Anti-Semitic violence in Australia has increased by 31% over the past year, a recent study that was presented Monday in Melbourne showed.
"This year, ten times a week, every week, Jewish Australians were attacked or threatened,” said Jeremy Jones, the Director of Community Affairs for the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, who prepared the study.
Jones presented his findings, which included data from annual studies that he conducted over 22 years, at the Annual Meeting of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.
The study evidenced a total of 517 attacks and acts of harassment that occurred between October 1, 2010 and September 30 this year; 38% above the average of the previous 21 years.
Jones said the overall increase was made up of rises and falls in anti-Semitism across the categories. While physical attacks increased only slightly and face-to-face harassment decreased by 20%, hate mail and graffiti was well up.
The study defined anti-Semitic attacks as any act of racist violence that includes physical contact against a person or Jewish communal property or face-to-face threats. The types of threats recorded in the study ranged from those made via e-mail, mail, and faxes, to threats made by phone calls or on leaflets.
Jones highlighted the proliferation of anti-Semitism expressed over the Internet. He emphasized that there are organizations as well as individuals promoting anti-Semitism in Australia, who operate via online forums such as Facebook, Newsgroups and online clubs, in addition to various print mediums.
While there are few public supporters in Australia of anti-Jewish violence and physical harassment, comments of this sort flourish on the Internet sites of mainstream, including government-owned, media outlets, explained Jones. He asserts top-down initiatives must be taken to combat this trend.
"It is time mainstream media and others grew up – the on-line world can no longer be regarded as some sort of alternative reality," said Jones. "If a posting on your web-site would not be published in print or broadcast by you, don’t provide it with an online platform and demean your brand."
Jones stipulated that the behavior of anti-Semites is not influenced by the actions of Jews, nor of Israel. "There is nothing to suggest (the increase) is related to attitudes to Israel, but maybe due to a series of issues in which Jews were visibly involved, such as the prominence of Jews promoting multiculturalism and anti-racism laws, the attempt by a local community to establish an Eruv and a debate on methods for humanely killing animals for human consumption," he told Haaretz.
But, he said, "Individuals with a certain mindset are opportunistic - if they think Israel can be exploited as a negative they do so, if not they find another pretext" like blaming Jews for whatever they see as public ills. As such, when there are particularly virulent or defamatory attacks on Israel in the government-owned media, certain anti-Semitic individuals see this as a weakening of mythical Jewish control over the government and therefore a signal that there is more freedom to harass or attack Jews, Jones explained.
Not included in the study were reports that may have been anti-Semitic but there was insufficient evidence to justify inclusion. Such incidents include when Jewish Australians were assaulted, harassed and abused in a manner or context where the "Jewishness" of the target was not clearly the motivation behind the offence. "A small minority of attacks on Israel or its alleged behavior were expressed in a manner which identified them as anti-Semitic, but in many other cases anti-Semitism was a possible, but not definite motive," said Jones.
The study showed 8,424 recorded incidents of anti-Semitism over the past 22 years. Jones described this figure as "disturbing", but emphasized that the incidents of anti-Semitism should be viewed in the context of the millions of positive or neutral interactions between Jews and non-Jews that took place over the same period. "The overwhelming majority of Jews in Australia never encounter physical manifestations of anti-Semitism," he said.
Jones told Haaretz that he believes anti-Semitism is less of an issue in Australia than in virtually any other country. This, he asserts, can be attributed to the fact that Jews have been part of mainstream life in Australia since the first days of colonization, have played active and important roles in politics and the military, and continue to be honored for contributions to Australia's arts, culture, science, education, business and more.
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