The past nine months

Since October 7: the good and the bad

One can point to four main sources of anti-Israel activity in Australia at the present time, several of which are fairly new compared with the situation several decades ago.

Greens deputy leader Senator Mehreen Faruqi (centre) at the ANU Gaza solidarity encampment in May. Photo: Instagram
Greens deputy leader Senator Mehreen Faruqi (centre) at the ANU Gaza solidarity encampment in May. Photo: Instagram

With the passage of eight months since the slaughter of October 7, it is time to consider what has changed in Australian sources of support for and hostility against Israel. These are all fairly clear.

First and foremost, the vast increase in critical reportage and commentary on the actions of the Israeli government should not blind us to the fact that Israel retains a remarkable amount of support in the mainstream. Virtually every conservative and right-of-centre party, movement, spokesperson and intellectual in Australia remains supportive of Benjamin Netanyahu, and understands that Israel’s military strategy is motivated by the need to eliminate the Hamas terrorists who are using the civilian population as human shields.

In particular, the Coalition parties – so far – remain strong supporters of Israel. This has been the case also throughout the Western world. Perhaps more importantly, the centre-left (a group which includes the Albanese government here, the Biden Aadministration in the United States, and their parallels elsewhere) has been critical of but not hostile to Israel’s military strategy. How long this situation is likely to persist is another matter.

One can point to four main sources of anti-Israel activity in Australia at the present time, several of which are fairly new compared with the situation several decades ago.

Today’s left-wing student activists are a clear parallel to the anti-war and anti-establishment activists of decades ago, centred, today and then, in the universities. In particular, the faculties and postgraduate students of anthropology and sociology (among others) consist of wall-to-wall radicals, who have fastened on to hating Israel for its “settler colonialism”, while (needless to say) ignoring the near-universal lack of democracy in the Arab world.

The “hard sciences” at our universities – physics, chemistry, et cetera – have been much less adversely affected.

The second source of hostility is that old reliable, the ABC. It is no exaggeration to assert that the national broadcaster is a left-wing propaganda machine which is just as fair and balanced as Pravda under Stalin.

Its funding is conscripted involuntarily from all Australian taxpayers, whether they tune into it or not, and whether they agree with it or not. If someone has the temerity to object to their “complaints” unit, they receive a six-paragraph form letter which can be distilled into two words: “Drop dead”.

A central mystery is why on earth no Coalition government has drastically reduced the ABC’s funding, especially given that the ABC hates the Coalition. It is altogether in the interests of the Jewish community to obtain an assurance from the Coalition that, when it returns to power, it will cut the ABC down to size – and not only with idle promises to reform from the ABC’s management.

The third main source of anti-Israel hostility is the Islamic community here, now vastly bigger than in the past, and an electoral force of significance, whose ability to shift votes from the ALP to the Greens increases their importance at the polls. The growth of the Islamic community is a completely new development here, as elsewhere in the Western world, and the challenges this fact poses to the Jewish community needs to be discussed frankly by our leaders.

The final source of hostility is the Greens party, which, like the increase in Islamic numbers, is quite new. The Greens have now become so extreme and so invariably hostile to Israel and its supporters that it seems only a matter of time before they cross the line into overt antisemitism and become the first significant antisemitic group in Australia since the League of Rights.

One hopes that our communal leaders will not hesitate to use every recourse open to them to legally penalise the Greens. It is also notable that the Greens have largely replaced the left faction in the ALP as the main source of political hostility to Israel, a significant change from 30 years ago.

Whatever can be done to ensure that the Greens do not hold the balance of power at the next federal election should be done.

Emeritus Professor Bill Rubinstein held chairs of history at Deakin University and the University of Wales.

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