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Contemplating ‘a return to Zion’ in the face of antisemitism

Apr 14, 2024 | Tammy Reznik

Pro-Palestinian rally in Melbourne, Victoria (Image: Alamy Live News)
Pro-Palestinian rally in Melbourne, Victoria (Image: Alamy Live News)

The Australian landscape has definitely shifted for its Jewish citizens, and it is unsurprising that a substantial number of Jews from “down under” have moved to Israel since the start of the war.

Jerusalem Post – APRIL 14, 2024 

 

Something unexpected has happened this week – I found myself summoning my Israeli in-laws to help in the search for real estate in central Israel. It might well be our time to return.

I was married in Israel and subsequently there for a short stint, some years ago. Naturally, with my husband’s immediate family there, the topic of moving back more permanently has come up from time to time. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this process being sped up due to a surge in antisemitism in my native Australia. Nor did I envisage that it would be accelerated by a sense of uneasiness at the stated policies of our federal government.

Many things that I thought unthinkable are actually coming to pass in 2024. While the old habit of racial profiling that was the norm in the ’70s and ’80s had thankfully become unfashionable, the last few months have revealed a curious and insidious exception to progressive norms and, no surprise, it relates to the profiling of us Jews.

Still reeling from the greatest horror event since the Holocaust with the Hamas terror spree of October 7, Diaspora communities, such as ours in Australia, have begun to experience a whole new brand of antisemitic bias. A mix of old tropes and new ones, posted to social media platforms with dodgy algorithms and little regulation provide fertile ground for the further spread of antisemitism.

There have also been real life consequences for many – boycotts of Jewish businesses and of Israeli products, along with naming, shaming, listing, and even full-blown doxxing. There seems to be an unparalleled new level of interest in all things Israel; but lessons in history from TikTok university do not exact lead to a highly educated population.

In Australia, we’ve seen the sudden cancellations of Israeli professors who had been booked for high-level speaking engagements; frequent aggressive marches disrupting traffic; a heavily publicized mob demonstration where groups unabashedly shouted “Where are the Jews?” and “F*** the Jews!”.

A small number of Muslim leaders have used the pulpit as a place to spew hate and encourage violence, thus far without consequence. There have been numerous motions at municipal councils to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, interruptions at sporting and other events, and Jewish performers even being forced to move venues due to threats.

Little practical protection for Jewish communities 

On top of all this, our seemingly impotent law enforcement appears to offer little to no protection for Jewish citizens, their only reaction to threats being the removal of potential Jewish victims from public arenas “for their own safety.”

The social cohesion that was at least superficially a part of our nation’s fabric has been ruptured.

Worse still is the uptick in antisemitic incidents both online and in daily life. Australia is very much part of the same trend in which monitors have noted 532 major instances of antisemitism globally over just the past month. This average of 17.1 daily incidents represents a stark 315% increase compared to the same period last year.

This is being felt very keenly at university campuses. In March, two invited guests from Tel Aviv University visiting Sydney University were forced to remain in a locked room for hours with a group of rowdy pro-Palestinian protesters determined to harass and intimate them. University students have been continuously reporting incidences, including uninvited pro-Palestinian rhetoric; leaflets and stickers being shared in lecture theaters; and vocal rallies in common areas with offensive slogans. Jewish students have had to fill in surveys on antisemitism – and many are attending personal safety workshops.

The sad part for me is that my own son recently admitted that he and his friends would never attend university looking “outwardly Jewish… it is just too scary”

The sense of unease has now been heightened with a cascade of slaps in the face by our Federal Government, most recently by Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong’s suggestion that the Albanese government could recognize Palestinian statehood unilaterally. These comments were of course welcomed by pro-Palestinian advocates and progressive Labor activists – even though it is a move that would in essence reward Hamas for the October 7 terrorist attacks. It has certainly placed further strain on the current government’s already fraught relations with the Jewish community.

The Australian landscape has definitely shifted for its Jewish citizens, and it is unsurprising that a substantial number of Jews from “down under” have moved to Israel since the start of the war with Hamas, and more are exploring this option.

According to the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, 12,745 immigrants have moved to Israel from across the globe in last six months, a trend that appears to be linked to the global rise in antisemitism.

 I hear the echoes of my grandparents, in their Yiddish-accented English, warning about the dangers of hate and after all that they endured, grieving the loss of the Australia that they once adored and were immensely grateful to.

I am a proud Aussie but Zionism also forms a large part of my identity. The promise of a homeland as the only safe haven for the Jewish people, now appears a more urgent reality than ever.

So here I am, torn and frankly dismayed. Like so many others, I am genuinely contemplating the idea of uprooting my life to move to a war zone – because in many ways that feels safer than where I am now.

The writer is a researcher and policy analyst with AIJAC, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. 

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