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As long as I can still talk with Hamid, there’s hope

This week the US consulate in Sydney was vandalised by pro-Palestinian protestors and police used pepper spray to control demonstrations in Melbourne. A chance conversation is a reminder that we can do better.
Yossi Goldfarb
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tow truck palestine Israel

Illustration: TJI

Published: 6 June 2024

Last updated: 13 June 2024

Recently my car broke down and was collected by a very pleasant and cheerful tow-truck driver who took the car and me to the mechanic.

It was about half an hour’s drive, so we got talking.

The conversation was light and breezy. The driver was smiley and convivial as we swapped stories about the various cars in our lives and how they had either disappointed us or filled us with joy and pride.

After a little friendly chit-chat, the driver realised we hadn’t introduced ourselves, and told me his name, effectively informing me that he was a Muslim Arab. To protect his privacy, I’ll call him Hamid.

“Joseph,” I said. I felt apprehensive about using my obviously Jewish name in the wake of the antisemitism, violent threats and intimidation that the Jewish community experiences daily.

I asked him about his background. He told me he was a Palestinian from the West Bank who had migrated here seven years ago with his wife and four children.

“Welcome,” I said. The pleasant conversation about cars, the weather and anything but the elephant in the room continued.

My conversation with Hamid reminded me of how much anger and distrust there is towards our community. But it also gave me hope. 

But the elephant grew too big to ignore so I asked him if he was following what was happening in Gaza.

“Of course,” he said, “Just like you must be”.

What followed was the source of both joy and despair.

He told me of the grief he felt for people he knew who had suffered loss as a result of the war. I grieved with him and shared my sorrow and private thoughts on the significant loss of life visited upon innocent Palestinian families because of the conflict.

He then told me that October 7 was effectively a hoax –that women weren’t raped and babies weren’t butchered – as if it matters how people were murdered on that awful day. He told me the “stories” about October 7 were propagated because all the mainstream media were controlled by Zionists – not Jews he pointed out, but Zionists.

I despair over Hamid’s qualification that he was speaking of Zionists and not Jews. We’ve heard this across the nation – from protestors on campus to members of parliament – often stated angrily and menacingly.

Zionism is not a dirty word. It is the political movement that advocates for the self-determination of the Jewish people in our ancient and eternal homeland – Israel. The thin veil used by the haters to differentiate Judaism from Zionism only masks the antisemitism inherent in their claims.

Our community was warmed by the immediate response of our political leaders to the horrors of Hamas’ blood-thirsty attacks. Within the first week both the premier and opposition leader – together with many from their parties, both state and federal – joined with us to condemn the barbarous terrorism, share in our overwhelming grief and hope for peace. This immediate and instinctive demonstration of support was welcomed and deeply valued.

However, our community members are telling us that they feel scared and abandoned by our leaders as we contend with continuing violent protests and attacks, seemingly without any arrests having been made.

We have seen organisations from other communities create blood libels against the Jewish community, which led to riots against, and in our community. Ironically – and I use that term generously – some of those organisations are in receipt of public funding for multiculturalism.

My conversation with Hamid reminded me of how much anger and distrust there is towards our community. But it also gave me hope. 

While our narratives don’t align, I was struck by his capacity to speak calmly and without rancour on a topic that was clearly contested.

If Hamid the Palestinian and Yossi the Zionist can share a civil conversation over a  a journey of thirty minutes in these conflicted times, then there is hope. There simply has to be.


Anthony Albanese condemns attack on US consulate in Sydney (SBS)
A person has attacked the US Consulate in Sydney, damaging windows and spray-painting pro-Palestinian symbols amid rising tensions over the Hamas-Israel conflict.

Adam Bandt blasts government at Palestine rally as police pepper-spray protesters (SMH, paywall)
Greens leader Adam Bandt has told pro-Palestine protesters at a Melbourne rally where police used pepper spray that the major parties have been “slandering this movement”, after his party was accused of encouraging violent protests last week.

Universities under pressure from MPs to adopt antisemitism definition (SMH, paywall)
beral backbencher Julian Leeser and Labor MP Josh Burns joined forces to call on all Australian universities to adopt a politically contested definition of antisemitism that some of the nation’s major academic institutions rejected months before the Gaza conflict broke out.

Community tensions rise over war in Gaza (ABC)
Rallies over the Israel-Gaza conflict continued over the weekend, as have calls to ease tensions in Australia.

Joy and anger over hostage rescue (ABC)
The Jewish community says it's rejoicing, but the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians reported to have been killed in the operation have been mourned at rallies in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. 

Australia pledges more aid for Gaza (ABC)
Australia has announced an extra 10 million dollars for urgent aid in Gaza. Government frontbencher Dr Anne Aly's announced the funds, while attending an emergency international conference on assistance for Gaza being held in Jordan.

Australian mining tycoon and billionaire’s ambitious plan to deliver aid to Gaza (CNN)
Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest has donated $5 million dollars as a first step in his ambitious plan to bring aid to starving Gaza residents. He talks about the mining technology that could be used to create a workable aid corridor. 

This is an edited version of a speech he delivered at a reception to mark Israel’s Independence Day that was attended by the Premier, Leader of the Opposition, parliamentarians, councillors, diplomats and leaders of the Jewish community.

About the author

Yossi Goldfarb

Yossi Goldfarb is president of Zionism Victoria.


  • Avatar of Wesley Parish

    Wesley Parish14 June at 03:39 am

    Zionism is a dirty word. It’s a capitulation to antisemitism, an annexation of the worst in toxic European nationalisms of the late 1800s and eraly 1900s, that we are seeing a resurgence of again, in Europe and elsewhere. It’s constructing a LaLaLand in Canaan (used to avoid the Israel/Palestine bunfight) by using exactly the same methods of conquest, dispossession, expulsion, that we in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the US, New Caledonia/Kanaky, etc., have to face up to, if we want our societies founded on justice. (Christchurch NZ was founded by a group of people with very similar objectives to those of the earliest olim. It’s fascinating to read.)

  • Avatar of Mohammed

    Mohammed11 June at 10:59 am

    The idea of Zionism in its inception: the right of jews to self-determination or the historic claim of living between the two rivers is not contested. I think your Palestinian friend was talking about extreme Zionism; the one that thinks of Palestinians as sub-human, that they have no right to their basic rights and that they should be ‘kicked out’ to make way for a Kahanist society.

    I suggest that Zionists, in all factions, get together like during the inception of the idea via the Basel Congress to see what they would accept a future with Palestinians to be. Once that happens, there will definitely be peace.

  • Avatar of Jack Morris

    Jack Morris9 June at 11:08 pm

    This is the ultimate in delusion. How can we properly engage with Muslims whose minds are infused with anti-Israel lies and propaganda?

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