Australia appoints controversial official to 'combat antisemitism' amid Gaza war

Australia appoints controversial official to 'combat antisemitism' amid Gaza war
The appointment of Jillian Segal, who has a history of pro-Israel campaigning, was described as a 'critical step' by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
2 min read
Jillian Segal's pro-Israel views have been criticised by the Jewish Council of Australia [Getty/file photo]

Australia's prime minister has appointed a special envoy to tackle "antisemitism levels" in the country on Tuesday, urging his compatriots to avoid being "torn apart" by tensions over the ongoing war in Gaza, which has killed at least 38,193 Palestinians.

An envoy on Islamophobia will also be named "shortly", Anthony Albanese said.

As in many countries, protests and rallies in support of Gaza amid Israel's war on the enclave have taken place in Australia over the months. 

There have been some reports of antisemitism at the protests.

"There is no place for violence or hatred of any kind in Australia," Albanese said.

The naming of the antisemitism special envoy, Jillian Segal, was a "critical step" to easing tensions in Australia amid the Gaza war, he said.

"Australians are deeply concerned about this conflict, and many are hurting. In times like this, Australians must come together, not be torn apart."

Segal's appointment, however, has criticised by the Jewish Council of Australia, a pro-Palestinian group, due to her pro-Israel views.

In a statement, the group said: "We are concerned about the proposed envoy’s track record, in previous roles, of lobbying for Israel, opposing voices that support Palestinian human rights, and painting all Jews as supportive of Israel’s actions.".

The council's executive officer Sarah Schwartz expressed fears that the new antisemitism envoy position may be used to "weaponise false antisemitism claims to silence voices in support of Palestinian human rights".

Prime Minister Albanese told reporters in Sydney that the government would soon announce an envoy on Islamophobia, adding: "That will be important as well, working with that community to promote social cohesion."

His centre-left Labor Party has itself been split over how to respond to the Gaza war, which has devastated much of the enclave, rendering it almost inhabitable.

Australia is one of Israel's oldest allies and has been a staunch backer of its war. It has supported a "sustainable ceasefire" in Gaza but has not called for an outright end to the fighting.

One Labor senator quit the party last week after she was disciplined for defying the government by voting in favour of a motion on the "need for the Senate to recognise a Palestinian state".

The Senate motion did not mention that recognition should be part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution, which the government had insisted on.

Live Story