Israeli Victims Recount 'anti-Semitic' Attack in Australia

Police arrest three suspects; Arab and Muslim communities join chorus of condemnation from swathe of Australian society.

Dan Goldberg
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Dan Goldberg

SYDNEY – Israeli victims of a brutal attack in Sydney on Friday night say they are grateful to be alive after enduring a 15-minute nightmare as they walked home from Shabbat dinner.

Four members of the Behar family and Shlomo Ben Haiem, an education shaliach of the Jewish National Fund, were wounded in a violent fistfight after they were taunted by a mob of eight youths in Bondi Beach. All five were hospitalized, but have since been released.

Eli Behar, 66, who moved here from Israel in the 1980s, suffered bleeding on his brain while other injuries included a fractured cheekbone, broken nose, concussion, lacerations and bruising.

Two minors, both 17, were arrested and charged with affray and breach of bail. They appeared in the New South Wales Children’s Court on Monday via video-link from their cell and were ordered to reappear on November 12.

A third man, aged 23, is scheduled to appear in court on December 3. Police are still searching for other gang members.

Community members described the attack as the worst of its kind on a group of Australian Jews since records on anti-Semitic incidents began in the 1980s.

“They started to curse us, ‘Dirty Jews,’ and just started hitting us,” Ben Haiem, who served in an intelligence unit in the Israel military, told Army Radio on Sunday. “I’d never seen such a thing in my life.

“Within seconds I’d been punched in the face. For 15 or 20 minutes they didn’t stop hitting us.” The attack “proves beyond doubt how the State of Israel is crucial for any Jew,” he said in a statement issued by the JNF.

Eli Behar added: “They followed us and then they attacked us. There were no weapons although they did try to smash a bottle over my son’s head. We spent three hours with the police today and can only hope that they catch the rest of them.”

His son Shlomo posted a message on his Facebook page saying, “I do hope we can put an end to any anti-Semitic or racist attacks, no matter what your color or religion, faith or where you’re from. No one should have to go through something like this.”

It is understood that the victims have been advised by lawyers, the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, and local police not to give any further media interviews.

Instead, they issued a joint statement on Monday, saying they wanted justice, not vengeance.

“We want justice to be done in regard to the perpetrators,” it said.

“People should be free to walk the streets in safety, without fear of being attacked because of the color of their skin or the race to which they belong. Our overriding concern is that such an attack should not happen again – to anyone.”

Representatives of the Arab and Muslim communities joined the chorus of condemnation from a broad swathe of Australian society on Monday.

“Violence of any form is abhorrent but when it is racially or religiously motivated it is even more horrific,” said Maha KrayemAbdo, executive officer of the Muslim Women’s Association.

“Australia is the envy of the world as we symbolize a beautiful melting pot of cultures, religions, ethnicities and languages. Discrimination, vilification and violence have no place in such a society,” KrayemAbdo added.

Randa Kattan, CEO of the Arab Council of Australia, wrote to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. “We condemn these attacks in the strongest terms and stand against all forms of violence and vilification,” she said by email.

“Our community knows too well the pain of racial vilification and attacks and how this could lead to a community under siege and exclusion. These are heavy challenges for your leadership and community.”

In an article to be published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday, Vic Alhadeff, chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, wrote, “The Bondi incident highlights the need to deter and punish racial harassment and vilification.

“This is not Hungary, where ultranationalist Jobbik party member Marton Gyongyosi suggested that members of the parliament who are Jewish be counted and registered ‘in order to avoid the national security risk caused by the Jew’."

He called for legislation that "makes it clear that those who incite racist violence will face the full force of the law."

In Israel, Naftali Bennett, Minister for Diaspora Affairs, said he spoke to the president of the NSW Board of Deputies, Yair Miller.

“We are a single people no matter how far away we might be geographically,” he said. “The State of Israel stands together with the Australian Jewish community.”

Eli Behar, 66, after the attack in Sydney. Credit: Henry Benjamin
JNF emissary Shlomo Ben Haeim, after being attacked in Sydney in October, 2014. Credit: Henry Benjamin

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