Anti-Jewish attacks in Australia reach record high.
First a report from ECAJ then my comments then back to the report...
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry at its annual meeting in Melbourne this week received a comprehensive briefing on all aspects of antisemitism in Australia by Jeremy Jones, a former President of the Council who has provided detailed annual analyses to the Council since 1989.
More from Mr Jones later, but first let me give you my perspective on anti-Semitism just now, especially in France.
I apologize for the length of this commentary. Often they are quite short, but not this one.
We live in Australia, where our major clashes coming on football ovals and cricket pitches. We don’t know about terrorism inside our shores. We live in general peace and security. And that comfort is a boon to economy and to house re-sales and to our share market.
Sometimes Muslim clerics get in trouble denouncing the White House or women who look like uncovered meat, but religious diversity is a highlight of our multiculturalism. And Jews? Most people in Australia find Jewish people an interesting addition to that multiculturalism. So to discuss anti-Jewish sentiment doesn’t seem to fit here. Or does it?
As October ended some members of the Ocean Grove Football Club attacked Menachem Vorchheimer in Caulfield. Dressed in Orthodox Jewish garb, including a pair of head coverings, Mr Vorchheimer was beaten and taunted. He said he had suffered headaches and nausea since the attack and his two young children had undergone counselling.
He said he was attacked because of his faith. The club has apologized.
So does anti-Semitism happen in Australia?
Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Grahame Leonard said the attack was the fifth unprovoked assault on a member of the Jewish community in Victoria this year. More than 140 incidents - a national record - were reported in July, at the height of Israel's war with Hezbollah. There has never been a conviction for an antisemitic incident in Victoria.
What about in Poland?
Anti-Semitism and intolerance in Poland have risen to new levels since the formulation of a coalition government in May 2006, according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
"Poland: Democracy and the Challenge of Extremism," details what ADL calls "the persistence of anti-Semitism" by examining a range of issues, including the makeup of the current coalition government, which contains two extremist parties, and the influence of Radio Maryja, a right-wing Catholic radio station which regularly broadcasts anti-Semitic diatribes.
It seems so unhealthy. It doesn’t make sense. Could this happen in France, the bastion of the Enlightenment, the place where egalitere was as much a part of the fiber as liberty and fraternity. Egalitere, or equality, is similar to our Aussie “fair go” and “mateship” Is there anything to report about anti-Semitism?
Trains and models
The establishment journal, Le Monde made room for the story on page one, "Amazement after the anti-Semitic attack on a woman on a train." Seems a woman with a 13-month-old baby in a pram was attacked on an RER train and no witnesses came forward. The story has thrown a spotlight on the steep rise in anti-Semitic crimes in France. According to official statistics, there were more attacks (vandalism, arson, assault, and so on) targeting France's 600,000 Jews in the first half of 2004 than in all of 2003--135, up from 127 last year.
Josh Turnil is the chief of station of Jews for Jesus in Paris. In a recent phone interview, he cited the following:
• It is a felony to be anti-semitic
• It is a felony to deny the Holocaust happened to 6 million Jews
• In the first three months of 2003, there were more acts of antisemitism in France than the previous fifteen years
• The European Union now monitors antisemitism with its own task force.
Turnil was especially candid about an incident involving his own Jewish Christian cousin. She is from Aberdeen and was called “sale youpine” an especially derogatory title “Dirty Jewess” and this strong language is very hard for anyone to take.
She was not the only one recently to hear such a remark.
Nineteen-year-old Alexandra Rosenfeld heard it in October. After she was crowned as Miss Europe in a pageant held in Kiev, Rosenfeld learned of some rare viewers posting unfriendly remarks on internet forums. They called Rosenfeld “sale youpine” and accused the producers of orchestrating the victory of the Jewish candidate.
They said that since the rights of the program were owned by Endemol which belonged at the time to Jewish producer Arthur and his associate Stephane Courbit, Rosenfeld was propelled to the top.
Rosenfeld did not reply to these remarks, but did participate in February’s massive march organised in Paris to denounce anti-Semitism and racism. The demonstration was organised after the murder of a young Jewish phone salesman, Ilan Halimi, which is the landmark and most insidious case this year.
It’s hard to know whether the anti-Semitism if fuelled by anti-Jewish racism or by anti-Israel politics. Some see it as European (racism) or Muslim (political).
Take, for instance, the case of Halimi, whom Wikipedia reports, “was a young French Jew of Moroccan descent kidnapped on 21 January 2006, by a gang of mostly Muslim immigrant youths called the "Barbarians" and subsequently tortured to death over a period of three weeks. The murder, among whose motives authorities count anti-Semitism, incited a public outcry in a France already marked by intense public controversy about the role of immigrants in its society.”
The Barbarians’ leader is Youssouf Fofana, the 26-year-old son of Muslim immigrants from Ivory Coast, a former French colony in West Africa. Most gang members were nominal Muslims.
So far, Fofana and 19 alleged accomplices have been charged in the savage abduction. According to police, the gang made at least four botched efforts to kidnap a Jew before snatching Halimi.
The Boston Globe reported, “In the bleak housing project where a young Jew died, there's scant sympathy for the victim.
''It's too bad this happened, because we immigrants are always blamed," said Ibrahim Ag Ahmalou, a lanky man of West African heritage who shares his girlfriend's apartment in the project. ''But Jews have all the money and power. Everyone knows this and resents them. That's why they have these problems."
Last March, there were more attacks on Jews by Arab and African immigrants in suburban Paris, according to police. None of the latest victims was seriously injured, but the attacks heightened the nervousness of French Jews. There is alarm that the antipathy of French Muslims toward Jews, long based on opposition to Israel, is reverting to the even more sinister prejudices that once pervaded Europe, making Jews the scapegoats for all social ills.
''Anti-Semitism is rising in our country," said legislator Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The Halimi case launched a new wave of questions. Was the kidnapping designed to get money or to get Jewish money? Was it politically motivated or racial? In other words, since the people in the neighbourhood knew what was happening, and the Jewish community was involved, why has the case still not gone to court?
The Muslim Barbarians wanted a cash ransom of more than $500,000 because they assumed all Jews were rich, according to French authorities. And when Halimi's family could not get that kind of money, the kidnappers killed their captive, because he was a Jew.
In taunting calls to Halimi's family, the abductors addressed his parents with anti-Semitic slurs and told them to get cash ''from your synagogue." They also contacted a French rabbi, boasting, ''We have a Jew." Even more shocking, investigators believe that many inhabitants of the project were aware that the youth gang was holding a Jewish captive, but none called police or urged the abductors to show mercy.
Both racial and political anti-Semitism continues this year. After Halimi, the attacks continued in Lyon and Sarcelles. On March 6, a Jewish pupil in Lyon was attacked and kicked in the face. Days earlier, in Sarcelles, a Jewish man suffered a dislocated shoulder after he was beaten by youths making anti-Jewish remarks. On March 3, two young men in Sarcelles were attacked in separate incidents, with one, the son of a local rabbi, suffering a broken nose.
Turnil told me that the last institution attacked was the Jewish welfare agency. It was burned. This is classic anti-semitism or racism.
Said Sammy Ghozlan, a retired police chief and activist against anti-Semitism: ''It's all mixed up: gang stuff, violence, and a glaze of ideology -- they hate Jews, they hate the West, they hate France. The Jews are the face they put on their generalized anger at the world."
Probably the last six months or so, every day, police come to the Jews for Jesus office in Paris in order to take names and keep records. They want to guarantee the safety of all Jewish agencies, including our missionary band. “It can be a bit much,” said Turnil, “but we are glad for their help.”
Back to Mr Jones' comments in the ECAJ press release
"Threats", conveyed through the telephone, mail, leaflets, posters or e-mail, were recorded at a rate forty two percent above the average.
Amongst the incidents recorded during the past year were
* Synagogue vandalised, with damage to exterior and to ritual objects.
* Rabbi’s home adjoining synagogue and cars parked on property vandalised and damaged.
* Rocks and a brick were thrown through the glass door of a synagogue.
* Attempted arson of synagogue.
* Congregants leaving synagogues were pelted with eggs.
* Office of Jewish student group on campus vandalised.
* A Jewish university student was threatened, spat upon and harassed on campus.
* Incidents of assault and harassment of Jewish people walking home after Festival meals
* Jewish man verbally abused, called “bloody Jew” and assaulted, while walking home from synagogue.
* A Chasidic Jew in a market area had paint thrown at him by unknown assailants.
Anti-Jewish graffiti were reported at the highest level since records have been kept and at a rate seventy seven percent above the average for all years, while hate mail and threatening telephone calls were recorded at just below the average of the previous 16 years.
* Graffiti “Bloody Jews” written on wall of ritual religious structure had been assembled in a university.
* Antisemitic graffiti reading “Jews must die” and “Kill the Jews” daubed on business office.
* Graffiti “Jews Kill” painted in prominent city positions.
* Graffiti “Die Jews” painted on synagogue.
* A series of antisemitic daubings were painted in and around a Jewish day school campus.
Hate mail included:
* A synagogue received antisemitic hate mail, which included comments such as “Herr Hitler had the right attitude about Jews, no question”.
* Antisemitic letter sent to Holocaust survivor.
* Jewish communal figures received envelopes with comments “die Jews” and containing white powder.
* Jewish organisations received mail “Hitler was Right” and swastika.
Abusive/threatening telephone calls included:
* Bomb threats directed at a synagogue made to the private home of an executive member. The caller stated “In the name of Allah, a bomb is in the synagogue and will go off in 25 minutes, blood will be shed.”
* Telephone threats, concluding “Watch out, bloody Jews” made to Jewish community organisation.
* Abusive and threatening telephone calls, “I will kill you all”, made to a number of Jewish organisations
* Threatening telephone call with the phrase “kill Jews” repeated, received at home of Jewish family.
Abusive, threatening and other antisemitic e-mails sent to Jewish individuals and Jewish communal offices were reported at a rate of more than three per week, which added to concerns at “an explosion of anti-Jewish invective on web-based bulletin boards and discussion groups,” Mr. Jones reported.
Examples of offensive emails included:
* A man received at his home a long antisemitic e-mail, on the subject of “your filthy Talmud”.* E-mail “Jews stink!” beginning “I hope you big nosed greedy cunts are taught a lesson . . . “ sent to Jewish organisations.
* E-mail sent to Jewish community leader and copied to Jewish organisations saying “What a PITY your VERMIN RACE was not eliminated! Jews SMELL, STINK and are VERMIN. They aren’t real humans and are a lower form of life. Three cheers for the holocaust HIP HIP, HIP HIP, HIP HIP, HORAY!!!!!!! Can’t wait till Israel is a smoldering mess, then there will be NO WHERE for THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL TO RUN TO and to pedal their lies from. I WIPE MY ARSE WITH YOUR ‘STAR OF DAVID’. YOU UNGRATEFUL VERMIN SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.”
* Antisemitic e-mail sent to Jewish organisations alleging Jews had “infested the U.S.A., Argentina and a few other countries . . . you’re everywhere, like roaches in a dirty kitchen”.
* Jewish organisation received e-mail comparing Jews to Nazis, concluding “Hitler was correct, you are not human”. A similar e-mail was received at a Jewish school.
* E-mail sent to Jewish organisation calling Jews “vermin”, and referring to a leader as a “Stinking Yid”.
In his overall assessment, Mr Jones observed :
* "In contemporary Australia, to accuse any person or organisation of antisemitism is to allege that their behaviour is antisocial and
unacceptable. No one with aspirations to public credibility admits to holding antisemitic views or to associating with openly antisemitic
* "While individuals and organisations associated with the political left who promoted extreme anti-Israel racism, which sometimes included
offensive and gratuitous anti-Jewish imagery, were particularly keen to assert that they were not antisemitic, even far-right and neo-Nazi
groups publicly professed to be "anti-Zionist" rather than anti-Jewish, although the material they distribute can give the lie to any such distinction."
* "In the mass media during the year in review, a number of commentators and a large number of contributors of letters and other forms of public feedback crossed the line between political commentary and offensive commentaries came during the period when Israel was engaged in military activity against HAMAS and Hezbollah. Other anti-Jewish comments came in the course of public discussions on eg the US military involvement in Iraq, the prosecution of Nazi War Criminals when this involved Australian residents and the personal campaign against Israel by an individual author who promoted himself as a victim of a mythical anti-democratic Jewish establishment. In non-mainstream publications, anti-Jewish rhetoric was also invoked in other discussions such as eg on Australia's anti-terrorism laws and on Australian Jewish support for victims of racism."
* "Issues of antisemitism emanating from Islamic sources in Australia were a significant topic of public discussion during the period in review. The Mufti of Australia came under the public spotlight when it was reported that he had promoted Holocaust denial in his Sydney mosque in 2006. A number of media reports appeared noting anti-Jewish books available in bookshops serving Australia's Muslim community."
* "Anti-Jewish propaganda in fringe publications and from extremist organisations remained a serious concern. During debates on a number of matters of public policy overtly anti-Jewish language, and/or inflammatory slanders, sometimes were part of the mainstream discussion. Conspiracy theories abounded on the internet and these included a disturbing proportion"
* "In cases under the Federal Racial Hatred Act, the ECAJ was successful in having an article in the One Nation political party's newspaper found to be in breach of the Act and having an Apology ordered. The case against the Bible Believers' web-site was heard in the Federal Court and a judgement is anticipated early in 2007. In the state of New South Wales, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal determined a Jewish couple had been the victims of unlawful anti-Jewish racial vilification. In Western Australia, a person was charged with making
anti-Jewish telephone calls. In Queensland, a case commenced against a person who had used telephone text messages as a mode for harassment. Further, amended legislation as part of counter-terrorism policies was raised as a possible means for legal action against anti-Semitism in Australia in the future".
* “While traditionally anti-Jewish racism has been thought of as primarily a far-Right phenomenon, there is considerable evidence that a growing proportion of antisemitic commentary in Australia comes from a wide variety of sources, including the far Left.”
Mr. Jones added: “While the sources of antisemitism are many and varied, the reality in Australia is that there has been excellent political and moral leadership against antisemitism in recent times, with the Federal and State Parliaments passing strong, unanimous resolutions on the subject in 2004 and 2005, and a growing awareness of the responsibility by the mass media to avoid being hijacked by racists,” Mr. Jones commented.
“In the current climate it is very significant that Muslim and Christian leaders in Australia have joined with Jewish leaders in common cause against those who would use religion to justify hatred and racist violence, a fact which sets Australia apart from many other societies,” Mr. Jones concluded.