Israeli ambassador ‘very sad’ about rise in antisemitic incidents in Australia | Australian politics #Israeli #ambassador #sad #rise #antisemitic #incidents #Australia #Australian #politics

The Israeli ambassador says he is “very sad” about a rise in antisemitic incidents in Australia and has urged the government to “take all necessary measures” to ensure people of different faiths and backgrounds feel safe.

Amir Maimon said that, in particular, he was “so, so upset” about the presence of pro-Palestine protesters at a Melbourne hotel where relatives and friends of Hamas-held hostages were staying last week.

Maimon made the comments in an interview with Guardian Australia two months after Hamas’s 7 October attacks, when about 1,200 people in southern Israel were killed and more than 200 others were taken hostage.

He also said he had assured the Australian government that Israel was “doing its utmost” to avoid civilian deaths in Gaza, where the Hamas-run ministry of health has reported more than 16,000 deaths, including thousands of children, since 7 October.

Israel this week updated its travel advisories for dozens of countries, including Australia. It cited “a significant increase in hostility against Israelis/Jews worldwide” and advised visitors to Australia to “exercise increased precaution”.

“I’m so frustrated in general,” Maimon said. “And in particular, after this incident in Melbourne on Wednesday night last week, I’m so, so upset.”

Maimon said he was disappointed “that my fellow Israelis felt last Wednesday night insecure”.

“I urge the Australian government to take all necessary measures to make sure that different people of different faiths, visitors to your beautiful country, would feel secure,” he said.

“I always believe that it’s possible to do more.”

Non-government organisations have reported big increases in antisemitic, Islamophobic and anti-Arab incidents in Australia over the past two months.

Maimon said while he appreciated the government’s allocation of more funding to secure schools and places of worship, “it’s also very important to invest in education”.

‘I couldn’t sleep’

Maimon said he had been saddened to see some people in the west try to rationalise or play down the horrors of the 7 October attack by Hamas, which occurred at a time when the ambassador to Australia had been visiting family in Israel.

He recalled waking up to the sounds of sirens in Tel Aviv – triggered by the firing of rockets from Gaza – and, at first, not realising the scale of the attack.

But Maimon said he was later haunted to see images of “so many dead bodies” at the Supernova music festival and to hear audio of children screaming, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.”

“Really, it’s horrifying. I couldn’t sleep for a number of nights,” Maimon said.

“It is so sad for me, not just as an official representative, but mainly as a man who lives in a democracy, who cares about democratic values … that other people who live in democracies are the ones to raise questions about the atrocities that were committed.

“Finally, the United Nations acknowledged that women were raped. It took them nearly two months to say something about it.”

Last week the UN secretary general, António Guterres, tweeted that there were “numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted”.

However, Israel is facing increasing international scrutiny over its military response to the 7 October attacks, with the UN’s top aid official warning of “apocalyptic” conditions in Gaza and an end to any possibility of meaningful humanitarian operations.

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The UN humanitarian agency has estimated 1.8 million people – roughly 75% of Gaza’s population – are now internally displaced and facing increasingly bleak conditions, while human rights groups say nowhere in the besieged strip is safe.

The situation has prompted the Australian government and others to step up calls for Israel to adhere to the laws of war, with the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, saying there had been a “harrowing” loss of innocent life.

“We do listen to our friends and Australia is a very good friend,” Maimon said. “I can assure the Australian government that Israel is doing its utmost to mitigate the civilian casualties.”

But the Israeli ambassador also argued that Hamas was “bearing the responsibility” because it was using the civilian population as a “human shield”.

‘It is not collective punishment’

Maimon firmly rejected claims that the innocent people of Gaza were being collectively punished for Hamas’ atrocities.

“If it would have been a collective punishment, the government of Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces wouldn’t have been sending millions of WhatsApp messages, with millions of telephone calls, millions of fliers urging people to leave their homes,” he said.

He said many people in Gaza were internally displaced “because we instructed them, begged them to leave their homes … to reach safe zones”.

“Unfortunately, in the past, Hamas didn’t allow them to move,” he said.

When Israel resumed its offensive in Gaza after a week-long ceasefire deal collapsed, it immediately signalled plans to intensify attacks on the south of the territory, in areas where Palestinian civilians had previously been urged to take shelter.

Israel has launched a new QR-code base grid system for evacuation warnings, but aid agencies say people relying on this system will be hampered by power shortages and breaks in telecommunications.

Amid increasing internal pressure within the Labor party to call for a full ceasefire in Gaza, Maimon urged people to “concentrate their efforts on bringing Hamas to surrender”.

Maimon also confirmed the Australian government had used “official channels” to raise the issue of Israeli settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank.

“I disapprove of [such attacks] and I know that my government will do its utmost in order to bring those who are violating the law and Palestinian rights behind bars,” he said.

#Israeli #ambassador #sad #rise #antisemitic #incidents #Australia #Australian #politics

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