We do not live in an ideal world, where everyone is treated equally regardless of race, ethnicity, skin colour, gender and religious differences. However, issues of race and racism matter in the real world.
Australia and Israel are two white sisters, in many ways. Both are settler-colonial societies, birthed by the British imperial project, and sustained by obeisance to the American empire. Both have adopted racist policies towards the indigenous nations, and that racism is reflected in their corresponding domestic structures.
Australia is generally a pro-Israeli society and polity. Of course there are exceptions, but most Anglo Australian society is either pro-Zionist, or indifferent to the issue of Palestine. The indifferent people basically accept the overwhelming pro-Israel narrative which emanates from the corporate controlled media.
Antony Loewenstein, Australian journalist of Jewish background, wrote of the fanatical loyalty with which Canberra regards the Israeli state:
It’s painful to witness Australia’s visceral hatred of Palestinian human rights, as someone who was born here, but the evidence is overwhelming. Most Australians are unaware of how diplomatically isolated their country has become. Australia is almost unique globally in its consistent support for Israel in diplomatic forums like the United Nations.
There are many pro-Palestine advocacy groups, socialist activists and trade unionists who bravely speak up for Palestine. Most of the major media organisations in Australia face bullying and pressure from pro-Zionist groups, and while occasionally presenting a pro-Palestine perspective, generally reflect the priorities of the pro-Zionist Anglo-American cultural imperialism.
Nobody is under any obligation to listen to me. No, I am not angling for pity or emotional sympathy. No, I am not suggesting that I have undergone enormous tribulations or ordeals. I can only relate the obstacles and difficulties faced by pro-Palestine voices in Australia.
This month marks 75 years since the United Nations resolution partitioning Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. Supposedly motivated by humanitarian considerations, the British authorities entrenched a system of ethnic division that has remained in place for decades. This history remains largely unknown amongst the majority Anglo Australian population.
In fact, the word Palestine is usually associated with the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘antisemitism.’ The entry point for any discussion about the colonisation of Palestine is normally – at least in the mainstream corporatised Australian media – is the condemnation of alleged Palestinian terrorism.
The relentless, stubborn questioning – why don’t you condemn suicide bombing, Hamas, airplane hijackings – places the supporter of Palestinian rights on the backfoot. The moral equation is already tipped in favour of the Zionist state. In Australia, along with other settler-colonial nations, we have witnessed the incessant campaign by the Zionist organisations and their supporters to demonise any criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
The Palestinians have had to shoulder a propaganda burden – while fighting the systematic dispossession of their homeland, carefully calibrating their criticisms of Zionism so as to avoid any charge of malicious antisemitism. The victim of colonial violence is compelled to conform to a stereotype of a ‘perfect victim’ before they are deemed worthy of support.
The main charge against any supporter of the Palestine cause is that of antisemitism. When raising your voice to defend the Palestinians, you need to be prepared to confront this accusation. There is no question that antisemitism is a form of racism. That particular virus was invented, not in the Arab or Islamic world, but as a project of Christian Europe. Opposition to the policies of the Israeli government and its foundational ideology, Zionism, has nothing to do with antisemitism.
The weaponisation of antisemitism – the charge that Palestine solidarity is motivated by a racial hatred of the Jewish people – is not a new tactic, but has become increasingly deployed in Europe and America. In the UK, the electoral campaign of former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was attacked and undermined, even by righting elements in his own party, by charging antisemitism. Criminalising any activity of solidarity with the Palestinians is intended to intimidate any supportive voices for Palestine into silence.
None of this is to suggest that the current Palestine solidarity groups are futile or wasting their time. It is necessary to educate ourselves to ensure that pro-Palestine voices are arguing from a position of informed advocacy. Earlier this month, Israel has another general election – the fifth in four years – which saw the return of former Israeli prime minister and wily political operator Benjamin Netanyahu.
The shape of any incoming government will be influenced by the political allies upon which Netanyahu’s Likud bloc depends. He has counted on the support of ultrarightist and fanatical racist parties and politicians to secure a majority position. Such politicians, such as ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir, make no secret of their determination to suppress the Palestinians from the occupied West Bank. Gvir is an ideological disciple of the late Meir Kahane, whose followers can be accurately described as the Jewish version of the KKK.
In the coming months and years, the Palestinians will need ever more support from non-Palestinians, including here in Australia. Now is time to be resolute, and face the obstacles and challenges of being a pro-Palestine voice in a settler-colonial society.