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Antisemitic and Islamophobic Incidents Rise in Australia Since Start of Israel-Hamas War

Antisemitic and Islamophobic Incidents Rise in Australia Since Start of Israel-Hamas War
Antisemitic and Islamophobic Incidents Rise in Australia Since Start of Israel-Hamas War

Posters plastered across Sydney portraying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as Adolf Hitler in disguise. A record increase in reports of Islamophobia, including threats to Muslim community organizations. Antisemitic chants at a pro-Palestinian rally and charges that Nazi salutes were performed outside a Jewish museum.

Australia has experienced a flurry of incidents targeting Muslims and Jews, making it one of many countries reporting a rise in such cases since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

Reports to the Islamophobia Register Australia, an independent organization that tracks anti-Muslim sentiment, have increased tenfold since the start of the war, Sharara Attai, the executive director of the group, told an Australian news service, adding that many more incidents have likely gone unreported.

Interfaith relations have become strained, with at least two Australian rabbis resigning last month from the Jewish Muslim Christian Association, a group that works to promote religious harmony, after some faith leaders failed to condemn the Hamas attacks, which killed some 1,400 people in Israel. Members of the country’s roughly 100,000-strong Jewish community have been left feeling isolated, representatives said, over a perceived absence of sympathy for the suffering caused by the attacks.

Lee Kofman, a writer in Melbourne, organized an open letter that was signed by hundreds of Australian Jewish scholars, journalists and workers in creative industries who said they felt unsafe in their workplaces and abandoned by colleagues.

“It really shook us to the core of our identity,” Ms. Kofman said. “We belong to this progressive tribe, but the progressive tribe doesn’t seem to have very progressive values when it comes to us Jews.”

Signatories of the letter expressed “our dismay and shock at the lack of public understanding and empathy shown towards Jewish people,” as well as what they described as little acknowledgment of the suffering the attacks in Israel have caused.

Australia has the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors of any nation outside Israel, and many Australian Jews have deep and longstanding ties with Israel. A poll in June of the Australian Jewish community found that 77 percent of respondents identified as Zionist, and 88 percent said they felt a “high level of personal connectedness” with Israel.

Shows of support for Palestinians, including from elected representatives, have been criticized by some in the Jewish community over what they said was a lack of understanding of Hamas, which has stated that it wants to destroy Israel.

Tens of thousands of Australians have marched at rallies in cities including Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in support of the Palestinians. Protesters called for a cease-fire, denounced deadly Israeli strikes on civilians in Gaza as “genocide” and chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a popular pro-Palestinian slogan that some view as a call for Israel’s destruction.

On Monday, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, an umbrella organization for hundreds of Australian Jewish groups, condemned a decision by 11 national lawmakers from the Australian Green Party to walk out of Parliament because the Labor government had not called for a cease-fire in Gaza. A spokesman for the organization said the lawmakers’ stance “endangered Australian Jews and our society.”

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