Australian police are investigating threats against a five-year-old Jewish child amid an uproar over the publication online of a list of hundreds of Jewish creatives’ personal information by prominent pro-Palestinian activists.
Hundreds of Jewish academics and creatives who joined a private WhatsApp group last year had their personal information shared publicly by the activists this week.
At least one family has gone into hiding amid ensuing harassment, Josh Burns, a Jewish Australian lawmaker, said during a radio interview on Friday morning, prompting shock from the interviewer.
“They were completely shattered by this whole experience, where a sort of lynch mob of people were attacking them,” Burns said. “We’re not talking about people who are in any way connected to the conflict in the Middle East. We’re talking about ordinary Australian citizens who happen to be Jewish.”
The feminist writer Clementine Ford, on Thursday published a link on her Facebook page to the log of a group chat of over 600 Jewish writers and artists. (She) shared the list with her 250,000 followers on Instagram, (and) said anti-Zionist Jews had leaked the information from the WhatsApp group. The Age, which first reported the story, alleged the link also contained a spreadsheet of links to social media accounts and another file that contained the photos of over 100 Jewish people.
Ford was not the only person to have shared a copy of the log, but she said it was to provide her 239,000 followers with an insight into “how coordinated efforts are to silence Palestinian activists and their allies” via a transcript of the leaked chat. “This is a group of ‘creatives’ working to silence voices calling for Palestinian liberation,” she said.
“We are hearing awful stories about Jewish individuals and families being the subject of harassment and vilification and we are aware of instances where Jewish homes and businesses have been targeted and vandalized simply because they haven’t denounced Israel or their people to the standard demanded by some radical nudnik,” Rabbi Dovid Gutnick of East Melbourne told the Herald Sun newspaper this week. I had to use that paragraph – I love the Yiddish word ‘nudnik’
The newspaper reported that some Jews are moving out of heavily Jewish neighborhoods in Melbourne to avoid harassment. In one case, the newspaper said, the target was a couple who are Jewish but have not commented publicly about the war. They received a photograph of their five-year-old child with a note reading, “We know where you live.”
The incident follows an announcement by police in the Sydney region that they had determined that protesters said to have shouted “Gas the Jews” at a rally outside the city’s famous Opera House shortly after October 7 had not actually uttered the phrase, which calls to mind the gas chambers of the Holocaust. They were actually saying, “Where’s the Jews,” concluded a report issued last week.
Alex Ryvchin, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australia Jewry …rejected the finding but said that even if it were accurate, it would be distressing. “Even taking aside the history of the Holocaust and that context, on a plain reading interpretation of the phrase ‘Where’s the Jews’ by an angry mob of that sort, clearly they were looking for Jews, and what would they have done had they found them?” he said. “That’s what we think and that’s what we feel and that’s what needs to be acted against.”
“We call on our fellow Australians to resist the harassment and bullying, and when asked to sack or blacklist Australian Jews, to say not in our time and not in our country,” he said.
A spokesperson for Victoria police confirmed it is investigating earlier reports of the personal details of people who belong to a private social media chat group appearing to have been released online.