Australia: Anti-Semitic incidents almost double the average

Australian Jewish News
AJN STAFF

AUSTRALIAN Jews suffered a record 652 anti-Semitic incidents in the 12 months to October, almost twice the average of the past 18 years.

The 2007-08 tally was two per cent above that of the period ending September 30 last year.

These unsettling figures were revealed to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) annual conference in Sydney this week by researcher Jeremy Jones, who submitted his annual report on anti-Semitism in Australia.

Jones, who is director of community affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said he was particularly concerned about anti-Jewish propaganda from extremist organisations, much of it published in fringe publications and on the internet.

In his report to the ECAJ, he noted "particular concern at the negative impact of material from a variety of overseas sources which has as its thesis an eternal enmity of Muslims towards Jews".

"During the 12 months in review, the combined number of incidents involving physical assault, property damage and direct, face-to-face harassment was almost three times the previous average," Jones stated.

He said online communities, Facebook and YouTube "have been the venues of crude and intense anti-Jewish prejudice being expressed openly and unashamedly. While the sum total of reports of each and all such behaviour is not sufficient to suggest that it is rampant, it is nevertheless cause for genuine concern".

On a brighter note, Jones said mainstream debate surrounding last year's federal election was reasonably free of anti-Semitism "despite efforts by anti-Jewish groups and individuals".

The same applied to communal reactions to the extradition request by Hungary for alleged Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai, the Federal Court contempt hearing under the Racial Hatred Act concerning Fredrick Toben and Parliament's motion congratulating Israel on its 60th anniversary,

Reports of threats conveyed to the Jewish community by phone and mail were less than a third of the average over the previous 18 years.

Phone calls, which often contained extreme anti-Semitic abuse, were at the lowest rate in 19 years and hate mail was at the third lowest rate in 19 years.

"But abusive and threatening mail continued to be received at private homes and by Jewish institutions."

Jones said that during the review period, graffiti incidents were the second lowest in eight years and at 80 per cent of the average for all years.

On interfaith relations, he said the Jewish and Islamic communities in Australia "enjoy a generally positive relationship and there is little evidence that anti-Jewish sentiment is widespread. At the public, leadership level, Muslim and Jewish Australians regularly meet, and promote understanding and tolerance".

Jones said otherwise excellent relations between Australian Jews and Christians were sometimes marred by "derogatory references to the Jewish religion" from some church figures.

"There was a concern expressed by some members of the Jewish community and others sympathetic to it, that the staging of a re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross, during the Papal visit to Sydney, would reinforce or encourage anti-Jewish stereotypes and prejudice, but there were efforts made by the Catholic Church and the Jewish community to minimise this potential harm, apparently successfully."



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