‘The Wars of the Jews’: Zionism, Antisemitism & Anti-Zionism

Free Public Lecture

‘The Wars of the Jews’: Zionism, Antisemitism & Anti-Zionism

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
Arts West


More information

T: 9035 5092


The Wednesday Lectures 2018 hosted by Raimond Gaita

The Holocaust and the establishment of Israel in its aftermath left Jews in Israel and the New World traumatised but also buoyed, after 1967, by the image of military power. That polarity – between powerlessness and power, victim and warrior – continues to shape Jewish identity today, by positioning Israel and Holocaust memory as twin pillars in what sociologists have described as the ‘civic religion’ of secular Jews.

In this talk, Mark Baker will reflect on the 21st century wars of the Jews that echo the divisions between zealots and pariahs observed by Josephus 2000 years ago. Today’s wars, fought militarily by Israel and polemically on social media, have created wide fissures in Jewish communal life and a breakdown of civil discourse in debates about Zionism, and the nexus between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, primarily in Europe but also America and Australia.

In the early modern period, Jewish representations to government and the wider public were made by oligarchs who played the role of intercessors, replaced in the 20th century by organised lobby groups. Today, these voices of Jewish officialdom are being challenged internally by the democratisation of public opinion and the weakening of communal bonds of loyalty. The question of who speaks for Jews, or if there is a collective Jewish voice on any particular issue, has created a rift with some segments of society, particularly the Left where the idea of intersectionality tends to exclude Jews whose identity is bound up with Israel.

In light of the resurgence of antisemitism and the legacy of the Holocaust, should there be any constraints on the questioning by non-Jews of the authenticity of Jewish identity in its multifarious forms and practises? This lecture on the politics of Jewish identity will revisit old/new themes concerning victimhood and privilege, tribalism and universality, exceptionalism and violence, by tracing the uneasy relationship between Rome and Jerusalem – Diaspora and Zion – from Josephus to Bibi.

The Wednesday Lectures is an annual series of talks hosted by Professor Raimond Gaita that invites speakers from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds to offer their perspective on a subject of pressing public, and sometimes intensely personal, concern.


  • Professor Raimond Gaita
    Professor Raimond Gaita, Professorial Fellow at the Melbourne Law School and the Faculty of Arts
  •  Mark Baker