Julie Nathan, ABC Religion and Ethics 29 Dec 2016
The annual Report on Antisemitism in Australia for 2016 has been released by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the elected representative national body of the Australian Jewish community.
The ECAJ Report records antisemitism in two broad categories: incidents and discourse.
Incidents of antisemitism
The twelve 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.
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 twelve month period.
Attacks (assault, abuse, vandalism and graffiti) accounted for 70% of the total number of incidents, with 149 incidents. Two of these categories, indeed, the most serious – physical assaults and abuse/harassment of Jews – comprised 45% of the total 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.
Overall, there was an increase in physical assaults, vandalism, graffiti, hate emails, threatening phone calls and antisemitic leaflets; and a decrease in face-to-face verbal abuse/harassment of Jews, and in postal mail.
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. In terms of percentage, 47% of the perpetrators were Caucasian, 43% Middle Eastern and 61% “Other.”
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 – that is, 47% of the incidents. Therefore the data only tells a partial story. It does, however, provide some indication of the composition of the ethnic sources of antisemitic incidents.
As to gender, all perpetrators of assault and abuse in Melbourne were male, and in Sydney all but four were male.
Physical assaults included incidents motivated by racial hatred where Jews were punched and kicked – for example, a 22-year-old Jewish man was punched in the neck and called a “Fucking Jew” while walking home from synagogue. There was a marked increase in “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.
Abuse and harassment often occur around synagogues and other Jewish centres. Many incidents include people doing drive-bys and yelling out abuse such as “Fucking Jews” often accompanied with gun/shooting gestures made by hand. Other incidents occur elsewhere – for example, some Jewish school students were abused at a train station, being told, “I’m going to slit your throats you dirty Jews.”
Incidents of vandalism included the firebombing of two vehicles, smashing the glass door of a synagogue, carving “Kill Jews” into a desk at a university, as well as multiple instances of destroying the plastic conduit pipes of an eruv. Graffiti usually included swastikas invariably with the word “Jew,” “Fuck Jews,” “Jewboy” and “Die Jues [sic] die” and the like.
Email hate included threats, denigration, Holocaust denial and the like – for example, “the game is up and you all must prepare for the consequences,” “the jew tribe that infests society world wide […] Zionist jooze are the scum of the earth” and “Holohoax. Death to jews.” A rabbi received a spate of emails, some with images that had been photo-shopped to make the rabbi’s head appear in Nazi concentration camp uniform and in a Nazi crematorium.
Phone calls were usually made to synagogues or other Jewish institutions, leaving hate messages such as, “Bang bang”, “Fucking Jews … you are all going to die” and “If Hitler had lived another 10 years he would have killed all of you.” A letter was posted to a Jewish organisation which included threats to kill Jews.
Holocaust-denying leaflets were distributed at several universities. Neo-Nazi leaflets, calling for the killing of Jews, were distributed at universities, Jewish businesses and elsewhere through the hacking of printers by a neo-Nazi in the United States. The text of one leaflet included the words, “White man are you sick and tired of the Jews destroying your country …” Another leaflet stated “one by one he pulled the trigger of his Saiga after pointing its barrel towards the head of a filthy Jew.”
Apart from actual incidents of antisemitism, the Report documents a broad-range – though only a tiny proportion – of antisemitic discourse in Australia. The Report divides discourse into several categories, according to the source: mainstream media and society; organisations and online; Christian; Muslim; and the anti-Israel movement.
Mainstream media and society
The ABC, Australia’s national public broadcaster, continued to allow itself at times to be a conduit for antisemitic expressions and images, particularly on its Facebook pages. The ABC has become something of an icon for antisemites, as those who are hostile to Jews have found a place where they are free to promote their antipathy towards Jews on ABC social media platforms, including antisemitic fabrications and Holocaust denial, and have been able to do so consistently and frequently over the years without being banned or facing other adverse consequences for their racism. An ABC documentary from February 2014 continues to enjoy viewing across numerous YouTube sites and continues to elicit virulent antisemitic posted comments.
On the Facebook page of ABC News, in response to two stories about the Holocaust there were comments accusing Jews of: committing their own “genocide” against the Palestinians; being “Christ-killers”; controlling the banks; “milking” the Holocaust for money; and being greedy and of caring only about themselves. There were jokes and comments about ovens, and frequent examples of telling Jews to “get over it.” Images of Jews as parasites and shysters were posted. Many images mocking the Holocaust, gas chambers, showers and concentration camps were also posted. The Holocaust was denied or minimised.
Examples of comments posted on the ABC News Facebook page include:
- “History is a lie written by Jewish bankers and sold by their puppet politician who help sell the lies.”
- “And they still extort money from germans for it.. typical jewish greed…”
- “this whole war was a hoax .100000 perished not 6 million ..most of these where not Jews . History books are a lie …but hey if you control the media like jews do anything goes”
- “We all know Jews don’t like to hear about their own evil deeds. They make hitler look like a boyscout”
- “You Jews do a splendid job to grow antisemitism”
- “every Jew should be viewed with suspicion and contempt until one knows that they prove to be different from their peers. I.e. A benefit of the doubt should NOT apply to them at all.”
- “Jesus. […] He was the one they Crucified because he threw the money lenders out of the Temple.”
Organisations and online
Throughout Australia, there are many organisations and groups who promote antisemitic beliefs and ideologies. These tend to be on the far right of the political spectrum. During the period in review, most but not all of these groups were more of a nuisance than an organised threat to Jews, either individually or as a community.
Other far right groups posed more of a threat. The rise of anti-Islamist groups has, in some instances, galvanised disparate voices into a coalition of racists, including white supremacists and antisemites. For example, the leader of the prominent anti-Islamist United Patriots Front is Blair Cottrell, who is not only an antisemite but also a neo-Nazi. Examples of online rhetoric by some of these individuals and groups include:
- “the Holocaust is a hoax”
- “The Jews do nothing but destroy”
- “Adolf Hitler – we need another one!”
- “Our nation is now completely under the control of the International Invisible government of World Jewry.”
- “Throughout his history, the Jew has been a destroyer of civilizations, a plunderer of nations, and a killer who invented the very idea of genocide.”
- “It’s all humans duty to kill Jews on sight , quickly before they wriggle into a hole”
- “how sick, and disgusting the JEWISH RACE is”
- “Gas the kikes race war now!”
- “we did hummanity 6 million favors”
- “God kicked you rotten parasitic Jews out of the middle east when you killed his son Jesus Christ”
There have been incidents of mainstream Protestant Christian preachers expressing and promoting the idea that the Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus. When these matters have come to attention of the ECAJ and/or the state Jewish body, sometimes from Christians themselves, the Jewish body has communicated its objections, and those in authority at those places have investigated and assured the Jewish community that such expressions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Also of concern are the many high-profile Protestant Christians, including clergy, who are actively and vocally involved in the promotion of the BDS campaign and the demonizing and delegitimizing of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
Comments posted on the Facebook page of one Christian cleric include:
- “the murdering Zionists”
- “the Zionist controlled media”
- “these filthy Goldman Sachs Zionist criminals”
- “the Jews are there to loot whatever they can carry”
- “they have too much money in this world. If need be they can buy off anyone.”
Although the Australian Muslim community is ethnically, religiously and politically extremely diverse, some segments exhibit high levels of hostility towards Jews from a religious perspective, and not just from a political perspective based on the Arab-Israel conflict. While many Muslim media sites and organisations act responsibly, others do not.
Of concern also are visiting Islamic speakers from overseas. One such speaker was a Pakistani Sunni cleric, Muhammad Raza Saqib Mustafai, who has called for the extermination of all Jews from the earth. To the credit of his Islamic hosts, as soon as the media provided evidence of his statements, his hosts cancelled the rest of Mustafai’s talks and he was asked to return to Pakistan.
Examples of comments on Muslim Facebook pages include:
- “You lot learned nothing from WW2. Not surprising really … God sent you Jesus & you killed him, then he sent Mohammad but still you shunned the true message of God.”
- “Hitler said the reason why he never killed all Jews is to show the world how dangerous they are”
- “Israel justifies that Hitler was correct to annihilate them”
- “What an insult to think God Almighty would ‘choose’ child murdering zionists as His chosen ones over the billions of pious law abiding human beings He has created throughout time.”
- “jewish parasites should bre expelled”
One of the most insidious and virulent sources of antisemitism is within parts of the anti-Israel movement. Criticism of Israel is not per se antisemitic, but much of the criticism of Israel and the denial of a nation state in Israel found on these sites crosses the line into antisemitism. Although the movement remains somewhat on the margins in Australia, overseas it has vilified and threatened the security of diaspora Jews.
Of the dozens of anti-Israel groups and internet sites within Australia, several are cesspits of consistent and frequent Nazi-style anti-Jewish propaganda, vilification and demonisation. Even the anti-Israel lobby group, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, composed of Christian clergy, academics and others, has not been immune from the virus of antisemitism.
Examples of comments on the Facebook pages of anti-Israel groups include:
- “Satans chosen people”
- “Synagogue of Satan”
- “milking and dehumanizing the Goyim”
- “You Zionist Jew’s have a short memory……Remember Auschwitz and Dachau
- Remember the Holocaust / Genocide…….Scum of the Earth……”
- “This is why hitler killed them”
- “They should have put all Israelis in the ovens !!!!!”
- “Think we need another Hitler”
- “Zionists and their putrid supporters are a cancer on the world”
- “Disgusting! And they call themselves ‘THE CHOSEN PEOPLE’
- ..Hahahahahahah…!!! The vomit of the world.”
- “Zionism murdered our Lord Jesus Christ”
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.
All people, regardless of race or religion, should be able to live without harassment and hatred, without vilification and violence. Antisemitism is pervasive and pernicious. Violence does not occur in a vacuum. It is words, when given free reign, which create a poisonous atmosphere for those targeted by racism. It is words that incite hatred and violence.
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 cultures, 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.
Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and the author of the 2016 ECAJ Report on Antisemitism. An earlier version of this article was published in the Times of Israel.