PM Responds to Allegations He Failed to Suppress Anti-Semitism

Prime Minister Albanese accused the Opposition of weaponising the Israel-Hamas conflict.
PM Responds to Allegations He Failed to Suppress Anti-Semitism
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Feb. 14, 2023. (Martin Ollman/Getty Images)
Nick Spencer

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has responded to criticisms from the Opposition that he has failed to appropriately condemn anti-Semitism following terrorist group Hamas’ Oct. 7 incursion on Israel.

In a parliamentary speech on Nov. 15, the prime minister accused Coalition leader Peter Dutton of weaponising anti-Semitism for political points.

“The weaponisation of, or attempt to weaponise, anti-semitism in this chamber to make it a partisan issue is frankly beyond contempt”, Mr. Albanese said.

Mr. Albanese also maintains his view that there is no harm in voicing support for both the Australian Jewish and Islamic communities as the conflict rages on.

“Jewish Australians are fearful at the moment. The sort of activity that is occurring is scaring them, and I stand with them. No-one should threaten people because of their religion or their race in this country,” he said.

“But it is also the case that Arab Australians, Islamic Australians and women wearing hijabs in the streets of Sydney and Melbourne are being threatened, and I stand against that as well.”

It comes in response to Mr. Dutton’s motion to condemn the prime minister’s “failure to show the strong leadership required to overcome divisions within his own caucus” and “stamp out” rising anti-Semitism in Australian communities.

“This government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth ... You’ve got Senator [Penny] Wong in the other place, the foreign minister of this country, who is at odds with her Prime Minister. The caucus is split right down the middle,” he said, referring to Ms. Wong saying “a ceasefire must be agreed between the parties.”

Increase in Hate Crimes

As conflict rages on in Gaza, tensions are intensifying on Australian streets as well, giving rise to a plethora of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents across the nation.

The Islamophobia Register of Australia said there has been a ten-fold increase in hate-fuelled incidents since the conflict broke out on Oct. 7.

On Oct. 28, the organisation said that they had received 51 reports in the previous two weeks but that more detail was needed due to underreporting. Muslim women also reported feeling at risk because of their distinct scarves and headdresses.

Similarly, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s tally of anti-Semitic occurrences reveal a total of 221 incidents between Oct. 8 and Nov. 7, with 42 of those incidents recorded in just one week alone.

During the week before the conflict broke out, there was just one incident.

The trend is being particularly realised in Victoria.

Victoria Police received 72 reports of anti-semitic incidents alongside 12 Islamophobic incidents between Oct. 7 and Nov. 10. Thirty-seven investigations and 10 arrests have resulted from those reports.

The Palestinian-Australian owner of a fast food chain in Melbourne recently had his Caulfield store destroyed by a suspicious fire.

Victoria’s Jewish community is considerably concentrated in Caulfield, accounting for 41.4 percent of the suburb’s population.

Owner and CEO of Burgertory Hash Tayeh says the firebombing was politically motivated given his appearance at and leadership of a number of pro-Palestine rallies across Melbourne.

Mr. Tayeh has since moved his wife and young child into safe accommodation after receiving a multitude of death threats over social media.

In Sydney, a jumping castle business is facing allegations of discrimination after refusing to cater to a group of students and teachers at Masada College—a Jewish school on the city’s Upper North Shore.

After the principal of Masada College emailed Western Sydney Jump asking for a quote, the owner promptly responded with, “There’s no way I’m taking a Zionist booking. I don’t want your blood money. Free Palestine.”
NSW Premier Chris Minns has since come out condemning the business, saying it is out of line with Australia’s multicultural values.

School Strike Planned

Strong attitudes toward the conflict from everyday Australians are also starting to extend into classrooms.

A school strike is being planned in Melbourne in support of Palestine, with students organising to walk out of their classrooms en masse on Nov. 23 to take part.

Former principal Tracy Tully believes there is no place for heavily ideological or political movements in Australian schools given what could spiral out of them.

“Freedom of voice is a privilege for all Australians and we’re very fortunate. The problem is once it goes into schools, it can get out of control very very quickly,” Ms. Tully told Nine’s Today.

“I’ve no doubt this school strike will resonate across the whole of Australia and probably take form in every school and every state. Are principals able to control that? No, they’re not.”

Ms. Tully believes such a strike will fester racial and cultural divisions within classrooms.

“What it will more than likely do is cause hate and cause discrimination in schools because there will be minority groups who will get caught up with this and they’ll become fodder for a political fight that should not be in schools,” she said.

A number of prominent Victorian politicians have come out advocating against the planned strike.

Premier Jacinta Allan has said that all students will be expected in school next week whilst federal Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten has warned Australians to be careful about importing overseas political issues into the nation.

The planned strike is set to take place just a week after Victorian State Parliament was disrupted by student climate protestors carrying banners and chanting “Which side are you on?” to politicians.