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Antisemitism is on the Rise Down Under

By HENRY SREBRNIK As in other western countries, Australian Jews have been targeted by boycotts, harassment, and intimidation since the Gaza war began last October.
Throughout its history, Australia has been good to its Jewish community, which numbers more than 100,000 people today, with most living in Melbourne and Sydney.
From around 1947 to 1952, Australia took in more Holocaust survivors as a proportion of its population than any other country. Their children and grandchildren form more than half the community in Australia.
Being Jewish in Australia has never been seen as a bar to success. Yet since the Gaza war started, reports of antisemitism have spiked 700 per cent, including violent attacks.
Responding to pressure, on July 9 Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed Jillian Segal, the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, to be “special envoy to combat antisemitism in Australia” for three years.
There is an urgent necessity to overhaul laws about doxing, the intentional online exposure of an individual’s identity, private information, or personal details, which has had a disproportionate impact on Jewish individuals. Pro-Palestinian activists distributed a nearly 900-page transcript that they leaked from a private WhatsApp formed last year by Jewish writers, artists, musicians and academics.
For example, Josh Moshe, a 33-year-old grandson of Holocaust survivors, moved to Melbourne in 2010. He and his wife operated a well-known gift shop in Thornbury. He had never experienced problems before.
However, all of this rapidly changed after the WhatsApp group was doxed. “We were sworn at, the shop was graffitied with ‘Glory to Hamas,’ and ‘we don’t want Zionists in Thornbury,’” he said. As a result of such stories, the government plans to make the practice illegal.
Many politicians espouse openly anti-Israeli views. A video of Jenny Leong, an Australia Green Party member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, discussing how “the Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby” are using their “tentacles” to “influence power” went viral in early February.
Pro-Palestine encampments have come under increased scrutiny. A joint statement by protest organizers at 10 universities claims their movement has been peaceful and opposition to the state of Israel and Zionism as an ideology was not antisemitism.
“There needs to be more nuance around the conversation,” remarked David Slucki, associate professor at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash University in Melbourne. “Our governments at the local, state, and federal level come out regularly in support of Jews and against antisemitism, which is something we have rarely seen throughout history. And yet I routinely hear people talk how similar the current situation is to 1930s Germany.”
On the other hand, a Monash colleague of his, Philip Mendes, Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit, disagrees. “Australia has experienced an unprecedented outbreak of anti-Semitism,” he maintains. (Full disclosure: he and I have collaborated on a number of scholarly articles and books.)
Jewish university students and academics have been subjected to various forms of defamation, threats and hate speech by university-based encampments and associated forums, flyers and graffiti, which are intended to exclude them from academic and public discourse, he maintains. Many Jewish students and staff assembled in early May at Melbourne University Square, well away from the encampment, where some told stories about feeling intimidated on campus.
On May 9 the federal opposition Liberal Party’s education spokesperson, Sarah Henderson, claimed campuses had become “hotbeds of antisemitic activism” in “flagrant breach” of university policies. Mendes sees this as a new form of McCarthyism, like that experienced by Communists and other leftists during the Cold War.
Michael Gawenda, a well-known Australian journalist, was editor of the centre-left Melbourne Age for seven years from 1997-2004, and a foreign correspondent in both London and Washington. In an article published in the British periodical Fathom in February, he describes his anxiety over current events.
“The Labor Government in Australia has been all over the place on Israel and the Palestinians and on the Hamas-Israel war,” he explained.  “There are vital Labor-held seats in Sydney and Melbourne that have significant numbers of Muslim Australians, enough to swing election results.” It has meant that from Albanese on down, “there has been a failure to properly, unequivocally, call out what has clearly been an explosion of Jew hatred in Australia.”
Western Australian senator Fatima Payman, a devout Muslim born in Afghanistan, quit the Labor party recently in a major rupture with the Albanese government over Palestine. She used the politically charged phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which, she said, asserted “a desire for Palestinians to live in their homeland as free and equal citizens, neither dominating others nor being dominated.”
A close friend of mine, Michael Birkner, professor of history at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, has spent many sabbaticals in Melbourne over the past two decades. He agrees that the Labor Party in Australia is walking on eggshells about the war in Gaza.

“The intellectual community is pro-Palestinian, and there are thousands more voting Muslims in Australia’s cities than Jews.” A small community perhaps a fifth the size of the Muslim community, the Jewish community’s “political influence is scant, even as there are notable Jewish writers and elected officials.” Indeed, in so many ways, it resembles its sister community in Canada.

Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

World Jewish News

Remembering Dr. Ruth: An Unexpected Jewish Icon

Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. A dynamo, she was always full of energy, quick with a joke, and offered great advice.

When I was walking with a female friend who complained about going to too many parties, Dr. Ruth turned to her and said: “You’re not going to meet someone in your apartment.”

I interviewed Dr. Ruth a few times, and ran into her on occasion when I went to the theater. She was extremely proud of her documentary, Ask Dr. Ruth, which can be seen on Hulu. Westheimer died at the age of 96 on July 12.

The film includes old footage of her saying that what two consenting adults do in “the privacy of their bedroom, living room, [and] kitchen floor is all right.”

A licensed sex therapist who taught at Columbia University, she rose to fame with radio and TV shows in which she helped people discuss their personal sexual difficulties. She also maintained that short people were the best lovers. She was someone who said there was no such thing as “normal,” and said those who are gay deserve “all the respect” in the world — at a time when that was not a popular opinion. The film shows her saying she hoped for a cure for AIDS, and that it was wrong to blame any one group.

Born as Karola Siegel on June 4, 1928, she originally lived near Frankfurt, Germany. She was put on a Kindertransport — a program to save German children from the Holocaust — and lived in an orphanage in Switzerland during World War II. She got letters from her parents and grandmother, but when the letters stopped, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Dr. Ruth’s family was murdered by the Nazis, with her father dying in Auschwitz in 1942 and no exact record of her mother’s death.

She sailed to the British mandate of Palestine, and went to a kibbutz in 1945 at the war’s end. She changed her name from Karola, to her middle name of Ruth. She lost her virginity to a man named Kalman on a haystack, as she described in her film.

Signing the guest book at the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel, she held back tears, saying “German Jews don’t cry in public.”

Perhaps it was due to the loss of her parents that she wanted to spread love to so many and influence people to pursue happiness.

When I knew her, she was always running to the next event or appearance. When I asked her why she scheduled so many events, she told me: “As long as I’m alive, I am going to work and I love having things to do and talking to people.”

She was very much like the world’s cutest grandmother — but that also belies her past.

Westheimer was a sniper in the Haganah. Though an injury to her feet when a cannon fired on her building nearly resulted in the amputation of her legs, she healed and was able to ski and dance.

She was married three times, with her last husband, Fred, being the long-time marriage. She studied at the Sorbonne. In 1956, she came to America.

“Somebody who talks so much about sex has to stay away from politics,” she said in her film, though she said abortion should remain legal.

She read romance novels to learn English. She took great pride in her grandchildren — Leora, Ari, Ben, and Michal. At the age of 42, she got her doctorate from Columbia University’s Teachers College and would go on to write numerous books.

Dr. Ruth was a huge personality, and could make anyone laugh and appreciate her wisdom. Whenever I saw her, she was smiling, and you could tell she loved life and helping others.

Her blend of chutzpah, charm, and brute honesty made her a quotable and prominent celebrity. She was humble and didn’t move to a hugely expensive apartment, even though she could have, choosing to remain in Washington Heights. It was her decision to appear on WYNY, a New York City radio station that helped launch her career with a show first called “Sexually Speaking.” She also did some acting.

Despite her painful past, Dr. Ruth is a great example of a nice person achieving great things in life.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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World Jewish News

Deif’s Elimination Would Be a Major Blow to Hamas

Illustrative. Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen – The elimination of Mohammad Deif, head of Hamas’s military wing, would represent a significant blow to both Hamas’s morale and operational capabilities.

Deif, whose death in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday has not yet been confirmed, was the mastermind behind three decades of jihadist terrorism against Israel. He was also a key catalyst in Hamas’s ongoing efforts to team up with Iran and mortally wound Israel through a war of jihadist attrition from Gaza, Judea and Samaria and Lebanon.

He played a crucial role in transforming Hamas from a guerilla force into a full-blown terror army within Gaza, complete with command and control, a major rocket arsenal and an unprecedented network of combat tunnels. A terror army that would go on to unleash the deadliest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

Israeli officials reported on Saturday that the Israel Defense Forces had carried out a targeted strike near Gaza’s Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone, close to Khan Younis. The two targets were Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing, and Rafa Salama, the commander of Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade. Both were responsible for planning and carrying out Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, according to the officials.

The strike was a coordinated joint effort by the IDF Southern Command and the Israeli Air Force, with significant participation by IDF Military Intelligence and the Israel Security Agency. According to Israeli intelligence, most of the other casualties from the strike were also terrorists.

The targeted area was described as an open space surrounded by trees, several buildings and sheds, that functioned as an operational compound. At this time, there is no indication that any Israeli hostages were present in the vicinity of the strike.

The strategic significance of this operation cannot be overstated. Deif’s elimination will disrupt Hamas’s military hierarchy and operational planning, dealing a severe blow to its command structure. Over the years, Deif had become synonymous with Hamas’s military strategy. His expertise and leadership in guerilla warfare and mass-casualty terrorism, and his ability to adapt and transform Hamas’s military capabilities, made him an invaluable asset to the organization. Symbolically as well, he gained cult-like status among Palestinians, and his name was chanted by radical Islamists in Judea and Samaria and on the Temple Mount as well.

A military official noted that high-ranking Hamas officials deliberately chose Al-Mawasi for their operational activities, to avoid detection and complicate military action against them. The official stressed that Israel makes every effort to avoid harm to noncombatants, adding that Hamas’s human shielding is failing to protect its senior terrorists.

“We are attacking the most high-ranking Hamas commanders, who are masterminds of the Oct. 7 [attacks] and … conducted terror against Israel for years,” said the official.

By eliminating figures like Deif and Salama, Israel not only dismantles the leadership framework of Hamas, but also helps crush Hamas’s future hopes to rebuild an effective terror army, a key war goal.

The strike is also an indication of the quality of Israel’s intelligence regarding Gaza. The collaboration between the IDF and ISA, and the ability to locate and eliminate such high-profile targets is a testament to an increasingly tight intelligence grip on an area that was once Hamas’s comfortable home turf.

As such, the strike is a pivotal moment in Israel’s long-term war against the “ring of fire” with which Iran has attempted to surround the Jewish state. Hamas and its allies in Tehran and Beirut are bearing witness to Israel’s determination and ability to remove jihadist commanders, and to continuously degrade their hopes to force Israel into surrender.

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For Many Palestinians, the ‘Day After’ Should Look Just Like the ‘Day Before’

A Palestinian boy wearing the headband of Hamas’ armed wing The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza City on May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

JNS.orgMore than nine months after the Israel-Hamas war began, many Palestinians are convinced that the “day after” in the Gaza Strip will be a return to the pre-Oct. 7 era, in which the Iran-backed terrorist group still has control of the coastal enclave. For them, the “day after” means going back to the day before the Hamas-led attack on Israel.

Today, Palestinians fall into two groups: those who hate Hamas but think that under the current circumstances it is impossible to remove it from power, and those who want Hamas to stay in power because they embrace it and its extremist ideology.

Opponents of Hamas contend that until the terrorist organization is totally destroyed, neither the Palestinian Authority nor any Arab state will be prepared to rule the Gaza Strip. And they do not see that objective being met more than nine months after the start of the war.

Recently, Abu Obaida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing, claimed that his group has been successful in bringing thousands of new “fighters” into its ranks to replace those killed since the start of the war.

Even if Abu Obaida’s claim is exaggerated, its purpose is to demonstrate to Palestinians, Arabs and the international community that Hamas is not going anywhere. This is a form of warning to any party that would consider playing a role in the Gaza Strip the “day after.”

Over the past few months, Hamas has killed clan leaders and kidnapped and tortured political opponents to thwart the establishment of a new government.

In response to Hamas’s campaign of terror and intimidation, several clans in the Gaza Strip have released statements declaring their support for the terrorist group and denouncing any “conspiracy” to foster the rise of new leaders there.

That, however, does not mean that Hamas will prevent the Palestinian Authority or any other party from providing financial and humanitarian assistance to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, it does not imply that Hamas will impede any initiative to reconstruct Gaza. As long as these actions do not compromise Hamas’s authority, the organization will permit them to take place.

Where does the Palestinian Authority stand?

Not hiding their dissatisfaction in private, some P.A. officials are disappointed that Hamas still controls the Gaza Strip more than nine months after the war began.

“We thought it would only take a few weeks to remove Hamas from power,” stated one official. “However, several months later, Hamas remains in place and continues to have complete authority over civilian affairs. In addition, Hamas still has many fighters.”

Another P.A. official said that he had anticipated a fall in Hamas’s popularity among Palestinians as the war drags on and more Palestinians lose their lives.

“We see that the opposite has happened,” the official stated. “According to polls conducted after Oct. 7, Hamas’s popularity is rising. This is due to the widespread belief that Hamas is winning the battle. If you watched [the Qatari-owned network] Al-Jazeera, you would also come to the same conclusion—that Israel has been defeated,” he said.

The most recent public opinion poll, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, showed that many Palestinians support Hamas and believe that the terrorist group will continue to rule the Gaza Strip after the war.

When asked who the public would prefer to control the Gaza Strip after the war, 61% (71% in the West Bank and 46% in the Gaza Strip) answered Hamas. Only 16% chose a new P.A. with an elected president, parliament and government, while another 6% chose the current P.A. but without its president, Mahmoud Abbas.

When asked to speculate about the party that will control the Gaza Strip after the war, a majority of respondents (56%) answered that it would be Hamas.

It is also interesting to see that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians (75%) oppose the deployment of an Arab security force in the Gaza Strip. In this regard, these Palestinians have actually endorsed Hamas’s stance, which opposes the deployment of non-Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas officials have gone as far as warning that such a force would be dealt with as an “occupying” party—implying that terrorists would target the troops. Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries do not seem to be enthusiastic about dispatching troops to the Gaza Strip.

Similarly, the P.A., too, does not appear to be excited about returning to the Gaza Strip. That’s because it does not want to be accused of entering the Gaza Strip “atop an Israeli tank.” The P.A., in addition, is also afraid that it will be left alone to bear the burden of rebuilding Gaza because most Arab countries have consistently failed to fulfill their promises to help the Palestinians.

Despite the devastation, most Palestinians support Oct. 7

According to the latest poll, a vast majority of Palestinians (68%) said the terrorist group’s decision to launch the war on Israel was “correct.” Previous polls conducted by the same center have shown that more than 70% of Palestinians support the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack.

There is virtually no debate among the Palestinians about the “day after” in the Gaza Strip, even though some in Israel and the United States appear to be obsessed with the idea. This is due to the widespread Palestinian belief that Hamas will somehow maintain its hold on power in the Gaza Strip after the war.

The Palestinians are probably the only ones who could force Hamas to relinquish control of the Gaza Strip. It remains to be seen whether or not the Palestinians who lost their homes and loved ones will rise against Hamas after the war or if a large number of them will take to the streets to express their support for the terrorist groups, either out of fear or genuine sympathy.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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