Appointment of Israel lobbyist as antisemitism envoy will only drive further division

Jewish Council of AustraliaThe Jewish Council of Australia is concerned at yesterday’s report of the government’s impending appointment of a pro-Israel advocate as a special envoy on antisemitism. The treatment of antisemitism as distinct from other forms of racism undermines the important work being done across racial lines to address all forms of racism.

To single out antisemitism, when other groups are also suffering from racism, including First Nations people, and Palestinian and Muslim communities, undermines wider efforts to fight all forms of racism and will only drive division. Australia already has a Race Discrimination Commissioner with a mandate to address racism. The recently appointed Commissioner has stated that “a united approach to anti-racism [is] essential if our society is to better address and ultimately dismantle systemic racial discrimination in all its forms.”

We are also concerned about the proposed envoy’s track record, in previous roles, of lobbying for Israel, opposing voices that support Palestinian human rights, and painting all Jews as supportive of Israel’s actions. Pro-Israel organisations in Australia have relied on relentless anti-Palestinian racism to justify Israel’s violence against Palestinians. By appointing a pro-war voice to this position the government risks breeding division, increasing Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, and ultimately making Jews less safe.

Sarah Schwartz, Executive Officer, Jewish Council of Australia:

“The anti-racism cause is undermined when governments respond to lobbying from interest groups rather than by addressing racism in a principled manner.

We are concerned that an antisemitism envoy in Australia, if it operates like other controversial antisemitism envoys around the world, will increase racism and division by pitting Jewish communities against Palestinian, Muslim and other racialised communities, and by weaponising false antisemitism claims to silence voices in support of Palestinian human rights.

We are concerned this antisemitism envoy will fail to distinguish between Jewishness and support for Israel. This risks erasing the large number of Jewish people in Australia who, like us, believe in Palestinian freedom and justice and are opposed to Israel’s violence against Palestinians.”

Dr Max Kaiser, Executive Officer, Jewish Council of Australia:

“Antisemitism is rising, along with other forms of racism. We know this because we, our families and friends have experienced it personally. We also know from our Muslim and Palestinian partners that Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism is an increasingly serious issue stoked by politicians and the media. Over the last couple of weeks we have seen two very concerning incidents with teenagers armed with knives, inspired by the Christchurch massacre. This threat must be addressed through working together – not driving more racism.

We need to fight antisemitism as part of the fight against all forms of racism and bigotry. It will only increase racism and antisemitism, and increase division, to treat antisemitism as different from other forms of racism and to conflate antisemitism with support for Palestinian human rights.”

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