’ (and worse) was chanted. Less than 48 hours after the horrors of October 7. And for 8 months the Jewish community have been placated with reassurances that the ‘silent majority’ do not stand for hate against us.

I am waiting for that silent majority to stand up and challenge what has become socially acceptable in our society. I am waiting for our leaders to do something that will have an effect. Something more than words.

Hate of any kind should never be sanctioned by silence. It is silence that makes way for extremism, and we are seeing the rise of extremism in our country.

Hate of anyone is unacceptable and intolerable, and it is up to every Australian to call it out. It is up to our Prime Minister, our leaders and all citizens to stamp it out.

It is clear that what was unacceptable yesterday has become acceptable today. And what is unacceptable today will become acceptable tomorrow.

And if you, the members of our multicultural Australia do not say or do anything about it now, the bar will have moved so unbearably low that it will be impossible to raise it again.

About the Author
Keren Zelwer is a speech pathologist living in Melbourne, Australia. Keren is a member of the Advocacy Subcommittee of National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (Vic). She has had articles published in The Australian, The Age, The Canberra Times and Mamamia.