Prof. Philip Mendes is the director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Policy Unit in the Department of Social Work at Monash University. The strange case of an Australian oleh (immigrant) dying in custody has caused an international stir and inspired Dr. Mendes to write on “Israel’s emotional pull on Australian Jews” for the social justice-oriented Jesuit publication, Eureka Street:
Over the past few weeks the tragedy of young Israeli-Australian Ben Zygier has dominated the airwaves. Given that I am friendly with and wish to respect the privacy of the Zygier family I will write more about the general issues rather than the specifics of that case. …
…. [A] 2009 study by the Monash University Centre for Jewish Civilisation found that 80 per cent of Australian Jews regarded themselves as Zionists, 76 per cent felt a special fear if Israel was perceived to be in danger, 74 per cent had relatives living in Israel, and 86 per cent had visited Israel.
Australian Jews have the highest per capita rate of aliyah (emigration to Israel) in the Western world. …. This Zionist identity is politically and religiously diverse. For example, the Zionist youth movements vary from the secular left Hashomer Hatzair whose adherents seek to live on collectivist kibbutzim which favour peace and reconciliation with the Palestinians, to Bnei Akiva on the religious right whose graduates often aspire to live on settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The reasons for this intense connection with Israel are both historical and current. One factor is that Australia has a comparatively high number of Holocaust survivors or children of survivors. The establishment of Israel is regarded by Jews as both an atonement by the international community for failing to prevent the Holocaust, and an ongoing insurance policy that ensures Jews will always have a sanctuary from anti-Semitism.
Another factor is the ongoing Arab campaign to delegitimise Israel. Given the historical Jewish experience of powerlessness and genocide, many Jews genuinely fear that Israel is threatened by destruction. …
The entire article can be read online by clicking here.