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Mideast strife reaches Down Under

SYDNEY, Australia, Nov. 29 (JTA) – Jewish leaders here are attributing a recent upsurge in anti-Semitic acts to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

The leaders say they have received more than 100 reports of anti- Semitic incidents since Oct. 1, shortly after the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence began.

More than 50 incidents have occurred in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state. Some of the worst incidents have taken place in Sydney, which is located within the state.

The attacks prompted the premier of New South Wales to discuss the issue in Parliament.

In his address, Bob Carr described a series of firebomings on Sydney synagogues as “sickening.”

He spoke of one synagogue attack in which “intruders tied ten prayer shawls together into a wick and lit them with kerosene.”

Carr also told legislators about three firebomb attacks on the home of Rabbi Pinchus Feldman, the Lubavitch movement’s senior rabbi in Sydney.

“Attacking places of worship is a particularly offensive crime,” not only against the Jewish community “but against our Australian sense of fairness,” Carr said.

A special investigative unit has been established to deal with attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

Carr told legislators that the attacks have “no established links to the conflict in the Middle East.”

But sources within the Jewish community believe that between 15 percent and 30 percent of the incidents of street harassment, threatening telephone calls and graffiti on Jewish property are indeed related to the violence in the Middle East.

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