The Less We Know, The Deeper The Ignorance On Israel


A lot of column inches have been filled in covering the recent Israeli’s election and the late charge by Benjamin Netanyahu that gave his Likud party the majority in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). He defied polls, which had him neck and neck with the Zionist Union Party and could now become the longest serving Israeli Prime Minister, assuming he is still at the helm in July 2019.

The focus of this media coverage in Australia and the world has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been largely around the negative aspects of Mr Netanyahu’s campaigning and his inflammatory rhetoric leading up to the March 17 election day.

A lot of coverage centred on his comments that under his watch, there will be no Palestinian state and the statement about “Arab citizens voting in droves”, which was meant, one would think, to push the Israeli right to vote for him, as the hours to polling counted down.

Both of these comments he has since retracted or apologised for, but as we all know, the media and the Internet has a long memory and these statements will continue to haunt him for a long time yet.

Journalists here and abroad widely reported of the displeasure of the White House and of course the entirely predictable rhetoric from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that a two-state solution under Netanyahu will be impossible. The fact that Abbas (and his predecessors) have routinely walked away from all attempts to negotiate for peace, that Netanyahu ordered a freeze on all settlement activity in 2010/11 in order to discuss a two-state solution, and that every time that the Palestinian leadership talks of their own state, the elimination of Israel as a sovereign nation precedes it. These elements were reported a lot less widely.

Did the media report that the latest Israeli parliament contains the most women (29) and Arabs (17) ever? Or that the latest appointee to the post of Israel’s deputy chief scientist is a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem? Or that the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (funded by the European Union), shows that Palestinian Arabs who work in Israel or Israeli settlements are paid more than double the wage of those employed by the Palestinian Authority and triple those working in Gaza? No, because it’s a lot more interesting to write about the fact that the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has only condemned one UN member for violating women’s’ rights – Israel.

Think about that – just Israel. Not Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Sudan and many others, where women are treated as second class citizens (it is noteworthy that Sudan is Vice Chair of the Commission and Iran and China sit on it, along with other state abusers of women’s rights).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during his recent address to the US Congress.

Netanyahu’s comments were cowardly and desperate. They were last ditch attempts to canvas the popular vote and have most likely set the agenda for any viable discussions with the Palestinians back months, if not years. But let’s not kid ourselves – politicians everywhere say almost anything around election time to win.

But putting all the election stuff aside for a moment, let’s ask a more pertinent question for me personally: what does this mean for Jews in Australia and the rest of the Diaspora? Sadly, I don’t believe that it makes any difference. Because unfortunately, the bigotry and vitriol that Jews in Australia (and all over the world) experience daily, has nothing to do with who is running Israel. It is a by-product of the hate towards Jews that’s been present since time immemorial, the anti-Semitism that flares up under the guise of disapproval of Israel’s actions in the region.

A couple of days ago, a theatre in Marrickville refused to let a Jewish performance group put on a production about the Holocaust with the following statement: “Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine”.

This is factually incorrect on several levels, but that’s not the point. Where was the general communal outcry? Nowhere. Why? Because Jewish people were affected and that doesn’t warrant community indignation.

I wonder, if the same theatre refused a Muslim performance group, wanting to put on a show about the history of Ramadan, because they don’t support the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policies against gays? It now turns out that the theatre happily hosted the fascist Greek Golden Dawn, when they visited here recently. Seems there’s a bit of selective outrage at Red Rattler – or just rank anti-Semitism? 

Did the drunken teenagers who boarded a bus in the Sydney eastern suburbs last year, filled with Jewish pre-schoolers, and yelled that they would kill them and Hitler was right – did they protest the supposed occupation of the West Bank?

Those who draw swastikas on Jewish graves and write ‘Zionist scum’ on the walls of Jewish museums – are they protesting Israel’s constitutional right to protect itself from constant Hamas missiles and terror tunnels being dug right under it?

Is the six-fold increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Australia last year because people here are indignant about Netanyahu’s unwillingness to allow the Palestinian right of return or to open up the shipping port of Gaza? I sincerely doubt it. When Jake Lynch thrusts money in the face of a Jewish woman and student at USyd, he’s employing a rancid anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and money, whether he realises or admits it or not.

Israel’s past is a tumultuous one and, undoubtedly, its future will be even more so. But before we argue about its leaders and their policies, maybe we need to look closer to home, and deal with what’s happening on our doorstep.

I am a Russian Jew, born in Minsk, Belarus. Israel is my spiritual home, although I am a little ashamed to say that I’ve never been there. I feel a kinship with all Jews around the world.

Do I agree with everything that Netanyahu (or the Likud party) say and do? Absolutely not, I believe a lot of what he says is obstructionist and opportunistic, and many times he is simply paying lip service to whoever his audience happens to be. But any media outlet that believes intellectual giant Miriam Margolyes’s proposition that today’s vile anti-Semitic slurs and acts occur only because of Israel’s actions (or existence?) is not seeing the truth.

Let’s have the debate about policy, let’s always ask question and challenge our elected leaders, in Israel, Australia and everywhere else. But let’s not allow the old anti-Semitic tropes to simply be applied to Israel and call that ‘political comment.

Hatred for Jews runs deep and goes a long way back through Christian and Muslim holy texts. We should not be afraid to call it when we see it. Whether it’s BDS (the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement) or the myriad of racist Facebook pages, or just a friend who jokes about how Jews run the place and have all the money; if we are to maintain any semblance of an ordered, respectful functioning multi-faith and multicultural society, then we owe it to ourselves to stamp this out, for good.

* Yury Glikin was born in the former Soviet Union and is now living with his family in Sydney's Eastern suburbs. He loves sport, the beach and occasional arguments with his friends about pretty much anything.

* Comments and debate on New Matilda articles are welcome (indeed encouraged), however, readers are reminded to please adhere to New Matilda's commenting policy, which has recently been updated here.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.