Australia is generally considered a relatively safe and free environment for its Jewish population. Despite this, antisemitism persists, with many incidents of attacks and threats against Jews. This situation is one that many Australians are often unaware of. Each year, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the peak national body representing Australia’s Jewish community, produces a Report on Antisemitism in Australia.
A major section of the report is dedicated to antisemitic incidents. These include physical assault, verbal abuse, vandalism, graffiti, and threats via email, postal mail, telephone, and leaflets/posters. In contrast to other organisations which produce reports for other targeted communities in Australia, the ECAJ does NOT include as incidents expressions of hate that are online.
During the 12 months to 30 September 2020, there were 331 antisemitic incidents logged by the ECAJ. Although this was an overall decrease of 10% from the previous 12-month period which had 368 incidents, there was a marked increase in the number of the most serious categories of incidents with a doubling in the number of reported incidents of physical assault from 4 to 8 and a 12% increase in direct verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation from 114 to 128; while there were decreases in the number of incidents of vandalism and in graffiti.
The increase in the number of more serious incidents is especially concerning in light of the fact that synagogues and other Jewish community facilities were closed for varying periods from March 2020 onwards due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there were thus fewer opportunities for antisemites to abuse, harass and intimidate Jews in the vicinity of those facilities as they have done in the past.
In order to show what antisemitism looks like, instead of spruiking numbers and statistics, the following is a compilation of some of the antisemitic incidents that occurred in the 12 months to 30 September 2020 in Australia.
Incidents of physical assault occurred but mostly without causing serious injury. Examples include: physical assault of a young Jewish man on the way home from synagogue; physical assault and verbal abuse of a Jewish school student wearing a uniform from a Jewish school by five teenage males on a bus, who harassed the student, calling him names, and referred negatively to him as Jewish and slapped him on the head; assault of a Jewish student, in Year 8, who had been subjected to antisemitic bullying for months at school, when two bullies smacked him multiple times on the head. Another incident occurred when a Jewish family had an object thrown at them and was verbally abused with “Fuck off Jews” as they passed a Jewish school; and the occupants of a van threw eggs at two Jews near a synagogue.
Verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation of Jews is the category which usually has the highest number of incidents each year. The main verbal expressions referenced Hitler and Nazism, and also threats of violence, while bodily expressions commonly were composed of Nazi salutes and shooting gestures towards Jews. Many incidents were perpetrated by people in cars driving past synagogues and Jewish schools.
Some of the verbal abuse used against individual Jews and Jewish families include being shouted at with expressions of “You Jewish scum! Jewish cunt!”; “Fucking Jews! Fucking cunts!”; “Fucking Jews!” towards children at a Jewish school; “I’m gonna smash your fucking faces in you Jew dogs!” There was harassment in the workplace of a Jewish man whose wife was pregnant when he was told by a colleague: “Another fucking Jew coming into the world” and harassment of a Jewish family by placing a piece of pork rind at the front door to their home.
A male in a passing vehicle yelled “Kikes! You fucking Jewish cunts!” and made a Nazi salute towards a Jewish man and his family; a male gave a Nazi salute and shouted “Fuck you! Heil Hitler!” to people outside a Jewish community organisation facility; another male verbally abused three school-aged Jewish boys, yelling “Heil Hitler!” and giving a Nazi salute. The driver of a vehicle jumped out of his car and yelled at a Jewish man: “Not enough of your people have been burned in the oven!”; another driver yelled out his window to a rabbi “Do you want me to come up and finish was Hitler started?”; and a public servant at work said: “Hitler should’ve killed all of the Jews” in front of colleagues.
Physical threats against Jews included: “I can bring thirty boys and bomb the shit out of the synagogue!”; male passenger of a passing vehicle made a gun gesture with his hand and mimicked shooting at people outside a synagogue; driver of a passing vehicle made a gun gesture towards people outside a synagogue; male passenger of a passing vehicle made a gun gesture mimicking shooting a rifle towards people outside a Jewish school; female and male approached a synagogue, then made punching gestures and gestures imitating discharging a firearm, and the female was verbally abusive and yelled “Hitler”; a male said “Fucking Jew!”, gestured a slashing of the neck then said “Kill all the Jews”; a male on a tram shouted “You fucking Jews. We’re coming to gas you!”; a death threat to conduct a shooting at a synagogue in Sydney was posted on an anonymous, alternate platform; another death threat to conduct a mass shooting on 28 April 2020 at synagogues in Sydney was sent to three rabbis.
Vandalism often consisted of etching swastikas into property belonging to Jews, like cars, homes and businesses. Incidents included: two swastikas scratched into the bonnet of a car; swastika etched in concrete at the entrance of a newly built apartment block in an area where many Jews live; spray-painting of swastikas on Cranbourne Golf Club, a club set up in 1951 by Jews in response to other golf clubs not admitting Jews as members. One incident involved a young female who approached a synagogue and began verbally abusing a Jew saying “I want to blow this place up” and “stupid Jews”, she then began throwing rocks and kicking windows, breaking four windows at the entrance, she then spat at other Jews there and threatened them with a stick, saying she was there “because I hate fucking Jews”.
Graffiti often takes the form of swastikas at or near Jewish communal facilities or in areas where Jews live. More disturbing was that the graffiti often called for the murder of Jews: “KILL ALL JEWS” with swastikas and Nazi SS lightning bolts on a bus which transports students from a Jewish school; another “Kill the Jews” with swastikas on a school bus; “Kill the Jews” on a bus; “Kill the Jews” on a wooden bench in a park; and “Kill the Jews” on a bird mural in a park. Other incidents include graffiti with the words and symbols: “Fuck Jews” and a swastika on a synagogue; “Jews”, a swastika, and Star of David; “Hitler still lives in our hearts” and a swastika; “4th Reich” along with a Star of David; “The real virus is globalism” next to a Jewish Star of David; “Stop Dan Andrews” (Premier of Victoria) with a Star of David forming the letter ‘a’ in ‘Dan’ and a swastika instead of the letter ‘s’ in the surname ‘Andrews’; and large swastikas painted on footpaths in areas where Jews live.
Emails can provide more detailed information on how others view Jews. Hate emails are sent to individuals, to Jewish organisations and to Jewish community media. Many contained antisemitic conspiracy theories, while some advocated violence and genocide against Jews. Extracts of some of the emails include: “BURN COWARD JEWS”; “Gas all of the Jews”; “The Goi’s are coming for you”; “Jews must be exterminated. only communism will save us”; “Adolfe Hitler”, with the email address “burnthejews”; “You filthy bastards. The real holocaust is coming for you… and it’s just around the corner. every race on the planet except yours will celebrate at the new found freedom from jewish zionist oppression”; “Oh the Jews are getting scared. National Socialism is on the rise every day. And rightly so. You evil Jews will face your real Holocaust. Your lies and raping of the world is coming to an end. May your God have mercy on your soulless bodies”.
A series of private messages included: “Hitler should have gassed you Jewish scum. Your cursed jew. Your race is hated killed and hung. You probably rape little boys rabbi. Your people got killed off cause they are pieces of garbage. Your race I’d most hated go home. Your a Jewish piece of shit should have been gassed. Fuck off jew boy”. Other emails include: “jews r behind all the world wars through financing both sides never get between a jew and a bag of gold”; “I hope justice will soon be served on these Scum of the earth as many aussies have had a gutful of the JEWS and THEIR LIES… the International JEW the World’s Foremost Problem… no wonder the world hates jews, and little wonder they have been kicked out of every country they have ever lived, they are evil they are disgusting, and nothing but untermensch”; and multiple emails about “The Financial Collapse of Judaism”. A cardiologist emailed his sister, a landlord, to tell her Jewish tenants to “tell him to pack his jew bags and fuck off”.
Postal mail, delivered to, or placed in the letterboxes of, the homes and businesses of Jews was another means to express hatred and intimidate Jews. Examples include mail composed of: words “Jewish Bastards”; “Achtung Yooda” (Attention/warning Jew); a CD with the words “THE ARYANS” and two swastikas, and a note “The Inevitable Extermination of the Jews. The “Secret” Master Plan”; another mail had “Death of the Jews Secret master Plan”; “Fuck you JEW VIROS is yoor FAULT. DIE”; “you Jews are a problem all over the world”; “All Jews are Dole Bludgers. All Jews go to Hell-Fire when they die! Jews are inferior”; and “Jews are traitors. Jews are cowards. that is why all Jews go to HELL when they DIE!!”
Telephone, both calls and texts, are another means to convey threats against Jews, usually Jewish community facilities. Some of these included the words: “I’d like to enrol my child. My name is Adolf Hitler”; “Run Jews, run Jews. Hitler’s coming for you”; “How many Jews do you keep in your gas chamber?”; “I want to get your Torah and wipe it on my arse”; “Watch your back you dirty dog”; “fucking Jews who have fucked the World. Have a good gas chamber day. The holocaust never happened”; “Hello. This is […]. Do you want to execute some Jews?”; “your a dog fuck off out jew cunt we wll bring you down jew dog low life”; “fuck off we dont want you dog cunt euck off last warning dog jew”; “die Jew” and “go to the gas chambers at Auschwitz”.
The eighth, and final, category of incidents is posters, stickers, placards and the like. Examples include: a note with “Deuschland (sic) uber JUDEN” (Germany over Jews) and a drawing of a crossed-out Star of David; placard at an anti-5G protest composed of the Jewish Star of David with the text of ‘5G’ in red and dripping like blood inside the Star of David; a poster titled “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion – a Summary” with 24 dot points; a Nazi poster with the text of “Fight for Europe” with the Nazi Death’s Head (Totenkopf) symbol, the neo-Nazi Celtic Cross (Sun Cross), and a neo-Nazi shield; and Neo-Nazi stickers by National Socialist Network including “White Revolution is the only solution”, “Australia for the White Man”, “Australian Fascist Action” and of the NSN emblem placed around the streets including at synagogues.
A placard handwritten in red marker and placed near a Jewish facility read: “The Plandemic is created by the Jews, the one who CONTROL THE WORLD. Globalist of the world one mainly Jews & … WE know Jews are the chosen people from SATAN. JEWS ARE THE PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD, they are liars, deceivers & so on. We were involved in all wars, because the JEW’S. Now the Jew’s are doing WHITE GENOCIDE. if the Jews succeed on white genocide = meaning that will be the END Black, Red & Yellow. The JEWS mainly the globalist elite of the world to get rid off 5 billions people – worldwide. Now the Coronavirus is a HOAX to control every-one, the purpose of all that, … force you to get vaccinate with covid-19 evil vaccines & kill you … Its to dehumanise you! … THE PLANDEMIC … Jews were expelled over 110 times from over 90 countries.”
What may begin as graffiti and verbal abuse and other expressions of harassment and intimidation, if left unchecked, can escalate into something much more insidious and violent. No minority community should have to face hatred and attacks on their own. It is important for people not to be bystanders, but to be upstanders – to stand against antisemitism and other forms of racism. It is incumbent upon a society’s leaders and legislators to not only condemn antisemitism but to ensure effective laws are in place to counter attacks on Jews and to deal with those people advocating violence against Jews.
As Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General, declared on 19 October 2019: “We have passed the point where antisemitic incidents can be perceived as isolated echoes of the past. Antisemitism strikes and kills again. It is a rising form of violent extremism, which requires a firm response by all Member States to protect Jewish communities and safeguard universal human rights.”