reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation logged
in Australia in 2005 represented the lowest figure since 1997. A disturbingly large volume of overt antisemitic propaganda emanated from Islamic sources in Australia in 2005. Two new complaints about antisemitic propaganda were lodged by the
Australian Jewish community with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission in 2005.
The Jewish community
Jews in Australia out of a total population of over 20 million constitute the
largest Jewish community in the East Asia Pacific Region. The great majority of
Australian Jews live in Melbourne (50,000) and Sydney (45,000), but there are
also significant communities in Perth, Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Adelaide.
The elected representative organization of the Jewish community is the
Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ). The community is served by two
Jewish weeklies and several other periodicals. High enrolment in Jewish day
schools and a comparatively low rate of intermarriage are characteristic
features of Australian Jewry.
Jewish Australians have twice been appointed governors-general, Jewish
Australians have served in the senior leadership ranks of the country’s
military forces and the community has been able to build an impressive network
of institutions to serve its needs.
A plethora of
groups in Australia promote antisemitism, and for some it is their raison
d’être. The groups vary greatly in membership, activities and target
audiences. It should be noted that besides extreme right organizations some
groups identified with quasi-New Age and Islamist philosophies also feed a
steady stream of anti-Jewish propaganda to their followers, while a number of
extreme left-wing groups disseminate crude anti-Zionist material.
The Far Left
many small groups which comprise the Australian far left often make
declarations critical of racism in all its forms, demonization of Israel is a common thread and the extremes of language used to condemn Zionism and Israel promote a mythology of a powerful and evil Jewish ‘internationalism’, almost
indistinguishable from that depicted by the far right.
The myth of Jewish power, wielded nationally and/or internationally, is espoused
and/or tolerated by a number of self-styled left-wing groups. Alleged Jewish
power is seen as the force behind globalization; some left-wingers also portray
Jews as malevolent forces controlling western governments. A number of small
political groups that describe themselves as communist, socialist or anarchist,
such as the Socialist Alliance, the Communist League, the Communist Party of
Australia and Socialist Alternative, share with the far right a vigorous
opposition to the ‘establishment’ and the perceived power holders. Although
there are some differences in the approach to Israel taken by these groups, the
general attitude is that Israel, and sometimes, more ambiguously, the Jewish
community, is clearly in the camp of their enemies and therefore a fair target
for abuse, delegitimation and defamation.
Although in recent years most far left groups have invoked the Nazi
Holocaust in their attacks on Jews and Israel, in 2005 this theme was absent
from party publications - possibly due to public criticism of the use of this analogy from Jewish community representatives - but appeared in online discussion forums.
Extreme Right and Religious Groups
right organizations are supplemented by a changing array of individuals and
minute groupings, including some which have established their presence
primarily through the Internet. The existence of Labour state governments in
all Australian states has fed the paranoia of ‘socialist’ control which is
central to these organizations.
The One Nation party, which enjoyed a brief period of electoral
success in the late 1990s but has been in decline ever since, had
representatives in the Federal Senate (until 30 June 2005) and in the parliaments of Western Australia and Queensland, as well as a small number of active
members. While an article published in the One Nation newspaper in 2004 was before the courts under the Racial Hatred Act, another article appeared in a branch newsletter (in print and on the Internet), alleging a Zionist/Jewish world conspiracy and denying the Holocaust (26 Aug. 2005).
The theme of Judaism as anti-Christian plays a part in the conspiracy
theories of several extremist groups, such as the Australian League of Rights,
the Adelaide Institute, the British-Israel World Federation, ‘Identity’
churches and some self-styled Biblical Fundamentalists. The Talmud is a subject
for distortion and misrepresentation by these groups and others aiming to
vilify Jews, and in the rhetoric of the far right symbolizes a code of living
implacably opposed to ‘Christian justice’. During the year such misinformation appeared
in leaflets, hate mail and abusive telephone calls, and was evident in
cross-borrowing from the Internet.
The Bible Believers website published a full copy of Henry Ford’s The
International Jew and a great deal of other overtly antisemitic material,
resulting in a complaint lodged in 2004 under Australia’s anti-racism laws for
adjudication in the Federal Court.
The Adelaide Institute, a loose conglomeration of individuals
around self-styled Holocaust revisionist Fredrick Toben, has in recent years
disseminated arguably the most vicious and malicious anti-Jewish propaganda of
any Australian group. Despite a series of findings by the Human Rights
Commission and the Federal Court against the Institute’s website, Toben
continues to publish antisemitic material and to maintain an international
profile, with support from state-sponsored Iranian media.
The Citizens’ Electoral Councils (CECs), based in suburban Melbourne, engage in mass mailings of literature reflecting the antisemitic conspiracy
theories of their guru Lyndon LaRouche. Anti-racist groups in general and
Jewish organizations in particular have been amongst the CECs’ favorite targets.
Although the LaRouche organization spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on
electoral campaigns, the CECs have had no success whatsoever. Over the years,
members of the Jewish community in all Australian states have complained about the
LaRouchites’ distribution of conspiracy theorist propaganda, particularly on
The Australian Civil Liberties’ Union (ACLU) continued to advocate
Holocaust denial. John Bennett, the Union’s motivating force, sat on the
editorial advisory committee of the defunct Journal of Historical Review,
published by the Institute for Historical Review in California.
Racist skinheads not necessarily aligned to any formal organization are
present in small numbers in cities and towns throughout Australia and have allegedly been involved in racist violence against Asian students and harassment
of members of left-wing groups. Attempts by extremists, notably, those
identified with National Action, to exploit these groups or direct their
violence toward Jews and other minorities, are common. In December 2005, a brawl on the Sydney beach of Cronulla saw racist skinheads involved in inciting violent
attacks on people of Middle Eastern background.
Several of the most virulent far right activists participated in
discussions in forums of the neo-Nazi Stormfront Downunder site. They included
representatives of White Pride Coalition of Australia, the Australian
Nationalists Movement, Church of the Creator and Australian National Action.
The newspaper The Strategy, published in regional Victoria, draws its inspiration from the US-based racists of the Patriot Movement. Extracts
from LaRouche news services and the antisemitic US magazine Spotlight,
as well as praise for the activities of Australian right-wing extremists are
typical of the content, while a cross-section of extremist groups places
advertisements in its pages.
Hard Evidence, formerly Exposure, continues to publish
bizarre, sometimes antisemitic, conspiracy theories, and aggressively
advertises past copies of the magazine, which include material of Australian
and US far right groups and publications, as well as antisemitic tracts such as
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Several New Age magazines,
such as Nexus and New Dawn, promote extreme right writers,
organizations and conspiracy theories.
During 2005, the
ECAJ logged 281 reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and
intimidation, the lowest figure since 1997. Nevertheless, this number is about
twice that recorded in the early 1990s. Although many of the incidents were
threats rather than physical attacks on persons or property, hundreds of Jewish
individuals and organizations were targeted, some many times over, by persons
seeking to frighten or harass them. Most of the attacks were anonymous.
Antisemitic individuals or those associated with far left publications or
extreme right organizations may have been sources of inspiration or served as justification
for these attacks. The Internet facilitated anti-Jewish conspiracy theories,
which occasionally reached the mainstream media and broader audiences. The
virulence of some public criticism of Israeli actions and their continued
misrepresentation, as well as misinformation about Israel’s history and
politics serve to encourage and rationalize anti-Jewish bigotry.
Violence, Vandalism, Harassment
number of incidents of assault, arson and vandalism in 2005 was the lowest
since 1998, the combined figure for physical assault, property damage,
vandalism, graffiti and face-to-face harassment was nevertheless 3 percent
above average. The rate of threats, conveyed by telephone, mail, leaflets,
posters or e-mail, was average for the 15-year period.
Reports of anti-Jewish graffiti were 40 percent above the annual average.
The level of e-mail harassment, which had risen continuously until 2004,
returned to pre-2001 amounts in 2005. There was no discernible difference in
the themes contained in e-mail messages from those sent through the postal
service or communicated by telephone.
issues relating to the Australian Jewish community by the mainstream media is
extensive and out of all proportion to the community’s size. However, it is
generally responsible and does not play unduly on the ‘Jewishness’ of
individuals or of issues. There are no overtly antisemitic radio stations,
newspapers or television broadcasters; however, some comments and letters in
mainstream publications in 2005, although much fewer than in the previous four
years, contained antisemitic references. They included: a description by a
mainstream columnist of Douglas Feith, US Under Secretary for Defense until
Aug. 05, as a “mad-eyed Zionist” (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Jan.); a
comment by a contestant in the TV show “Big Brother” that a rival perceived as
ungenerous was a “Jew” (TV10, 14 May); antisemitic comments broadcast by
callers to late night radio (Sydney 2GB 24 July).
There were also concerns about Internet bulletin boards associated with
mainstream media. Examples included: Holocaust denying comments posted by
Fredrick Toben of the Adelaide Institute in the online guestbook of ABC Radio
National’s “Saturday Breakfast” (22 May 2005); Holocaust denial and attacks on
“the jews” posted anonymously on the Canberra Times Internet discussion
forum (18 Aug.); and a series of posts including promotion of The Protocols
of the Elders of Zion, claims that “Jewish hands” control all US media and
assertions that all antisemitism was the result of Jewish ‘actions’ on the
Dateline Forum of SBS television (31 Dec.). The “Web-diary” of the Sydney
Morning Herald published a number of anti-Jewish items under then editor
Arab and Muslim Communities
Australia’s Muslim and Arabic-speaking communities are large and vibrant. While Jews are
not their main pre-occupation, discussion of the Middle East can cross the line
from lively political debate to the realm of religious and racial stereotyping;
in fact, there was a disturbingly large volume of overt antisemitism from
Islamic sources in Australia in 2005.
Both the Arabic-speaking and the Islamic communities are served by a
vigorous media, both in Arabic and English, which generally avoid inflammatory
or offensive language, but which reflect the existence of extremist and
antisemitic viewpoints within the communities they serve. For example, the
publication Nida’ul Islam, which is available online and as a glossy
magazine, prints extreme views of members of the Islamic community in Australia
and from a range of overseas commentators. The tone towards Jews is often
hateful and inflammatory. Much of the material published in Nida’ul Islam
infers the existence of an anti-Islamic conspiracy run by Jews but also
including most rulers of Arab and Islamic states.
The issue of Salam, the magazine of the Federation of Australian
Muslim Students and Youth, distributed in February, included an article on the
Jews in the time of the Prophet which portrayed them as lying, deceitful,
barbaric and scheming, and another by Swiss
fundamentalist theologian Tariq Ramadan headed, “My Fellow Muslims, We Must
Fight Anti-Semitism,” reprinted from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.
The online forums of Islamic Sydney
provided evidence of the proliferation of antisemitic myths within the
Australian Muslim community. In January, a discussion took place on “Freemasons
and Freemasonry,” in which it was alleged Masonry “serves the aims of world
Jewry” and “the core of absolute secrecy and strict hierarchy enables it to
make use of the positions and influence of its non-Jewish members to serve the
Jewish cause.” In another discussion, ‘Afroz’, a forum mediator, referred to concerns
about antisemitism as “a whole lot of huloo buloo” with “the use of victim
mentality to make others a victim of theirs [sic]” (25 May). In another
discussion, it was alleged that “a Satanic Cult” comprising Jews “rules the
world” (15 June). Other contributors wrote: “Al-Qaeda is a Jewish myth just
like the Holocaust” (21 Oct.); “Jewish fundamentalism for instance teaches... Gentiles
should not even be considered or treated as human beings” (8 Dec. 2005) and
“Jews and Muslims were enemies even in the prophet’s time” (20 Dec.). Misrepresentations
of the Talmud and Judaism were posted to various forums (most extensively on 20
Similarly, depictions of Judaism as
existentially opposed to non-Jews, in general, and/or to Islam, in particular,
appeared on the discussion forum of the Islamic Association of Australia (2
March); Mission Islam (Australia) (22 July); Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah’s Islamic Information
and Support Centre of Australia (18 Aug.) and Mecca News (7 Oct.).
In 2005, a number of Australian journalists exposed the promotion of vicious antisemitic material
circulating amongst Islamic youth in Australia and the sale of books such as The
Protocols of the Elders of Zion at major bookstores serving the Islamic
community. The spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir in Australia stated that “Jews
are a people of slander” and that it was appropriate to kill Jews to “establish
an Islamic state” (ABC Radio, 25 July).
Notably, the Australian Federation
of Islamic Councils, the roof body of Australian Muslims, was among the groups
which publicly condemned antisemitism in the Islamic community in 2005 (21
individuals and groups in Australia have found the Internet has provided them
with a great volume of defamatory literature and the facility to reproduce
‘state of the art’ antisemitism. The submission of pieces from Australia defaming Judaism in online discussion groups of religion, which began in 1994,
continued throughout the period in review.
As noted above, the discussions on Islamic and Arabic Internet forums and
the content of postings to newsgroups testify to a vigorous anti-Jewish
sub-culture. Extreme right groups have also used Internet discussion groups to
maintain their sense of community, and to encourage followers to be involved in
In addition, the influential far left Indymedia network, particularly Sydney
Indymedia, is the source of extremely anti-Israel and overtly antisemitic
material. Examples include: “the story of Zionism is the story of Nazism and
Apartheid rolled into one” (Sydney Indymedia, 2 Feb.); “it is their duty as
Jews to steal from those around them that are not Jewish” (Melbourne Indymedia,
2 Feb.); “the jews… willingly perform ritualistic rape and mutilations and
drinking of infant blood” (Sydney Indymedia, 8 March 2005); “I hope someone
puts you in a gas chamber sometime soon” (Indymedia, 9 March); “the
international Jewish involvement in banking and finance is legendary… New York is the center of the world wide Jewish financial power” (Sydney Indymedia, 14 Nov.)
and “jewish infested local radio talk shows have broadcast lies to instigate
unrest” culminating in racist-based violence in Sydney (Sydney Indymedia, 13
In 2003, 2004 and 2005, e-mail accounted for more than half the number of
incidents of anti-Jewish harassment and intimidation.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
is little evidence to suggest Holocaust denial has an impact on the way the
Holocaust is taught, or has any influence on scholars or scholarship, the
dissemination of material which offends, ridicules and intimidates Holocaust
survivors and their families is a key activity of extreme right-wing elements
in Australia. Typical behavior of deniers is to write letters to newspapers
requesting a debate on the facts of the Holocaust or asserting that since one
or more details relating to the Holocaust is not correctly understood, a
massive fraud has been perpetrated on humanity by those who can benefit from
it. They also promote material for journalists, students and others claiming
that they are being denied a fair hearing of ‘the truth’ or send Holocaust
denial material directly to individuals who have been identified as survivors
or descendants of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. The Australian Justice Fund,
for example, leafleted a Sydney suburb housing a large number of Holocaust
survivors with material promoting Holocaust denial.
While the mainstream media generally made efforts to respond to Holocaust
commentaries in a respectful and meaningful way, ABC Radio National’s
“Perspective” program devoted its broadcast on Holocaust Memorial Day (5 May
2005) to an attack on Israel which included derogatory anti-Jewish comments.
RESPONSES TO ANTISEMITISM and racism
Official and Public Activity
In 2004, the
Federal House of Representatives and the Federal Senate, as well as the NSW and
Victorian parliaments, all formulated strongly worded resolutions condemning
antisemitism, with the federal houses of parliament instructing the diplomatic
service to take up the matter at multilateral and bilateral international
forums. Similarly, in 2005, the South Australian parliament unanimously
Concerns about racism have prompted responses from opinion leaders,
including politicians in state and federal parliaments. Over the past six
years, Most state and territory legislatures have passed motions condemning
racism, calling for reconciliation and affirming the values of tolerance and
diversity. The federal government instituted a National Harmony Day, on United
Nations Day for the Elimination of Racism, which is marked by government and
the community in various ways, but is generally used to honor individuals and
organizations active in promoting Australian multiculturalism.
When one parliamentarian, Julia Irvin MP, attacked Judaism and
Christianity in what appeared to be an attempt to respond to criticism of
Islamist extremists, she was criticized in the media, including an editorial in
the authoritative Australian (30 Nov.) and a join statement by
Christian, Jewish and Islamic leaders (5 Dec.), as well as by her political
opponents and her own party leader, Kim Beazley, MP.
Cooperation between religious communities in 2005 included joint actions
against racism and intolerance, such as sessions at a mosque and church in Sydney in the days following anti-Muslim activity in Cronulla and arson of a church in an area with a large Muslim population, as well as supportive statements by one or
another of the Australian religious denominations. Active collaboration
continued, particularly in youth interfaith projects, between leading Jewish,
Christian and Muslim organizations, both federally and in the states of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.
Churches were important proponents of diversity and tolerance, often in
concert with the Jewish community. The Uniting Church in Australia is continuing to explore ways of taking joint action with the Jewish community to combat
prejudice. The Catholic Church has been promoting inter-religious and
multi-faith understanding since the start of the new millennium. Relations
between the Anglican Church and the Jewish community also seemed to be
Church and service organizations continue to assert moral leadership by
refusing to allow racist and anti-Jewish groups to hire their premises and
advising representatives not to share platforms with known extremists. As a
result extremist anti-Jewish groups are experiencing increasing difficulty in
finding premises in which to meet and in convincing respectable Australians to
participate in their activities.
Australia participated in all four Stockholm Forums against intolerance
since their inception in 2000, as well as the Durban UN World Conference against
Racism, and members of the Jewish community have been on the official
Australian government delegations at all five of these events.
In December 2004 the Australian and Indonesian governments co-hosted a
major regional inter-governmental meeting to promote inter-religious
cooperation for tolerance and against extremism. The Australian government and
the New Zealand government both included Jewish community representatives. Further,
the Australian government promoted interfaith dialogue as part of its foreign
policy programs in Asia during 2005.
While no new
matters relating to antisemitism were determined under Australia’s anti-racism legislation, two new complaints were lodged by the ECAJ with the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 2005: concerning the publication of
overtly antisemitic material on the website of the Bible Believers and in the Queensland newspaper of the One Nation Party (see above). They were due to for adjudication
In Western Australia in April, a right-wing extremist, Shannon Post, was
jailed for six months and three weeks for his a graffiti attack on a Perth synagogue in July 2004.