The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) strongly condemns the attack on five members of Sydney’s Jewish community in Bondi, in what appears to have been one of the most severe acts of racist violence against the Australian Jewish community in decades.
According to reports, around 12.30am Saturday morning, Shlomo Behar, 27, his parents Elias, 66, and Lea, 62, and two other men – Shlomo Ben-Haim, 48 (the NSW Jewish National Fund’s education Shaliach) and Zeev Aronstam, 39 – were walking home from a Shabbat dinner in Bondi when eight males allegedly hurled racist abuse before assaulting them. The victims suffered injuries including facial fractures, concussion, cuts and bruising.
The Police charged two 17-year-old boys with affray and breaching bail, to face the Children’s Court. A 23-year-old man was charged with affray and granted bail to appear at Court on December 3.
AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler, AC, said “Australians, and all decent people, will have nothing but contempt for the perpetrators of this attack. AIJAC wishes the victims full and speedy recoveries and acknowledges the actions of those who came to their aid.”
AIJAC’s Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein, AM, added “It is essential that all levels of government and the general community make it abundantly clear that racism, antisemitism and racial vilification which often serve as precursors to such attacks are completely unacceptable. Further, the racist element in criminal acts is reason to maximise consequences for the offenders and ensure that victims will have recourse through law.”
AIJAC’s Director of International and Community Affairs Jeremy Jones was widely quoted in the media and commented: “I have been maintaining records of anti-Semitic attacks in Australia for over 25 years but we have never come across an attack of this nature by so many on so many in all that time.”
Today, the Daily Telegraph wrote an editorial condemning the attack titled, “Zero tolerance of racism”, it stated:
“The racial component of the alleged assault was only part of the horror. Two of those injured in the attack are in their sixties.
Federal MP for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull, whose electorate includes Bondi, yesterday spoke for all Australians as he condemned the alleged attack. ‘Violence of this kind and in particular racist violence, anti-Semitic violence, is completely unacceptable in our society,’ he said.
Very true. Yet even in this dark moment, Sydney’s better nature came to the fore. Witnesses, including nearby club bouncers and a taxi driver, intervened to protect the families and hold their attackers until the rapid arrival of police.
Sydney won’t stand for this. Again, Turnbull spoke for all caring and compassionate residents of this city when he declared a zero-tolerance attitude to racial violence.”
In addition to Turnbull, many prominent public figures have condemned the violence:
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said today, “there is no place for anyone to be attacked on the basis of their beliefs or religious background.”
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane condemned the attack in a statement and said, “In this case, the attack appears to have developed from a verbal confrontation, and it is a reminder that racial vilification can escalate into racial violence.”
Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW President Stepan Kerkyasharian said the board would investigate the incident, adding that anyone found guilty of racial vilification should be dealt with appropriately.
Federal MP for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby said the those responsible for the incident should receive maximum sentences, “They should be responded to with the full force of the law and receive maximum jail sentences to show that anti-Jewish violence is totally unacceptable in Australia.”
On Sunday, the United Muslim Women Association also condemned the attack and wrote in a media release:
“The Muslim Women’s Association (MWA) would like to express it’s concern and condemnation at the reported assault of a group of Jewish people that occurred in Bondi on the evening of Friday 25th October. Violence of any form is abhorrent but when it is racially or religiously motivated it is even more horrific.”
“The vicious weekend attack on a group of Jewish Australians in Bondi is just the latest outrage committed against Sydney’s Jewish community…
A crude loathing of Jews and Israel is also obvious in protests against the Max Brenner chain of chocolate shops, which is Jewish-owned….
Young, supposedly educated student activists seem remarkably prone to opposing Israel, and this opposition can quickly dissolve into conspiracy theories and general dumb hostility. It isn’t a big leap from describing the entire Jewish nation as a ‘rogue state’, as Tanya Plibersek once put it, to slurring the entire Jewish people.
Those protests are the middle-class, white-collar version of what we saw in Bondi on the weekend.”
In Israel, there was strong concern about the attack.
Member of Knesset Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid), who co-chairs the Israel-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group with Knesset member Moshe Feiglin, reportedly expressed shock at the attack and called on the Australian government to take the necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of such an event in the future. She also noted that she sees Israel as the national home for the Jewish people and thus feels solidarity and concern for the personal safety of Jewish communities living outside of Israel.
The attack was also reported in many Israeli media outlets including the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Times of Israel, Maariv and Israel National News. In an editorial titled, “Anti-Semitism in Australia”, a Jerusalem Post editorial stated:
“Surveys do not show Australia to be a particularly anti- Semitic country. True, a full 69 percent of Australians see Israel’s influence as ‘mainly negative,’ according to a BBC World Service Poll published in May. This was higher than the world average of 52 percent but about the level in Britain, France and Germany…
Nevertheless, Australian Jewry is compelled to spend large sums for its security, not because politicians or other prominent public figures promote a hostile climate – they do not. Rather, precisely because of the ever-present possibility that someone, influenced by the sorts of stereotypes about Jews that never really go away, might commit an anti-Semitic attack such as the one committed on Shabbat.
As [Prof. Robert] Wistrich notes, there has been a general pattern of rising antagonism against Jews in recent years. Apparently even Australia’s Jewry is not immune to this trend.”
Meanwhile, the victims of the attack have been released from hospital and are recovering. In a message of thanks one of the victims, Sholmo Behar, reportedly wrote on his Facebook page:
“To all my friends and family from around the world, it’s very comforting to see everyone’s concern and support and to have such close friends, on behalf of my family and myself I want to thank you all so much for your assistance through this time. Thank God we are all home and doing much better now. I do hope we can put an end to any anti-Semitic or racist attacks, no matter what your color, religion, faith or where you’re from, no one should have to go through something like this.'”