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A dictionary for those who want to free Palestine

Free protest is a democratic right. Vandalism, misinformation and discrimination are not.
The Jewish Independent
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A smashed door at the Macnamara office of Josh Burns MP following an attack early Wedesday morning (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Published: 20 June 2024

Last updated: 20 June 2024

The Prime Minister’s wet lettuce response to the vandalism of Josh Burns’ office was clearly an attempt to instil calm. He has good reason not to want to pour kerosene on the flames.

But the kerosene is – literally – already lighting fires. We are past the stage of “dial it down”.

Those who support a two-state solution, who want to “free Palestine” but do not want to destroy Israel, need to communicate some truths to a protest movement that is spinning out of control.

Australians need to know that vandalism, hate and antisemitism will not be tolerated.

They also need to understand what Zionism is and isn’t. Australian governments – on both sides of the political divide – support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself, but they are becoming awfully quiet about it.

Here are some truths we need to hear from our political leaders.

Zionism is not fascism

The slogan scrawled on the window of Josh Burns' office is wrong and offensive.

Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people, which asserts they have the right to a homeland in their indigenous land of Israel.

It was endorsed by the United Nations with the establishment of Israel and continues to be supported by the Australian government.

Fascism is a political ideology which asserts countries should be run in accordance with extreme militaristic nationalism, rejects democracy, and believes in social hierarchy and subordinating the individual to the good of the nation.

The current Israeli parliament contains 13 parties ranging from far right to far left. Of the 120 members, 13 could be considered supporters of extreme nationalism; none rejects democracy. 

Characterising Zionism as fascism is particularly offensive to Jews, who were the primary victims of 20th century fascism.

‘From the River to the Sea’ is not a liberation chant

Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea are two people with claims to the land. Australia supports a two-state solution, which means the land must be divided between Israel and a future Palestine.

Claiming from the “River to the Sea” for Palestine is a call to destroy Israel. It is an incitement to violence against the 46% of the world’s Jews who live in Israel.

It is also deeply threatening to Australian Jews, many of whom have family and friends in Israel.

Vandalism is not protest

Peaceful protest is the employment of means such as banners, chants and statements to express a point of view. Vandalism is deliberate damage to or destruction of property. Those engaged in the latter are not engaged in the former.

Jewish performers – and their audiences – are not fair game

This week, Jerry Seinfeld had his stand-up show interrupted by performers chanting "From the River to the Sea". A couple of weeks ago, security was called at a Deborah Conway & Willy Zygier concert after protesters prevented the musicians getting on with the show.

Regardless of their politics and personal links on Israel or anything else, Jewish performers have a right to do what they do for a living. If the actions of disruptive elements mean they need protection, the police (not just private security) should provide it. That's the price of maintaining civil society.

Hate speech is not free speech

The right to express oneself does not counter all other rights. It does not mean the right to persecute individuals, defame groups or incite hate and violence.

Universities have an obligation to ensure access and safety for all students and to ensure classes are delivered without disruption by protesters. Encampments which block access or abuse those who do not share their beliefs must be disbanded. Protesters who disrupt classes should be immediately removed, not appeased.

Jewish Australians have a right to practice their religion and express their culture free from threat. Police have an obligation to protect people and property and to see offenders are identified and prosecuted.

Targeting a Jewish MP is not just politics

The vandalism of Burns’ office has been widely characterised – including by Burns himself – as a political attack. It was, but it was also antisemitism.

Other MPs who support Israel have faced red paint and graffiti attacks on their offices, but this was a whole new level of danger and offensiveness. We can’t escape the reality that Burns was targeted because he is Jewish.

Perhaps the vandals who drew horns on Burns know their history. Perhaps they don’t. But they are employing a centuries-old antisemitic stereotype which has implications far deeper than contemporary politics.

No one who knows history can fail to be frightened by that.

Red paint is not blood

Israelis and Palestinians are suffering.

Israelis are traumatised by the murders, kidnappings and sexual assaults of October 7; by the constant missile attacks from both Gaza and the north; and by the loss of young men and women, soldiers sent to defend their country.

Palestinians are facing widespread civilian deaths and casualties; mass homelessness and starvation; and a desperate need for humanitarian aid as a result of Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas.

Red paint is cheap.


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The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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