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Bob Hawke Puts Anti-semitism on Australian Cabinet Agenda

November 28, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Alarming reports of proliferating anti-Semitic incidents all over Australia have prompted Prime Minister Bob Hawke to put the subject on the Cabinet’s agenda.

After meeting Monday at Parliament House in Canberra with a delegation of Australian Jews representing every state, Hawke agreed that the present situation is cause for concern and that racist behavior must be nipped in the bud.

The Jewish group told Hawke about more than 130 incidents of anti-Jewish acts that have taken place within the last 10 months, including vandalism, violence, graffiti and intimidation in person and by telephone.

Among the disturbing acts have been six fire-bombings of vehicles and other Jewish-owned property and the vandalizing of gravestones at Jewish cemeteries in four cities.

Leslie Caplan, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, called for national anti-racism legislation. Anti-racist legislation was enacted on the state level this year.

The meeting with Hawke concluded the Executive Council’s annual two-day conference, which was dominated by the problems of an appropriate response to the anti-Semitism.

Earlier, the Jewish representatives were told by Norman Reaburn, deputy secretary of the Attorney General’s Department, that it is too soon to say whether “we are witnessing a campaign or a flurry of unpleasantness.”

His attitude contrasted sharply with reports by Isi Leibler, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, and Shmuel Rosenkranz, president of Victoria Jewish Community Council.

They said that for the first time in memory, “anti-Semitism has reached a point where we have Jews in Melbourne who are scared to leave their homes.”

The recent attacks in Melbourne have been centered in the suburbs of Caulfield, Balaclava and St. Kilda, home to more than 20 percent of Australia’s 100,000 Jews.

The events in Melbourne are especially disturbing because they are believed to be the work of previously unknown but well- organized racist groups.

Most of the known groups responsible for anti-Semitic activity over the past decade have been broken up by police action and the state-level anti-racist legislation.

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