The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the elected representative national body of the Australian Jewish community, released their annual Report on antisemitism in Australia, for 2016. The ECAJ Report records antisemitism in two broad categories: incidents and discourse. A link to the full report is at the end.
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, as documented in 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.
Attacks (assault, abuse, vandalism, and graffiti) accounted for 70% of the total number of incidents, with 149 incidents. Two of these categories, the most serious categories – 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. 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 to 47% of these incidents, and therefore only tells a partial story. However, it does 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 were male except for four female.
Examples of Incidents:
Physical assaults included incidents motivated by racial hatred where Jews were punched and kicked, for example, a 22 year old Jewish man was assaulted by being punched in the neck and called a “Fucking Jew” while walking home from synagogue. 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.
Abuse and harassment often occurs 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 with “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 eight emails, some with images which were photoshopped by having a photo of the rabbi’s head superimposed on the images, making him to appear in Nazi concentration camp uniform and to appear in a Nazi crematorium.
Phone calls were usually made to synagogues or other Jewish institutions, with hate messages, for example, “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 USA. 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.”
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.
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.
The ECAJ Report on Antisemitism in Australia 2016 is available online at ECAJ Antisemitism Report 2016
Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the author of the Report on Antisemitism.