I’m Jewish: Israel does not represent me

17 October 2023
Raphael Duffy

This article is based on a speech delivered at a Palestine solidarity rally in Melbourne on 15 October.

As a Jew, I say: “not in my name”. Jews should know better than anyone the horrors of racism, oppression and pogroms, of indiscriminate killing of civilians. Israel does not speak for me, and it does not speak for many Jews around the world.

What has happened in the last week is horrific. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared his intention to turn Gaza into rubble. And one Israeli official said: “Gaza will eventually turn into a city of tents. There will be no buildings”.

They’re telling us that Israel wants to bomb and to bomb until nothing remains of Gaza. But this is a strip of more than 2.3 million people. Make no mistake, Israel is announcing its intention to commit genocide.

I am glad to see everyone here take a stand against this kind of crime against humanity. But we also have to stand against slanderous claims on our movement. Because this movement against genocide, against racism, against apartheid—again and again we are told is anti-Semitic; that we are racist because we oppose the state of Israel.

Well I’m here to say: Israel doesn’t represent Jews, and it sure as hell doesn’t represent me.

Joe Biden has called Hamas’s counter-offensive the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust. I want to respond to this. Because to me, the most horrific and sorrowful day for Jews since the Holocaust would have to be 15 May 1948: Nakba day. Nakba—the Arabic word for catastrophe.

On this day began the state of Israel, which, supposedly on behalf of all Jews, occupies Palestine to today. Supposedly on behalf of Jews, Israel has turned the Gaza strip into the world’s largest open-air prison.

Supposedly on behalf of Jews, Israel has expelled millions of refugees out of Palestine, and millions more internally displaced. And today, supposedly on behalf of Jews, Israel is conducting a genocide of Gaza.

The process of establishing and expanding Israel, a settler colonial state, has required genocide since its genesis. Every day since the Nakba has been deadly for Palestinians. Thousands of days oppression and murder.

Is it not obvious why this is horrific for Jews as well as Palestinians? Because it is terrible to think such crimes are done in the name of Judaism. It is terrible to think that this is being done in the name of those in my family who were killed in similar acts.

I reject the claim of Zionism that Israel will right the wrongs of the Holocaust. But more than that, I find it disgusting that the tragedy of the Holocaust is weaponised to justify Israel’s crimes, by politicians like Joe Biden in America, or Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, or Anthony Albanese in Australia.

It is not anti-Semitic to demand a free Palestine. It is not anti-Semitic to demand an end to a racist state like Israel. It is not anti-Semitic to look at Israel and reject any claim that its bombs and its tanks and the endless blood it draws has anything to do with justice for Jews.

It is not Israel that has best learned the lessons of the Holocaust. The lessons of the Holocaust are best learned by the Palestinians and their millions of supporters around the world, who reject the lies of Israel, who stand up to its guns, and who face down slander and persecution from the powerful institutions that support and defend Israel’s crimes.

The Palestinians remind us of the true meaning of “never again”. They remind us to never again stand by while people are persecuted. The Palestinians remind us to never again believe the lies of so-called civilised governments like our own, who stand with Israel, or the respectable journalistic outlets that present the oppressor’s justification as if it is part of a reasoned policy debate.

The Palestinians remind us to never again turn away the refugees our own government try to paint as villains and lock up at the border. The Palestinians teach us to take part in the international movement to overthrow and smash the injustices that caused them to flee their homes; to stand with those who are trying to survive in the face of bombs and blockaded electricity and food.

If you want to end the inhumanity that caused the Holocaust, we have to demand the end of the siege on Gaza. But more than that, we have to demand an end to the Israeli state. We have to demand freedom from the river to the sea. We have to demand justice for every last Palestinian, every Palestinian in Gaza, every Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, every Palestinian refugee scattered across the world and every Palestinian that has been buried at the hands of Israel.

Only then will we honour the words “never again”.


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