20 -year study of antisemitism in Australia reveals:
- Unprecedented number of anti-Jewish incidents in latest 12-month period;
- latest technology employed to spread ancient hatred;
- "rhetorical red-lines" crossed;
- political and religious extremists co-operate to distort public debate.
Between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009, an unprecedented 962 reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation were received by Australian Jewish organisations", Australia's leading researcher into antisemitic activity, Jeremy Jones, told the Annual Meeting of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) in Sydney today (Sunday November 29).
"It is important to emphasise that my research over 20 years indicates Australians are fundamentally tolerant and opposed to discrimination, vilification or harassment of Jews and other segments of the population, but that a relatively small number of fanatic and offensive individuals are increasingly active in trying to diminish the quality of life of Jewish Australians", he noted.
"Internationally, Australia scores very well as a successful multicultural society".
..."However, the latest twelve-month period saw the highest ever tally of reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation, at a rate more than twice the annual average, mainly due to new peaks in abuse and harassment in public streets and via email".
"More than in any other 12-month period, Jewish Australians walking to and from synagogue were abused by passing motorists, Jewish people were confronted with incitement against them in Australian cities, and abusive, offensive and intimidatory emails were received by Jewish Australians at their homes and workplaces", he said.
“On the positive side of the ledger, there was a marked decrease in reports of physical violence against Jewish individuals and property, with 27 incidents compared with 58 and 46 in the previous two years. 27 is the average in this category over 20 years".
"Telephone threats, hate mail and graffiti were also reported at below average rates", he added.
Mr Jones, the Director of International & Community Affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and a former president of the ECAJ, has maintained a comprehensive database of anti-Jewish attacks since 1989, during which time he has logged 7,513 incidents which are defined by Australian government agencies as "racial violence" against the Jewish community.
He also noted that "anti-Jewish propaganda in fringe publications and from extremist organisations remains an ongoing concern; conspiracy theories abounded on the internet and these included a disturbing proportion which were overtly or implicitly antisemitic; and there is particular concern at the negative impact of material from a variety of overseas sources which has as its thesis an eternal enmity of Muslims towards Jews."
He reported that "the period in review included the 2008/9 "Operation Cast Lead", in which Israel fought HAMAS in Gaza, a time when anti-Jewish emails and public abuse reached unprecedented levels. However, the abuse of synagogue-goers commenced its dramatic increase months prior to that event".
He applauded the fact that "public discussion on the extradition request by Hungary to Australia for alleged Nazi War Criminal Charles Zentai, the Federal Court contempt hearing process under the Racial Hatred Act concerning Fredrick Toben and discussions of Middle East politics has generally been passionate without being racially abusive, despite the efforts and activities of some organised political groups who seek to create conflict and division."
He listed “The most significant developments over the past 20 years” as
• the crossing of a variety of "red lines" in anti-Jewish rhetoric, particularly from sections of the political Left, relating to false and offensive comparisons of Israel/Jews with Nazis/Nazism and unashamed association with fascist and antisemitic groups such as HAMAS;
• the growth of a diverse, dynamic Muslim community which has segments which are actively anti-Jewish (as well as those who are actively opposed to antisemitism);
• the continued failure of far-right groups to gain traction, despite outbursts of xenophobia beyond the far right extremes;
• the diminution in significance of Eastern and Central European post-war migrants as a base of antisemitism;
• a number of positive developments from Australian Churches in attitudes to Jews and Judaism;
• the introduction of Federal, and development of State and Territory, legislation designed to give recourse to victims of racism and religious discrimination/harassment;
• the internationalisation of a number of strands of antisemitic activity, through improved communication technology and also movements of individuals and populations;
• the enlistment of persons who identify as Jewish in support of a variety of anti-Jewish slurs;
• the exponential growth and now pervasiveness of on-line technology, which has changed the modes and ease by which antisemites can abuse, harass and intimidate, reshaped and improved the relationships between local, regional, national and international antisemitic groups, resulted in the dissolution of the concept of common information, provided isolated and alienated individuals with the ability to broadcast their views widely, and forced those concerned with racism and antisemitism to re-evaluate strategies for containment of, and response to, these negative and destructive concepts."