Palestine supporters at arts festivals are no threat to Jews
The Jewish Council of Australia are concerned about intensifying media rhetoric painting Palestinians and their supporters as antisemitic and as damaging of First Nations-Jewish relationships.

Palestine supporters at arts festivals are no threat to Jews

The Jewish Council of Australia are concerned about intensifying media rhetoric painting Palestinians and their supporters as antisemitic and as damaging of First Nations-Jewish relationships. 

This week, there have been a number of news stories on ‘splits’ in Australian writers festivals. These stories focus on the resignations and complaints of Jewish board members and staff who object to the inclusion of Palestinian writers, writers openly supporting Palestine, and Indigenous-led sessions on Black-Palestinian solidarity.

At a time when Palestinian people face overwhelming levels of violence, the Jewish Council of Australia rejects the position that writers and artists who support freedom and justice for Palestinians make Jewish people unsafe. These claims rely on a false and deceitful conflation between Jewishness and the State of Israel.

These recent resignations are a distraction from the unfathomable and relentless violence being inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli State. 

Antisemitism must be challenged as part of a broader fight against racism, and in coalition with, rather than opposition to, others experiencing racism. Organisations such as Blackfullas for Palestine are doing exactly that through their work, and should not be smeared as antisemitic for doing so. They have race scholar Professor Chelsea Watego, Co-Chair of the Victorian Treaty Assembly Ngarra Murray and artist Meyne Wyatt who are leaders and experts of First Nations justice. We disagree with painting First Nations leaders as uneducated on matters of genocide as it dimishes the history, knowledge and years of work First Nations have done and continue to do every day in Australia and for Palestinians.

Quotes from Sarah Schwartz, human rights lawyer and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council

“Threatening the ‘loss’ of Jewish support for First Nations people over support for Palestine is purposefully divisive and erases the diversity of Jewish people and perspectives. Thousands of Jews support both First Nations and Palestinian freedom and justice.”

“There is nothing racist or antisemitic about supporting Palestinian freedom and human rights, nor in First Nations peoples supporting the freedom of other groups experiencing violence at the hands of an oppressive State.” 

Quotes from Dr Elizabeth Strakosch, policy and race scholar and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council

“The attempt to delegitimise First Nations scholars, writers and activists speaking out against the genocide in Gaza has relied on racist tropes - painting them as uneducated, violent, antisemitic and divisive. This erases the long history of Black-Palestinian solidarity here, and the expertise of Black leaders and academics speaking up for Palestinians.”

Solidarity is not a transaction and cannot be leveraged as a threat. Instead, solidarity is an ongoing relationship, which requires listening and responding to criticism. Threatening the ‘loss’ of Jewish support for First Nations communities as a result of Black-Palestinian solidarity looks a lot like an attempt to blackmail those speaking up into silence.”

Quotes from Dr Max Kaiser, historian and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council

“The media and Israel supporters have recently been critical of the framing of Israel as a settler colony, declaring this antisemitic and inaccurate. The settler colonial character of Israel and Jewish settlement in Palestine is widely accepted by scholars of Palestine and colonialism more broadly. It is controversial politically but not for historians and social scientists.”

“Attempting to delegitimise the settler colonial framing of Israel as antisemitic and unscholarly is an unacceptable limitation of political discussion. Everyone, including intellectuals, writers and artists, should be able to engage in critical analysis of structural racism, inequality and injustice, even when this is politically discomforting.”

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