Australia is turning a blind eye to anti-Israel extremism

Protesters are spraying anti-Semitic graffiti, vandalising property and intimidating politicians with impunity.

Hugo Timms

Topics Politics World

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In Australia, anti-Israel activists have targeted yet another MP’s office, this time in Melbourne. Like previous acts of ‘pro-Palestinian’ vandalism, last week’s featured sinister red spray paint, the vapid but now omnipresent ‘Zionism is fascism’ tag, smashed windows and attempted arson.

Something else distinguished this particular attack, however. The office belonged to the Jewish Labor MP Josh Burns. He has been one of the few members of his party to publicly support and visit Israel in the wake of the 7 October pogrom.

Disturbingly, the vandals – police said there were six – appear to have spray-painted horns on top of an image of Burns’s face, while rendering his eyes as bright red orbs. So many lines have been crossed since 7 October that it is almost impossible to say where the bounds of civility now sit. But depicting a Jewish MP as the devil seems an ominous new low.

Before the attack on Burns’s office, anti-Israel activists also targeted the constituency offices of several other Labor politicians, including MP Peter Khalil, government-services minister Bill Shorten, attorney general Mark Dreyfus and defence minister Richard Marles. There was also an attack on the office of Liberal James Paterson, among others.

Incredibly, the western Sydney constituency office of prime minister Anthony Albanese has been closed since January due to repeated attacks. It’s even been defaced by the inverted red triangle – a Hamas propaganda symbol originally used to mark Israeli soldiers and tanks for attack.

The police response to what has now amounted to tens of thousands of dollars of damage has bordered on indifference. No charges have been issued so far. During the Covid lockdowns, Victoria Police arrested a pregnant woman in her own home for creating an anti-lockdown Facebook group, and spent significant state resources prosecuting people for exercising and shopping. Yet they look the other way when Israelophobes threaten our elected representatives.

The response of federal authorities has also been desperately wanting. Mike Burgess, head of Australia’s domestic intelligence agency, has consistently warned the public over the dangers of far-right extremism. Yet he has been silent over these orchestrated attacks by anti-Israel activists on politicians’ offices. The Australian Federal Police, for its part, has even started telling staff working for MPs supportive of Israel to work from home. Politicians are effectively being told to capitulate to fear and intimidation.

Prime minister Albanese has insisted that those responsible for vandalising Burns’s office should face the ‘full force of the law’. But overall, his response has been very weak. He told activists to ‘dial down’ the aggression, and even came close to justifying it. ‘Some people feel very strongly about issues in the Middle East’, he said.

Political leaders can’t say that they weren’t warned about the escalating violence we are currently witnessing. Many anti-Israel protests had sinister undertones from the moment they exploded on to the streets after 7 October. After all, participants were concealing their faces while calling for the only Jewish state in the world to be erased ‘from the river to the sea’.

This year, the same people have been allowed to disrupt university lessons, plaster anti-Semitic stickers in common university areas and, last month, harass elderly members of the Jewish community attending a ‘Never Again is Now’ rally.

These young activists seem incapable of tolerance or empathy. They have grown up amid trigger warnings and ‘safe spaces’, and have been told over and over again that their feelings and emotions are all important. Little wonder that as adults they now feel empowered to express these feelings and emotions, no matter how intolerant or anti-Semitic they might be. What’s more, the authorities seem powerless or unwilling to stop them.

It is disturbing enough that anti-Israel activists are engaging in self-righteous acts of anti-Semitic vandalism. More troubling still is the fact that the authorities are effectively permitting it.

Hugo Timms is a writer based in Australia.

Picture by: Josh Frydenberg / X.

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Topics Politics World


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