With an avalanche of electronic communication and information overload, I thought it worth sharing a small slither of what is sitting on my screen today.
Like many other local Jewish people, I have a stream of social media and news clips that reach me on a daily basis, keeping me informed of events and truths that are of interest.
The average media consumer does not get to see any of this. They get to see only one thing; images of Gazan people with a war-torn backdrop. The commentary and unverified statistics that support those images lack context and on occasions credibility. The trauma and suffering that continues for displaced and grieving families in Israel is absent. Without question, the images of the Gazan warzone are disturbing, a scenario that nobody (other than Hamas) would will upon anybody. However, the intolerable threat of more barbarous terrorism, of the likes that Hamas have promised more, requires elimination. The media narrative is bereft of a reminder that Hamas started this war, Israel didn’t want it, and that war has terrible consequences. The simple good versus evil morality that defines this conflict is being inverted.
Many Jewish people in Australia have close connections to friends and family in Israel. We are feeling greatly unsettled at the moment by the hatred, fuelled heavily by this distorted media coverage. Israel is portrayed as an aggressor, with scant regard for the approach and impact of its military campaign. My social media stream is saturated on a daily basis with examples of the extraordinary lengths Israel goes to towards avoiding civilian casualty. Yet when I encounter casual conversations outside of my community I am confronted by people whose perception of Jewish people is that we are inhumane. This social media doesn’t reach them, but the general media of reverse truths does.
Political Indifference and Condemnation
The political scene in Australia has also become very disturbing.
Last week there was a motion put to the Federal parliament by the Greens that stated there was an “appalling and increasing toll of deaths and injuries caused by the State of Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza” and calling on the government to end its support for Israel’s invasion. The Hansard transcript shows comments of some level of empathy with the motion from some Labour MP’s, but nonetheless both Labour and Liberal voted against it.
What was noticeable is that WA independent (Teal) MP Kate Chaney abstained from voting. Her position on Gaza is on her website, calling for the release of hostages and a ceasefire. On this occasion her abstention pivots her position away from her supposed neutrality as the motion before parliament included no condemnation of Hamas (and therefore should have been opposed).
Similarly some truly shocking remarks from Fremantle MP Josh Wilson. Although he called for the release of hostages, he also called for a ceasefire and then said as follows: “Every country has the right and the obligation to defend its citizens, but not every military action constitutes self-defence. The wholesale destruction of Gaza is not self-defence. Australia expects Israel to act in accordance with the ruling of the ICJ. The truth is that Gaza is being bombed into rubble, with 70 per cent of buildings damaged and the entire population being squeezed further and further south, in starvation conditions and without basic medical services.” Mr Wilson should be directing his horror about this situation to Hamas, not to Israel. If the hostages were released and the terror attacks stopped then the war would end. Any inference that Israel is not acting solely in self defence and also doing its utmost to minimise civilian casualty is a libelous slur.
Not In The News
Some of the news coming out of Israel is truly shocking, almost unfathomable. Here are some of the stories that I have read in the Israeli media in the past few days that are unlikely to be seen or heard:
- Channel 14 (Israel) reported last week that 1,300 of the “settler violence” incidents included in a UN report (yes, the one that Penny Wong cited in her condemnation of Israel, and the one that Biden also used to grandstand) were Jewish/tourist visits to the Temple Mount. Think about that for a moment. Freedom of religion to visit a holy site is counted as an act of “settler violence” and is considered by the UN as incitement. These are Jewish people, ascending their holiest of sites for personal contemplation, where they are currently banned from reciting the psalms of King David and all other prayer. These are people that the WAKF (Islamic religious authority for this site) have called pigs with filthy feet.
- A 13 year old Israeli hostage released from captivity had to have an urgent abortion. She was raped in captivity. Another Israeli woman who was released from captivity went through medical tests which showed the DNA of 67 different sperm sources from her rape. The horror is unimaginable. Despite Hamas openly broadcast evidence of sexual violence during the 7 October attack, the women’s rights group UN Women took 50 days to bring themselves to issue a statement condemning Hamas.
- UNWRA has been nominated for a 2024 Nobel Peace Prize. You cannot make this stuff up, but its true. If you don’t believe me, have a google.
And then today, a story that has reached the media, but without the full appreciation of its significance. Israeli troops, acting on intelligence, discovered a tunnel shaft near an UNRWA school, leading to an underground terrorist tunnel beneath UNRWA’s main headquarters. The forces found electrical infrastructure inside the tunnel connected to UNRWA’s main HQ, suggesting it was supplying the tunnel with electricity – generated by the fuel provided through humanitarian aid. The site was a Hamas subterranean data centre used for intelligence and communications. Intelligence and documents found confirmed the offices’ use by Hamas terrorists. Large quantities of weapons, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives, were uncovered hidden in the building’s offices. This is UNRWA’s Gaza headquarters, the very agency of the global body charged with stabilising world order.
Meanwhile, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini posted: “UNRWA did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.” Israel has called this out as a lie.
Here is a visual of the exchange on X:
Sadly open anti-Semitism in the streets of Australia is increasing. For the sake of not encouraging repeat offences, I have refrained from sharing some of the local incidents that have rocked the confidence of Jewish people in Perth. Here are just two examples of some of the hate speech seen locally. The first is graffiti at Hillary’s beach. The second is a phamplet found in Fremantle, designed to indoctrinate children. In case you are in any doubt “Palestine will be free” is the contemporary expression of “Heil Hitler”, as the intent of both leaves no space for Jewish existence.
Another big story this weekend has been the doxing scandal where a link of 600 members of a Jewish WhatsApp group were farmed and distributed for intimidatory purposes by pro-Palestinian activists. The dossier contained information about names, jobs, photos, contact details of Jewish academics and creatives. A family operating a small business has gone into hiding due to harassment, places have been vandalised and a five year old child has been threatened. Many activists, one with 250,000 followers shared the information on Instagram. Alex Ryvchin, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australia Jewry, has spoken forcefully about the impact of this incident.
Attention was also drawn to this post from a person listed in the doxing incident, with the comment made that when the Nazi’s came for the Jews, and many Jews tried to disassociate themselves from the community, it did not count for anything. The Nazi’s pursued a person who was Jewish irrespective of their views or affiliations.
It is happening, but how can it happen? How did the Holocaust happen? Because good people stood by and did nothing. Because good people like Kate Chaney abstained from voting. Because indifferent officials and lawmakers have allowed anti-Semitism to spill into the streets of Australia. Gemma Tognini expressed it perfectly.
As disturbing as the information in this post may be, there is also much to be thankful for and proud of.
Today alone I was randomly stopped by three people to tell me how much they admire Jewish people and support Israel. There is much goodness out there.
The sight of the youth of the Jewish community welcoming back three Jewish educators back to our community last week was a true inspiration. The educators were army reservists, called back to active service after October 7 when Israel mobilised a quarter of a million troops. The Perth Jewish community sponsored them to join the war effort and they arrived back as true hero’s defending the nation of Israel.
Finally, a few days ago an article was published in Tablet Magazine by Edward N Luttwak called Why Israel is Winning in Gaza. It sets out the context of what the IDF has had to contend with and how they have astonishingly already achieved much of their objective of destroying Hamas. “In Gaza, estimates are that Israel faced approximately 30,000 trained Hamas fighters at the start of the war. A conservative estimate—the lowest I have seen—is that approximately 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed or terminally disabled, along with an equal number of wounded who may or may not fight again in the future.” To help understand how Israeli is emerging victorious in the wake of the 7 October massacre, it is worth taking the time to read this analysis.
We are living in a disturbed world, not for the first time in Jewish history. Yet the resolve and resilience of the Jewish people, in an era where there is a Jewish army to respond to pogroms helps us understand and actualise that “never again” does in fact mean “never again”. Never again is now.