Israelis Assaulted in Perth

This story started last Thursday.  I received a call from a freind in Melbourne.  Ususal story – there are two Israeli backpackers coming to Perth. Can I take them in for Shabbat, help them find accomodation and work while they travel around Western Australia for a few months.  Kol Yisrael Aravim zeh la zeh – Jewish people look after each other like family, no matter where you are in the world .  So we fed and housed our friends and arranged accomodation over the weekend.

All was OK, until late last night.  My phone was on silent, but as I walked past I saw the screen flashing.  I noted it was the number of one of the Israeli backpakers.  My initial reaction was that they wanted another lead or some connections and the matter could wait until tomorrow.  But something in my gut made me pick up the phone.  The guy said to me in broken words that he had been “beaten up” and was in the city, could I help.  He could not give me directions, but he was outside the bus-station at the Northbridge link. 

I called the police, and jumped in a car with a friend.  We arrived at the same time as the police.  They had been lying on a blood splattered pavement for at least half an hour.  Even as we were pulling up there were people walking past.  Not one person had stopped to help them.  One of the Israeli’s was lying on the ground in acute pain.  He had been hit in the face, kicked to the ground and thought his leg was broken.  The other had had his head viced between a wall and a pillar and crushed.  They were roughed up pretty badly.

We established with the guys, one of which appeared to be concussed and the other who was concerned he may lose consciousness, that one of them was wearing a Kippah.  Their wallets and passports had not been touched – they were not attacked for money.  Of the three people walking past them one of them initially spat at the Kippah wearing Israeli.  He then turned around and started attacking.  Two more people appeared and the guys were left lying on the sidewalk when they ran off. 

Attacks often occur in this area of Perth late at night.  Its not a safe place and unwise to be out there.  However it is unsure whether these Israelis were the victims of a racially motivated attack.  The police noted that assaults in the city were unfortunately all too common, and were not overly concerned by the motive.  They did take good care to record the incident and provided exceptional assistance, as did the ambulance staff.

Onto hospital, and a very late night dealing with identification, statements, and the sourcing of medical help prior to discharge. 

It’s very harrowing to suddenly find yourself in the middle of an attack scene in the middle of the night.  With all the authorities involved, especially the hospital registrars, it was bizarre to be asked a lot of questions as to who the victims were and what information could we provide.  Having only met them once, I tried to explain that we didn’t know them, and could only assist as interpreters, however they didn’t seem to appreciate that locals would just drop everything to help a foreign tourist in need who was in effect a complete stranger.  I guess that is something that I would not stop to think about twice.  If someone needs help, then you stop and help them, without attempting to rationalise whether you are obliged to.  Why this should be so unusual is beyond me, but perhaps that is the nature of the world we live in today.

Jews get attacked because they are Jews, no matter where they are in the world, or what age they live in.  Each year in Australia there are hundreds of anti-semitic incidents that are logged, and likely many hundred more that are not recorded.   Anti-Semitism is not rampant in Perth, but incidents can happen here, as they can happen anywhere.  I’m not going to defend two identifiable Israelis for being in the middle of a strange and relatively empty City bus station late at night, and it is a fair call to say they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  However these incidents should not happen to anyone. It’s more of an issue of basic law and order than it is Anti-Semitism, albeit that both may be a feature in this incident.

Law and order in Perth is on shaky ground, with a growing tolerance from the community towards violence and criminal behaviour, not because we should put up with it, but because we all know the police, health and justice systems are too weak and under-resourced to confront each situation.  This places everyone at risk, but the reality sadly is that all ethnic minorities are at greater risk.  And of all the ethnic minorities, when it comes to racial discrimination and crime, Jews are the most vulnerable target.

We are a city of 1 million people plus.  When talking to the police I asked them how many duty officers they had on that night.  The answer was 40.  To the Israeli’s it was incomprehensible that a city this size could be protected from crime by 40 law and enforcement officers throughout an average weekday night.  But this is the reality, and it is a frightening statistic to contemplate, particularly if there was a major incident.

Our Israeli friends are resting up.  We hope that in a few weeks time they will be back to full strength and able to continue with their journey.  But tonight, and tomorrow night, and every single night ahead people in the streets of Perth will be attacked and assaulted with no reason and without provocation.  That is a sad reflection of the dark side of life in this City.  We must all stand up and fight against crime, and hope that we are not the next victim.

 

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