antisemitism
(Image: Unsplash/Joe Pregadio)

Until recently, the idea that widespread hatred toward the Jewish diaspora could manifest itself again would be largely unthinkable after the abject terror of the Holocaust.

However, in 2018, the Community Security Trust (CST), a British charity working to protect the Jewish community, recorded a 16% increase in antisemitic incidents in the UK — an all-time high for the third year in a row.

One Jewish MP, Luciana Berger, left the British Labour Party two weeks ago after sustained antisemitic abuse from within the party, she claims. Eight others joined her in departing, partly due to perceived endemic antisemitism in the party.

This rising tide of intolerance has had psychological effects on the British Jewish communities, according to the CST. “In 2012, less than half of British Jews considered antisemitism a ‘very big’ or ‘fairly big’ problem, but in 2018 this had risen to 75%,” a CST spokesman told Crikey.

French authorities, meanwhile, reported there was a 74% increase in registered incidents of antisemitism in 2018.

A recent CNN poll conducted in Europe also revealed that one in four respondents believed that Jews have too much influence in world finance and too much influence in armed conflicts around the globe.

Australia is free of the historical chains of Jewish intolerance that encompass Europe and has largely avoided the populist wave that many European countries are surfing, which often draws on ethnic intolerance to galvanise voters. However, a report by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) found that recorded antisemitic incidents in Australia had increased by 59% in 2018, stating that “this is an unprecedented percentage increase”.

The increased focus by these type of groups toward the Jewish community is a part of a natural progression, according to the ECAJ.

While from 2015 to 2017 neo-Nazis primarily targeted Muslims throughout a period of global terrorist activities by ISIS, and ISIS inspired cells, however now these groups are focused on the Jewish diaspora as examples of global antisemitism are increasingly shown in the media.

In fact, the number of incidents in Australia last year as a proportion of population was more than double that of France.

ECAJ research director Julie Nathan said you only had to look at the need for armed security at synagogues to see the extent of the problem.

“The Jewish community is the only community within Australia whose places of worship, schools, communal organisations and community centres need, for security reasons, to operate under the protection of high fences, armed guards, metal detectors, CCTV cameras and the like,” she told Crikey.

“It is a sad commentary on our society that Australian Jews have had to accept these security measures as a fact of daily life.”

Nathan said one of the reasons for the dramatic increase in incidents can be pinned on the emergence of far-right groups.

Antipodean Resistance, whose logo features a swastika, were responsible for a spate of posters, stickers and graffiti calling for the “legalisation of the execution of Jews” in Melbourne last year.

The ECAJ also said it was becoming commonplace for far-right groups to organise anti-Jewish rallies to coincide with the anniversary of events in relation to the Holocaust.

It’s taken only 74 years for the scourge of antisemitism to materially return — just one life span.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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