Hello, my name is Viv and I am standing here as a proud Jewish woman. I am a member of Tzedek Collective; a group of Jewish people against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Many of us were born and raised in the eastern suburbs and still reside here today. For many Jews, we are born into Zionist thinking. We aren’t given an alternative. I myself used to be a Zionist; Israel is an important place to me and my family. My father moved to Israel in his 30s and served in the IDF, and he met and married my mother in Israel shortly thereafter. My parents raised me to unconditionally and uncritically celebrate Israel, and I lived on a kibbutz in 2010. This blindsided me to the realities of the daily lives of Palestinians. I lived my life with little awareness that just over 2 hour drive away from the kibbutz were 2 million Palestinians living in poverty and under the boot of the Israeli war machine.

Today, the livestreaming of the actions of the IDF against Palestinian civilians since October 7th has completely turned my world upside down. We have seen Israeli soldiers strip and torture young men and women. We have seen children as young as 3 years old arrested. We have seen white phosphorous bombs eat away at bodies of entire families. We have seen and heard the cries of children buried deep under rubble with no way to escape. We have seen hospitals, UN-designated safe zones and refugee camps hit with pinpoint and targeted missile strikes.

As a Jew I believe anti-semitism is at risk of losing its true meaning. The term is being weaponised and is being used as a shield to deflect any and all criticisms of the state of Israel and the subsequent actions of Israel’s leaders and military.  When I critique actions or policies of the Australian government I am not being anti-Australian, so how can we deem critiques of the Israeli government as anti-semitic .Zionism is an ideology. It is not a government, it is not a piece of land, and it certainly is not to be conflated with Judaism. It is important we remain observant of this distinction. 

The conflation of Zionism and Judaism is extremely dangerous, especially for Jewish people. The Jewish diaspora is diverse and multicultural, and Jewish people challenging and critiquing Zionism and the State of Israel has existed well before 1948 and the birth of the Jewish State. As Jews, we cannot be reduced to a single monolithic voice. I know I’m not alone when I say the actions of the Israeli government do not represent me as a Jew and I deplore that this is being done “in our name”. 

I have experienced anti semitism in recent weeks, but this anti-semitism hasn’t come from Arabs, Palestinians or the wider community; it has come from other Jews. My own loved ones have labeled me a self-hating Jew, and have even said that if I hate the state of Israel so much I should convert to Islam and join Hamas. I have not had any interactions with anyone outside of the Jewish community that have been as hurtful as these kinds of comments. These comments are designed to use my proud Jewish identity as leverage to inflict maximum hurt. Therefore there is no other way to describe these comments but as being antisemitic in nature

Finding a community of anti-Zionist Jews in the past few weeks, specifically Tzedek Collective, has actually helped me reconnect to my Jewish roots. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud or connected to my Judaism at any other point in my life. I have a tattoo in Hebrew on my arm here, in Judaism the quote is considered the golden rule. It translates to: Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. All of Judaism depends on the ability to view another person as real as one views oneself and when we chant in the street, “in our thousands, in our millions; we are all Palestinians” I really feel that in my soul.

When it comes to the role of local councils, we recognise that you do not have the power to enforce a ceasefire. We are not asking our local councils to understand the nuanced history of the region, or the intricacies of this conflict. We know you don’t have the solutions to such a contentious situation. But as politicians, people in positions of power have a responsibility to advocate for oppressed people, and as community members We have a responsibility to show to our state and federal governments that we do not sit in silence while a genocide is unfolding. 

Right now is not the time to discuss semantics, every 5 minutes someone in Gaza is dying. The average age of those killed is 5 years old. In the time that I have spoken to you today another Gazan is dead. We are asking you to listen to your community. While I am Jewish I am pleading to you as a human; this is a humanitarian issue. I don’t want to live in a world where we so easily dehumanise those that society has told us to treat as an other. So many of us know how it feels to be othered from a community – to be outsiders. The way you view innocent Palestinian civilians and their calls to action show us in the community how you as leaders view those of us who have been othered. As fellow humans we want to see your compassion and your humanity, this is not a time to turn away. 

Calling for a ceasefire right now is the bare minimum we can be doing, and this is what we are asking of you. 

Don’t buy in to the propaganda for endless war. A ceasefire is the only common sense solution for peace, and for the exchange of all Palestinian and Israeli hostages.