Thursday, June 13, 2024

‘It has no place in Australia’: An anti-Semitic attack on a Victorian school condemned by politicians

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Politicians have joined the principal of a Jewish school in Melbourne’s east in condemning an anti-Semitic graffiti attack on the college at the weekend.

A brick wall surrounding the Mount Scopus Memorial College was the target of the attack.

The graffiti, which appeared overnight on Friday and was cleaned on Saturday morning, referenced the deaths of Jewish people.

Principal Dan Sztrajt told ABC Radio Melbourne, he hoped the incident was isolated.

“We have so many students at this school who came here because of anti-Semitism at non-Jewish schools and I don’t want them to start feeling that it’s no longer safe for them even here in what has to be … one of the most secure institutions in the country.”

Victorian state MP Josh Burns, who is a former student of Mount Scopus Memorial College, said he was “devastated” by the act.

“It has no place in Australian society, that sort of vilification and targeting of a school,” he said.

He said Mount Scopus was “a place for young people to come and learn and be proud of who they are”.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the school and the way in which they’ve responded, and the students for turning up proudly as Jewish kids and as Jewish Australians, ready for another big week of learning.”

Police investigate attack 

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said the graffiti was “an appalling act of anti-Semitism”.

“Anti-Semitism is an issue for the entire nation and it is absolutely critical … that Jewish and non-Jewish Australians alike are standing up against anti-Semitism.”

He said he believed he had seen more anti-Semitism in the past few months than he had seen in his lifetime.

Police have released an image of a person they would like to speak with in relation to the incident. (Supplied: Victoria Police)

Victoria Police is investigating the attack but said no arrests had been made at this stage. 

“There is absolutely no place at all in our society of anti-Semitic sentiments or behaviour,” a police spokesperson said.

Nearby neighbours will be contacted as part of the investigation and CCTV footage will be canvassed. 

The spokesperson said police have also been conducting regular patrols of the areas surrounding the college. 

The incident comes amid a period of heightened tension in Melbourne over the Israel-Gaza war.

Earlier this month, a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed with a gathering of pro-Israel supporters who were at a rally in the city’s CBD organised by Never Again Is Now, a group that describes itself as a grassroots Christian movement campaigning against anti-Semitism.

That followed an incident on the same weekend where pro-Palestinian demonstrators stormed the state Labor Party conference.

Pro-Palestinian encampments at universities across Australia, some of which have now disbanded, have also been in the spotlight.

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