The 12 month period ending 30 September 2014 saw a 35% increase over the previous year in antisemitic incidents involving threats or acts of violence, according to the annual Report on Antisemitism in Australia published by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).
...“Although Australia remains overwhelmingly a safe and secure place for Jews to live in, these figures are a very conservative representation of the levels of antisemitism that exist here”, according to the report’s author, ECAJ Research Officer, Julie Nathan. “The figures do not include a very large number of antisemitic publications in the general media, online and in social media which do not rise to the level of a clear threat to harm people or property. There is also much anecdotal evidence of incidents which go unreported”.Nathan said that “the most disturbing trend was the tripling in the number of reported physical assaults in which anti-Jewish hatred was manifest”. These included the assault of five Jews in Bondi in October 2013, the assault of a Melbourne Jewish man during the 2014 Gaza conflict, and other reported assaults on Jews which were not highlighted in the media.
Included in the ‘harassment’ category were several serious incidents of attempted assault where projectiles, such as a golf ball, full can of drink, and eggs, were thrown at Jews, but missed their target.
The other major trend over the previous 12 months noted by Nathan was the “mainstreaming” of antisemitism, particularly through the publishing, airing and hosting of antisemitic content by mainstream media organisations.
“The ABC Four Corners Facebook pages on the “Stone Cold Justice” program in February hosted vile anti-Jewish comments for up to five weeks before the posts were finally removed in the face of complaints from the Jewish community”, according to Nathan. “During those five weeks, the Executive Producer of Four Corners went on the record to deny there was a problem, assuring the public that moderating had occurred on a daily basis and that everything possible was being done to ensure that offensive posts were deleted as soon as possible. That was clearly not the case”.
Another example of antisemitism in the mainstream media pointed to by Nathan was the Le Lievre cartoon which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 26, “It presented a racist stereotype of a Jew reminiscent of the anti-Jewish cartoons for which the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer was notorious in the 1930’s,” she said. “The Herald, to its credit, published a prominent public apology, but only after being in denial for 10 days about the intrinsic racism of the cartoon”.
Nathan was also highly critical of the “orchestrated publicity” surrounding the release of Bob Carr’s autobiography, and his claim that ‘the Melbourne Israel lobby’ exercises undue influence on Australian government policy. “Since Carr went public with that claim, a far-Right group has distributed antisemitic leaflets in Sydney’s eastern suburbs where there are high concentrations of Jewish residents, including Holocaust survivors. One leaflet actually says that its neo-Nazi authors agree with Bob Carr. Carr should have foreseen that his comments would fuel outlandish conspiracy theories and encourage the activities of racist groups. He has made his own singular contribution to the convergence of the far Left and the far Right on antisemitism.”
Drawing a connection between antisemitic publications in the mainstream media and the overall spike in antisemitic incidents, Nathan added
“racist violence does not occur in a vacuum. It is words, when given free reign, which create the poisonous atmosphere in which racially-motivated violence is generated. Words incite hatred, and hatred breeds violence.”Nathan said that the ‘mainstreaming’ of antisemitism had sounded a warning that Australia’s free and tolerant society is under threat.
“If one form of racism becomes acceptable in public discourse, it is only a matter of time before other forms of racism become equally acceptable. It’s a question of whether or not we want Australia to become that kind of society”.