Pogrom in Israel, antisemitism in Australia

October 17th, 2023

The piece has been published on 16 October in The Times of Israel Blog and J-Wire and by ECAJ Research Director Julie Nathan.

On 7 October 2023, Hamas, the genocidal Islamist government of Gaza, sent armed operatives into southern Israel. They murdered 1300 Israeli civilians – shooting parents and children in their beds, beheading babies, and burning homes to force out Jews hiding in safe rooms. People in whole villages were murdered. Women and girls were raped. Over 150 people, including babies, children, young women, and old grandmothers, were taken hostage and taken into Gaza.

World reaction was swift. There were condemnations of the massacre by Western political leaders and Jewish organisations. But elsewhere, in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and amongst many Muslims and left-wing extremists within the West, there was joy expressed at the massacre of so many Jews.

More Jews were killed on October 7 than on any single day since the end of the Holocaust in 1945. It harked back to previous times, to pogroms, the mass killing of Jews by armed mobs, often state-sponsored, in places or by leaders whose names we still remember – from Fez (1033), Granada (1066), Rhineland (1096), York (1190), Chmielnicki (1648-1656), Kishinev (1903), Hebron (1929), to Baghdad (1941) – to name a few.

In the week since the October 7 pogrom, a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, anti-Jewish incidents have erupted all over the world. In Australia, some examples of incidents show the unadulterated hatred of Jews from several quarters.

On Sunday 8th, a rally organised by Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir, was held in Lakemba, western Sydney. Sheikh Ibrahim Dadoun railed exultantly to the crowd “I’m smiling and I’m happy. I’m elated. It’s a day of courage! It’s a day of resistance! It’s a day of pride! It’s a day of victory! This is the day we’ve been waiting for! … What happened yesterday is the first time our brothers and sisters broke through the largest prison on earth. … It didn’t happen by itself … my brothers and sisters, Palestine will be free!” Dadoun’s speech was interspersed with chants from the crowd of “Allahu Akbar.” In a neighbouring suburb, people in a vehicle flying Palestinian flags let off flares in celebration of the deaths of hundreds of Jews. Sheikh Dadoun, a local imam, was the Director of Public Relations at the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) for three years until June 2023.

On Monday 9th, a rally organised by Palestine Action Group (PAG) was held at Sydney Town Hall. There were chants of “Intifada, Intifada” and “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” – codes for the destruction of Israel, the only Jewish state in the world – during the protest at Town Hall and during the march to the Opera House. The state government had announced that the sails of the Opera House would be lit up in blue and white, the colours of the Israeli flag, to remember the 1000-plus Israeli civilians murdered by Hamas in southern Israel.

At the forecourt of the Opera House, the anti-Israel mob continued their chanting. They burnt an Israeli flag, and their chants morphed into “Fuck Israel”, “Fuck the Jews” and “Gas the Jews”, each phrase chanted over and over. Flares were also thrown up onto the steps of the Opera House, towards the police. No arrests were made for any of this. The only arrest was of a Jewish man carrying a rolled-up Israeli flag near Town Hall. Of note, this rally was announced on the evening of 7 October, after the massacre of Israelis was known, and before Israel launched any attacks on Gaza. In addition, NSW Police, apparently at the direction of the Police Minister, had warned members of the Jewish community who wished to attend the lighting up of the sails of the Opera House to stay away, and to leave the CBD for their own safety. The Premier subsequently apologised for this.

On Tuesday 10th, in Melbourne, a rabbi and his 8-year-old son were subjected to death threats on the street by four males in a car who yelled “Fuck… Jew… pigs… die…” at them. In another incident, several people in a car stopped and asked a man on the street if he knew where any Jews were. The man asked what they would do if they found any Jews. They responded, “They’ll know what we’re going to do once we’re done with them.” Another passenger in the car then gleefully admitted, “We’re hunting for Jews.” The people in the car were located by police and questioned.

On Wednesday 11th, a construction worker in Bellevue Hill, a Sydney suburb with a large Jewish population, upon seeing an Israeli flag draped on the back of a car, threatened to kill the four Jewish teenagers at the car: “If I see you motherfuckers with that fucking [Israeli] flag, I’ll fucking kill you all”. The man was later arrested by police and charged.

On Thursday 12th, a death threat against the Jewish community was sent via Instagram message to ECAJ, the peak national body for the Australian Jewish community, located in Sydney. The message was “We are coming for you soon, from western Sydney” accompanied by an image of a man in orange clothing about to be beheaded by ISIS. Western Sydney is known for its large Arab and Muslim communities.

On Friday 13th, three males gave a Hitler salute outside the Sydney Jewish Museum in Sydney. They were charged by police. Meanwhile, in Melbourne, two pieces of graffiti, both composed of “Kill JEWS”, were written on the pavement in south Melbourne.

On Saturday 14th, 20-30 members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Network (NSN), all dressed in black with balaclavas, held up a banner of “Expose Jewish Power” with their name on it, plus two NSN flags, at the front of the Flinders Street train station in Melbourne. They then marched into the station, doing Hitler salutes, and entered a train where they sang white nationalist songs, handed out leaflets and NSN ‘business cards’, and queried passengers whether they were Jewish or not. Several police officers got on the train with them and followed them until they exited the train many stations later. No NSN members were arrested or charged as they had not breached any laws, according to police.

Anthony Albanese, the Australian Prime Minister, and Peter Dutton, the Liberal Opposition Leader, have both come out strongly condemning the massacre in Israel by Hamas, and the attacks on Jews in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the Greens have been unable to condemn the massacre of Jews nor the anti-Jewish incidents occurring in Australia but instead have expressed concern solely for the Arabs of Gaza.

The incidents noted above are just some of the anti-Jewish racism appearing on Australian streets in the week following the pogrom in Israel, with the Jew-haters having felt emboldened and inspired by the actions of Hamas on 7 October. This situation is likely to continue for some time to come. Federal and state police agencies have their work cut out for them to protect the Jewish community from threats, harm and violence.

The three main sources of contemporary Jew-hatred – the extreme political right (neo-Nazis), extreme political left (‘socialists’ and their ilk), and extremist Muslims (Islamists/jihadists) – converge on one crucial issue – their common hatred of Jews, and in this case, their support of Hamas, a genocidal Islamist movement. When such extremists can openly express their hatred and racism with impunity, then it is time to pull out all legal means against them. As the truism goes: it may start with the Jews, but it won’t end with the Jews.