Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating has strongly condemned the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Adelaide, South Australia.
More than 60 graves were desecrated at the West Terrace Cemetery in a brazen daylight attack last Friday.
The cemetery includes graves that date back to the 1840s.
Keating called the act an “affront to the community” and said the perpetrators had “no place in a tolerant society.”
Nick Bolkus, a senator and the federal immigration minister, labeled those responsible “cowardly” and “mindless.”
“This act of racial hatred and aggression should be condemned by all,” he said.
The Jewish community in South Australia is experiencing “shock, horror and anguish,” said Norman Schueler, president of the Jewish Community of South Australia.
South Australian government officials said they would meet this week with the Jewish community and the police to discuss restoration of graves and security at the cemetery.
Isi Leibler, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the attack was “the most despicable crime against Australia’s Jewish community in memory.”
“An attack of this sort is more than an assault on the gravestones, on the families who are directly touched by this villainy and on the Jewish community — it is an attack on Australian values of democracy, tolerance and decency,” Leibler added.
Adelaide is the base for a number of small neo-Nazi and anti-semitic organizations. Member of the Jewish community and human rights workers have reported harassment and attacks on their property in recent months.
Authorities have no suspects as of yet, but the prime minister and religious leaders, among others, have expressed the view that the attack probably was the work of a racist fringe group.
A major rally is set to take place July 16 in Adelaide. It will involve Jewish, political and church leaders from across Australia.