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Anti-Semitic incidents in Australia hit record high

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Anti-Semitic incidents in Australia have reached record levels, according to a new report.

Jeremy Jones, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told the annual general meeting of the umbrella organization on Monday that 652 reports of anti-Jewish violence, vandalism, harassment and intimidation were recorded by Australian Jewish organizations between Oct. 1, 2007 and Sept. 30, 2008.

The unprecedented results were a 2 percent increase over the 638 incidents recorded between 2006 and 2007.

 “The latest 12-month period saw the highest-ever tally, at a rate close to twice the average of the previous 18 years,” said Jones, who has produced an annual report on anti-Semitism in Australia since 1989, in a statement.

Among the most severe instances of anti-Semitism cited in the new report were 58 incidents of physical assault, including Jewish youths who were attacked in Melbourne in October 2007; a Jewish teenager who was punched and vilified in Sydney in November 2007; an Orthodox man who was abused and punched in the face in Sydney in January 2008; and four Orthodox Jews in Perth who were physically assaulted in May 2008.

Jones, who is also the director of community affairs for the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, told JTA that although there were no firebombings of synagogues this year, there was a “worrying increase” in assaults on, and harassment of, Jewish families walking to and from synagogue.

The report also notes there is “cause for genuine concern” about online communities such as Facebook and the video sharing site YouTube, where “crude and intense anti-Jewish prejudice is being expressed openly and unashamedly."

But, Jones added, “The situation seemed to improve, if moderately, in most other areas, such as the media, political life and among extremist groups.”
 

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