Australia appoints special envoy to combat anti-Semitism

Jillian Segal will serve a three-year term and report directly to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Australia has witnessed heated protests over the war in Gaza [Bianca De Marchi/AAP Image via AP]

Australia has appointed a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism amid concerns that the war in Gaza is fuelling community tensions.

Jillian Segal, a Jewish lawyer and business leader, will engage with Jewish Australians, the wider Australian public, religious discrimination experts and the government on ways to tackle anti-Jewish sentiment, the Australian government said in a statement on Tuesday.

Segal will serve a three-year term and report directly to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles.

Albanese said there is “no place” for violence or hatred in Australia.

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

“We have built our nation’s social cohesion together over generations, and this is why we all must work together to uphold, defend and preserve it.”

Albanese said that his government would also soon announce a special envoy for combating Islamophobia.

In one of her first tasks in her new role, Segal will attend the World Jewish Congress in Argentina next week to discuss anti-Semitism with other envoys from around the world.

Segal on Tuesday warned that anti-Semitism has become “normalised,” citing data from Australia’s peak Jewish body that showed a 700 percent rise in reported hate incidents in the months after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel and the start of Israel’s war in Gaza.

“The Jewish community in Australia is experiencing valid feelings of fear in the face of increasing anti-Semitism,” Segal said.

“Jewish Australians want to feel free to live their day-to-day lives, and also want to feel safe to practise and express their religion without fear. They also want to be able to contribute as they have previously to the vibrant multicultural society that we value in Australia.”

Like other countries, Australia has witnessed heated protests over the war in Gaza, and both the Jewish and Muslim communities have reported a sharp uptick in instances of hate.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

More than 1,130 people were killed in Hamas’s October 7 attacks, according to Israeli authorities.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which Segal led until last year, welcomed the appointment of the new envoy to carry out “vital work for the betterment of Australian society”.

However, the Jewish Council of Australia, which has strongly criticised Israel’s actions in Gaza, expressed concern about Segal’s track record “of lobbying for Israel, opposing voices that support Palestinian human rights, and painting all Jews as supportive of Israel’s actions”.

“By appointing a pro-war voice to this position the government risks breeding division, increasing Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, and ultimately making Jews less safe,” the council said in a statement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies