Josh Burns, Julian Leeser say anti-Semitism at all-time high
Jewish MPs say rates of anti-Semitism are “off the charts” and “the worst in my lifetime” and are concerned about further escalations in violence.
Macnamara MP Josh Burns – whose electorate includes Caulfield, the site of last Friday’s clash between Palestinian supporters and the Jewish community – said rates of anti-Semitism were “certainly the worst in my lifetime”.
He said he was concerned not just by the far right but more so the “smaller groups of people who clearly feel quite aggrieved by what’s going on in the world and are … visiting the Jewish community”.
“We have had very thorough concerning incidents of which some of which are with various police agencies at the moment,” he said.
“Those sorts of incidents, frankly, are the most concerning and I do not want to see any escalation of violence in Australia and we need to ensure that people are safe, but also that I would really urge people to not seek to inflame it because we will get into a place where it will become even worse than it is right now.”
Fellow Jewish MP and Liberal backbencher Julian Leeser said the level of anti-Semitism in Australia was “always an issue” but was “off the charts” in the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7,
“We’ve seen these protests (here) where people have said ‘gas the Jews’, where people have put Stars of David in rubbish bins, where we’ve seen people, schoolchildren … afraid to wear their uniforms … the level of anti-Semitism is off the charts in this country,” he said.
He said he had experienced anti-Semitism online.
“My staff actually have taken some of my online social media things away from me because they know it triggers me and I just think … I am a member of parliament, I am a big boy, I should be able to put up with this, but Australians going about their business … shouldn’t have to put up with this,” he said.
“People should be able to express their faith whatever their faith may be unheeded and in safety in this country.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was accused of “weaponising anti-Semitism” by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday after he sought to move a motion that linked anti-Semitism with the release of detainees – including some criminals – after the High Court deemed indefinite detention to be unconstitutional.
Mr Albanese was visibly angry as he responded to Mr Dutton, speaking about how fearful both Jewish and Muslim communities were at the moment.
He called for political leaders to strive for unity.
Mr Burns said the two issues were “completely separate”, but Mr Leeser said he did not agree with Mr Albanese’s claims about “weaponising”.
“(Both issues) relate to the security of the country and that’s why he (Mr Dutton) was making those points, but they are different issues dealing with different parts of the community,” Mr Leeser said.
“Obviously, the issues in relation to anti-Semitism particularly are a threat to the Jewish community, a threat to this community that’s been in Australia since the First Fleet and has made an extraordinary contribution.
“And Australia has been one of the few nations on earth that has never had any formal discrimination against the Jewish people.”
Mr Burns, however, slammed Mr Dutton, and said he should not have conflated anti-Semitism with immigration detention.
“Dealing with anti-Semitism is absolutely the responsibility of all members of parliament … It is a completely separate issue to the decision of the High Court,” Mr Burns said.
“ And I do not believe the two should have been conflated. It was a decision by the leader of the opposition to do so and people can make their own judgments on whether or not that was appropriate.
“But I do not believe the two should have been conflated.”
Wentworth MP Allegra Spender, who represents the largest Jewish community in the country, said her community were “scared right now” and needed the country to be united, not divided.
“The point I want to make is that the parliament and the community is really concerned about anti-Semitism, but it doesn’t do any good to have a shouting match in parliament about conflating a bunch of different issues,” she told ABC News.
“For us right now as a country we need to have our parliamentarians come and showing that we need to lead from the front and we need to lead from a point of view of saying, let’s work together because we have real concerns about anti-Semitism and concerns actually about Islamophobia.”