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Special envoy to address anti-Semitism in Australia

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has appointed businesswoman Jillian Segal to be a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, as he calls for social cohesion.

Jul 09, 2024, updated Jul 09, 2024
Jillian Segal during a visit to the Sydney Jewish Museum in Sydney today. Photo: AAP/Thomas Parrish

Jillian Segal during a visit to the Sydney Jewish Museum in Sydney today. Photo: AAP/Thomas Parrish

A special envoy has been appointed by the prime minister to address heightened levels of anti-Semitism in the community.

Businesswoman Jillian Segal will serve as the envoy to combat anti-Semitism and will meet with members of the Jewish community and the government on the best way to stop the vilification.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said anti-Semitism directed towards Australia’s Jewish community had been more prominent since the October 7 attacks in Israel by Hamas militants.

“Australians overwhelmingly do not want conflict brought here. What they want here is harmony and for people to be able to get on with each other,” he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

“It has been a reminder over recent months that we just can’t take that respect and social cohesion for granted. We need to nourish it. We need to cherish it. We need to celebrate it.”

Segal, who has served in the public and private sector as well as being president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, will be in the role for the next three years.

The prime minister said a special envoy for Islamophobia would also be appointed shortly.

Tensions had heightened in communities following the Hamas’ attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1200 Israelis and the taking of hostages.

Health officials in the Middle East have said 37,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel declared war on Hamas.

Segal said anti-Semitism had presented threats not just to Jewish Australians but to the entire population.

“Anti-Semitism erodes all that is good and healthy in a society,” she said.

“It has the capacity to lie dormant through good times and then, in times of crisis like pandemic, which we’ve experienced, economic downturn, war – it awakens, it triggers the very worst instincts in an individual.”

The special envoy will represent Australia at a World Jewish Congress in Argentina next week.

Acting Opposition Leader Sussan Ley said the coalition welcomed the move to appoint the envoy.

“This appointment is acceptance by the Albanese government that anti-Semitism is a real and present threat in communities across Australia,” she said in a statement.

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“The coalition welcomes any measure by the Albanese government to bring attention to, and combat the rising tide, of anti-Semitism across Australia.”

The opposition used the appointment to reiterate calls for a judicial inquiry into anti-Semitism on university campuses, but the prime minister ruled out such a move.

“We’re very clearly aware of what has occurred.”

“You don’t need an inquiry to know that there’s been a rise of anti-Semitism at some of the universities.”

Executive Council of Australia Jewry president Daniel Aghion also backed the appointment.

“We have seen anti-Semitism rear its ugly head on Australian campuses, in schools, in the media and social media, in the arts and culture sector and other parts of society,” he said.

“(Segal) will bring deep knowledge of the issues and immense energy to the role, and we are confident that she will carry out her duties with integrity and distinction.”

But the Jewish Council of Australia’s executive officer Sarah Schwartz said she was concerned the envoy role would undermine efforts to stop racism.

“The anti-racism cause is undermined when governments respond to lobbying from interest groups rather than by addressing racism in a principled manner,” she said.

“We are concerned that an anti-Semitism envoy in Australia… will increase racism and division by pitting Jewish communities against Palestinian, Muslim and other racialised communities.”

– AAP

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