Antisemitism from the Hamas-Israel War of October 2023

On 7 October 2023 Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation (more explanation below), launched a war against Israel. Hundreds of civilians have been killed as a result of Hamas’ unprovoked attack. Israeli civilians were deliberately targeted by Hamas in this attack, including around 260 civilians killed at a music festival, some as bullets were sprayed at a crowd, while other were hunted down by snipers. The wilful killing of civilians, as well as hostage taking, are war crimes that violate the Geneva Conventions and which should be universally condemned. Instead, there has been a surge in antisemitic activity both online and in-person. Some have sought to normalise this antisemitism, to gain public acceptance by claiming it is Palestinian advocacy (it may be) and should therefore be immune to any claims of racism (which is not true). Political advocacy, for any cause, is racist when it makes use of racism. It is antisemitic when it makes use of antisemitism. The nature of the political cause is entirely irrelevant.

“what has occurred here is completely indefensible. You can’t target civilians like occurred over the weekend, where you had hundreds of people, or thousands indeed, were attending a music festival. It was a music festival with young people, engaged with each other in a peaceful way. The idea that you would have people launching, essentially indiscriminate shooting at random, just trying to cause as much harm and bloodshed as possible, is just an atrocity that deserves condemnation of all.”

Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (2GB, 9 October 2023)

In this briefing we examine two “real world” antisemitic events in Australia, then followed up by deconstructing five recent online examples from Twitter / X. This is followed by a discussion on responding to antisemitism. Finally we provided some background on Hamas and Gaza which can help improve understanding of the unfolding war. This briefing highlights that the past trend of rising antisemitism during a time of war between Hamas and Israel appears to be holding true once again. We need to be vigilent and to work together as a community to stop events overseas leading to further incidents here in Australia.

The Lakemba Celebration of terrorism

The war crimes committed by Hamas have been celebrated by some Palestinian supporters, including in Australia.

In Lakemba, a suburb in Sydney’s southwestern with a majority Muslim population (59.2% according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics) a pro-Palestinian rally at the railway station on Sunday saw the Hamas terrorists praised by Sheikh Ibrahim Dadoun, an Imam who just days before had shared a stage with Australia’s Prime Minister.

Sheikh Dadoun declared, “It’s a day of courage, it’s a day of happiness, it’s a day of pride, it’s a day of victory.” The celebration of terrorism was attended by men, women and children holding flags and chanting “Palestine will be free” and “Allahu Akbar” (God is great), and holding signs saying “stop persecuting Muslims” and “stand for the oppressed”.

Islamophobia has targeted the Muslim community in Lakemba in the past, in fact, the Online Hate Prevention Institute has documented it and called it out. There are two ways to read the signs:

It could be seen as a proactive defence against any statements condemning the rally and its celebration of terrorists who have killed and kidnapped civilians. This would be a false claim of Islamophobia to deflect well criticism, such as that given by Australia’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Stefanovic: PM you might have heard last night in Lakemba, Palestinian protesters gathered. The tone was one of the people there, you can see there, his tone was pretty celebratory. Your reaction to that?

Prime Minister: Well, there’s nothing to celebrate by the murder of innocent civilians, going about their day. Some of those who’ve been captured were young people attending a rave, enjoying life, enjoying each other’s company. There’s nothing to celebrate here.

Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (Today, 9 October 2023)

Journalist: And do you condemn the actions of the Palestinian supporters in Western Sydney overnight? They were protesting outside Lakemba Station.

Foreign Minister: There were also comments that were made about these tragic events. And what I’d say to all Australians: the targeting of civilians and the taking of hostages is never a cause for celebration.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (Press Conference, 9 October 2023)

Such condemnation is not Islamophobic and pretending otherwise only harms the Muslim community and makes it harder to address Islamophobia in the future.

The other possible reading of the signs is that they are claiming Israel’s response, attacking terrorist targets in Gaza, is occurring because the people in Gaza are largely Muslim – completely ignoring that it is a response to action launched out of Gaza. Combined with the “stand for the oppressed” sign, this seems to be advocating that Hamas should be allowed to engage with impunity not only in warfare (targeting military targets) but also in murder and kidnapping of civilians. This claim would suggest self defence against Islamist terrorists should be regarded as Islamophobic.

Australia’s Foreign Minister and Prime Minister have both stated that Israel has the right to defend itself in response to the attack, and these comments specifically were attacked by the Lebanese Muslim Association.

Responding to a terrorist attack carried out by a group that claims to act in the name of, or to be inspired by the Islamic religion is not Islamophobic. Whether it is Hamas or ISIS, the group’s aims are political and their terrorist actions can and should get a response. At the same time, justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion, which is what this celebration was doing, is blatantly antisemitic. Claiming it is being done in support of a cause doesn’t excuse it.

A night of fear at the Sydney Opera House

On Monday evening the Sydney Opera House was lit up in blue and white to show support for Israel following the terrorist attacks. This is not the first time the Opera House has been lit up to show support following a terrorist attack. In 2019 it was lit up with a silver fern following the Christchurch attack, and in 2015 it was lit up in blue, white and red following the terrorist attack in Paris. It was one of a number of buildings lit up in blue and white to show support for Israel in response to the attacks. Others buildings that were lit up include the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, 10 Downing Street in the UK, the Berlaymont (European Commission headquarters) in Brussels, Bulgarian Parliament in Sofia, Flinders street station and the Arts Centre in Melbourne, the Paramount Miami Worldcenter skyscraper in Miami and on a giant screen in Kyiv.

Palestine Action Group Sydney organised a protest again the show of support for Israel at the Opera House and hundreds turned up. Police held back protests from the iconic building as some in masks threw flares at the Opera House. The crowds that gathered chanted “Fuck the Jews“, and “gas the Jews“, both statements caught on video and taken viral. Israeli flags were burned, ripped, and trampled on. The Daily Mail reports that a number of people who attended to counter protest, with Israeli flags, were arrested by police for breaching the peace, and later told it was for their own safety.

Before the change in colours, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the peak Jewish community organisation in Sydney, send an email to all community members noting that they had been in consultation with senior police and getting advice and that “On the basis of this advice, we expect the security situation to continue to be volatile.” They told community members that “NSW Police and CSG are urging the community not to attend the Sydney Opera House precinct or Town Hall this evening. Community members already in the CBD should also be vigilant as protesters are likely to seek to march from Town Hall to the Sydney Opera House.”

The advice was well made. An Anglican clergyman, the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, stood waving an Israeli flag on the steps of the Anglican Cathedral as the pro-Palestinian protest walked past. He was chased off the steps by a small mob of angry men from the protest and followed until he took cover behind a police van and the police dispersed the mob. He explained on Twitter / X, “I took a tiny stand because we cannot, we must not, give in to such fear… We must not cede one iota of our precious liberal, secular, democratic, pluralist state. Never again means never again.”

Again, the actions at the Sydney Opera House and during the march to it are blatantly antisemitic. They involve “Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion”, one of the explicit examples in the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism. Australian politicians have condemned what occurred at the Opera House. Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said there is “no place for antisemitism in our society”, NSW premier, Chris Minns, called the events “completely abhorrent”, opposition leader Peter Dutton said “the scenes that we saw last night in Sydney has no place in our country, and should be condemned without reservation.”

“I think we should all be concerned. There is no place in Australia for antisemitism or prejudice or hatred of any kind. And we should all stand firm against the sort of antisemitic language that unfortunately some engaged, just as we should stand firm against all prejudice. It goes to who we are as a country and it goes to one of our greatest strengths, which is our diversity but our unity around values.”

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (ABC Radio National [via The Guardian], 10 October 2023)

Police have announced they are looking trhough footage of the event to try identify people who engaged in illegal activity, including racism, so arrests can be made.

A poor response from the rally organisers

Palestine Action Group Sydney releasted a statement this afternoon after news of their antisemitic rally went viral. We first saw the statement shared by Jenny Leong MP, a Greens member of the NSW Parliament. It was originally posted to Facebook by Palestinian Action Group Sydney at 12:11pm today (October 10). While we normally redact the names of those whose posts we share, there is an exception for public figures, particularly elected representatives. The MP described the statement as “calling out the misrepresentation of the action” and clarifying the demmonstraters purpose including their “anti-colonialist and anti-racist stance”. The statement that follows seeks to play the victim, downplay and dismiss the serious antisemitism that occured, and goes on to make additional antisemitic statements. Jenny Leong MP should have known better than to support this and deserves a censure in the NSW Parliament for her role supporting this racism.

As for the statement itself (shown below), it ends by saying Palestine Action Group Sydney will “protest both attacks on Palestinian resistance and Israel’s declaration of genocide on Palestinians.” To be clear, by “Palestinian resistance” they mean they will protest against any military action targeting those responsible for the terrorist attacks and killing of civilians. As to “Israel’s declaration of genocide on Palestinians”, there is no such declaration, statement or policy. This is an inversion of reality given that the Hamas Covenant of 1988 in Article 15 does explicitly calls for genocide – of the Jews.

Article 15 of the Hamas Covenant begins, “The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised. To do this requires the diffusion of Islamic consciousness among the masses, both on the regional, Arab and Islamic levels. It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters.” Palestine Action Group Sydney’s statement itself supports genocide saying “We will demonstrate until Palestine is free, from the river to the sea!” this, particularly coupled with support for Hamas, is literally a call for genocide.

Palestine Action Group Sydney describes their rally as a “successful” rather than accepting it went horribly wrong and devolved in to a major example of racism. They try to paint a picture, not supported by the video evidence, that down plays and minimizes what actually occured:

  • They claim their right to protest needs to be protected or other protests for First Nations and Climate Justice movements might come under threat, this ignores the fact their rally was in support of a proscribed terrorist group.
  • They claim their protest is against Australia’s support of Israel, ignoring that the current situation is not one of a two sided armed conflict, but was triggered by a massive terrorist attack.
  • They minimize the racism claiming it was:
    • Invovled “a tiny fringe (we estimate less than 20 people)” which is contradicted by the video evidence which shows it was far more than 20 people and pretty central to the event.
    • Was carried out by “young boys, mostly in their teens chanting ‘fuck the Jews’”, giving the impressing it was largely children. The video evidence clearly shows people in their 20s and 30s, adult men, and they are chanting not only “fuck the Jews” but also “gas the Jews”.
    • Something that “occurred for less than one minute and was not an ongoing chant.” The video show an ongoing and repeated chant by a large group of protestors, not a few islated statements. The chant continued right through the video with ran for almost a minute.
  • They also claim those chanting were “quickly condemned for their chants and asked to leave”. This is not what we see in the video.

They claim they are an “anti-racist and anti-colonial movement” and “refuse to fight racism with racism”. In contradiction to this, they declare they “oppose Zionism” and falsely declare that Zionism is “an ideology distinct from Judaism”. In seeking to define Jewish identity for Jewish people, this is a form of racism they would recognize and reject were it done to any other groups identity. They go on to claim they are not antisemitic and some of their best friends are Jewish, or word to that effect as they claim they have “a long-standing history of working with Jewish activists and organisers who oppose Zionism”. The problem with this is that this is a tiny fringe of the Jewish community. The vast majority (88%) of Australian Jews feel a personal responsibility for Israel’s continued existance, i.e. are Zionists, and this is a key part of their identity.

Melbourne rally

A rally in Melbourne on October 10 also saw people promoting “from the river to the sea” in the context of support for Palestinian terrorism targeting Israeli civilians.

Philip Dalidakis, previously a Victorian Melbourne of Parliament and Victoria’s Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, summed it up well saying “This guy in Melbourne tonight was protesting in support of Hamas. Note, Hamas not Palestinians. The sign ‘from the river to the sea’ is a chant about the extermination of the Jewish people & #Israel.”

Online reactions

The following are five examples from this morning’s monitoring of X / Twitter. They reflect some of the antisemitism and disinformation that is circulating. Twitter is currently filled with such content.

Videos of antisemitic actions offline, like those discussed above, are also going viral. This all contributes to the hostile environment members of the Jewish community are feeling, which builds on concern for family and friends who may have been caught up in the terrorists attacks, or the response to them.

Example 1

This example holds Jews collectively responsible for actions taken by the State of Israel, this is a form of antisemitism. Historically such arguments have led to attacks on synagogues and other Jewish institutions. In this war such language leads to the sort of chants and threats to the Jewish community as we saw at the Sydney Opera House.

The claim of Churches being attacked was itself disinformation, clearly designed to get pressure on Israel to stop its military action to create safety for Hamas as it continues to commit war crimes, holds on to Israeli civilians as hostages. One specific rumour was that the Church of Saint Porphyrius, established in the Roman Empire in the year 395 and the third oldest cathedral in the world, has been damaged. The Church put out a statement online correcting this.

Example 2

This example is in reply to a post criticizes Israel’s complete closing off of Gaza, cutting off access to out side food, fuel and other supplies, while Hamas is holding civilian hostages there (in breach of the Geneva convention) and threatening to kill them.

The initial tweet is commentary people may or may not agree with, but the response which compares Israeli to the Nazis for not providing food and resources to an enemy holding its civilians hostage crosses a line into antisemitism. It is a form of Holocaust distortion, specifically what is known as Holocaust inversion. It is also extremely offensive to claim it is the Jewish state that is behaving in a Nazi like manner as hundreds of Jews are being held at gun point by those wanting to kill them.

Example 3

This example, from an American author, argues America should not support Israel. That argument (an isolationist one) is not antisemitic in and of itself, but here it is made using a number of antisemitic tropes combined with disinformation. The tropes make it antisemitic.

Tropes and disinformation

  • The first trope is the reference to Israel being “overwhelmingly hated in its region” as that being a reason not to support Israel. This is very similar to the argument that Jews must be the cause of antisemitism because they experience it in so many places through history. The argument is simply victim blaming. It is also incorrect given various peace tries and the Abraham Accords. Israel is far from as isolated as Hamas would like.
  • The second fallacy is that the US would be hated for supporting Israel. Hamas is supported by Iran, which poses a threat not only to Israel but directly to the Untied States. The Iranian regime has for years referred to the United States as the “Great Satan” while Israel is only the “little Satan”. Hamas itself believes in a theocracy and opposes the values of democracy and freedom that Israel and the United States share.
  • The third trope is the promotion of the idea the United States is controlled by Israel, this is a classic Jewish power conspiracy (adapted to Israel) of the form found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
  • This final disinformation is that American is at any form of increased threat for supporting Israel or would be safe from terrorism if it cut ties with Israel. This is arguing giving in to terrorism, which is a downhill spiral.

Example 4

This example promotes the idea that all Israelis are European Jews who came to Israel as colonial occupiers. It is consistent with certain pro-Palestinian propaganda. It is highly inaccurate and distorts understanding of the events that are occurring. It is disinformation (if intentional) misinformation if it is just mistaken. It is related to an antisemitic narrative but in our view has avoided crossing the line into antisemitism, though it is heading in that direction.

Claim: All Israelis are Jews

Fact: 73.8% of Israelis are Jewish, 18% are Muslim, 1.9% Christian, and 1.5% Druze, and 5% other.

Claim: The original land of the Israeli Jews is not Israel


  • The Jewish people are the indigenous people of Israel and can trace their connection to the land going back 4,000 years. This is their “original land”.
  • There has been a continual Jewish presence in the land over this time. Jewish control ceased when the land was conquered by the Romans and Jews were forcibly dispersed around the Roman empire, often after been made slaves. For example 97,000 Jews were enslaved after the first Jewish revolt against Rome in the years 66-70.
  • The land was renamed from Judea to Palestina by the Romans to try break the connection between the Jews and the land.
  • About half of the Jews in Israel today come from those whose families lived in exile in Europe (many of them descendants of Holocaust survivors), while the other half come from Jews whose families continuously lived in the Middle East, some of them in what is now Israel but many more in other Middle Eastern or African countries.
  • Around 900,000 Jews were expelled or had to flee from Arab and other Muslims counties between 1920 and 1970 and many migrated to Israel.

Example 5

This example, a tweet directed at Israel’s PM, states Israel is a terrorist state. This is deeply offensive coming in the middle of a terrorist attack on Israeli civilians. If read as support for the Hamas’ attack it can be regarded as antisemitic.

Another post by the same user speaks out against accepting “Israeli Jewish refugees” and adopts a profile picture promoting this idea.

The tweet is in reply to another user who asks, “How many of us say we do not want Israeli refugees in our country?????????” (auto translated from Turkish) and provide the image this user is now using as their profile picture. The post, in Turkish, is going viral. It is antisemitic in nature.

Tackling antisemitism

Palestinian advocates have sought to attack the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism arguing it might undermine their political activism. Jewish groups have pointed to the definition as providing clear examples of when statements, made for whatever reason, cross the line into antisemitism.

Free speech means freedom for all speech that is lawful. Speech that is prohibited by law is not part of free speech. In the United States racism is lawful, which means it is protected by free speech principles. That doesn’t stop it being hate speech. In other countries, including Australia, racism is unlawful. This means it is not protected by free speech. The balance between the Racial Discrimination Act and Australia’s constitutionally implied freedom of political communication was been tested in the High Court years ago and the law was found to be valid. This means there is no exemption for political speech unless it falls within Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act and all of those exemptions only apply to someone acting reasonably and in good faith.

Despite this, a number of universities in Australia, such as La Trobe University, have sought to exclude the examples from the IHRA working definition, and others like the Australian National University chose not to adopt it at all. The University of Adelaide struggled to respond when their student magazine literally called for “death to Israel” in an article and posted “long live the intifada” on social media. The article was removed by their website hosting company only to reappear after they changed hosts. It was finally removed from their new site only last month.

Given the evidence of Palestinian advocacy sliding into overt antisemitism over the last couple of days, it is vital we take a stand and as a society assert that there is no excuse for antisemitism or racism. That means making it clear that there are no exceptions. Palestinian advocacy can be done without resorting to antisemitism and no excuses should be made when it crosses the line. The IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, including its examples, have been adopted / endorsed by 43 countries including Australia. Each example relates to a form of antisemitism that is well studied and appears with some frequency. It should be adopted and used by all of our universities, local councils, police and other institutions. Most importantly perhaps, it should be used by Palestinian activists themselves to avoid across into antisemitism.

In the online context, a word must also be spared for Elon Musk and the influence of X / Twitter. Here is a brief conversation from 12 hours ago:

“A pro-Hamas rally in the heart of NYC. Imagine if these scumbags held a pro-Al Qaeda rally after 9/11? This is the same thing. Just sickening!” To which someone replied, “How do you like free speech now @elonmusk?” My comment at the time was “I suspect he likes it just fine. The traffic on Twitter (sorry “X”) must be skyrocketing.” Reinforcing the point, an hour ago Musk posted this:

Making the story about him (tick), stirring up controversy to boost traffic on his platform (tick), attacking and seeking to undermine journalism (tick), and making light of his / his platforms contribution rising tensions and threats of violence around the world… big tick. There needs to be some accountability for this. The EU’s new Digital Service Act might just be the solution, but it needs to be used. Musk’s platform has been made unsafe by design, and that must lead liability for the harm it causes.

Prepared by: Andre Oboler, CEO, Online Hate Prevention Institute

You may also like to see our article on disinformation in this war. We also have a report Online Antisemitism in Australia 2023. A new edition is will be released later in October 2023 covering the period up to September 30th.

Our work is made possible through public donations, your support is appreciated.

Appendix: Background on Hamas and Gaza

Hamas is a proscribed terrorist organisation according to the Australian Government, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The Australian Government’s National Security site explains:

Hamas is an ideologically and religiously-motivated violent extremist organisation, which fuses Palestinian nationalist and Sunni Islamist objectives.

Hamas profile at Australian National Security website

The profile lists a number of examples of terrorist acts in which Hamas targeted civilians to advance its political aims. It concludes that, “Hamas is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts, and advocates the doing of terrorist acts.” The US State Department notes that Hamas has been involved in suicide bombings, rocket attacks, IED attacks, and shootings.

The Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory on the Mediterranean Sea that borders Israel and Egypt. It has been controlled by Hamas since 2007 when they violently seized control from the Palestinian Authority. As the US State Department explains, “After winning Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, Hamas gained control of significant Palestinian Authority (PA) ministries in Gaza, including the Ministry of Interior.  In 2007, Hamas expelled the PA [Palestinian Authority] and Fatah from Gaza in a violent takeover.”

The Palestinian Authority itself gained control of Gaza after Israel withdrew from the territory (forcibly dismantling Jewish settlements) as part of peace efforts in 2005. Israel had gained control of Gaza from Egypt during the Six-Day War in 1967. The handover to the Palestinian Authority was undertaken with Egypt’s support and after Egypt renounced any claim to the territory. Gaza is one of two Palestinian territories, the other being the West Bank which is still controlled by the Palestinian Authority. A more detailed history can be seen at The Washington Post.