Police were called after a swastika flag was suspended from a window in a residential building near a synagogue in the eastern Australian city of Brisbane on Saturday, sparking harsh condemnations from local politicians and calls for a ban on the Nazi symbol from the organized Jewish community.
According to The Guardian, Queensland Police seized the banner from a UniLodge complex, which provides student housing, on Saturday after it was seen by worshipers at the synagogue, but only charged its owner with creating a public nuisance.
“That flag and that symbol, the Nazi swastika symbol, represents one of the most evil moments in human history. For that to appear in 2021 in Brisbane over a synagogue is just atrocious,” Jason Steinberg, the vice president of the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, told the paper, calling on the legislature to tighten up hate laws.
The incident came only weeks after Australia announced that it was adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, joining a growing list of nations across Europe and the Americas to agree on a common description of anti-Jewish bias.
“Antisemitism has no place in Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced earlier this month, The Guardian reported. “It has no place anywhere in the world. And we must work together, resolutely and as a global community to reject any word or any act that supports antisemitism towards individuals, towards communities or religious facilities.”
A global survey undertaken by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014 found that Australia distinguished itself as one the least antisemitic countries in the world. That seems to be borne out by the findings in a survey conducted earlier this year by Australia’s Social Research Center on behalf of Plus61J – an online news publication focusing on Israel, Australia and the Jewish world.
To gauge levels of antisemitism in the country, respondents were asked how open they were to befriending Jews and to what degree they accepted certain negative stereotypes about Jews. A total of 92 percent said they were as comfortable having Jewish friends as having friends from other groups in society.
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About 116,000 Jews live in Australia, where they account for a tiny fraction of the population – 0.4 percent. More than four out of five respondents, however, overestimated their share, with 40 percent saying it was more than 5 percent.
More than 80 percent of respondents disagreed with the notions that Jewish people talk about the Holocaust to further their agenda and that they can’t be trusted in business. Well over 70 percent rejected claims that Jews consider themselves better than other Australians, that they have too much power in the media and that they are more obsessed with money than other Australians.
It is a sign of how aligned most Australians feel with the local Jewish population that nearly two out of every three respondents (62 percent) said they supported banning the swastika in their country in order to protect Jewish people from antisemitism – just 12 percent disagreed. But despite their overwhelming revulsion from the Nazi symbol, 30 percent of the respondents said they knew “little” or “virtually nothing” about the Holocaust.
But while Australians hold a very favorable view of the local Jewish community, the study also found that nearly one in five believe that their connection to Israel compromises their loyalty to Australia.