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Australia sets new record for anti-Semitic incidents

SYDNEY, Australia, March 2 (JTA) — Almost 300 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in Australia in 1996, according to information released last week by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. The 299 incidents include such acts as vandalism of synagogues and other Jewish communal property, verbal and physical harassment and anti-Semitic graffiti.
About one-third of the incidents involved anti-Semitic mail and some 20 percent involved threatening telephone calls. But the incidents reported in 1996 also included the desecration of Jewish graves in two cemeteries, the smashing of synagogue windows in five cities and various bomb threats to Jewish institutions. “In 1996, anti-Semitic groups and individuals became more brazen in their rhetoric, more confident in their public posturing and more willing to directly harass Australian Jews,” said council President Diane Shteinman. The council’s information comes from reports from areas with Jewish communities. The previous highest total was in 1995, when 243 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded, according to the council. “Racism can not be allowed to gain a foothold here, and our political leaders have a responsibility to be in the forefront of efforts to strengthen tolerance, fairness and the essentially inclusive nature of Australian society,” Shteinman said.

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