Australia appoints special envoy for combatting antisemitism

Australia appoints special envoy for combatting antisemitism460198f0-3da6-11ef-b575-698c569970ba.jpg

Australia has appointed a special envoy to combat antisemitism and preserve “social cohesion”, amid rising community tension over the Israel-Gaza war.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced lawyer and businesswoman Jillian Segal would consult with community leaders and discrimination experts to advise the government.

It follows in the footsteps of countries like the US, Canada, Greece and the UK, which have all had similar positions for years.

A special envoy for addressing Islamophobia will also be appointed soon, Mr Albanese added.

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East has become a volatile political issue in Australia. It has resulted in protests from both Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as a sharp uptick in Islamophobia and antisemitism.

The Israeli military launched a campaign to destroy the Hamas group which runs Gaza in response to an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

“Australians are deeply concerned about this conflict, and many are hurting. In times like this, Australians must come together, not be torn apart,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday.

The appointment of Ms Segal – who has headed several key bodies representing the Jewish community and served in leadership roles in the education and banking sectors – is a “critical step” in easing friction, he said.

Ms Segal said combatting the “age-old hatred” of antisemitism has never been more important, pointing to a 700% rise in incidences since the war began in October.

“Jewish Australians want to feel free to live their day-to-day lives, and also want to feel safe to practice and express their religion without fear,” she added.

The Australian government supports a two-state solution, and in the wake of the 7 October attacks loudly supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

However in recent months it has increasingly voiced concerns about the country’s military campaign in Gaza – including after an Australian aid worker was killed alongside six others in an Israeli air strike.

Australia’s governing Labor party has also experienced growing tensions, with one senator last week quitting its ranks over its stance on the war.

Fatima Payman said she had been “exiled” after breaking party rules to vote against the government in support of a motion calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood.

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