Australia: Antisemitic Attacks in Sydney and Melbourne

They include the attempted arson of Sydney's Parramatta Synagogue; offensive graffiti daubed on three Sydney synagogues, three Melbourne synagogues and two schools; and a stream of abusive calls and emails to communal organisations, as well as to the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, Australian Jewish News reports.

The wave of incidents is consistent with the pattern of outbreaks which occur whenever Israel is involved in conflict.

Following the attack on South Sydney Synagogue, vandals smashed a window at Parramatta Synagogue and threw a Molotov cocktail inside, triggering the alarm and alerting Rabbi Shlomo Di Veroli, who lives on the premises.

An off-duty police officer who lives next-door helped the rabbi douse the fire with extinguishers. Forensic police found empty bottles, a crate and a lighter.

Parramatta Synagogue president Yoram Jovani condemned the attack as "cowardly and un-Australian", and a police spokesperson appealed for any witnesses to come forward.

In Melbourne, Bentleigh Progressive Synagogue was defaced with a Star of David and swastika scrawled on its wall. Bentleigh Rabbi Aviva Kipen described the attack as "a random expression of stupidity". Yeshivah College, Sassoon Yehuda Sephardi Synagogue and Beth Rivkah Ladies College were daubed with antisemitic and pro-Palestinian slogans, such as "Jewish Murderers" and "Free Palestine", which greeted congregants as theyarrived for shul on Shabbat morning. "As bad as it is, I'm glad it is only that," Beth Rivkah principal Shmuel Gurewicz said.

The Melbourne office of the Zionist Federation of Australia and Magen David Adom were the target of abusive telephone calls; and Israel Embassy Counsellor Michael Ronen said the embassy had received a stream of abusive calls, including the observation that "Hitler should have finished you off".

Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Grahame Leonard said there had been "a high degree of incidents" in recent days. In Sydney, Kehillat Masada Synagogue and neighbouring North Shore Chabad House were daubed with the German phrase "Achtung Juden" (Attention Jews) and Arabic scrawl reading "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).

And in an apparent case of mistaken identity, Corpus Christi School, which is next-door to Kehillat Masada, was also targeted with graffiti. Corpus Christi principal Julian Tobin said it was the first time the school had been attacked. Masada College principal Frank Larkin described the incidentas "outrageous".

Kur-ing-gai Police Inspector Pauline Bellmore said the best way to deal with such incidents is to remove the graffiti immediately. "It's the 'broken windows' story; if vandals see one broken window, very quickly there will be two. It's important not to give these thugs power."

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Jeremy Jones described the last six months of antisemitic attacks as shaping up to be the worst on record, even before last week - "not necessarily the most violent, but in terms of harassment, aggressive calls and emails, street confrontations and property damage, it certainly is". Calling for public condemnation of such incidents by the general community, he pointed to former Governor-General William Deane's letter of condemnation in December 2000 following a rash of antisemitic attacks.

"It has to be made clear that if there is an attack on any section of the Australian community, we must stand by the victims and not the perpetrators," Mr Jones said.

Alluding to a series of arson attacks on Sydney synagogues in 1991 that were never solved, he said it was imperative that the same did not recur. "We must make sure perpetrators are arrested; otherwise, they will think they can get away with it."

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has condemned last week's graffiti attack on South Sydney Synagogue in Allawah. "The current escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine is no justification for such acts," Bishop William Morris wrote in a letter to the ECAJ. "There can be no excuse for assaults on places of worship."

Commending the letter as "unprompted", Mr Jones said "it was the exception, rather than the rule, where attacks on the Jewish community were concerned".

Henry L. Marconi PRAVDA.Ru Sydney

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