update deskAntisemitism

Australia taps first antisemitism czar amid Gaza war tensions

"There is no place for violence or hatred of any kind in Australia," Prime Minister Antony Albanese said in announcing new special envoy Jilian Segal.

A protester wearing the Hamas military wing's Al-Qassam Brigade headband demonstrates during the Save Rafah Now and Free Julian Assange Rally outside the Victoria State Library in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images.
A protester wearing the Hamas military wing's Al-Qassam Brigade headband demonstrates during the Save Rafah Now and Free Julian Assange Rally outside the Victoria State Library in Melbourne, Australia, on Feb. 18, 2024. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images.

Australia on Tuesday appointed the first special envoy to combat antisemitism amid a rise in anti-Jewish sentiment in the country following the Hamas-led massacre in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and amid the ensuing war in Gaza.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tapped Jewish lawyer and business leader Jilian Segal for the three-year role. Her previous positions include deputy chancellor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), serving on the board of the National Australia Bank and as president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).

“There is no place for violence or hatred of any kind in Australia,” Albanese said, telling reporters in Sydney that an Islamophobia envoy would also be named soon.

The premier, from the center-left Labor Party, called Segal’s appointment a “critical step” in addressing tensions in Australia caused by the Israel-Hamas war.

“Australians are deeply concerned about this conflict, and many are hurting. In times like this, Australians must come together, not be torn apart,” Albanese emphasized.

In her role, Segal will advise the prime minister and Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles on antisemitism and promote education and awareness of the issue.

“Antisemitism erodes all that is good and healthy in a society—as such, it poses a threat not just to the Jewish community, but to our entire nation,” said Segal.

The ECAJ praised Segal’s appointment, saying she will “bring deep knowledge of the issues and immense energy to the role.”

Australia has seen an increase in acts targeting the Jewish and pro-Israel community in the months since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

Australian police arrested four pro-Palestinian protesters on July 4 after they briefly occupied the roof of the national parliament in Canberra, flying anti-Israel banners.

Albanese condemned the protest, which took place on the last day of the parliamentary session before a six-week recess.

“Those responsible should feel the full force of the law. Peaceful protest has an important place in our society, but this was not a peaceful protest,” he stated.

Milton Dick, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Australia’s lower house, announced he had ordered a probe into the security breach.

Also on July 4, a senator for Albanese’s Labor Party announced she would continue as an independent, The Guardian reported. Fatima Payman said her resignation from the party was prompted by Labor’s opposition to a motion to immediately recognize a Palestinian state.

“With a heavy heart but a clear conscience, I announce my resignation from the Australian Labor Party. I have informed the prime minister that, effective immediately, I will sit on the crossbench to represent Western Australia,” she told journalists at Parliament House.

Payman described the “genocide” in Gaza as a tragedy of “unimaginable proportions,” adding that she had told Albanese and other party members multiple times that “this is a matter I cannot compromise on.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry previously accused the 29-year-old senator of antisemitism after she concluded a statement on Israel with, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

In April, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that eventual recognition of a Palestinian state would not constitute a reward for Israel’s enemies and would help break “the endless cycle of violence.”

“We are now 30 years on from the Oslo Accords that put Palestinian statehood at the end of a process. The failures of this approach by all parties over decades—as well as the Netanyahu government’s refusal to even engage on the question of a Palestinian state—have caused widespread frustration,” the Labor Party minister claimed.

Albanese’s government understands that “any future Palestinian state cannot be in a position to threaten Israel’s security and will need a reformed Palestinian Authority,” Wong claimed.

Palestinian polls suggest that 89% of Palestinians support establishing a government that includes or is led by Hamas, which openly seeks to destroy Israel in its entirety and replace it with an Islamic state.

Wong was not representing most of her country’s citizens when she said that recognizing a Palestinian state would not constitute a reward for Israel’s enemies, former Australian premier Tony Abbott told JNS in April.

“Historically, Australia has been a very staunch supporter of Israel. I think that overwhelmingly the Australian people understand that Israel faces an existential threat from Iran and also from these apocalyptic death cults like Hamas. Therefore, it’s right for Israel to seek the utter destruction of Hamas,” said Abbott.

“Obviously, it’s deeply regrettable that there are heavy casualties in the process of doing that. When you are fighting an enemy who hides behind women and children and uses civilians as human shields this is the tragic result. Hamas is to blame for the deaths,” he added.

The former premier poured cold water on the notion that Australia was no longer safe for Jews, despite a 591% increase in antisemitism in the country in the seven weeks following Oct. 7.

“I can understand why there is considerable apprehension amongst Jews in Australia at this upsurge of antisemitism and the protests which have erupted since Oct. 7. For instance, Oct. 9 was a day of infamy in the life of our country. It was appalling. Footage of that ugly crowd rejoicing in the atrocities perpetrated against Jewish people in Israel got around,” explained Abbott.

He was referring to a gathering outside the Sydney Opera House in which a pro-Hamas mob chanted “gas the Jews,” and “F*** the Jews” as they waved Palestinian flags.

“I just wish the police in our country was much better at enforcing the laws against hate speech and much quicker to crack down on the kind of appalling antisemitism that we have seen articulated all too often over the last six months,” said Abbott.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates