Gaza war and COVID-19 conspiracy theories fuel significant increase in anti-Semitism in Australia in 2021

Anti-Semitic graffiti blaming Jews for the COVID-19 pandemic in a parking lot in Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Courtesy of ECAJ

The war between Israel and Hamas in May and the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic were the two major events contributing to a notable increase in anti-Semitic attacks in Australia over the past year.

In its annual report on anti-Semitism in Australia released on Friday, the Australian Jewish Community Executive Council (ECAJ) said Jewish groups recorded 447 incidents in the year to September 20, 2021. This figure represents a staggering number of incidents. 35% increase compared to the 331 incidents recorded in 2020.

There have been particularly alarming jumps in incidents involving anti-Semitic vandalism. There were 72 reported cases of offensive stickers or posters – an increase of 157% from the previous year – and 106 cases of offensive graffiti, representing a 152% increase from the past twelve months . Other forms of vandalism targeting the Jewish community increased by 10%.

Cases of harassment and abuse targeting the Australian Jewish community of 91,000 people, or about 0.4% of the population, have also increased. In 2021, 147 such incidents were reported.

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December 17, 2021 3:52 P.M.

Julie Nathan, ECAJ research director and author of the report, noted in a statement that the war in Gaza earlier this year had “contributed to the increase in anti-Semitic incidents.” She said “a total of 88 incidents were recorded for the month of May alone, when hostilities between Israel and Hamas took place, compared to between 22 and 46 incidents for each of the other 11 months of the year.” .

Nathan cited COVID-19 as the other key factor in the rise of anti-Semitism. Another important theme of the anti-Semitic discourse expressed during the year was the emphasis placed on the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic on Jews, especially by COVID-19 deniers as well as by many opponents of the measures. health, including immunization mandates. and blockages, ”she said.

She pointed out that “behind the statistics lie horrific personal stories of the persistent anti-Semitic bullying of Jewish students in schools, the brutal physical assault of a man on his way to the synagogue, the spray painting of ‘ Free Palestine ‘. Fucking Zionist. Free Palestine ‘on signage in front of a synagogue in Adelaide, the deployment of a Nazi flag above a synagogue in Brisbane, and the draping of two Palestinian flags and two jagged Israeli flags at the main entrance to a synagogue in Sydney. What is perhaps worse is the shameful rhetoric online and sometimes in the mainstream media by those who for whatever reason seek to rationalize or downplay this blatant behavior.

Nathan also warned of Islamist and neo-Nazi groups inciting violence against Jews. She identified Hizb ut’Tahrir and the National Socialist Network as the main offenders.

The 150-page report also examined the spread of anti-Semitic tropes in Australian politics, media and education, providing detailed descriptions of anti-Semitic incidents and the appearance of anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media platforms.

Nathan called for greater adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which has been endorsed by several governments around the world, including that of Australia.

“To be effective, the definition will now need to be adopted by the public and private sectors, academia, civil society, school education systems and sports organizations, among others,” Nathan argued.

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