Call for education to combat rising anti-Semitism

A reported spike in incidents targeting Australia's Jewish population has prompted a peak body to call for the establishment of a national education campaign on anti-Semitism.

Data collected by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry showed there was a more than 700 per cent increase in reported anti-Semitic incidents between October and November compared to the same time last year.

Tensions have been particularly high since the outbreak of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Palestine supporters march towards the Victorian Parliament
The Gaza conflict has led to pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli rallies across Australia.

The Gaza conflict has led to pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli rallies in Australia and around the world.

Hamas, considered a terrorist organisation by the Australian government, killed 1200 Israelis and seized 240 hostages in a cross-border raid on October 7.

Since then, Israeli forces have besieged the coastal enclave and laid much of it to waste, killing almost 19,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials.

The council said anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Australia included death threats sent to Jewish organisations, a protest in a Melbourne park opposite a synagogue that resulted in worshippers being evacuated and vandalism of Jewish businesses.

"This is just the peak of the iceberg (and) reveals a deeply troubling time for our community and indeed for our society," council co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said on Friday.

"It's created a great deal of anxiety and vulnerability in the community."

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin
Alex Ryvchin says it is a deeply troubling time for the Jewish community - and society.

Ernie Friedlander, a Holocaust survivor who was shortlisted for the 2024 NSW Senior Australian of the Year, said anti-Semitic incidents were not just an attack on Jewish people but could also stoke wider societal hatred and division.

"I just hope that people will wake up, stop, think and consider the consequences of their action when they want to discriminate," he said.

The council has called on state and federal governments to establish a national anti-Semitism education campaign to ensure Australians understand the impact of such incidents on the community.

Council immediate past president Jillian Segal said an education campaign could counter "disinformation, myths and the unknowns that people are just reacting to" and bring about greater understanding.

"Because if people understand what's behind these thoughts that they might have, I think they will stop and behave in a cohesive manner," she said.

There has also been a spike in Islamophobic incidents following the October 7 attack, including multiple cases of school children reportedly being abused due to their faith.

with Reuters

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