Anti-Semitic propaganda has taken to the streets of Melbourne as the country continues to grapple with the current COVID-19 crisis.
Anti-Semitic stickers were found following the “Freedom Day” rally in Melbourne on Saturday as concern grows over rising anti-Jewish sentiment.
The ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria and the extended lockdown have raised concerns about the rise in hate speech directed against the Jewish community.
Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a “perfect storm” of people spending more time at home and “clinging” to conspiracy theories anti-Semitic.
“People are outright scapegoats and point fingers at the Jewish community for the extended lockdown,” Dr Abramovich told Skynews.com.au.
It comes as images emerged last week of a Jewish engagement party that showed more than 65 people breaking foreclosure orders.
The video went viral and led to an increase in anti-Semitic sentiment.
Voice recordings provided by the Anti-Defamation Commission showed callers at a synagogue and other Jewish institution cursing the Jewish community over the party.
A caller said the engagement party plunged Victoria into a “bigger black hole”.
Dr Abramovich said the engagement party had become a “vehicle for trafficking” in old anti-Jewish tropes.
“People are exploiting public anxiety around the pandemic to promote this evil agenda,” he said.
The Anti-Defamation Commission also provided Skynews.com.au with photos of anti-Semitic stickers that emerged from Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne.
The stickers, featuring the Star of David and a reference to 9/11, featured a QR code that links to a video claiming the Jewish community was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Dr Abramovich said this trope appeared almost immediately after the attacks and ridiculed it as one of the “most dangerous and harmful conspiracy theories”.
“Twenty years later, this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that puts the blame for 9/11 on the Jews as being alive again,” he said.
The use of QR codes to spread anti-Semitic sentiments showed how the groups and people behind the movement were “very sophisticated and tech-savvy agents of evil,” said Dr Abramovich.
“I think they are using all the digital tools at their disposal to promote their hate,” he said.
“We have the perfect marriage of digital and hate, digital and anti-Semitism.”
The rise of right-wing extremism had previously been flagged as a growing threat by ASIO boss Mike Burgess in his annual threat assessment in 2020.
Mr Burgess said the far-right threat was “real and growing” with small cells of neo-Nazi groups scattered across Australian suburbs.
“In the Australian suburbs, small cells meet regularly to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train for combat and share their hateful ideology,” he said.
“While we would expect any right-wing extremist-inspired attack in Australia to be of low capacity – that is, a knife, pistol or vehicle attack – more sophisticated attacks are possible.
“The character of terrorism will continue to evolve and we believe it will take on a more dispersed and diverse face.”
COVID-19 has also contributed to the increase in national terrorist threats, with Mr Burgess telling 60 Minutes on Sunday that groups are using the pandemic to spread their ideologies.
“People don’t like lockdowns. They will protest against it, they can use it to fuel economic problems, or it brings hardship to people. It can make them sensitive to these ideologies, and people can be drawn, and they know it, and they will use it to their advantage, ”he said.
In its annual report on anti-Semitism from October 2019 to September 2020, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) detailed 331 anti-Semitic incidents reported to the organization.
Although this was a 10% decrease from the previous year, the number of incidents reported was above average.
“The decrease in the overall number of incidents should not mask the marked increase in the number of the most serious categories of incidents,” said Julie Nathan, Director of Antisemitism Research at ECAJ.
“There has been a doubling of the number of reported incidents of physical assault; a 12% increase in direct verbal abuse, harassment and bullying; a 229% increase in the number of direct threats reported by post; and slight increases in the number of threats by phone and posters and stickers.