An anti-Semitic attack on a group of people walking in Sydney Friday night has continued to send shockwaves through Australia, with the country’s Race Discrimination Commissioner warning that such beatings are the result of racial vilification.
Shlomo Ben Haim, an emissary for the Jewish National Fund who was among the victims of Friday night’s attack, said Sunday that the attackers screamed “bloody Jews” and were able to continue their assault for several minutes, even though it took place in a well-lit area with foot traffic and open restaurants.
The attack occurred when his party of five Jews, walking back from a Shabbat dinner, encountered “about 10” youths, who, when seeing them in Shabbat clothes and yarmulkes, began to shout derogatory comments and then attacked, Ben Haim told Ynet News on Sunday from his hospital bed in Sydney.
According to Israel Radio, a number of the victims were Israeli expatriates.
They were walking in a lighted place, with “many pubs and cafes,” Ben Haim said, but the attackers were able to assault his party with impunity for at least fifteen minutes without interference. The police only came at the end, he said. Because it was the Sabbath, his group did not have cellphones to call for help.
On Sunday, Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane officially condemned the incident. Soutphommasane said the attack “warrants our absolute condemnation” and noted that everyone in Australia should be able to “lead their lives without fearing they will be targeted for assault because of their racial or ethnic background,” according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.
Soutphommasane said “the attack appears to have developed from a verbal confrontation, and it is a reminder that racial vilification can escalate into racial violence.”
Australian police on Saturday charged three people in the attack. Police said the five victims — four men, aged 66, 48, 39 and 27, and a woman, 62 — suffered injuries ranging from a concussion to broken nose and lacerations. They were hospitalized for treatment.
Two 17-year-olds and a 23-year-old were arrested at the scene, while the other attackers were said to have fled. The teenagers were denied bail and were due to appear before a juvenile court on Sunday. The 23-year-old was released on bail and will appear in court in December.
Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemet Leyisrael Chairman Efi Stenzler called for an emergency meeting Sunday to address the issue, which he said was part of an growing trend of attacks against Jews worldwide, Israel National News reported.
The victims were taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, and spokesman David Faktor told ABC News over the weekend that the victims said it was an unprovoked attack and they were targeted because they were Jewish.
“You certainly don’t come to Bondi and expect that,” Faktor was quoted by ABC News as saying. “Maybe in Germany in the 1930s and Russia in the 1970s but, certainly in Sydney, Australia, Bondi, you just don’t expect an unprovoked attack.”
“Violence of this kind and, in particular, racist violence, anti-Semitic violence, is completely unacceptable in our society,” Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose constituency includes Bondi, told the Nine Network on Sunday. “We should have zero tolerance,” he added.