Australian Jews Prevented From Building Synagogue Because It Could Be Targeted by Terrorism

Local Jewish groups say decision to prevent the synagogue's construction 'rewards terrorism' and threatens Jewish life in Sydney

FILE PHOTO - Police officers block a small alley after Australian counter-terrorism police arrested four people in raids late on Saturday across several Sydney, July 30, 2017.
DAVID GRAY/REUTERS

A Jewish community in Sydney, Australia, was refused permission on Wednesday to build a synagogue because it would be a possible target for Islamic terrorism. A court found, to the frustration of the synagogue's supporters, that measures needed to secure the house of worship's would negatively impact the streetscape and would not be permitted.

New South Wales' Land and Environment Court overturned an appeal from the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe, a Jewish organization, against the Waverley Council's initial decision to deny the synagogue's construction less than a mile from the world-famous Bondi Beach.

The court found that the preliminary threat and risk analysis submitted by the Jewish organization "raises concerns as to the safety and security of future users of the synagogue, nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians," believing that the Jewish community would be a likely target and fearing spillover damage in the event of an attack.

While the applicants argued that any threat would be focused solely on their synagogue, Commissioner Graham Brown held in his decision, "It would seem that a more sophisticated risk assessment process could be required for matters such as a potential terrorist threat."

There was much discussion about the structural security measures the applicants were prepared to build, but the Waverly Council successfully argued that much of their proposals, including blast walls, would too negatively affect the residential neighborhood. 

The leader of the local Jewish community, Rabbi Yehoram Ulman, told the local news.com.au that the decision's "implications are enormous. It basically implies that no Jewish organization should be allowed to exist in residential areas. It stands to stifle Jewish existence and activity in Sydney and indeed, by creating a precedent, the whole of Australia, and by extension rewarding terrorism."

The head of the state Jewish Board of Deputies, Vic Alhadeff, told the same site, "This simply shows how we’re all losing our freedoms. Those who want us to be afraid are winning, and this ill-conceived judgment represents a dangerous precedent."