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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9256

Mr ROBB ( Goldstein Minister for Trade and Investment ) ( 10:33 ): While the recent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can be expected to prompt emotive responses, there is no place for anti-Semitism. Yet there is a palpable level of concern regarding rising anti-Semitic incidents across Australia. This is true within the community I represent in Goldstein. Thankfully Australia is not seeing the same degree of activity that is sweeping Europe, where there have been riots outside synagogues, chants of 'gas the Jews' and the smashing of windows in Jewish shops and restaurants, stirring memories of pre-war Europe. There are, however, ominous signs in Australia and vigilance is very much required.

In recent weeks we have seen some highly-publicised events. We saw in Sydney that young Jewish students were subjected to vile threats and abuse when six young men boarded a bus transporting a group of Jewish students aged 5-12 years old, shouting 'Heil Hitler' and 'kill the Jews,' while threatening the young students with violence. There was an attack on a rabbi and his assistant in Perth. There has been a spike in anti-Semitic graffiti; so much of it can be seen around Melbourne that was not there until recently.

My colleague the education minister has written of anti-Semitic incidents at some of our leading universities, including Monash, where Jewish students have been targeted physically and verbally. There has also been what is described as a torrent of anti-Israel abuse across the realm of social media. Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Melbourne's Monash University, said:

There has been a seismic shift …

Another Melbourne academic, Danny Ben-Moshe, said:

The collective well-being of Australian Jewry has been adversely affected … Jews are neither as free nor as safe as they were prior to this war.

Hallely Kimchi, the editor of the Israeli newspaper Eton, has been living here for 19 years but admits there has been a shift and is quoted in an online article:

'This is the first time that I actually feel that my identity is a problem,' she said.

'Something new has happened' since the Gaza war, Kimchi added. 'It's never been like that. The anti-Semitism in Australia is much more than in the past.

'The kids are afraid, that's the bottom line,' she said. 'I know the community here is more alerted.'

Much has also been written regarding the usually biased and negative media slant taken against Israel in much of the global media reporting, including some key media outlets in Australia. In times of international conflict, our community needs leaders and institutions who prompt tolerance rather than inflame base prejudices. (Time expired)