Jewish Council of Australia urges Labor to reject racism against Palestinians fleeing Gaza

February 28, 2024
Pro-Palestine protesters call on City of Sydney councillors to support a ceasefire. Photo: Peter Boyle

The Jewish Council of Australia is concerned for the safety of Palestinians fleeing Gaza, after Sky News said it had the personal details of 500 people with visas, 81 of whom are in Australia.

It said it is alarmed that some Jewish organisations have been lobbying for the Australian government to refuse entry to people seeking safety from Gaza and are pushing anti-Palestinian racism to do this.

The co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry told Sky News he was sure “appropriate checks will be carried out to ensure that no one is a member of a terrorist organization, or a sympathizer, or endorsed the October 7 atrocities”.

The Jewish Council of Australia said on January 27 the “assertion that Australia accepting Palestinians fleeing unprecedented violence is in any way a threat to the safety of Jewish people” was wrong.

Dr Max Kaiser, historian and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council, said on January 27 that many in the council “have family histories of fleeing antisemitic violence and racism in Europe”.

“The rhetoric directed against Palestinian refugees is reminiscent of the same rhetoric used to vilify Jewish refugees in the 1940s and 1950s who were frequently labelled ‘security risks’.

“This rhetoric is also part of a long history of racism and exclusion in Australia, from the White Australia Policy to panics about ‘boat people’.”

Sarah Schwartz, human rights lawyer and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council, said the government “should not be influenced by the Israel lobby’s false and racist depictions of Palestinians fleeing unprecedented violence in Gaza”.

She said many Jewish people have fled persecution and “understand the importance of Australia meeting its obligations under international law to protect the human rights of refugees”.

Dr Elizabeth Strakosch, public policy and politics expert and Executive Officer of the Jewish Council said any suggestion that Palestinians arriving from Gaza are a threat to Jews is “outrageous”.

“We are concerned about the racist language used by some Jewish community organisations in describing Palestinian refugees arriving in Australia,” Strakosch said. “They rely on racist tropes of Palestinian people as dangerous and full of hatred. It is unacceptable to use racist and dehumanising language to argue against providing safety to those fleeing overwhelming violence.” 

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