Australian Jews on edge after Islamic State arrests and rise of anti-Semitism

The Great Synagogue, Elizabeth Street, Sydney, Australia. Australian Jews have launched an action plan to combat anti-Semitism in the country. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Despite the rise of anti-Semitism across Europe in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, it is still easy to think that this kind of sentiment is confined to that part of the world. The Australian Jewish community might disagree.

This week a group of Australian Jews launched the Anti-Semitism Action Plan (ASAP), a joint initiative by the Jewish Communal Appeal (JCA) and the Jewish Board of Deputies in Sydney, to try to prevent manifestations of anti-Semitism in the country.

“Sadly, for the first time in living memory, a small number of Jews in Sydney are scared to be Jewish publicly,” Daniel Grynberg, the chief executive of the JCA, told Haaretz.

During this summer's war between Israel and Hamas, an Israeli rabbi was assaulted and a Jewish school was sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti in Perth. Children were verbally assaulted by drunk youths on their school bus in Sydney. A man was also beaten and called a "Jewish Dog" in Melbourne by men who spoke Arabic.

“We still live in the most peaceful and wonderful community on the planet, and yet we know that things can change ... Look at France. Look at the U.K. Look at South Africa. The time to act is before we get there," Grynberg wrote in an email asking people to come to briefings about the new plan.

“About 250 people have signed up for 10 events in the next six days. It’s a generation standing up saying, ‘We live in the best place on Earth and we want to keep it that way,'" he told the newspaper.

The initiative was launched on the heals of the Australian government's decision to raise its terror threat level to high last week after federal police arrested 15 people with Islamic State ties, who allegedly planned to hold public beheadings of randomly kidnapped individuals. 

"This is not just suspicion, this is intent and that's why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Associated Press.

Posted on September 22, 2014 .