The 12 month period ending 30 September 2016 saw a 10% increase over the previous year in antisemitic incidents in Australia involving threats or acts of violence, according to the annual Report on Antisemitism in Australia published by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).
The ECAJ, Jewish community roof bodies in each State, and other Jewish community groups logged a total of 210 antisemitic incidents during the period, including physical assaults, abuse and harassment, vandalism, graffiti, hate and threats communicated directly by email, letters, telephone calls, and leaflets. This compares to a total of 190 such incidents logged by the same sources over the preceding 12 month period.
Physical assaults and abuse/harassment of Jews comprised 45% of the incidents. These included incidents motivated by racial hatred where Jews were punched and kicked.
“There was a marked increase in the form of assault known as ‘egging’ – targeting and assaulting Jews by throwing eggs at them. Eggings occurred predominantly as Jews walked to and from synagogue on Friday evenings and Saturdays in Melbourne,” said the report’s author, ECAJ Research Officer, Julie Nathan.
Attacks (assault, abuse, vandalism, and graffiti) accounted for 70% of the total number of incidents, with 149 incidents. Threats (email, letters, telephone, leaflets) accounted for 30% of the total number of incidents, with 61 incidents. There is also much anecdotal evidence of incidents which go unreported.
The report also noted an increase in vandalism, graffiti, hate emails, and antisemitic leaflets. “There was a decrease in face-to-face verbal abuse/harassment of Jews, although the frequency of this type of incident tends to fluctuate from year to year” said Nathan.
For the first time, the report includes information on the ethnic composition of the perpetrators of some types of antisemitic incidents. Of the 91 incidents of assault and abuse in Sydney and Melbourne, there were 43 incidents where the ethnicity of the perpetrator/s was identified in the reporting of the incident. This information was counted and noted. Many incidents had multiple perpetrators. Assault and abuse in other states were excluded.
The result is that of the 72 perpetrators whose ethnicity was logged, these were composed of 34 Caucasian, 31 Middle Eastern, 5 Maori/Polynesian, and 2 African. Percentage-wise, it comprised Caucasian at 47%, Middle Eastern at 43%, and ‘Other’ at 10%.
However, the breakdown between Sydney and Melbourne tells a different story. In Sydney, it comprised Caucasian (17 perpetrators) at 39%, and Middle Eastern (22 perpetrators) at 51%. In Melbourne, it comprised Caucasian (17 perpetrators) at 58%, and Middle Eastern (9 perpetrators) at 31%. In both Sydney and Melbourne, ‘Other’ comprised 10%.
It is to be noted that this data only applies to 43 out of the 91 incidents of assault and abuse in Sydney and Melbourne, ie 47% of these incidents, and therefore only tells a partial story.
Although Australia remains a stable, vibrant and tolerant democracy, where Jews face no official discrimination, and are free to observe their faith and traditions, antisemitism persists. There are segments of Australian society which are not only hostile towards Jews, but actively and publicly express that hatred with words and threatened or actual violent acts. As a result, and by necessity, physical security remains a prime concern for the Jewish community.
Nathan said “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. The necessity is recognised by Australia’s law enforcement agencies and arises from the entrenched and protean nature of antisemitism in western and Muslim culture, resulting in a high incidence of physical attacks against Jews and Jewish communal buildings over the last three decades, and continuing threats.”
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.
Peter Wertheim AM