Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: A timely inquiry

Mar 4, 2021 | Jeremy Jones

Swastikas daubed on a mural at Bondi Beach (Credit: Jeremy Jones)
Swastikas daubed on a mural at Bondi Beach (Credit: Jeremy Jones)

 

When a bomb exploded in the carpark of the old Hakoah Club in Sydney’s Bondi Beach in 1982, it reinforced concerns within the Jewish community and beyond that even Australia was in the sights of international terrorists.

Earlier the same day, a bomb had caused damage to the building which housed the Consulate of Israel only a few kilometres away. These incidents sent shock waves through the community.

A decade before, officials of Jewish organisations had been the addressees for explosive devices sent through the mail and, not many years later, there would be furt her evidence of the targeting of Jewish Australians by international terrorists. 

I have firsthand experience of a number of these successful and foiled attempts. Only a late change of plans removed me from the spot where one bomb exploded and a change of meeting dates another. 

On more than one occasion, I have been given security advice regarding my daily movements based on the temporary presence in Australia of individuals whose reason to be in this country was to further terrorists’ goals. At least one had a target list with my name and working address on it. 

Due to the international nature and agenda of the individuals and organisations believed responsible for these incidents, there was, for some, a misguided belief that the cancer of terrorism was something which could be perceived as foreign and alien to Australia. 

However, in more recent times, we have seen evidence of Australians who openly identify with the aims, tactics, strategies and actions of groups such as Islamic State. 

The current Parliamentary Inquiry into Extremist Movements and Radicalism in Australia is not just an important opportunity to examine contemporary threats and associated problems when it comes to groups with international agendas, but also to look at other and more local radical and violent extremists.

Again, this is an issue of which I have not just professional but personal knowledge. 

Not long after the representative of an overseas political organisation was awoken by a gunshot fired into his home – which lodged not far from a sleeping child – I received verbal threats after I was identified as a serious enemy by the racist far-right.

Another person named Jeremy Jones, who some extreme right-wingers thought was me, was the subject of harassment and vandalism, while a different “J Jones” had their home plastered with racist slogans. Other incidents occurred which suggested that violent groups were taking Jewish community opposition to them quite seriously.

It has been a blessing that most of the Australian far-right-wing groups have been led by individuals as foolish as their ideology, and as incompetent as one could hope for. 

As we have seen in certain recent attempts by the racist extreme right to organise rallies or to attract membership, their organisational capacity and appeal is essentially non-existent. 

However, just as their predecessors in recent decades have been involved in thuggery, violence and a range of criminal activities, these people cannot be ignored, either as individuals or parts of organisations. 

With modern technology, we have the phenomenon of handfuls of individuals based in one country aligning with, affiliating to, and even carrying out instructions from, overseas overlords. 

As we have seen in far too many places, it does not take many individuals or particularly clever men and women to cause considerable loss of life and to also take away the quality of life of vast numbers of people whom they would categorise as intended victims. 

We must be aware not simply of the need to have suitable legislative and security protections from overseas extremist movements, but also for protection from people in Australia inspired by them, and likely to seek to imitate their violent behaviour. 

The inquiry is still at an early stage. We must all hope that our legislators are able to develop not just protections for Australians, but a broader program to help build a safer, more secure and cohesive Australia in the future.

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