Australia appoints special envoy to confront soaring post-October 7 antisemitism

Canberra taps Jillian Segal, head of Australian Jewry umbrella group, for new role, to be followed by envoy for Islamophobia; PM Albanese: Erosion of Jewish safety ‘not acceptable’

Members of the Australian Jewish community hold a vigil in Sydney on October 11, 2023. (David Gray / AFP)
Members of the Australian Jewish community hold a vigil in Sydney on October 11, 2023. (David Gray / AFP)

The Australian government named a special envoy Tuesday to address a rise in antisemitism across the country since the Israel-Hamas war began.

A similar envoy will soon be appointed to challenge Islamophobia in the country and both will promote social cohesion, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Albanese’s own Sydney office has been targeted with pro-Palestinian graffiti as rival activists clash over the Israel-Hamas war in Australian cities and university campuses.

Albanese appointed Jillian Segal, a Sydney lawyer and business executive who is the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, to be “special envoy to combat antisemitism in Australia” for three years. She will consult with community groups and report back to Albanese and Australia’s Multicultural Affairs Minister Andrew Giles.

Segal called statistics on antisemitism in Australia “shocking.” Reports of antisemitism spiked 700% immediately after Hamas sparked the war in Gaza by attacking Israel on October 7, when the group led a thousands-strong onslaught on southern Israel that left nearly 1,200 people dead and saw 251 taken hostage.

Antisemitic incidents are still running 400% to 500% higher than before the war in Gaza, said Segal.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Jillian Segal speaks during a media conference in Sydney on October 9, 2023 (David Gray / AFP)

Reports of antisemitism include Jewish-owned businesses being boycotted and vandalized as well as Jewish artists being excluded or subjected to social media shadow bans that restrict their visibility on platforms, Segal said.

“Unfortunately there is no single answer to the perennial problem of antisemitism,” she said. “But the creation of this role shows a determination by the government to confront this evil and to ensure that it does not erode the goodness that exists in our society.”

Albanese said a graffiti attack that marked his inner-Sydney office as a Hamas target in December was being taken seriously and acted upon.

He also condemned last month’s vandalism with spray paint at the Australian National Korean War Memorial and the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial in the national capital, Canberra.

“I have spoken with members of the Jewish community here, in Melbourne, right around Australia, who have not felt safe, members of the Jewish community whose children are worried about wearing their school uniform in our capital cities,” Albanese said. “That’s not acceptable. Not acceptable, ever. And certainly not in Australia in 2024.”

“What we need to do is to make sure that the conflict that is occurring in the Middle East that has caused a great deal of grief for the Jewish community, for members of the Islamic and Palestinian communities — Australians overwhelmingly do not want conflict brought here,” Albanese added.

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