Queensland Jewish community calls for tougher laws to criminalise hate

Hatred against Jews in Queensland is increasing and the laws must change so those who incite animosity or engage in harassment or intimidation on the basis of someone’s race, religion, sexuality or gender are punished.

The Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies (QJBD), the roof body of Queensland Jewry, is calling for change and has made its submission to the Queensland Government’s inquiry into vilification and hate crime laws.

QJBD Vice President Jason Steinberg said research indicated that 6 in 10 members of the Jewish community – from Cairns to Coolangatta – had experienced antisemitism and while the Queensland Police are very responsive, the current laws do not deter racists.

“Of those Jews in Queensland who experienced antisemitism, half were either abused, harassed, intimidated or bullied simply because they are Jewish and, distressingly, many of these incidents occur in the workplace,” Mr Steinberg said.

“Fifteen per cent of Queensland Jews also reported hate-fueled incidents that related to Israel and/or Zionism. We have also seen an increase in activity by white supremacist, neo-Nazi and other far-right extremist groups whose members seem to act with impunity, as well as anti-Israel activists targeting local Jews.

“The time has come for Queensland to follow other jurisdictions, like Western Australia, which have more effective laws, and make it a criminal offence if someone’s conduct, or the material they publish, incites animosity or advocates violence on the basis of a person’s race, religion, sexuality or gender.

“We also are calling on the State Government to ban the public display and sale of items that include Nazi symbols, such as the swastika, which are used by racists with impunity. This will empower the police to remove and confiscate these items and be a useful tool in countering the proliferation of extremist ideologies.

“These reforms are needed to protect the basic right of all citizens, not just Jewish people, to go about their daily lives without fear of harassment, abuse and vilification, knowing that the relevant authorities will have the power to deal with such hate effectively. This will allow people to participate more freely and fully in our society, which will be of immense benefit to every Queenslander.”

The QJBD’s research, as part of its submission, also found that of those Queenslanders who experienced hatred, 91.5 per cent remained silent rather than reporting the incident or attacker.

“People said they were scared to report an antisemitic incident for a number of reasons, including fear of more racism, perceived or real inability of the police to act, and the general feeling that hatred against Jews and Israel is an acceptable sentiment and, finally, that the government doesn’t take the incidents seriously,” Mr Steinberg said.

“The current law is 30 years old and is outdated. It has made it very difficult for the Queensland Police to lay charges and communities are left virtually defenceless against hate-motivated acts.

“Now is the time for our legislators to stand up against hatred towards Jews, and other minority communities, to change the laws so that racist activity is dealt with through prosecution and deterrence. 

“We need our politicians to ensure that acts of hatred against Jews and other vulnerable communities will no longer be tolerated. Our community, along with all other communities, deserves to live without fear, and to be safe from harassment and incitement.”