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February 3, 2022 4:18 pm
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Australian Rabbi Harassed as ‘Captain Apartheid, Jewish Scumbag’ in Anonymous Phone Calls

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A rabbi in Melbourne, Australia, was targeted this week by viciously antisemitic anonymous phone calls accusing him of “apartheid,” echoing rhetoric used in a controversial report on Israel recently published by Amnesty International.

The rabbi, who is the descendant of Holocaust survivors, was cold-called on Tuesday by the harasser, who said, “Hello Jewish scumbag, I’d just like to congratulate you on your new label, Captain Apartheid, because that’s how Jewish people are going to get named.”

The “new label” phrase appears to be a direct reference to the Amnesty report, which accuses Israel of subjecting Palestinian Arabs to racially-motivated discrimination — a charge that has drawn strong criticism from Israeli and American politicians, the German government, and Jewish groups.

In a second call a few minutes later, the harasser told the rabbi to “dump that stupid religion that got made up a million years ago by pedophiles … You are going to die with it … Piss on you.”

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The rabbi expressed deep shock at the incident, saying, “These voicemails spewed with hate were frightening to say the least, and my wife and I are concerned about our personal safety.”

“I would never have imagined that people in Australia hate Jews so deeply. As a senior rabbi of the community, I found this very unsettling and distressing and hope that others aren’t exposed to this too,” he added.

Dr. Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Australian Jewish advocacy group the Anti-Defamation Commission, said in a statement Thursday that he was “outraged” and understood “why many believe it is open season on the Jewish community and feel under siege.”

“This chilling and violent outburst of unbridled hate, the latest in a spate of horrifying episodes that have spread like wildfire throughout our nation, is further evidence that racists are less inhibited about expressing their insidious bigotry openly, and this out-of-control problem is one we can’t ignore,” he asserted.

“These sickening messages, fusing age-old antisemitism with anti-Israel rhetoric, have not only traumatized the victim but will shake the affected community to the core and leave members scared and vulnerable,” Abramovich said. “It may be an uncomfortable truth for some, but antisemitism has taken root in Australia and keeps rearing its ugly head from all directions.”

“I am very alarmed by the scale and depth of the wave of hostility engulfing our community and it’s no wonder that Jews are feeling less safe walking our streets,” he said. “The number of reported incidents is on a scale I have not witnessed before in our nation, and I call on all political leaders to speak out loudly and clearly against this escalating issue so as to ensure that this stain on our society will never become acceptable.”

He expressed hope that law enforcement would find and prosecute the culprit. Victoria police are currently conducting an investigation into the incident.

In September, Abramovich warned that Melbourne was facing “an epidemic of antisemitism,” much of it connected to COVID-19 conspiracy theories. The city witnessed several antisemitic incidents during 2021, among them the ordeal of a Jewish woman who was spat at and verbally abused while returning home from synagogue services in March, and a Jewish school that was vandalized with the slogan “Free Palestine” in June.

In December of last year, dozens of handwritten antisemitic leaflets were delivered to homes in a suburb of Melbourne, just days after a rabbi was showered with antisemitic abuse elsewhere in the city.

The unnamed rabbi who received the hostile phone calls this week wears a kippah in public, and told the Australian Jewish News that he visited the Crown Casino and Entertainment complex on Nov. 30 to meet with staff about holding a communal event there. While waiting in the lobby area and checking his phone, he was approached by a man who accused him of “filming my family.” When the rabbi said he was unaware of what the man was talking about, he was showered with what he termed “disgusting abuse.” As a parting shot, the man told him, “You’re one of those that Hitler didn’t finish.”

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