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 vilification or threats via email, postal mail, telephone, and placards, posters, stickers, leaflets.
In contrast to organisations which produce reports for other targeted communities in Australia, the ECAJ does not include in its tally of incidents general expressions of hate against Jews that appear online, as these are too numerous and ubiquitous to measure from year to year in any meaningful way.
During the 12 months to 30 September 2021, there were 447 antisemitic incidents logged by the ECAJ. This was an increase of 35% in the overall number of reported antisemitic incidents in Australia compared to the previous year. The average number of reported antisemitic incidents each year from 2013 to 2020 was 280. As such, the number of reported incidents in 2021 is above that average by 167 incidents, or about 60%.
Overall, from 2020 to 2021, there were substantial increases in the number of reported incidents in four categories: abuse/harassment (up 14% from 128 in 2020 to 147 in 2021), graffiti (up 152% from 42 to 106), and stickers/posters (up 157% from 28 to 72) and a smaller increase in vandalism (up 10% from 10 to 11). Physical assaults remained at the same number. There were minimal decreases in the number of incidents of postal and telephone threats, and a larger decrease in the number of email threats.
There were two major events which appear to have contributed to the increase in antisemitic incidents over the last 12 months: the Israel-Hamas conflict and some Covid-related events. For example, a total of 88 incidents was logged for the month of May alone, when the hostilities between Israel and Hamas occurred, compared to between 22 and 46 incidents for each of the other 11 months of the year.
Those people opposed to COVID-19 government health measures, such as vaccinations and lockdowns, shifted activity from ranting online and sharing conspiracy theories (including blaming “the Jews” for the pandemic), to becoming much more active in organising or attending rallies and street protests. What was once said online is now showing up in antisemitic incidents of graffiti and stickers, and in placards at street protests. Antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories are frequently expressed from elements within the anti-vaxxer, anti-lockdown camp across the political spectrum.
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 2021 in Australia.
Incidents of physical assault occurred but mostly without causing grievous injury. Examples included: a Jewish man was punched in the face then spat on outside a synagogue by a man who had given a Nazi salute; a Jewish woman walking along the street was rammed into bodily by a man who said “Fucking Jew!”, she suffered severe bruising of her ribs; a Jewish man was punched in the face by a man who said “Heil Hitler”; and a 15-year-old Jewish student was sprayed with an aerosol can and told “I am gassing you”.
Verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation of Jews is the category which usually has the highest number of incidents each year. There were 147 incidents in this category recorded in the 2021 reporting period, comprising 33% of all incidents. The most common verbal expressions were “Fucking Jews”; “Fuck the Jews”; “Fuck you Jew”; “Fuck off Jew!”; “Filthy Jew”; “Allahu Akbar’’; and “Heil Hitler”.
Also common were three hand gestures: discharging a firearm towards people, sometimes with the word “Bang!”; the Nazi salute; and raising the middle finger in a fist, as an act of contempt. Threats of violence included: “we’re going to bomb you”; “I’ll just go and set fire to the synagogue now”; “I’m going to put a bomb and blow you all up … Fucking Jewish whores“; and a call for the beheading of Jews in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. In Perth, two Jews were verbally abused and chased by two male youths, one armed with a kitchen knife, in the vicinity of a synagogue.
Words of abuse, harassment and intimidation directed at Jews included references to expulsion, murder and the Holocaust: “Bloody Jew, go back to where you came from”; “an ugly Jew who should just kill yourself. Honestly, you should have been in the gas chambers”; “No wonder the Germans turned on you, you Jews got what you deserved”; “Sharmouta! [prostitute] … Jew boy … You fucking disgusting Jews. Go back to the gas chambers”; “Fuck the Jews! We will kill you. Jews should die”; “Hitler didn’t finish what he started. Jews are the filth of the world and should be exterminated”; and “Jew, Jew … How were the gas chambers?”
At an anti-Israel protest organised by Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia, held at a park in western Sydney, there were public calls to harm and kill Jews with chants of: “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud,” (“Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!”), “Destroy the Jews!”, “Oh Allah, give us the necks of the Jews!”, “Oh Allah, give us the necks of those evildoers!”, and “Oh Allah, help us purify the Al-Aqsa Mosque from their filth!”. Elsewhere, Palestinian flags were draped over the front fence of a synagogue alongside two shredded Israeli flags; “Free Palestine” was often shouted at Jews; and “Israel are terrorists … Jews are vile, you’re pigs” was yelled at Jews.
Vandalism often consisted of etching swastikas into property belonging to Jews, like cars, homes and businesses. Incidents of vandalism included: a public Jewish art installation, titled “Sukkah” (Hebrew for a shelter), had part of its structure torn down, and graffiti of “Is this where they practised blood libel on kidnapped children?”; a Jewish family had swastikas etched into their letterbox; a Jewish family’s home was broken into and vandalised, including with antisemitic graffiti of swastikas and a white supremacist code “14”; goods stored behind a synagogue were deliberately set on fire by trespassers in an act of arson.
Graffiti often occurs at or near Jewish communal facilities or in areas where Jews live. There were 106 incidents of graffiti recorded in the 2021 reporting period, comprising 24% of all incidents.
Incidents of graffiti included: swastika drawn on a car owned by a Jewish family; swastika outside a Jewish owned shop; swastika inside a Star of David and the word “ZIONISM” and the text “EURO FASCISTS QANON” at a bus-stop; swastika inside a Star of David drawn on a tree outside an office; “7 days to release Mr BOND [Austrian neo-Nazi rapper] or I’ll Murder KIKES and NIGGERS 1488” with a swastika, on a pathway; “Heil Hitler” and “Kristalnact” (sic) on Parliament House in Hobart; “White Power” and “Blood will be drawn” with a swastika on an abandoned building; “Jew Bar” and “Jew Bank” on a building; swastika and the word “Jew” on an electrical box; “ABO LAND NOT KIKE LAND” at a sportsground; Star of David and the word “Killers” at Central Station; and “6MNE” (6 Million Not Enough – in reference to the Holocaust) in a park.
Jewish homes and venues were targeted with anti-Israel graffiti, including: “Free Palestine. Fuck Zionist. Free Palestine” on the fence of a synagogue; “Free Palestine” daubed on the driveway of a Jewish school; “Free Palinstine (sic) stop aparthied (sic) state” on the front fence of a Jewish educational venue; “Palestine will rule” on the brick fence of a Jewish family home; “Palestine 4 Ever” on the concrete fence of a Jewish family’s residence;
COVID-19 related graffiti included: “COVID 1984 = NOW” with a Star of David inside the letter O in a car park; “No Vax” with a Star of David in the letter O; and “NO JEW JAB FOR OZ” and “NO JEW JAB”, on a wall in a carpark.
Emails can provide more detailed information on how others view Jews. Hate emails are sent to Jewish individuals, to Jewish organisations and to Jewish community media. Text within emails included: “Whacha gonna do, bad Jew, bad Jew when the whole world comes for you”; “Oohhhh you can feel it coming can’t you Jewboys. And this time the whole world knows”; “You’re a dirty kike. You have no place in Australia. You and all you dirty heebs and fuck off”; “Eat shit you disgusting parasite, a day will come when you disgusting shylock mother fuckers find a rope. … You people are cursed and want us all to be cursed with you. Fuck that and fuck you!!!”; “kILLaLLjEWS”; “THE JEWS ARE BEHIND EVERYTHING THAT’S HAPPENING NOW”; and “hell is waiting for you cunts…Hope fucking die and get shanked”.
References to Nazism and Israel/Zionism were common, including: “the Holocaust is a lie!”; “Hitlers biggest mistake he didn’t kill all the jews”; “fuck off back to zionazi israel you fucking baby killing nazi’s. fuck Israel. fuck fascist jewry – hitler shouldve ended you for good. you are the problem in the world. you are the cancer. you have infected every part of western society as a plague of robber baron sociopaths”; “Zionist terrorists are not welcome in Australia! Leave this country at once! Your name is recorded in our database!”; “Zionist Jews, like some deadly plague bacillus, have insinuated themselves into positions of power and, whether you like it or not, are now calling the shots”; “I shall pray that the entire world rises up and kills every single nasty Jew and anyone who supports the sickness of Jewry. KILL ALL JEWS AND THEIR PUPPETS. KILL ALL ZIONISTS AND ISRAELIS”; and “gas the Jews, death to Jews”.
Postal mail, delivered to, or placed in the letterboxes of, the homes, organisations and businesses of Jews was another means to express hatred and to intimidate Jews. Examples included mail with the messages of: “Jewish money hungry”; “Jews You Diabolical Wretches”; “Your corrupt money system allows you to live an obscene parasite life style. It must be abolished now”; “Hey you fucking arrogant greedy bastard you and your fucking mates go back to your fucking country”; “you are worse than the Nazis … You are beneath contempt. … You disgraceful, contemptible scum”; “Jews are murderers”; “the Jews invented terrorism”; and “Adolph Hitler was 100% right and correct to put that evil race in the oven”.
Telephone, both calls and texts, are another means to convey threats against Jews, usually to Jewish community organisations and facilities. These included: “Fucking Jews, bloody Jews, dirty Jews, this is all your fault”; “Kike … you should have all died in the Holocaust”; “Fuck you Jews … Heil Hitler”; “I think your people are despicable. You’re a bunch of Nazis. … You don’t deserve to be here”; “you scumbags, Jews”; “you’re a fucking scumbag fucking nation”; “Go get fucked you Jewish mother fucker … life is going to do full circle … [Jews are] the shit we got to get rid of”; “All you Jewish are pieces of shit. … Youse are a germ. Youse are a fucking germ. I hope you all fucking die, you fucking lowlife cunts, Jewish dirty motherfuckers”; “I see why you jews was slaughtered by the Nazi, good on them”; and “this is why we hoped you be wiped out in the 1940s, you are a germ”.
Placards, posters, stickers, and leaflets, is the eighth, and final, category of incidents. Examples of stickers included: neo-Nazi National Socialist Network stickers placed outside a synagogue; anti-Israel BDS stickers placed on the mailbox of a synagogue and on the synagogue itself; stickers of “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” placed on bottles of kosher wine; and stickers of a Jewish Star of David with “9 11” inside at an anti-lockdown protest.
Placards at an anti-Israel rally in Sydney with text and/or images of: “Grandchildren of Holocaust survivors gassed worshippers in Al-Aqsa and locked them in. Let that sink in”; “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another”; placard of Israeli flag, with the Star of David removed and replaced with a swastika; “ABC News is Zionist Propaganda”; “Zionism is worse than Covid”; “Don’t Submit to the Zionist World Order”; “Zion-alia” implying Australia is controlled by ‘Zionists’. A protester wore a shirt with the Israeli flag on the back, but with the Star of David replaced with a swastika.
Placards at an anti-Israel protest in Melbourne, with the text and/or images of: “Zionism is the new Nazism” with the Star of David and a Nazi swastika; “Spot the difference (images of Israeli flag and Nazi flag) Level: Irony”; Netanyahu with Hitler moustache, doing Heil Hitler salute in front of Nazi flag; series of three images transforming from Hitler to Netanyahu, with the text of “The irony of becoming what you once hated”.
Placards at a COVID-19 related anti-lockdown rally included the text: “Qui?” (French for ‘who’) and “Astrazeneca Qui?? Qui?? Pfizer Qui?? Moderna Qui? J&J Qui? Qui? Qui? Qui???” (in reference to antisemitic conspiracy theories around COVID-19). A placard in a shop in Cairns had “The Rothschild Family is the Virus. The Khazarian mafia”.
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. Further, a culture of hate against one community invariably spreads to other targets, destroying social peace for everybody. The only effective response is 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 not only to condemn antisemitism but to ensure that effective laws are in place to counter hate-motivated attacks against any group and to deal with anyone who advocates violence.
As Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, stated on 2 December 2020: “I’ve called it [antisemitism] the oldest hatred. I’ve also called it one of the most violent forms of hatred. And one of the most pervasive forms of hatred. I have prioritised combating antisemitism, not only because it is so violent and so widespread, but also because it essentially threatens democracy everywhere… It’s not a problem for the Jewish communities alone, it’s a problem for all of us.”