Security concerns

High number of reported antisemitic incidents

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was the guest speaker at the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) AGM.

Mark Dreyfus addressing the ECAJ online AGM. Photo: Screenshot
Mark Dreyfus addressing the ECAJ online AGM. Photo: Screenshot

A DECADE-HIGH number of reported antisemitic incidents and concern about federal security funding were key discussion points at Sunday’s online Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) AGM, which Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus attended as guest speaker.

Ahead of the mid-December release of ECAJ’s 2022 antisemitism report, author Julie Nathan revealed that there were 478 reported incidents of antisemitism in the 12 months to September 30 – a 6.9 per cent rise on the previous year, and the highest figure since 2012.

The sharpest rises in incident types were for graffiti (+18 per cent) and posters/stickers (+70 per cent), while physical assaults dropped from eight incidents to five.

Nathan attributed the increase to rising neo-Nazi activity and membership, antisemitic behaviour during mass protests against COVID-regulations, particularly in Melbourne – “which has now peaked” – and emerging forms of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activity.

Peter Wise, chair of the NSW Council for Jewish Community Security, said, “As you can see, we have a huge task … and we’re concerned that the government, in the last budget, seems to have removed the Safer Communities Fund, so we don’t quite know where that leaves us.”

That concern was echoed by ECAJ president Jillian Segal.

Dreyfus confirmed that while the federal government decided not to continue the Safer Communities Fund into a seventh round, “I have stressed to my colleagues in Cabinet, that there’s an ongoing need, and the prime minister understands this.

“I’m now looking at, and indeed finalising, arrangements for a new [community security] grants program, but it will be tighter.”

He added the government has committed $7.5 million for the Australian Human Rights Commission to complete a national anti-racism framework and strategy.

“There’s also been an intense level of cooperation among agencies working with the CSG [Community Security Group], and it’s been heartening,” he said.

On other matters, Dreyfus said the government is committed to extending anti-discrimination protections “to more Australians, including to people of faith, and to staff and students in religious schools”.

On Israel, he labelled the previous Morrison government’s 2018 decision to recognise west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as abandoning Australia’s bipartisan position on that matter since 1948 “in a grossly cynical and politically expedient way”.

“All we [the ALP] have done is returned to what we said we would in October 2018, at the time of the Wentworth by-election.

“But it’s regrettable to me – and [foreign minister] Penny Wong has said very directly that it’s regrettable to her, the way in which we did this.

“It could hardly have been worse – on Simchat Torah,” Dreyfus said, before pledging, “I’m going to make sure that there is consultation [in future], on anything affecting our community and relations with Israel, including with the [Israeli] ambassador.”

read more: