The annual Report on Antisemitism in Australia 2017 has been released by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the elected representative national body of the Australian Jewish community.
The ECAJ Report records antisemitism in two broad categories: incidents and discourse.
Incidents of Antisemitism
The 12-month period ending 30 September 2017 saw a 9.5% increase over the previous year in antisemitic incidents in Australia involving threats or acts of violence.
The ECAJ, Jewish community roof bodies in each state, and other Jewish community groups logged a total of 230 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 210 such incidents logged by the same sources over the preceding twelve month period. There is also much anecdotal evidence of incidents which go unreported.
There were 145 incidents of attacks (assault, abuse, vandalism and graffiti) which accounted for 63% of the total number of incidents. There were 85 incidents of threats (email, letters, telephone, leaflets) which accounted for 37% of the total number of incidents. Overall, there was an increase in the number of incidents of graffiti, posters and stickers; and decreases in assault and vandalism, and a slight decrease in face-to-face verbal abuse.
Examples of incidents include the following.
Physical assaults included incidents motivated by racial hatred where Jews were punched and kicked. For example, on a bus in Sydney, a Jewish student was verbally harassed, then spat on, then kicked and punched in the chest.
Abuse and harassment often occurred around synagogues and other Jewish centres. Many incidents included people doing drive-bys and yelling out abuse such as “Fucking Jews”, “Filthy kike”, or giving a Hitler salute. Some of this abuse was accompanied by the driver veering the vehicle towards Jews crossing the road or on the footpath. Other incidents occurred in shopping centres and on the street, particularly in areas where many Jews reside. A rabbi was called a “Christ-killing Jew” in a shop. There were instances of threats of physical abuse accompanied by verbal abuse.
Incidents of vandalism included rocks thrown through the window of a rabbi’s home. There were several incidents of swastikas being carved into cars belonging to Jews.
Graffiti usually included swastikas invariably with the word “Jew” or “Fuck Jews” or a Star of David. Other graffiti included “Kill Jew”, “All Jews should be killed”, “Die Jews”, “Kill Juwes” (sic), “Achtung Jude!” and “sieg heil”. These are usually on or near Jewish facilities, or in areas where many Jews live.
Email hate included threats, denigration, Holocaust denial and the like, for example, emails containing the text “Christ killers”, “Another filthy Jew bastard”, “The Jew is the demon behind the corruption of mankind”, “you filthy dirty JEW […] go gas yourself you jew pig”, “Fuck the holohoax!”, “You really don’t get how utterly despised you are” and “Who will rid us of this vile, destructive satanic race of born nation wreckers, for all time?”
Phone calls were usually made to synagogues or other Jewish institutions, leaving hate messages such as, “I want to shoot him in the fucken head. […] fucken Jewboy.” There were a couple of bomb threats to Jewish communal facilities conveyed by telephone.
Antisemitic and Nazi posters were distributed by a new neo-Nazi group, Antipodean Resistance, in many cities, especially at universities and in areas where many Jews live. There were four types of antisemitic posters: one called to “Legalise the Execution of Jews”, another to “Reject Jewish Poison”, one blaming Jews for non-white immigration titled “Stop the Hordes”, and one of a Star of David inside the crematoria of a Nazi death camp titled “420 Blaze It”. (“420” is neo-Nazi code for April 20, Hitler’s birthday). The group was also responsible for putting up six types of pro-Nazi posters, and five types of anti-homosexual posters, and one against Chinese university students. Thousands of neo-Nazi stickers (three types) by Antipodean Resistance have been plastered across universities, city centres, and in areas where many Jews live, in six cities. In addition, Holocaust-denying leaflets titled “Who’s telling us our story?” were distributed at nine universities. These were attributed to the same website as similar leaflets in 2016.
The Report documents a broad-range – though only a tiny proportion – of antisemitic discourse in Australia. The Report divides discourse into several categories, according to the source: mainstream media, politics and society; organisations and online; Christian; Muslim; and the anti-Israel movement.
Mainstream media, politics and society
The expression of antisemitic hatreds in the mainstream media or in other public contexts, if not publicly contradicted and condemned by political and community leaders, has the effect of lending legitimacy and acceptability to such hatreds. This can lead to an emboldening of those who are hostile to Jews to go further in acting against Jews, and thus creates an atmosphere of intolerance, bigotry, fear and violence.
The ABC, Australia’s national public broadcaster, again was prominent in having an extraordinary amount of antisemitic comments and images posted on its Facebook pages. Two posts in particular came to the attention of The Australian newspaper, which subsequently publicly exposed the comments, and the fact that they were not promptly moderated, in an article on 3 June 2017. Antisemites have found the ABC to be lax in dealing with racist content. They have been free to promote their antipathy towards Jews on ABC social media platforms, including antisemitic fabrications and Holocaust denial, and have been able to do so consistently and frequently over the years without being banned or facing other adverse consequences for their racism. Other mainstream media outlets also have had antisemitic comments on their social media pages, including SBS, another public broadcaster.
Examples of unmoderated comments posted on the ABC and SBS Facebook pages include: “The Jews control most media and the power is scary”; “Jewish scumbags want to rule the world through the financial sector”; “Jews dwell in the synagogue of satan. They all belong in the oven”; “Finally the khazarian /ashnazi mafia/synagogue of satan are getting exposed and people are waking up to the deception”; “HITLER DID NOTHING WRONG!!!”; “Holocaust = Zionist lies”; “Israhel is a cancer on the foreskin of humanity!”; “Jews dont count as people so he is right”; “They do nothing they are a parisitic cult of evil zionazis”; “the plague!! they been kicked out of more than a hundred countries!! WHY??? parasites!”; “Holohoax”; “The Lolocaust is one of those historical moments thats been repurposed again and again to serve (((certain))) peoples interests”; “the greedy Jew always wants more”; “You are talking tk the most vile ppl on the planet who think its ok to do wot they want then cry anti-semitism wen questioned on their corrupt actions. […] These scum will not quit destroying nations and societies untill they get wot they want!”
Antisemitic discourse has become increasingly prominent on the social media pages of mainstream political parties and members of parliament. Antisemites would see these political pages as a way to reach and potentially influence politicians, and as a way to promote their antisemitic propaganda to a wider audience.
Comments on social media pages of politicians include: “Cash, the true Jewish god”; “Beware of the Jew Bearing Gifts!”; “yeah Chosen as an example as what not to be and do”; “Christians because, unlike Jews, they did not forsake God by crucifying Him”; “They killed jesus and have been behind every war for thousands of yrs”; “Synagogue Of Satan”; “Piss off you filthy monkey and pig decendants”; “G_d so loved the false ones, that he gave the world 1930s Germany”; “no doubt why Hitler wanted to kill those pigs”; “It is the holocaust the Jews are committing with the backing of Australia”; “One must bow to the synagogue to make it in politics”; “Maybe they could all wear yellow stars”; “More jewish bullshit to try to hide or justify their crimes?”
Organisations and online
There are many types of groups and organisations operating within Australia which openly espouse and promote an antisemitic, and sometimes white nationalist or racist, ideology. These tend to be on the far right of the political spectrum. Many of them are small outfits, with maybe just a website or a Facebook page, run by a handful of people, or one or two individuals, while others have a larger membership. However, their influence or popularity can be out of all proportion to their meagre numbers of members.
Since the advent of the internet, avowedly antisemitic organisations and individuals have been able to express and propagate their views on websites, Facebook pages, video channels, Twitter and even via online mainstream media sites. With the internet, racism and vilification are easily and widely propagated, often with few restraints, and often anonymously.
On websites, comments included: “the Jew is working overtime to make his dream of world hegemony come true”; “Zionism is NOT about a homeland for Jews – it’s to establish the base of a One World Government, where the Jews tyrannically rule the goyim worldwide”; “Jesus was crucified for exposing these satanic fake Hebrews, known today as the Jews. Jew World Order, and Synagogue of Satan”; “the jews are a parasitic entity”
On Facebook, comments included: “Fucking Jewish Dogs…… Hitler did one thing wrong….he didnt finissh the job….. Jews are the SCUM of the earth… one day hopefully you will all be eradicated….. SCUM”; “you hook nosed Jewish parasite”; “Get in the oven you filthy Kike!”; “Filthy racist scum jews and their lackies are not going to run ME out of MY home town! I am gonna run THEM out!”; “you filthy Kike!”; “Indeed, the Hook Nosed sheklers Control the UN and EU flood us with 3rd world sewerage”.
Under online videos, comments included: “Jews are dogs. Nothing higher than scum. Sub Human cowards. Jewish women should be raped with broken beer bottles.”; “No Jews died in gas chambers. Not one. Filthy lying KIKES.”; “The Jews are at war with the world”; “’a world without jews’. It’s good to have dreams”; “Turn on ovens & cook ’em all”; “kill the Khazarian Ashkinazi scum KILL THEM ALL….there are no good Jewish…. […] kill all the Jewish criminal scum…. ”; “#KillALLjewsNOT1or2”; “It’s time to gas the Jews.”
On Twitter, comments included: “To clarify, we are merely calling for the execution of jews to be legalised”; “Kill 2 others and injure 20 to take out a kike? Worth it”; “It’s an expression of sincere joy at the death of a Jew”; “I despise you parasites more than you could ever possibly kvetch about”; “3 WORDS – Hitler Was Right!”; “AWAKEN and STOP the Jew World Order”.
In general, mainstream Christians in Australia have not published overt and vile antisemitic expressions of the kind that have been expressed by some Christian clerical figures in Europe and the Americas. However, the following items provide a snapshot of rhetoric or incidents emanating from or elicited by mainstream Christian clerical figures which meet the criteria of antisemitism in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition.
One Christian cleric, a bishop, in an article on his website, asked rhetorically whether Australia continues to support Israel diplomatically: “because Jewish money is a major factor in Australian politics, with coalition MPs being particularly dependent upon it”; and “because the Zionist Lobby is so strong that it imposes a fear factor upon Australian MP’s”.
Another Christian cleric, on his church’s Facebook page (which he administers), posted an image minimising the Holocaust and persecution of Jews under Nazi Germany by writing: “It took Hitler seven years to get to this point (photo of the Nazi boycott of a Jewish-owned shop). Trump got there in seven days (in reference to President Trump’s temporary ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries entering the USA for three months).”
The Muslim communities within Australia are religiously, ethnically, and politically diverse. There are many excellent and successful interfaith programs and forms of dialogue between Muslims and Jews which seek to break down barriers and create better mutual understanding. However, there are individuals and groups who identify as Muslims and who in the name of Islam express and promote anti-Jewish views, either from a religious or political perspective, or a confused amalgam of both. Some examples of this follow.
An Islamic cleric in Sydney during a regular Friday lecture quoted from the Quran 2:74, and commented on the verse: “But the Jewish heart is very hard. They don’t have mercy. They don’t have anything in their hearts. They’ve got only envy, they’ve got hatred.” […] The Jews – Allah orders them to do things, but they never do it. So Allah cursed them.”
The Islamic Bookstore in Lakemba, Sydney, sells antisemitic books, including “The International Jew” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” both of which had a crucial and influential impact on the formulation of antisemitism within the Nazi ideology.
One of the most insidious and virulent sources of antisemitism is within parts of the anti-Israel movement. Criticism of Israel is not per se antisemitic, but much of the commentary on these sites goes well beyond ordinary political criticism of Israeli government policies and actions, and descends into vilification of Jews and the denial of Jewish peoplehood and the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination. Although the anti-Israel movement remains small in numbers in Australia, overseas its followers have vilified and threatened the security of diaspora Jews.
Left-wing antisemitism tends to be expressed in anti-Zionist or anti-Israel terms, rather than in terms of classical antisemitism, although the rhetoric typically mirrors classical anti-Semitic tropes. Many left-wing and right-wing antisemites are vocal and/or active in the anti-Israel movement. The head of the Australian Nazi party has on more than one occasion attended anti-Israel protests in Sydney and marched in the street alongside people carrying Hezbollah flags.
Examples of comments on the Facebook pages of anti-Israel groups include: “fuck him and fuck his Jewish pigs”; “Zionism = crime against humanity”; “Its not Zionism its the fucking jews these pricks were kicked out of 109 countries”; “because OZ sold it’s soul to the Zionazis”; “Just Jews doing what Jews do, murders, wrecker, destroyers”; “Dirty stinking murdering plastic Jews”; “Israel is the cancer of the world”; “These Zionazi Jews and Jews who support them are a cancer to the world, they are God’s cursed people, sucking money out of our tax dollars, spreading mayhem and evil everywhere in the planet for thousands of years and continuing”; “you guys are worse than Hitler and the Nazis. So stop your lying and stop trying to justify the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionazi Jews and Settler Jews. […] you guys were kicked out from pretty much every country on the planet that you lived in, from Europe to the Middle East to Africa”; “Hitler should’ve wiped them all off the map”; “i don’t blame them for kicking you out, hitler knew exactly what you people were all about, it’s a shame and an atrocity that he just didn’t finish you off and make you into soap, (best soap comes from Jews) you’ve served your purpose, now fuck off”; “Stupid, ignorant, intolerant, child-murdering, war-mongering, genocidal, apartheid ass-holes! God’s chosen my ass”; “Our politicians and country are run by the Zionists”.
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 to operate, for security reasons, 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 cultures, 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, especially those which involve violence or advocacy of violence.
Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and the author of the Report on Antisemitism in Australia 2017