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Marrickville condemns anti-Semitism

Marrickville councillors standing in solidarity with Clr Rosana Tyler. Source: Marrickville Council

By Emily Contador-Kelsall


Marrickville Council unanimously supported a mayoral minute last week condemning anti-Semitic behaviour that had surfaced in the area.
The motion was introduced after councillor Rosana Tyler was targeted with anti-Semitic vandalism on a sign advertising her personal business due to her Jewish faith.
The University of Sydney has also come to attention for alleged anti-Semitic behaviour on campus in recent weeks. A contentious “Free Palestine” protest interrupted a lecture given by retired British military officer Colonel Richard Kemp, where the university’s Professor Jake Lynch was later accused of anti-Semitism after controversial reports of his participation in the event.
Clr Tyler said she had made a “song and dance” about the anti-Semitic vandalism of her sign because she did not want the perpetrator to be emboldened to do it to someone else.
“Attacking anybody’s ethnicity, whether it’s me or whether somebody else, for their religion or where they come from is wrong… this is Marrickville and that is not what we do,” she said.
In the first week of January, Clr Tyler noticed someone had stuck “something white” that looked like “a cat’s claw facing downwards” on her sign when she drove past it.
“I was driving so I didn’t have a chance to see if anything was written on it and  I thought I saw the same type of thing on the wall and on other posters,” she said.
A few days later, Clr Tyler noticed that someone had drawn the Star of David with an arrow on her sign.
“Obviously that upset me a lot,” she said.
“So I thought that I would take a picture and when I went to have a look, it wasn’t a cat’s claw, somebody had drawn on a piece of paper and then around the shape, including the hairs down below, a scrotum.”
The white on the wall Clr Tyler thought she had seen beside her sign was in fact a piece of paper that read “support the scrotum tax”. Clr Tyler said she had no idea what this meant.
The next week Clr Tyler’s friend alerted her of further vandalism when he saw a swastika on her sign as he was driving past. The swastika was drawn back to front.
Marrickville Mayor Mark Gardiner said he hoped the “hate campaign” targeting Clr Tyler was an isolated incident.
“It is utterly deplorable that anti-Semitism exists in 2015,” Clr Gardiner said.
Clr Tyler was very pleased with council’s show of solidarity through the mayoral minute.
Peter Wertheim, Executive Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak body for the Australian Jewish community, said anti-Jewish incidents have become more prevalent in recent years.
“For older Jews in Australia, many of whom are Holocaust survivors, these incidents can bring back terrible memories,” he said.
“This is precisely what happened at the University of Sydney.  Many of those sitting in the front rows of the lecture theatre when the protesters stormed in were elderly Jews.”
The University of Sydney is currently investigating the incident.
Over a dozen student protesters interrupted a lecture given by Colonel Kemp on March 11, entering the lecture theatre chanting, “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide”, and later, “free free Palestine”.
Differing accounts have surfaced over what happened next,  but campus security was present, and officials were met with resistance when attempting to remove the protesters. The incident that has drawn the most attention involves Professor Lynch, the Director of the University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, when he engaged in a heated argument with  an elderly woman who was present at the lecture. The woman later attacked Lynch , who waved money at her in the midst of their exchange, which some saw as an inappropriate gesture invoking the stereotype of a ‘greedy Jew’.
“The University is deeply concerned about events surrounding a protest on campus and has commenced an investigation into the incidents,” a spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the university supported the right to protest and academic freedom of staff and students but opposed violence and racial vilification.
An online petition started by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students that calls for the removal of Professor Lynch currently has 6,019 supporters.
Mr Wertheim said contemporary anti-Semitism often takes the form of a “denial of Jewish peoplehood and basic rights.”
“For [elderly Jews] the chanting, taunts and ugly expressions of hatred of the protesters was overwhelmingly reminiscent of the behaviour of the Brown Shirts and similar groups that they encountered in their youth, and they reacted accordingly,” he said when talking about the USYD incident.
Last year, there were several anti-Semitic incidents in Sydney’s east including reports of white supremacist group distributing anti-Semitic flyers around Bondi and Double Bay and intoxicated teenagers boarding a school bus and verbally abusing students from Jewish schools.
Earlier this week, Marrickville’s Red Rattler Theatre was brought to attention after refusing to book a Jewish cultural group because their policy “does not support ­colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occu­pation of Palestine,” according to an email the theatre sent.  The theatre later apologised for their actions.
Clr Gardiner welcomed the apology from the Red Rattler Theatre and said the incident was “really quite disgraceful and outrageous.”
“I’m very sorry to see this kind of discrimination in Marrickville,” he said.

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