Why are we allowing Middle East conflict to disrupt Australia’s multicultural harmony?

The Australian Jewish community has been touched by the response from the Hindu, Assyrian, Kurdish, and many other communities.

By Robert Gregory

Since the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel, Australians have been confronted by shocking news. The stories out of Israel, of Islamist terrorists, raping, beheading, and burning people alive are horrendous. Most of the victims were Israelis, but the terrorists showed no mercy to anyone. Among the 1200 murdered, were citizens of Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand and even Tanzania.

Another shocking development has been the hatred playing out on Australian shores. Days after the attacks, a mob gathered at Sydney’s Opera House, chanting ‘gas the Jews’. Anti-Israel protesters have specially targeted the neighbourhoods where Australia’s Jews live. Convoys waving the Palestinian Authority flag have targeted Caulfield in Melbourne and Bondi in Sydney.  

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Australia’s multicultural fabric is being tested like never before.

Australia’s Jewish community is tiny.
It has never comprised more than half a per cent of Australia’s population. Jews came to Australia on the First Fleet, but the community is overwhelmingly an immigrant community. The largest growth came with refugees fleeing the Holocaust. It has been strengthened by more recent, successive waves of immigrants, including from the former Soviet Union and South Africa.

Jews have been incredibly successful and contributed greatly to Australia. The Australian Jewish community has produced multiple Governor Generals, military leaders, a federal treasurer, Chief Justices, a Premier, accomplished business persons, scientists, and thinkers.

Australian Jews have won the Nobel Prize, the Archibald Prize, Olympic Gold and just about every honour for Australia.

Businesses founded by Australian Jews are ubiquitous. Many Australians would interact daily with places like Westfield, Myer, Meriton, Spotlight, Chemist Warehouse and Kogan.

Now, many in the Jewish community are feeling very unsafe. Antisemitic incidents are up an astounding 738% since October 7. The Australian Jewish Association has received threats, and we work closely with the police. For the first time, I hear some members of my community questioning whether they have a future in Australia. This should worry all Australians.

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The Australian Jewish community has been touched by the response from many communities. We have received messages of support from the Hindu, Assyrian, Kurdish, and many other communities. Those who show the most understanding have often experienced terrorism and religious extremism themselves.

Unfortunately, not all parts of the community have behaved honourably. Chief among the instigators is the Australian Greens. This political party pretends to promote tolerance but fuels hatred and division. They can often be found at the scene of disgraceful antisemitic incidents. The NSW Greens promoted the ‘gas the Jews’ protest. Federal leader, Mehreen Faruqi was forced to delete an antisemitic image she posted of the Jewish Star of David being placed in a garbage bin, alongside the words, “Keep the world clean.”

The Greens have brought divisive Middle East politics into every level of the Australian Government. Their senior federal leaders spread the false story that the IDF had bombed Gaza’s Al Ahli hospital. It was later proved to have been struck by a misfired rocket from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The Greens have introduced anti-Israel motions into councils across Australia, causing division and taking attention away from the issues that councils are supposed to focus on.

Antisemitic incidents at the Opera House and outside the Caulfield Synagogue, not only cause tensions in Australia, they also risk damaging our reputation abroad.

The response from the Albanese Government has been disappointing. At the time of writing, neither Prime Minister Anthony Albanese nor Foreign Minister Penny Wong have visited the region, despite many world leaders having done so. Notably, the Coalition’s Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Birmingham has visited Israel.

Labor has called for Israel to agree to a ceasefire with the terrorist organisation, Hamas. At the United Nations General Assembly, Australia voted for a ceasefire, unlike our allies, including the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. Many countries in our region, like Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Nauru, Palau and others also did not vote for a ceasefire.

Australia must be careful not to demonstrate weakness to our allies or to others who are watching to see if our government has resolve.

The Labor’s response to antisemitism has focused on banning symbols and salutes which have been co-opted by some for hateful purposes. These are not the major threats facing the Jewish community.

When it comes to Islamist religious preachers inciting hate in Western Sydney, the government has been much more timid. Labor Party has also been weak in calling out the Greens. The Australian Jewish Association is calling on all political parties to pledge to preference the Greens last.

The Jewish people are grateful for those who stand with us. This is not our fight alone. No country is immune from the threat which we now face.

Those spreading hate, like the Australian Greens, must be held responsible. If the Labor Party continues to show weakness, Australia’s multicultural harmony will come under major strain.

Author: Robert Gregory is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Australian Jewish Association.

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