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Jewish leaders in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria have called for tougher laws against incitement and racial hatred following the riots that swept Australia about 10 days ago.
The community's security group has also warned that members of the white supremacist groups may attempt to take advantage of the lawlessness and attack Jewish property.
Older members of the Australian Jewish community still vividly remember some of the pogroms suffered by Eastern European communities and the scenes of unrest in Sydney vividly reminded them of the riots in which Jews were attacked and killed and Jewish property set alight. These memories, in turn, have dictated the response of the Jewish community.
Mobile phone text messages which called on Anglo Australian youth to gather in the thousands to reclaim Cronulla beach from what they described as Lebanese gangs led to riots. A week before, a life guard was attacked after he came to the aid of a harassed young lady at the beach.
The leader of the NSW Opposition Peter Debnam has said that those who instigated the weekend riots were also responsible for daubing anti-Semitic graffiti in the suburb of Vaucluse, the main center of the Jewish community in NSW.
The Australian Jewish News quoted B'nai B'rith Anti Defamation Commission Chairman Dr. Paul Gardener who said that under current laws it would be difficult to convict the perpetrators of the riots. "What they're doing is just on the verge of incitement to hatred," Gardener said.
Jewish leaders have also expressed sympathy with the victims of the violence especially the Lebanese community that has been targeted in the attacks. Gardener was also quoted as saying that Jewish history shows how mob violence can develop into wider expressions of violence, and that is why this type of behavior has to be stopped at a very early stage.
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