The most high-powered Journalists Mission to Israel ever hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in the history of the program has just concluded – and the community is invited to hear their feedback at a public meeting next month.
The annual study mission, which has been running for three decades, gave participants a comprehensive immersion into the country and the region, and included guided visits to the borders of Syria, Lebanon and Gaza; briefings from political, military and security experts; meetings with Israeli and Palestinian journalists; Shabbat at the Western Wall; Yad Vashem, the Temple Mount, the Christian holy sites and the Dead Sea.
It also included a visit to the Palestinian capital city of Ramallah and briefings by senior representatives of the Palestinian Authority; a Palestinian refugee camp, a settlement, a meeting with leaders of an Israeli-Palestinian peace-building program and a focus on innovative high-tech industries.
This year’s Journalists Mission participants represented: Nine (which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald), The Weekend Australian, The Daily Telegraph, SBS, Radio 2GB, Channel 7, Channel 9 and Sky News.
“Our community follows media reporting extremely closely,” Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger said. “We have concerns about lack of balance and context in relation to coverage of Israel, so this is an opportunity to hear first-hand from some of the most senior editors and journalists in the country after they have participated in our high-level study mission. We encourage community members to attend and to engage with them.”
The report-back will take place at the Sydney Jewish Museum on Thursday October 17 at 7.30pm.
The Board of Deputies Journalists Mission is generously supported by Philip and Suzy Wolanski through the JCA Haberman Kulawicz & Wolanski Fund.
Anti-Semitism Senate Chamber Hansard Wednesday September 11 Senator Andrew BRAGG (New South Wales) (13:41):
I rise to speak about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Australia, because I believe Australians have a right to know what is driving people in our public affairs. Like many Australian families, my family served in World War II against the Nazis. One grandfather served in the Western Desert in the Middle East. The other one served in the Merchant Navy on the Atlantic in oil tankers under siege from U-boats. I studied genocide at university. I learnt about it here in Canberra at the ANU. I was taught by Professor Colin Tatz. I have been to death camps in Germany, including Dachau. I have been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. World War II and the Nazi atrocities have been part of my education. They have been part of the awareness of my being. I am worried that we are starting to forget.
I believe anti-Semitism is a rising problem in New South Wales and across Australia. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 60 per cent in the past year. There have been extraordinarily large increases in email threats, telephone based threats and vandalism. In New South Wales, there have been swastikas affixed to Bondi Beach’s graffiti wall. Bondi Beach is where many thousands of Jewish people live, including many Holocaust survivors.
My friend and colleague Julian Leeser MP, the member for Berowra, has been forced to endure anti-Semitic behaviour in his own electorate. During the last campaign, Mr Leeser had to deal with swastikas and Hitler moustaches as well as dollar signs for eyes. As he said himself: For the third time my campaign materials have been attacked by people trying to intimidate me by sending a message of hate. First it was swastikas and Hitler moustaches on my posters on a street in Normanhurst. He went on to say: The $$ refer to old anti-Semitic lies of an international Jewish banking conspiracy; that Jews have control of the world’s
money supply. These sentiments were used by Nazis and others who have sought to spread hatred of Jews for centuries.
I believe anti-Semitism is also underpinning a disgraceful challenge against the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s citizenship. His mother, Erica Strauss, fled the Holocaust and arrived in Australia from Hungary in 1950. There are three people involved with this outrageous attempt. One is Michael Staindl. Paul Karp reported in The Guardian on 31 July that Staindl launched a citizenship
challenge under section 44 of the Constitution, aimed at establishing whether Josh Frydenberg had inherited Hungarian citizenship through his mother. The Australian then reported on 7 August that Michael Staindl is a climate activist who supports GetUp! Further, The Australian reported in late July that Mr Staindl has been involved in climate change protests and led a ‘Stop Adani’ event in 2017.
Let me turn to Trevor Poulton. The challenge is supported by Trevor Poulton. Geoff Chambers of The Australian reported on 8 August 2019 that Poulton was working with Oliver Yates’s Kooyong Independents Group to test the Treasurer’s eligibility. On 16 July Rosie Lewis of The Australian covered Poulton’s activities.
Poulton admitted to being engaged with the Kooyong Independents Group on the Treasurer’s citizenship status. Poulton told The Australian he believes the Treasurer is a dual citizen and that ‘the focus should be on Frydenberg’. Poulton is the author of a book, called The Holocaust Denier, about a police officer who ‘begins to question the nature and the extent of the Jewish Holocaust’. Any reading of his 2014 submission on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes clear that this man believes the Holocaust is overdone in Australian schools and that there has been a vast conspiracy to overblow the Holocaust. He rejects the established figure of six million dead Jews from the Second World War and he goes on to say: It would appear through the teaching of the Holocaust in Australian schools, non-Jewish school children, particularly those of northern European descent and Muslims, are potentially being encouraged to loathe their own ethnicity. Poulton said these amendments on 18C could ‘liberate the debate on the Holocaust in the public domain’. He’s gone on to say that the debate on the Holocaust was ‘the Holocaust narrative’.
This takes me to the third person, Oliver Yates. Yates ran against the Treasurer in Kooyong as an Independent and received eight per cent of the votes. Post election, Yates emailed the members of the Kooyong Independents Group. The email of 14 June 2019 says: ‘It appears many candidates in the last election failed to provide enough information on their section 44 disclosures. If thought appropriate, they will recommend candidates for referral to the High Court. This has started in Kooyong.’ Yates says he’s not involved in the section 44 challenge. Yet on 31 July Mr Yates told The Australian that he knew Staindl. This is the third limb of clear evidence that this man is organising resources on the eligibility of the Treasurer, which includes three points: (1) Poulton’s statement of 16 July, (2) Yates’s email of 14 June and (3) Yates’s statement to The Australian on 31 July. Yates is involved in, if not at the nerve centre of, this outrage. Staindl, Poulton and Yates should all be ashamed of themselves for their appalling behaviour. They are banding together in the shadows to try and unseat the son of a Holocaust survivor. They are pretending that they are not working together, when they clearly are. The basis for this challenge is anti-Semitism.
We are proud of Jewish Australians. They have risen to the highest offices in the land. We are proud of Josh Frydenberg. He is a great Australian and a great friend, who is well regarded across this parliament. The Liberals will always call out racism. We worked with the Labor Party to open Australia after World War II. We dismantled the White Australia policy together. I call on our education sector to keep teaching the truth about the Holocaust. We cannot afford to forget—what begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.
Finally, I call on all Australia’s community and political leaders to never walk past anti-Semitism or racism in any form. Racism is a sickness of the heart and the mind. It should never be tolerated. This is an illegitimate challenge to the Treasurer’s citizenship by people who have an obsession with the Holocaust. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to speak out and call this outrage what it is—rank anti-Semitism.
A vibrant celebration with special guests Multicultural NSW CEO Joseph La Posta and Advisory Board Chair Dr Hari Harinath OAM marked the graduation of the third cohort of our ‘We Are All Sydney’ (WAAS) community leadership program. Twenty three graduates from 17 diverse backgrounds completed the three-month course and brought their families and friends to enjoy the music, food, speeches and dancing.
During his address, Mr La Posta praised the Jewish community saying “Despite such overwhelming adversity, it’s rare to come across an aspect of our society not advanced substantially by our Jewish community, including the law, medicine, the arts, business and Government”.
He also commended the WAAS program saying “Over the last three years, WAAS has experienced phenomenal success. It has created a network of more than 60 leaders representing more than 30 cultural backgrounds… we need relationships to arm us with information to address the problems of our time with adequately complex solutions. We need to break down the silos of age and generation, culture and religion and create new networks. And this is exactly what the WAAS program is achieving.”
The WAAS program is based on the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s ‘We Are All New York’ program and was brought to Australia by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. It is supported by Multicultural NSW and managed by Board of Deputies Community Relations & Policy Manager Lynda Ben-Menashe and Community Relations Officer Hila Tsor.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) represents and advocates for the Jewish community of NSW. It is tasked with ensuring a safe and vibrant Jewish community by protecting its physical and political security.
The JBD engages with all levels of government, its agencies, the media, other NGOs and the education sector.
Our voluntary PUBLIC AFFAIRS INTERNSHIP is now open and receiving applications.
Don’t miss this opportunity to gain experience within a respected public affairs organisation. We are seeking a university-aged individual with an interest in at least one of the following: politics, media, Israel and Jewish affairs. Candidates should have a can-do attitude and be willing to attempt a range of diverse tasks.
See what other interns have said:
Tasks may include
Data entry and analysis
Input into political strategy
What you will gain
An understanding of the Australian political landscape and how the different levels of government operate.
Skills in research, writing and speaking.
Access to exclusive events.
Knowledge of the Jewish community and how it interacts with other communities.
Technical skills in Microsoft Excel, Word and Outlook.
One day per week (9am-5pm)
Lasting 7 weeks commencing the week of 9 September and finishing 4 November. ………………………………………………………………………………..
Please email a cover letter and resume by COB Monday August 19 to:
William Nemesh Jewish Community Relationship Manager
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies email@example.com
Enquiries 9360 1600
In the minutes and hours after Australian Brenton Tarrant killed 51 people in two Christchurch mosques, the other users on 8Chan were busy replying on the thread he created on the website to announce the March 15 attack.
There was vitriol and violence and vile bigotry in the responses, and many cheered the killings.
But, in an environment where the actions were being celebrated as an attack on Muslims, a shift in opinion emerged.
“Why didn’t he kill a bunch of Jews?” one user asked just an hour after the attack began.
Another anonymous user replied: “That’s a very good question.”
In the space of 90 minutes, the word Jew or various iterations of the word were mentioned 21 times in that thread, while Muslim appeared 16 times.
Australia’s Jewish community has been watching on with fear as the online hatred seeps into the real world, with the far right, which has long targeted Muslims, slowly turning attention to them.
One Jewish leader labels a spike in anti-Semitic graffiti as a “swastika epidemic”, while the most authoritative record of the issue — the annual Anti-Semitism in Australia report from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry — found a 59 per cent increase in incidents last year.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff says the “online world” is partly behind the “alarming spike in anti-Semitic incidents”.
“The terrorists responsible for the attacks on the Pittsburgh and San Diego synagogues were active on social media platforms frequented by neo-Nazis and alt-right ideologues,” Alhadeff says.
“Clearly, these platforms are not nearly as vigilant as they should be in filtering content, enabling vile discourse to poison the public space and incite violence and even terrorism without accountability.”
He says extremists are exploiting overseas conflicts to promote hatred and there are local neo-Nazi groups openly calling “for the murder of Jews and gays”.
The shift to real-world action did not come about by accident, according to a prominent Melbourne community leader.
“The white supremacists and the neo-Nazis have made a conscious decision to take their online activity to the real world, whether it is distributing Holocaust denial flyers or putting up swastikas,” says Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission, an organisation set up to fight anti-Semitism and hatred.
“People are now sensing that there’s some kind of legitimacy.”
Far left and right
But some Jewish organisations say the far left also has been feeding anti-Semitic rhetoric.
Julie Nathan, an ECAJ researcher who produces the annual anti-Semitism report, says there are signs that the far left and the far right are feeding off each other.
“Many of the principal themes in these expressions of anti-Semitism, especially online, involve a cross-fertilisation of concepts between the political left and right,” Nathan says.
“For example, left-wing rhetoric exaggerating the power of a so-called ‘Jewish lobby’ has helped to revive and stoke far-right myths about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”
Israel as the boxing bag
Although he is not named in last year’s report, repeated attacks on Canberra Rabbi Shmueli Feldman’s home and his Chabad ACT centre are detailed by Nathan.
“This anti-Semitism is from the far right, but it’s not just from the far right. It’s equally seen in the far left as well — and by religious extremists,” Feldman says.
“You see it, for example, with the Greens’ anti-Israel stance and that filters down to people now having Israel as the boxing bag for people with anti-Semitic views. A lot of them are ashamed to say that they’re anti-Semitic still, so they’re ‘anti-Israel’ or ‘anti-Zionist’ to an extreme degree.”
Little more than a week ago, Feldman was abused online when he took to a popular Canberra Facebook group to seek help to find the owner of a wallet found outside the centre. Within 16 minutes, someone replied: “A jew giving money back? Fkn stitch up.”
“I’m getting private messages from him calling me a ‘Zionist dog’,” Feldman says.
“This is the norm now, whereas people would hide behind fake profiles. But this is a real Facebook profile. There’s a Jew hatred there that’s resurfacing.”
Free speech as cover
For Abramovich, there are also links to the debate over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which became seen as a battle for free speech.
Amid that debate, in 2014, then attorney-general George Brandis declared: “People do have a right to be bigots. In a free country people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive or insulting or bigoted.”
In some circles, the comments were seen as a reinforcement of liberal ideas and the highlighting of long-held rights.
For some, however, it was seen as an invitation.
“People have, in a way, been empowered to say the most nasty and ugly things under the guise of freedom of speech. That’s unleashed all these dark forces,” Abramovich says.
“I’m not saying people who express opinions are bigots, but it’s allowed those who are usually lingering in the dark corners of our society to come forward under the banner of free speech and attack — whether it is Jews, it is Muslims or it is minorities.”
Added to this is the rise of social media.
“We have the internet and social media, which has created this amazing tool — but, on the other hand, has provided a super-highway for the bigots and for the alt-right and the racists to create echo chambers,” Abramovich says. “But it has also given them a platform, with YouTube and Twitter and Facebook. With all these different platforms, suddenly they’re able to disseminate their ideology inexpensively, instantaneously and often anonymously. So we have these trolls who would never say it to your face but suddenly they’re able to spread their tentacles.”
The message boards of the notorious Daily Stormer website contained threads dedicated to Australia and Australian cities, allowing those with neo-Nazi interests not just to meet online but to also organise physical meetings.
On platforms such as Gab and 8Chan, derogatory language to describe Jews and pro-Nazi content have become commonplace.
“Many organisations and individuals use two or more online platforms, (like a) website and Facebook, Twitter/Gab, and videos,” Nathan wrote in her last report. Some of the rhetoric is now reaching the offline world.
“I’m receiving reports from children in Canberra’s public and private schools. Children as young as seven have been told by their classmates that they don’t want to be their friend because they are Jewish,” Feldman says.
“Children as young as 11 are being taunted in the playground by other children with slurs like ‘We love Hitler’, ‘Heil Hitler’ and things of that nature.”
For some, the issue at schools extends further than the attitudes of students.
After The Australian revealed this month that a Year 12 sample assessment claimed Israel persecuted Arab families and demolished their homes because of their Muslim faith, Australian Jewish Association president David Adler called on Victorian Education Minister James Merlino to “take action and ensure those responsible for such blatant anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitism are removed from the education system”.
Concerns also have been raised about the creep of anti-Semitism into universities.
Alhadeff says there is evidence that anti-Semitism is rising “across the board, from the tertiary sector and schoolyard to the workplace and online space”.
“Just this week we received a call from a student looking to switch universities because she has copped relentless anti-Semitic abuse,” he says. “Two weeks ago I met with the pro vice-chancellor of one of our major universities to discuss the rise in incidents on that campus.”
Much of the increase in last year’s anti-Semitic incidents is attributed to the work of a group called Antipodean Resistance, which places stickers and posters showing anti-Jewish or neo-Nazi messages in public places, including university campuses.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which advocates a boycott of Israeli products, has also had a strong presence on university campuses.
Feldman says there is a difference between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, but many people are both.
“You have people who are authentically anti-Israel, because of what they are fed on the news, who don’t hate Jews,” he says. “There are people in the community who are sympathetic to what they view as the underdog — the Palestinian cause — and it doesn’t cause them to hate me.
“But for the most part, the emboldening of hate is there and people are becoming much more vocal about it.”
Graffiti attacks also targeted Jewish political candidates during this year’s federal election.
Swastikas and Hitler moustaches were drawn on Liberal MP Julian Leeser’s campaign material. Two Labor candidates were forced to quit after being accused of anti-Semitism, while the Greens were also criticised for its stance on Israel.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had a campaign billboard vandalised with Nazi symbols and now is having his eligibility to sit in parliament being questioned by a Labor member who authored a book called The Holocaust Denier.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison hit out this month.
“The scourge of anti-Semitic graffiti that we’ve seen in Melbourne just this year, it is absolutely sickening and disgraceful,” he said on July 18.
“And for a Holocaust denier and an anti-Semite to seek to progress that agenda by pretending to have some sort of constitutional purity on Josh Frydenberg, I’m just going to call it out for what it is.”
Gail Mason, a criminologist from the University of Sydney, has been researching hate crime in Australia for 20 years and is pleased that politicians, police and the public are beginning to see how much of a problem it is.
Although she does not focus on anti-Semitic crimes, Mason says little data exists to show whether hate crimes are becoming more common — but adds that she does not believe it is falling.
“I do think we are seeing greater recognition of the problem now,” Mason says.
“I don’t think it’s anywhere near the same understanding that you get in a country like the United Kingdom or the US.”
Yet the fear caused by hate crimes is still very real for some in our community.
In Melbourne, cafe owner Aliza Shuvaly, whose mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor, found someone had scrawled the words “The Holocaust is a lie”, along with a swastika, on the fence outside her cafe in Chadstone.
Days later, she found the words “The Holocaust didn’t happen but it should have” spray painted. Again, a swastika was painted next to the words.
“It reminded me, just before World War II was starting, the Germans used to write on the shops and the homes of Jewish people,” she says.
“I couldn’t believe it connected me straight to the Holocaust, even though I wasn’t there.”
Anti-Semitism is rearing its head in schools and universities across Australia, with one Jewish leader taking the issue up with a deputy vice-chancellor of a major university and another calling for the swastika to be banned.
Children in primary school are among those who have recently been targeted, and an outbreak of anti-Semitic graffiti has led the chair of the Melbourne-based Anti-Defamation Commission, Dvir Abramovich, to call for the current “swastika epidemic” to be tackled by law.
In Sydney, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said legislative action was “vital”.
“The alarming spike in anti-Semitic incidents is evident across the board, from the tertiary sector and schoolyard to the workplace and online space,” he said. “Just this week we received a call from a student looking to switch universities because she has copped relentless anti-Semitic abuse. Two weeks ago, I met with the pro vice-chancellor of one of our major universities to discuss the rise in incidents on that campus.”
That meeting was in relation to incidents at the University of Sydney, he said.
He said TAFE NSW recently introduced protocols for staff and students in regard to racism, anti-Semitism and intimidation “and we’ve seen a rash of Nazi swastikas on Bondi beachfront — the symbol of the ultimate in race hatred”.
Dr Abramovich said the swastika should be banned across Australia, following a spate of graffiti attacks in Melbourne.
Similar incidents have occurred in Canberra, where rabbi Shmueli Feldman said his Chabad ACT centre had been egged and vandalised and he and his familyverbally abused. “Children as young as 11 are being taunted in the playground by other children with slurs like ‘We love Hitler’, ‘Heil Hitler’ and things of that nature,” he said.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry recorded a 59 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents last year, and anecdotal evidence suggests there may be a rise in graffiti attacks this year.
In Melbourne, cafe owner Aliza Shuvaly, whose mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor, found someone had scrawled the words “The Holocaust is a lie”, along with a swastika, on the fence outside her cafe in Chadstone.