I remember the Six Day War of June 1967 in which Israel fought and won a defensive war against the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria – gaining control of the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights in the process. At Melbourne University at the time, the academics and students on the left and the right overwhelmingly supported the right of Israel to exist as a nation and to defend itself.

Within six years, however, attitudes had changed. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in October 1973 – the Yom Kippur War. As an academic at Melbourne’s La Trobe University at the time, it was evident there was hostility to Israel among the left intelligentsia, especially among those working in or studying the social sciences.

There were probably two reasons for this. In 1967 Israel seemed a weak state but by 1973 it was a regional power. Moreover, the number of middle-class radicals on tertiary campuses had increased substantially in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Half a century later, campuses in the West are hotbeds for anti-Israel activism – motivated, at times, by base anti-Semitism.

I have visited the area of Gaza twice; the first in the late 1980s during what was called the first intifada (uprising). Gaza had been occupied by Israel since 1967, since Egypt had declined to resume as the government following completion of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979.

The trip was arranged by the Israeli Defence Forces and the journalists/columnists in our party were in a vehicle hit by some stone-throwers. But the level of violence was low and no one’s life was in danger. In 2005, the IDF and the various Israeli settlements left the Gaza Strip and it came under the leadership of the Palestinian Authority led by the Fatah party.

The atmosphere was peaceful and aid was flowing in from some Western and Middle East nations. It was obvious Gaza, abutting the Mediterranean and not far from prosperous Tel Aviv, had a great future if peace prevailed. But in mid-2006 Islamist group Hamas defeated Fatah in an election and drove it out of Gaza – and continued to fire rockets on Israel, with Israel attacking Gaza in response.

My last visit was in 2016. I focused on southern Israel and observed Hamas-controlled Gaza from a distance. I had no idea that in less than a decade, this would become a killing ground of more Jews in one day than at any time since Nazi Germany’s Holocaust.

In the current debate in Australia and elsewhere, Gaza is frequently depicted as being occupied by Israel. In fact, there have been no Israelis voluntarily living in Gaza for almost two decades.

Sure, Gaza has been blockaded by Israel since 2007 as a means of self-defence. But, until recent weeks, thousands of Gazans have been allowed to work in Israel. Moreover, there are two ways in and out of the Gaza Strip – through the Erez crossing to Israel or the Rafah crossing to Egypt.

Southern Israel, which abuts the Gaza Strip, has been part of Israel – which is recognised by the UN – since the armistice of 1949. The Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel on October 7 went on a murderous spree attacking civilians – pregnant women, babies and the elderly – on what has been regarded as Israeli land for seven decades.

In a perceptive article in his Uncomfortable Conversations blog on substack.com, ABC Radio presenter Josh Szeps makes the point that “southern Israel is not populated by right-wing settlers who oppose peace” but “largely by left-wing peaceniks and kibbutzim”.

Szeps describes the butchery of Israelis by Hamas “terrorists with bodycams” as “the Christchurch shooter en masse”. He criticised the leftists who condemned the extreme right-wing terrorist who murdered Muslims in New Zealand but who’ve gone quiet about, rationalise or support Hamas terrorists when they kill Jews.

A similar criticism has been made by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. He is a man of the left but has condemned some American and Europeans who present themselves as progressives but embrace “extreme moral insensitivity” when peaceful Israelis are tortured, raped and murdered by Hamas. Harari was quoted in The Guardian on October 25 as criticising members of the left intelligentsia for “placing all responsibility on Israel for the current war”. Similar sentiments can be found among Australians who identify as progressives.

The intimidation of pro-Israel students on university campuses by Hamas supporters and/or Israel haters has been well documented in the North American media. So much so that Jewish students feel unsafe due to bullying from Hamas-supporting academics and students and the weakness, call it cowardice, of university administrators who fail to protect them.

On September 23 I wrote about anti-Semitism in a Victorian government school that the state Education Department failed to address. Since what is called 7/10, the situation has worsened dramatically.

Take Sydney University. The Student Representative Council has blamed Israel for the war, in the face of all the evidence. And the SRC promoted the demonstration in Sydney on October 10 in which some demonstrators called out “gas the Jews”. I am not aware of any left-wing group that has condemned this.

On Sydney radio 2GB on October 12, Sydney University vice-chancellor Mark Scott’s attention was drawn to the case of a student bullied for carrying an Israeli flag on campus. Asked by presenter Chris O’Keefe what he would do, Scott responded: “We are working on a statement here at the university that will be released this month.” Really.

One impact of Hamas’s attack on Israel has been to reduce further freedom of expression on Australian campuses due to the intolerance of the left intelligentsia – which these days is profoundly anti-Israel – and the weakness of university administrators; 1967 was utopia compared with today.