By Gareth Narunsky, of the Australian Jewish News
Expressing their shock and sympathy in the wake of Monday’s hostage crisis at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place, Jewish community leaders have urged Australians to remain united in the face of bigotry and intolerance.
In a joint statement, Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) president Robert Goot and executive director Peter Wertheim described the perpetrator as a “lone disturbed individual” who cloaked his personal grievances in Islam and Islamist ideology.
“His evil actions must not be allowed to sow discord in our tolerant, multicultural society, or to weaken the resolve of our government to fight those who seek to inflict terror on innocent people at home and abroad,” they said.
“On the contrary, we have every confidence that this terrible tragedy will unite Australians and harden our nation’s commitment to fighting violent extremism and incitement to ensure that this sort of tragedy is never visited upon our society again.”
The ECAJ also said the Jewish community was “shocked and appalled” by the events which unfolded and deeply saddened by the deaths of innocent victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.
Goot and Wertheim also paid tribute to the NSW police and supporting federal agencies “for their dedication, professionalism and absolute commitment to the preservation of innocent life”.
“Australians are fortunate to be served by people of their dedication and calibre,” they said.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak also expressed sorrow at the tragic death of the two innocent victims.
“Our thoughts and prayers are extended to their loved ones, as well as to those who were injured during the siege. We hope for their full recovery,” he said.
“We commend the government agencies – specifically the law enforcement authorities – for their handling of the crisis and hope we will never again witness the sort of tragedy which brought the centre of Sydney to a halt.”
Mark Leibler and Dr Colin Rubenstein of the Australian/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council said, “Episodes like the one yesterday only re-emphasise that bigotry, intolerance, incitement and hatred need to be confronted, condemned and marginalised by all responsible communal and elected leaders. Terrorism and violent extremism, in all their ugly and threatening manifestations, must be fought with all due seriousness – using legal, political, diplomatic, cultural, intelligence and, where necessary, military means – if we are to maintain Australia’s harmonious and cohesive society.”
The sentiment was echoed by the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, who stated, “We condemn these acts of terror perpetrated upon fellow Australians, and we decry any and all acts of terror perpetrated against any individuals whether religiously or racially motivated, or otherwise.
“We are a peaceful nation and we pray for peace for all people here and across the globe.
We encourage the Australian community to continue its approach towards social cohesion, harmony and solidarity and to continue its fight against hatred, bigotry and intolerance.”