HomeLifestyleAt least 10 arrests made amid spate of antisemitism, Islamophobia reports
At least 10 arrests made amid spate of antisemitism, Islamophobia reports
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At least 10 people have been arrested over alleged antisemitism or Islamophobia since October 7 as Premier Jacinta Allan called on Victorians to provide love and support to everyone grieving over recent and ongoing violence in the Middle East.
Victoria Police figures, obtained by The Age, show police received an average of three reports of Islamophobic and antisemitic behaviour every day since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Premier Jacinta Allan has called for empathy amid a spate of arrests relating to antisemitism and Islamophobia.Credit: The Age
Of the 84 reports made in Victoria since Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel and the Netanyahu government’s subsequent decision to launch airstrikes and a ground invasion in Gaza, 72 were for antisemitism and 12 were for Islamophobia.
The reports led to police launching 37 investigations into the incidents, which resulted in 10 people being arrested. Of the arrests, nine related to alleged antisemitism and one to alleged Islamophobia. Investigations into the incidents that led to the arrests are ongoing.
“We are in close communication with all communities affected by the current events in the Middle East,” a police spokeswoman said. “As such, police have been briefed to respond accordingly and we will ensure an increased police presence in areas when and where needed.”
Police could not immediately provide figures on incidents that occurred prior to October.
The statistics that were available, which cover October 7 to November 3, coincide with vigils organised by Melbourne’s grieving Jewish community and marches attended by tens of thousands of Palestine supporters calling for a ceasefire.
At the same time, quieter displays of activism are playing out across suburban streets, train stations and university campuses.
Jewish Australians have distributed pictures of the more than 200 hostages taken from Israel into the Gaza Strip, while pro-Palestine activists have displayed portraits of some of the 4000 or so children reported to have been killed in Gaza. Both groups have reported instances where their posters have been pulled down or defaced.
A wall featuring photographs of Israeli hostages with the text “bring them home now” was this week spray-painted with the words “free Palestine”. The wall, located outside Caulfield’s Beth Weizmann Jewish Community Centre, was only unveiled last Friday.
He premier labelled the graffiti disgraceful and disrespectful. “It’s incumbent upon all of us to show respect. To call out incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia at every single turn,” Allan said.
“Our number one priority should be all about providing love, care, respect and support.”
Caulfield MP David Southwick, who is Jewish, said everybody has a right to free speech but that defacing a memorial for hostages crossed a line. “We have got children, women that have been kidnapped by Hamas,” he said. “It just shows no respect at all.”
The Age has seen other posters along the St Kilda foreshore featuring Israeli hostages defaced with the words “actors”, “staged” and “BS” in recent weeks.
Melbourne’s Jewish community rally in support of Israel last month.Credit: Justin McManus
Dvir Abramovich, chair of Jewish-Australian community organisation the Anti-Defamation Commission, said it was a double blow to the community members who had put up the posters. “What we’re seeing is October 7 denial,” he said.
The Age has also seen pro-Palestine posters with the words “Hamas propaganda” and “don’t support terror” scrawled over them at university campuses.
La Trobe University student Hajar Riad, a Palestinian-Australian and member of the Victorian Socialists political party, said this was a common occurrence.
“We’ve made it very clear to our supporters that we don’t want to engage in these sorts of actions,” Riad said. “They’re counterproductive.”
“We need to be focused on building an anti-racism movement from below to put pressure on our government to help people overseas. It’s a shame that we are even talking about the posters when there’s something really insidious happening in front of our eyes.”
Another La Trobe University student, who didn’t wish to be named, added that members of the university’s Islamic Society were told by staff to take down posters drawing attention to the Palestinian children killed in Gaza.
“No antisemitic posters were put up,” the student said. “They weren’t injured children. They were biography pictures.”
In a November 3 email to students and staff, seen by The Age, La Trobe University deputy vice chancellor Jessica Vanderlelie said any poster would be removed if it depicted “imagery of a traumatic or graphic nature”.
People attend a pro-Palestine rally in Melbourne in late October.Credit: Luis Enrique Ascui
Language or imagery that may be considered racist, “likely to incite hatred” or materials “adhered with glue or other forms of non-removable adhesive” would also be taken down, the email said.
The debate over what is a reasonable or unreasonable call to arms is also playing out on social media.
One pro-Palestine Instagram account has called for Australians to boycott Spotlight and Anaconda because the parent company, the Spotlight Group, has a director – Jeremy Leibler – who is also the president of the Zionist Federation of Australia.
Leibler appeared to fire back on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, retweeting commentary critical of the boycott for conflating the Israeli government with Jewish people living elsewhere.
As for those defacing Israeli hostage posters in person, Abramovich said: “History will judge.”
And the pro-Palestine posters? “They’re definitely not going away,” Riad said. “They’re here to stay.”
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