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How it feels to be a Jewish Australian right now

We have the ability to hold two truths at once. Try, for your Jewish friends, for your Palestinian friends, to do so.

I didn’t get much sleep last night. 

The last few days at work, I’ve felt distracted and distant.

Playing on loop in my mind are only haunted vignettes of young women my age being paraded captive, bloodied, injured and lifeless. 

Smug video ‘explainers’ on why ‘Israel deserved it’ and why I, the viewer, am a ‘coloniser’ for feeling outraged instead of satisfied about a pointed terrorist attack executed by a group that seeks to destroy the Jewish people, swirl and play on repeat.

I have always identified as a progressive, culturally Jewish woman. In University lectures, in groups of friends (both secular and Jewish), in conversations over Shabbat candles, in work environments, I’ve openly and consistently engaged in conversation that criticises the radicalised, frankly terrifying, movements made by the right wing Netanyahu government. 

Like many of the Israeli civilians who have been bravely protesting this borderline tyrannical direction of the government for months, for years - I wholeheartedly believe that Palestinian communities deserve so, so much better than a life under occupation.

I don’t find it the slightest bit controversial to say, as a Jewish person with family living in Israel, that Palestinian people matter. In the left wing spaces I am proud to exist in, in the news sources I read, this has always been the tune that has been sung and that I will continue to sing.

But where is the activist outrage I’ve consistently admired from my educated, critically thinking communities now? Over the last four days, I’ve been sucked into a social media tunnel of Jewish peers reaching out to each other for support and checking in on each other's families. From my Jewish friends, family and acquaintances, social media is an endless outpouring of resources, love, sadness and support.

The inverse? A few passive Instagram stories peppered with condescending infographics and retweets weaponising the terms ‘freedom fighters’ and ‘resistance,’ being captioned as ‘food for thought.’ News sources, celebrities and politicians I respect ‘providing context’ by way of whittling down the loss of human life to something that can be compared in a bar chart. 

The most hurtful part of it all? Many of my outspoken, larger-than-life, stick-it-to-the-man, ally-to-the-minority mates – silent.

It seems when it comes to the Jewish people, an attack by a known terrorist group who has the eradication of the Jewish people woven through its very DNA, isn’t enough for a proper check in, or even a meagre Instagram post. The chants ‘Fuck the Jews’, ‘Gas the Jews’ echoing straight from our country’s glittering Sydney harbour are not enough to induce total outrage. 

No. Instead, I watch my peers quietly like a post that writes why this murderous siege was provoked and justified. Hamas’s attack is being framed, not as an inexcusable, abhorrent breach of international law and humanitarian decency, but as a warranted retaliation. 

Never, have I seen the world respond to a terrorist attack and sanction that the dead, the captive, the bombed, the raped, the missing ‘had it coming.’ Until now.

As a Jewish woman in Australia, in the diaspora, I am terrified. 

I’m not writing this to explain to you that this war does absolutely nothing productive or empowering for the people of Gaza or of Israel. I’m not here to walk you through why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a deeply complex issue that should be levelled at the people in the nations’ power, not at its innocent civilians. 

There are trusted resources and peaceful organisations you can tap into for this, like the brilliant ‘Breaking the Silence,’ a Palestinian group working with ex-IDF soldiers to expose truths about Israeli settlements, and Standing Together, a grassroots Jewish-Arab movement fighting for peace and social justice in Israel-Palestine.

Instead, I write this to express that I’m scared. I’m sad. And I’m exhausted. 

I live a privileged life as a Jewish woman in this country, and I’ve been lucky enough to face only seldom, but memorable, encounters with anti-semitism in my time living here. 

I’ve made the jokes before you could, as to not be the butt of one of yours. I’ve been the ‘token’ Jew, the ‘cool’ Jew, the progressive Jew. I’ve been whatever I need to be to make myself more palatable for you; to live a life rocked only periodically by the odd anti-Semitic faux-pas. 

But over the last two days, I've been reminded that anti-semitism is rife and insidious. It has always been rife and insidious. It lives in your silence. It’s in your ambivalence. It’s in your performative activism. It’s in your fear to stand up, check in and be allies to your friends that are undoubtedly hurting. 

Every Jewish person you know has been touched by this war and the trending anti-Semitic rhetoric that will continue to follow it. 

When a tragedy this severe happens to your own community and the response from your peers is this passive, this blatantly apathetic, you can’t help but think back on our history as a people. 

To quote my peer in Australian media, Jonno Seidler, as I don’t think I can put it any more clearly than he has; “You’re allowed to think Bibi is the worst. He is. Many of his policies have arguably brought us to this point. But the idea that a massacre and terrorising of Jews is justifiable to serve some higher cause is ridiculous.”

We have the ability to hold two truths at once. Try, for your Jewish friends, for your Palestinian friends, to do so.