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Joint Statement: Antisemitism, criticism of Israel and Palestinian justice

We write this statement in the spirit of developing a world where equality and freedom flourishes for all. We cannot be selective in our support for peoples’ freedom: a commitment to justice, dignity and equality for Israelis and Palestinians – indeed for all people – is paramount.

Those who are critical of Israeli government policies and actions towards the Palestinians are increasingly accused of being antisemitic – a powerful allegation that oftentimes is used in an attempt to shut down legitimate political discourse. The increased accusations of antisemitism towards supporters of justice for Palestinians amounts to the weaponisation of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israeli government actions and obscures the meaning and reality of antisemitism.

Antisemitism is – broadly speaking – animosity, prejudice, or discrimination against Jewish people, history, religion and culture. Antisemitism is a complex form of oppression with deep historical roots, often with brutal expressions, and has evolved to adapt to various historical and cultural contexts. It works with and alongside other forms of racism, xenophobia and colonisation. As with other oppressions it employs dehumanisation, exploitation, marginalisation and violence. Racism and discrimination can often be invisible to those from outside that group, and therefore effort must be made to see and then actively challenge such forms of oppression.

Indeed, perhaps counterintuitively, people who voice Zionist views – particularly non-Jewish people – can do so from an antisemitic perspective which holds that Jews do not belong outside Israel. This is particularly common amongst Christian Zionists. Additionally, the most common and pernicious forms of antisemitism in the world globally come from the right-wing, rather than from people challenging the actions of the Israeli government.

Labelling calls for an end to military occupation, settler colonisation, blockade, annexation, imprisonment of children, and Palestinian self-determination as “antisemitic” is often undertaken in order to silence debate and avoid an honest discussion about the most violent forms of antisemitism in the world today. It serves as an attempt to delegitimise critiques of Israeli government policies by attributing an antisemitic motivation.

Zionism was a Jewish response to increasing European antisemitism in the 19th and 20th centuries at a time dominated by rising nationalism across Europe that found no place for the Jews. Zionism is a political movement understood by many as a movement of national liberation and self-determination, however in its implementation it has caused the loss of liberation and self-determination to another people – the Palestinians. We cannot dismiss the impact that the creation of Israel had and continues to have on the Palestinian people‘s legitimate struggle for justice and an end to their dispossession. However, opposition to the Israeli government must never use antisemitic ideas, such as attributing its injustices to Jewish identity, or demanding that all Jewish people answer for its conduct.

The IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism explicitly includes criticism of the policies of the State of Israel with antisemitism and has been effectively deployed in Australia.  While we recognise the very important work of this organisation, we reject this simplified conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel. Indeed, there are many Jewish institutions and groups, both inside Israel and globally, who are committed to tackling antisemitism and are highly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, historically and today.

Calls to end the oppression, occupation, violence and discriminatory policies and actions of the Israeli Government are not inherently antisemitic. Nor can a call to boycott Israel until it terminates those policies, be so conflated, when it targets only those policies and actions, and not the Jewish People – as does the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions.

While we strongly advocate for the self-determination of Palestinians alongside the legitimate rights of all citizens of Israel, we acknowledge the ways that racism intersects, and we reject and condemn antisemitism and all forms of oppression.  We encourage the growth of mutual trust and respect which might lead to a harmoniously shared future.​

June 2020