Jews in Australia experience hike in anti-Semitism

Australia’s Jewish community has endured a significant rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the past year. The community’s leaders are calling for action. 

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The Jewish community in Australia has experienced a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated against it, a new report by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) shows.

The last 12 months, ending in September 2017, saw a 9.5 percent increase over the previous year in total anti-Semitic incidents in Australia involving threats or acts of violence, according to the annual Report on Antisemitism in Australia published by the ECAJ on Sunday.

The ECAJ and other Jewish community groups around the country logged a total of 230 anti-Semitic incidents during the period, including physical assaults, abuse and harassment, vandalism, graffiti, expressions of hate and threats communicated directly by email, letters, telephone calls, and leaflets.

The upsurge compares to a total of 210 such incidents logged over the course of the same time period last year.

Attacks, including assault, abuse, vandalism, and graffiti accounted for 63 percent of the total number of incidents. Threats via email, letters, telephone and leaflets accounted for 37 percent.

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There is also much “anecdotal evidence of incidents” which go unreported, the report said.

Overall, the number of incidents in the ‘attacks’ category remained relatively unchanged, while ‘threats’ increased by 39 percent. There was a marked increase in anti-Semitic graffiti and posters.

Australian Jewry also recorded a 10 percent increase of anti-Semitic incidents in 2016.

Antipodean Resistance’s Mounting Menace

Julie Nathan, the ECAJ research officer and the report’s author, noted that “the most prominent change over the last 12 months in Australia has been the rise in extreme right-wing activity.”

The Antipodean Resistance Group, a small neo-Nazi group that calls itself “the Hitlers you’ve been waiting for,” is predominantly responsible for the increase, Natahn said.

Antipodean Resistance originated in Melbourne in 2016 and now has chapters in most other states. So far, their activities have involved putting up thousands of Nazi stickers and thousands of anti-Jewish, anti-homosexual and pro-Nazi posters, especially at universities and other places visible to the public.

Some of the Antipodean Resistance posters express support for violence and murder and a call to “legalize the execution of Jews” by shooting them in the head.

The  group’s membership is believed to be rather limited and their influence even more so.

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However, anti-Semitic posters and stickers put up by Antipodean Resistance accounted for 22 percent of the total number of incidents.

“At this stage, Antipodean Resistance is a serious concern rather than a solid threat to the safety and security of Jews, homosexuals, and non-white immigrants. However, it remains to be seen what direction Antipodean Resistance will take in their future activities,” Natan cautioned.

Although Australia remains a stable, vibrant and tolerant democracy, where Jews face no official discrimination and are free to observe their faith and traditions, anti-Semitism persists, the report said. There are segments of Australian society which are not only hostile towards Jews, but actively and publicly express that hatred with words and threatens or actual violent acts. As a result, and by necessity, physical security remains a prime concern for the Jewish community.

“The Jewish community is the only community within Australia whose places of worship, schools, communal organisations and community centres need, for security reasons, to operate under the protection of high fences, armed guards, metal detectors, CCTV cameras and the like,” Nathan added. “The necessity arises from the entrenched and protean nature of anti-Semitism in western and Muslim culture, resulting in a high incidence of physical attacks against Jews and Jewish communal buildings over the last three decades.”

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“For a diverse society such as Australia’s to be socially cohesive, it is imperative that those in positions of influence within Australia publicly condemn antisemitism and other forms of racism, and support legal and other measures to counter all forms of racism, especially those which involve violence or advocacy of violence,” the ECAJ stated.

Similarly, the Jewish communities in the US and the UK have also experienced a spike in anti-Semitic incidents.