The term cancel culture is relatively new in so far as constant word usage is concerned. It was preceded by deplatforming. However, there is nothing fresh about the concept with respect to both terms. We’re talking censorship, or attempted censorship, of the political kind.

Two recent examples illustrate the reality of cancel culture in contemporary Australia – from Perth to Sydney. Highly talented Australian singer, songwriter and author Deborah Conway is scheduled to speak at the State Library of Western Australia in Perth on Saturday evening, participating in a songwriting masterclass with Willy Zygier. What’s the problem, it’s reasonable to ask. Well, Conway is Jewish and she supports the right of the Jewish state of Israel to exist within secure borders.

Consequently, Conway believes Israel was entitled to invade the Gaza Strip in pursuit of the terrorist Hamas organisation, following Hamas’s decision to break a ceasefire and invade southern Israel on October 7 last year.

On December 15, Conway was interviewed by Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National Breakfast. It was not a soft interview. But Conway was given the opportunity to state her opinion on the right of Israel to respond to the brutality of Hamas’s attacks, which involved the murder and hostage-taking of civilian men, women and children, along with rape.

It is Hamas’s publicly announced intention to eliminate the Israeli state, even if it takes centuries. In this sense, Hamas is the only party in this conflict committed to genocide. This point was made by senator Dave Sharma, a former Australian ambassador to Israel, in an address to the Sydney Institute on Monday.

In a considered performance on RN Breakfast, Conway acknowledged that all war is an “atrocious” occasion in which “people get killed”. This is especially the case with civilians if an armed force such as Hamas embeds itself within a civilian population. But some wars are just. She also made the point that, for most of its existence since 1948, Israel has been governed by left-of-centre, not right-of-centre, governments.

Many Australians will agree with Conway. Others will not. But some Australians who identify as “writers and artists” just wanted to silence her at the Perth Festival. Some hundreds signed a petition declaring that “the programming of Deborah Conway risks the safety of the Festival and platforms beliefs that should be compre­hensively rejected”.

The idea that the safety of an audience can be endangered by the presence of an artist discussing music is plainly ridiculous. Unless they are of the view that it is somehow unsafe to hear an opinion different from their own positions – which provides an excuse for real or attempted censorship.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, a group titled the Tzedek Collective wants to stop British writer Douglas Murray (who is not Jewish) from appearing at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney’s inner west late next month. Murray will perform in all mainland states.

I have known Murray for well over a decade. He is an associate editor of The Spectator, and the author of several books including The War on The West and The Strange Death of Europe. Any reasonable analysis of Murray’s body of work – as a writer and speaker – would conclude that he is a great communicator and a highly skilled polemicist. He is also very considered and backs up his arguments with evidence.

But this is not good enough for the anonymous ideologues of the Tzedek Collective. In their petition, on change.org, they have called for the Enmore Theatre to cancel all present and future scheduled events platforming Murray and “to issue an apology to the community for its intention to platform” him. Really. It’s not clear to whom any such apology might be directed. Perhaps it’s to leftists in inner-west Enmore. Or maybe to the group of artists at the Tzedek Collective who are campaigning against “the overwhelming Zionism in our community”.

According to the Tzedek Collective, Murray, who is appearing in Australia as part of Josh Szeps’ Uncomfortable Conversations Live tour, is a “far-right Zionist ideologue”. The Tzedek Collective also maintains that Murray “promotes hate, racism and genocide”. This is just abuse unsupported by evidence.

Those who want to silence Conway and Murray overlook a couple of facts. It was Hamas that started this war. If it wants to stop the killing, its leaders such as Yahya Sinwar can release the hostages (whose capture was a war crime) and surrender.

The would-be censors in Perth and Sydney also do not want to address the rise of anti-Semitism in Australia. The writers and artists attending the Perth Festival will be safe. Not so Australian Jews in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and the like who experience anti-Semitism at a level never witnessed previously in the nation.

It is a false comparison to equate anti-Semitism with Islamophobia in contemporary Australia. There are no hordes of Jewish Australians travelling through suburbs with large Muslim populations chanting hostile slogans. Moreover, there is no body of considered opinion advocating that Muslim shops should be boycotted or that Muslim speakers should be de-platformed.

Writing in her Come Writers & Critics column in these pages last Saturday, Caroline Overington pointed to the complete lack of balance in the discussion of the Middle East in the forthcoming taxpayer-subsidised Adelaide Writers Week. Critics of what is (yet another) AWW leftist stack are calling for balance in the platforming – not the silencing of opponents of contemporary Israel.

There have been other times of tension in Australia due to the domestic impact of foreign conflict. The debate over conscription during World War I and opposition to Australia’s Vietnam commitment in the late 1960s come immediately to mind. During the Vietnam commitment, some left-wing activists sought to silence supporters of Australia’s commitment. But never at the level that is currently being experienced.

The only way to fight back against cancel culture is for courageous individuals such as Conway and Murray to state their case, for the Perth Festival and the Enmore Theatre not to back down to the intolerant mob, and for audiences to rock up for both occasions.