Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has revealed his concern about rising anti-Semitism, telling a Melbourne radio host he has never before seen such a “rise in social disharmony”.
Mr Albanese called up Tom Elliott for an impromptu interview on Friday morning, with the 3AW mornings host asking the Prime Minister for his reaction to a Herald Sun report about Jewish residents fleeing Melbourne’s northern suburbs due to “anti-Semitic attacks” on local families and businesses.
The report in Friday’s Herald Sun quotes Jewish residents of Fitzroy, Coburg and Thornbury, with one resident saying he had begun to fear for the safety of his child due to the daily reminders that his family were “unwelcome and unwanted”.
“Every Jewish-owned business here is being attacked, either online or in person, stickers of the Star of David, intimidation of staff, boycotting,” he told the Herald Sun.
Prime Minister Albanese described the situation as “a tragedy” and “completely unacceptable”.
“It is tragic that people feel that they have to consider moving from their local communities. That’s completely unacceptable. It’s not the Australia I want to see,” Mr Albanese said.
“I spoke in parliament yesterday about how I have not seen a rise in social disharmony like I’ve seen in recent times… one element of that has been the rise in anti-Semitism.
“It’s just a tragedy.”
The Labor leader referenced recent comments by NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong, who at a recent event on the Israel-Palestine conflict described Jewish groups as having “tentacles” which they use to “influence power” – comments condemned for drawing on anti-Semitic tropes that date back to the 1930s.
“The Jewish lobby and the Zionist lobby are infiltrating into every single aspect of what is ethnic community groups, they rock up, and they’re part of the campaign,” the Newtown Greens MP said at a pro-Palestine event in December.
“Their tentacles reach into the areas that try and influence power, and I think that we need to call that out and expose it.
Mr Albanese said he was “shocked by the comments” of his local Greens MP, saying the comments about tentacle terminology “should not be ever used”.
He also pointed out the fact that members of the Jewish community joined anti-racism groups because “the Jewish community have a very proud history of standing up against racism in all its forms.”
“They’ve taken the experience of anti-Semitism and broadened it out… to opposition to racism in all forms,” the Prime Minister said.
Ms Leong later issued a statement acknowledging she had used “an inappropriate descriptor for the influence of groups backing Netanyahu’s genocidal attacks in Gaza and the ongoing occupation”.
The Greens MP said she apologised that this had “caused offence” before adding that while it was “important to hold people to account for words that cause harm” is it equally important to “not stay silent” and to hold people to account for harmful actions like “occupation and military violence by the Israeli state in Palestine that has been ongoing since 1948”.
Prime Minister Albanese said while people may have “very strong views” about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, “we don’t want to bring conflict here”.
“The great thing about our country is we can be a microcosm for the world. And by and large we are a peaceful country. We live in harmony,” Mr Albanese said.
“People, whether they be Catholic or Jewish or Hindu, or Buddhist or Muslim, live side by side and are enriched by the diversity that is there, and that’s a sort of Australia that I want to see.”
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