Antisemitic incidents in Australia have reached record levels, although the number of physical assaults on Jews have dropped, according to an annual report.
Jeremy Jones, who has been collating data on antisemitic incidents in the country since 1989, told the annual conference of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) on Sunday that an unprecedented 962 reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation were received by Australian Jewish organisations between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009.
His 144-page report reveals that the latest technology was being employed to “spread ancient hatred” and that “rhetorical red lines” had been crossed, especially by the political left, which had engaged in comparisons of Jews and Israelis to Nazis.
But Mr Jones, a former president of the ECAJ and the director of community and international affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, stressed it was not all doom and gloom.
“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 said the latest 12-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”.
The Israeli army’s operation in Gaza last January sparked “unprecedented levels” of anti-Jewish emails and public abuse, but there was a “marked decrease” in reports of physical violence against Jewish individuals and property over the last 12 months, Mr Jones said.
He added that the Australian public’s reaction to the extradition request by Hungary for alleged Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai — accused of beating an 18-year-old to death for not wearing a yellow star — and the Federal Court contempt hearing for Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben had been “passionate without being racially abusive”.
Telephone threats, hate mail and graffiti were also at “below average rates”.