Antisemitism is eroding social cohesion in the Sunshine State

Why are Jewish school children in Queensland being subjected to bullying and harassment by their classmates and teachers?

Why was a man kicked, punched and abused in the middle of Brisbane because a statement on his t-shirt expressed support for Israel?

Why are there weekly protests here in Queensland with people, including children, shouting slogans used by the terrorist organisation, Hamas, who have called for a global jihad against Jews?

Why did a mental health association give in to a campaign of bullying by anti-Israel activists and cancel the invitation of a world-renowned Jewish expert who had flown from Israel to speak at their Gold Coast conference?

As a proud Queenslander of Jewish faith, I have seen how quickly since the barbaric Hamas terrorist attacks on 7 October last year that people have descended into fanaticism in their unrelenting vilification of Israel, Jews and anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist. 

The number of reported incidents of hatred against Jews has reached record levels in Queensland. From 1 October 2022 to 30 September 2023, there were a total of 47 reported antisemitic incidents. From 1 October 2023 to 5 March 2024, more than 60 incidents have been reported  – physical violence, verbal abuse, graffiti, social media abuse and targeting of Jewish-owned businesses. 

Queensland Holocaust survivors say antisemitism today reminds them of the demonisation and propaganda their families experienced in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Many Jews in Queensland are concerned, with some afraid to display their Jewish identity.

The big question is why?

Social media and the mainstream media’s parroting of Hamas’ propaganda has been despicable. Even when Hamas fabrications are proven to be lies, the damage of these falsehoods has already been done. These platforms help feed the echo chamber of Israel as the ‘oppressor’ and the Palestinians as the ‘oppressed’ –  a warped view considering Hamas’ commitment to repeat the barbarism of 7 October again and again until Jews are wiped out, regardless of the consequences for the Palestinian people. 

Whatever your view about the current war between Israel and Hamas, there is no excuse for bringing the hatreds of that war into Queensland or Australia.That’s what anti-Israel supporters are doing here in Queensland – directly attacking Queensland Jews, including school students, through their words, graffiti and violence.    

Hamas openly calls for the destruction of Israel and the extermination of its Jewish population, yet it is Israel they accuse of genocide, the only democracy in the Middle East. That’s the kind of moral inversion and demonisation that made the Holocaust possible. 

When the Greens and other far-left groups chant ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, this echoes Hamas’s open commitment to ‘obliterate’ Israel.  Accusing Israel of apartheid, genocide and other demonising epithets, is divorced from reality, but lays the psychological groundwork to act out Hamas’s call to ‘slaughter the Jews’. That’s why the number of antisemitic incidents has sky-rocketed. 

Greens’ Brisbane Lord Mayoral candidate, Jonathan Sriranganathan, has made his party’s views clear – ‘Zionists’ are said to not be welcome and if elected the Greens seem to be planning an anti-Israel boycott by Brisbane City Council. A previous attempt by an inner-Sydney council to boycott Israel was abandoned when it emerged that it would end up costing ratepayers millions of dollars.  

Mr Sriranganathan also displays flags on his election posters – the Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Palestinian and LGBTIQ+. Australian Indigenous leader Nova Peris has already called out just how offensive and factually wrong it is to link her community’s flag to the Palestinian cause. And, the Pride flag is certainly not one Hamas would support because they in fact murder gay people. Meanwhile, the LGBTIQ+ community in Israel is celebrated.

The wave of visceral hate against Jews in Queensland is not confined to one political ideology. Extremist right-wing neo-Nazi groups remain active and have been spreading their hate against Jews online and in letterboxes across Sth East Queensland. 

We are so fortunate that Queensland is a vibrant and multicultural state, home to many races and religions – but now some Queenslanders are making sure that Jewish people, Israelis and anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist are subjected to constant threats and harassment. 

The hate toward our relatively small Jewish community must stop.

During these challenging times for our community, we’ve had many political leaders call out antisemitism, friends from other faiths and many decent non-Jewish Australians have shown their solidarity. We are very grateful for this support.

But as the tide of antisemitism rises, now is the time for every political leader, at all levels, to call out hate and division whenever and wherever they see it. It is time to bring back the social cohesion that has been a hallmark of Queensland’s multicultural society, so that our state can be unified, harmonious and inclusive.

This opinion piece article was written by Jason Steinberg, President, Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies