Since the shocking events of October 7th. 2023, I, like many others have found myself floundering in grief for the atrocities committed by Hamas, feeling compassion for the many of whom I believe are helpless, innocent Palestinians, angry at the Israeli government for infighting and taking so long to agree to a deal that will free the remaining hostages, and simultaneously proud beyond words at the bravery of the IDF.

I am the first to admit that politics is not my strong suit. I really don’t know my right from my left and the current situation in Israel and the middle east has further complicated and confused my understanding of where people sit on the political spectrum. I probably sound pretty ignorant and naive, which I can’t disagree with. If I was asked to articulate where those proudly displaying Palestinian flags and wearing Kaffiyehs who are condemning Israel and shouting for the annihilation of the Jews worldwide stand politically, I couldn’t say with confidence or certainty whether they are fighting for left wing social justice, or are right wing extremists. All I know is that being a Jew in Australia today is not the same as being one when I was growing up here.

What has prompted me to articulate my thoughts here are situations that have really rocked my sensibilities. For the first time in my life I am hearing stories of people from immigrant backgrounds refusing to rent real estate to Israelis, BDS at its worst. Surely one cannot refuse rental to someone based on their religion, culture or country of origin. Failure or inability to meet rental obligations, would to me be the only reason to refuse someone’s application, no? Is the next step going to be that the authorities turn a blind eye to this and allow it to happen?

Sure, we have been confronted with the BDS movement for years, but this new phenomenon, at least in my world, is bringing it too close to home. I am hearing stories of people, again from immigrant backgrounds, severing friendships with Israelis, forbidding their children to play with their children. This is beginning to remind me of Germany in the 1930’s. “ Discrimination is unAustralian, unless you’re a Jew”.

I am astounded and shocked that there are people from immigrant backgrounds who have taken these steps and made such decisions. I am still trying to get my head around how and why these people have come to this. What is their thinking behind this? Perhaps they are first generation Australians who have immigrated here by choice, or for work, and have no ties to their mutual cultural communities here. Let’s take for example, the Greek and Italian communities. You’d have to be walking around with blinkers on if one was not aware of the fact that the migrant Greek community in Melbourne is the second biggest after Athens. Without checking the facts, I would wager that the Italian community is not far behind. Despite well known stories of Italian and Greek immigrants after World War two bearing the brunt of racial and ethnic slurs and derogatory names, these groups have contributed much to the cultural life of Melbourne. I mean, how would we be known as coffee snobs if not for the Italians, and how would we know the difference between Baklava and Baklawa if not for the contributions of the Greeks and the Middle eastern immigrants?

I am for the first time in my sixty years on this earth, fifty five of them living in Australia feeling a sense of unease, an anxiety that being Jewish in this country is not what it used to be. I am immersing myself in a bubble of  ‘safety’ with pro- Israel podcasts that explain to me and I hope to those who seek the truth what the truth really is. I read every article online and in the one Australian newspaper that says it like it is. I follow insta trailblazers who refuse to be silenced by antisemites who disguise themselves as feminists who claim that their fight is against patriarchy and war, but infuse their rhetoric and actions with anti Israel and antisemitic tropes. I read and hear on numerous podcasts that I am addicted to, that confirm my prior knowledge that antisemitism is and has always been simmering just below the surface. Israel’s retaliation for the massacre and its ongoing battle to end the genocidal terrorist organisation of Hamas who continue to hold and abuse hostages after October 7th gave these activists a perfect opportunity to open the antisemitism floodgates and signal its legitimacy.

I read Deborah Conway’s recent article and felt slightly boosted by her refusal to be silenced. I couldn’t have articulated her views better when she says “ activists have tried to “reclassify” the meaning of Zionist from being someone who advocates for an independent Jewish state to being a white supremacist or an advocate of apartheid” These activists have tried to make being a Zionist “an impolite position to hold in polite society”, and people are buying into this. People are equating Gaza to the Holocaust, calling Israel’s actions ethnic cleansing and Genocide. Is anyone questioning how this might be possible when Gaza has one of the greatest population growths in the world?

As much as I appear to feel helpless and at a loss, I do continue to strive to combat prejudice and discrimination within the education sphere here in Melbourne. I am a facilitator for a well known education organisation which educates school kids to be upstanders rather than bystanders. In my sessions I ask the students how many races they think there are in the world. I get many answers, but when I tell them there is only one, they know that I mean the human one. Racism, I tell them, falls under the category of discrimination. It’s something man created to project superiority of one group over another and that if we let it get out of hand, situations such as violence and Genocide can follow.

Am I doomsaying by saying that we may be at the crossroad on the Pyramid of Hate between discrimination in the form of antisemitism and the more egregious stages that are too alarming to even contemplate? If we are not, then I need to hear my leaders here and overseas declare without reservation that antisemitism is not okay, that Israel has a right to exist and defend herself against a genocidal terrorist organisation. Hamas is to blame for the plight of the Palestinian people and Iran for financing Hamas to continue its reign of terror.

I need the Australia that I know to uphold the values of multiculturalism and inclusiveness that I grew up with. Don’t fail me now when I need you the most.

Article by Author/s
Lani Brayer
Lani Brayer is a Melbourne educator who does work for various organisations who strive to eradicate prejudice and discrimination. She aims to educate people to be upstanders rather than bystanders even with the smallest of actions.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing your article Lani. It was good to read. Dalit x

  2. Sabrina Chakman Reply

    Good on you Lani. If more people worked for the cause the world would be a much better place. Let’s end racism one classroom at a time!

  3. Sarah Calleja Reply

    I migrated here from Israel when I was four years old and have lived in safety until recently. I started hearing about discrimination in tertiary institutions 20 years ago in my psychology practise and October 7 allowed racists to openly express their hate. More than ever, we need advocacy like yours.

  4. Pingback: A Woman of Words – Courage to Care Volunteer Lani Brayer - Courage to Care

  5. Thanks Lani for this. I feel the same even though I didn’t grow up here. The Australia I called the Land of Milk and Honey is long gone ☹️

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