Leaders and business savage Australia’s rising anti-Semitism

Reference: The Australian, 9th February 2024

leaders and business savage Australia's rising antisemitism
Restaurant owners Adi and Rochelle Daboush. Picture: Arsineh Houspian

Widespread anti-Semitic attacks on small, medium and large Jewish-linked firms have been savaged by prominent Australians and the peak business body as authorities assess evidence of offences after the October 7 atrocities.

Government agencies and police face pressure to deal with a wave of attacks against Jewish businesses that also include a heavy focus on vulnerable smaller enterprises.

Businessman Joe Gersh, a former ABC director, said it was “unbelievable” that modern Australia had descended into overt anti-Semitism with potentially major impacts on smaller businesses, which are more vulnerable to campaigns compared with the relative stability of larger enterprises.

He said Hamas supporters had been blamed for much of the campaigning, which often involved harassment techniques including writing bad online reviews, negative social media posts, and direct intimidation by anti-Israel activists.

“Some of the stuff is absurd,” Mr Gersh said.

It was “extraordinarily unfair” and misconceived to target small businesses “just because they have a Jewish connection’’.

Anti-Semitism is rife on ­social media, thousands of businesses and people have been slapped with offensive stickers or faced vandalism, large companies such as shipping related to Israel have been targeted, as have suspected defence related firms.

One of the nation’s most ­respected lawyers, Allan Myers KC, said he abhorred the attacks on Jewish businesses and was concerned about what it meant for broader society.

“It’s simple, straightforward, old-fashioned anti-Semitism,” he said. “It’s detestable.’’

“It is detestable to try to hurt them. It’s a symptom of the way our society is developing.’’

Mr Myers said he was concerned Australia may be shifting away from a culture of not punishing people for their heritage or beliefs. “We were not only free, prosperous but we were also tolerant,’’ he said.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said the anti-Semitism threatened not only Jews but all Australians.

“We cannot afford to sit on our hands – everyone has a role to play, especially governments,’’ he said. “The so-called progressives ­attacking Jews and Jewish-owned businesses are raising the bar for racial hatred in this country. They’re doing loudly and proudly what the neo-Nazis who march down the main streets of Ballarat surely only wish they could do.

“With anti-Semitic propaganda being plastered against Jewish businesses, it’s a hop, skip and a jump before their windows are being smashed in.”

Business Council of Australia chief executive Bran Black said: “There is no place for intolerance in businesses or in our communities. Whether this emerges in the form of anti-Semitism or any other hatred, these ugly ideas are dangerous to our way of life.

“Put simply, it’s not who we are as Australians and it’s not who we should aspire to be.”

Law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler is representing some of the 600 Jewish people on a WhatsApp group that was targeted by anti-Zionist activists.

The activists have published the names and images of hundreds of people in a bid to embarrass them. Some companies have reportedly been targeted on ­social media through phone calls and emails with pressure to sack some people.

“This an appalling, orchestrated campaign to intimidate and harass members of the Australian Jewish community by placing them on a hit list of Jews to be targeted by hateful extremists,” Mr Leibler said.

Rochelle and Adi Daboush run prominent Jewish street food restaurant Tavlin in Melbourne’s southeast that has been harassed from the moment the conflict broke out last year.

The harassment has included abusive phones calls, offensive stickers, a campaign of bad online reviews and a “visit” from men opposed to the Israeli cause.

“It’s been an emotional time, no doubt, especially earlier on,” they said.

sticker Tavlin Restaurant
Signage calling for the boycott of businesses and organisations owned or led by Jewish people. This sticker was on Tavlin Restaurant. Picture: Supplied

Anti-Israel campaigners are using a sophisticated social media strategy to encourage harassment or bans on Jewish companies, ­singling out established Jewish families such as the owners of Sportsgirl and Sussan, the Besen Family Foundation, Chemist Warehouse and Spotlight. Schwartz Media is also a target.

One social media post reads: “Anyone who gives their time, creativity or labour to a recipient of Besen family money should be disgusted, enraged and actively demand divestment from genocide.’’

Another post implores people to sign a pledge: “I will never shop at Spotlight or Anaconda again.’’

Israeli newspaper Haaretz ­reported this week that Victoria Police were pursuing a protection order for a Jewish couple who had received a photograph of their five-year-old son from an anti-Zionist activist with the threat: “I know where you live”.

Part of a social media post calling for the boycott of businesses and organisations owned or led by Jewish people. Picture: Supplied

“All reports of threats and/or violence will be taken seriously, and members of the community are strongly encouraged to report any incidents of concern,’’ it said.

“We will continue to work with our partner agencies across Government and community to monitor the situation.’’

The October atrocities were committed by the terrorist group Hamas, which controls what is left of Gaza, with almost 28,000 Palestinians reported to have died in the aftermath.

The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network did not respond for comment.

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