It’s a rare occasion indeed when six of Australia’s seven former prime ministers unite on one issue of public policy. This gives special importance to the statement issued by John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison last Monday, which declared there was no place in our country for racial or religious hatred.

That was the general statement. In the next sentence, the six said “there is no more tenaciously evil race hatred than anti-Semitism”. The reference is to the Australian Jewish community, which has been affected by Hamas’s terrorist attacks of October 7 on southern Israel, and the fact Israel’s response to these atrocities has been used by some to spread what the six describe as “ancient hatreds which have inflicted so much suffering on the Jewish people for thousands of years”.

How else to describe the cries of “F..k the Jews” and “Gas the Jews” that were heard outside the Sydney Opera House on October 9? The first chant was race hatred, the second incitement to murder.

Yet, in Australia, many members of the intelligentsia and the green left are in denial about what happened on Australian streets, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, just over three weeks ago; while others are effectively in the camp of the aggressor, the Hamas-led administration in Gaza, which denies the right of Israel, a nation recognised by the UN, to properly defend itself.

On Tuesday, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent Karen Middleton appeared in the political commentary slot on ABC Radio National Breakfast. Asked by presenter Patricia Karvelas about the significance of the former prime ministers’ statement, Middleton replied that it was “reasonably nuanced” and made “a very firm statement about anti-Semitism”.

Quite so. But Middleton added: “We’ve seen in this country the very alarming rise of neo-Nazism in recent times.” There is some truth in this. But Middleton failed to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of demonstrators against Israel have been members of the green left along with others – some Palestinians, many Muslim Lebanese plus others of Middle Eastern background and more besides. A similar combination has dominated protests against Israel in Britain, France, the US and elsewhere.

Indeed, a number of academics, along with students, were prominent in the demonstration in Sydney. There is no evidence that they supported or were aware of the vile anti-Semitic chants. However, they spoke on behalf of the demonstration. For example, University of Sydney English department academic Nick Riemer was reported on Radio 2GB as saying: “We’re staff from Sydney University and we’re from a group of Sydney Uni staff that support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” against Israel. He added: “We’re here out in support of justice for Palestine and freedom for Palestinians.” He did not condemn Hamas’s barbaric murder, rape and torture of peaceful Israelis in southern Israel, on what is now called by some as 7/10.

What is at issue here is credentials-flashing. Riemer is a teacher of linguistic studies and as such has no more authority to speak on the Middle East than (in old-fashioned terminology) a butcher, baker or candlestick maker. However, the fact he chooses to speak dogmatically, as an academic at a public protest, is likely to be noticed by students.

Riemer is not alone. Indeed, his comments are moderate when compared with some academics overseas. In these pages on Monday, historian Niall Ferguson referred to Stanford University academic Ameer Hasan Loggins, who said that Hamas’s attack on Israel was resistance and then separated Jewish students from their belongings – simulating what he maintained was what Jews were doing to Palestinians. At Cornell University, a self-identified Hamas supporter allegedly threatened to kill Jewish students. Meanwhile in Britain, Jewish chaplains’ houses on some campuses have been targeted, and individual Jewish women and men threatened. Jews living in the West, including Australia, have a right to feel safe – especially with respect to children attending Jewish schools and young adults undertaking tertiary studies. Many no longer do.

The general line of the green left is that Israel is committing an act of genocide in Gaza – despite the fact it is not consciously targeting civilians. After the end of the Nazi-Soviet pact in June 1941, the pro-communist left in Australia supported the war effort. This included the Allied D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944, in which 12,200 French civilians died. No one called that genocide.

Then there is the claim that Israel is into ethnic cleansing. However, it is Israel’s opponents who chant “From the river to the sea/Palestine will be free”. Such a slogan, if implemented, would drive all Jews living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into the ocean. Now, that would be a repeat of the kind of ethnic cleansing that many Jewish communities have experienced over the decades.

It is thought by some that anti-Semitism is exclusively a product of the extreme right. Not so, it is also found on the extreme left.

When the Soviet Union’s communist dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, he was mourned by the pro-communist left in Australia and elsewhere, despite the fact one of Stalin’s last deeds was to invent the Doctors’ Plot conspiracy based on the false claim that Jewish doctors were attempting to murder him as part of a plot by international Jewry. The allegations were dropped after Stalin’s death.

The extreme right in Australia, which now presents as neo-Nazi, is bigoted, unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. However, it is readily identified by police and intelligence services.

The green left, on the other hand, is approaching a mass movement headed by taxpayer-subsidised academics and students that links up with some organisations that hate the West along with Western allies and friends.

Right now, Jews in Australia have every reason to be afraid of anti-Semitism directed by the green left and others. Meanwhile, others in the professions – such as “Sarah B”, who wrote on these pages on Thursday – feel intimidated by their colleagues. Such is the evident hatred of Israel. This is something the former prime ministers understand but not, apparently, The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent.