A good step

The need for firm action to counter the scourge of anti-Jew hatred in Australia has never been more dire.

The government’s appointment of Jillian Segal as Australia’s first special envoy to combat antisemitism is welcome news.

The need for firm action to counter the scourge of anti-Jew hatred in Australia has never been more dire. We need not recount the many vile examples here of what our community has had to endure in the nine months since October 7; these pages have already been filled with too much of it. But it is long past time Australia’s leaders took the problem seriously.

Segal, too, is eminently qualified for the role. As immediate past president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, she has spent years at the coalface and has a deep knowledge of the issues our community faces. Her many public and corporate appointments have also made her a figure who is respected far and wide across mainstream Australia. We have no doubt that she will excel in the role.

And yet, we ponder whether the delay in this decisive action by the government – a long nine months since a riotous mob shouted “f**k the Jews” and supposedly “where’s the Jews” at the Sydney Opera House – may have made the job ahead that much harder before it has even begun.

We can only wonder if decisive action immediately at that time may have nipped all the ugliness we have seen since in the bud. Our community has been screaming out for leadership from our elected leaders on this issue, and before this week, it seemed the only responses had been lip service and photo ops.

Hence Segal’s installation is a great first step – but it cannot be the only step. The true test will be if the government listens to and acts on her recommendations.

We also cannot ignore the contribution that comments made and positions taken by the government regarding Israel’s war in Gaza have contributed to the environment in which antisemitism has been allowed to fester. We are not for one moment suggesting that anyone in the government is themselves antisemitic – that dishonour goes to the Greens.

But if the government is as serious about the problem as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese indicated on Tuesday, it cannot hold the hose with one hand while inadvertently helping to fan the flames with the other.

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