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ASIO chief warns of ‘spontaneous violence’, growing threat in Australia

TJI Pick
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ASIO chief warns of ‘spontaneous violence’, growing threat in Australia

Published: 20 October 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

With murders related to the Middle East in the US, France and Belgium and other hate crimes  increasing, the Australian government is providing $50 million to upgrade security.

After murders in the US, France and Belgium this week, Australia’s intelligence chief has issued a  public warning about the danger that tensions over the Middle East will cause violence in Australia.

The warning was a rare joint statement by Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation director-general Mike Burgess and FBI director Christopher Wray in Palo Alto, California, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

To take account of the heightened domestic risks, the government increased security spending by $10 million on Monday, adding to a $40 million program already announced to provide security for vulnerable communities.

The $50 million plan will upgrade security and protect 177 schools, places of worship and community facilities.

Burgess told journalists that violence at protests was a real possibility. “We, of course, recognise this is a moment that drives feelings and attitudes in our respective countries and in Australia, so we’re on the lookout for that as we see protests and counterprotests … but we do anticipate spontaneous violence around these.

“We do see a direct correlation between language that inflames tension and out of that tension does grow a small number of people who think violence is the answer. It’s something that we all have to be mindful of, and that’s for all Australians to play their part.”

While Burgess said he did not, at this stage, see evidence of extremists planning violence as a result of the war, the threat level in Australia meant it was “possible”.

“We know the neo-Nazis would be looking at this. They have it well planned as part of their awful ideology, and they do not like Jewish people – and you know where that goes – so you see them firing up.

“On the other side, you would have people who are going: ‘Well, Muslims are being oppressed; this is terrible, I’m feeling bad about that,’ and that might stir up their ideology to think violence is the answer. That’s what we have to look out for,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Over the past week:

  • A teacher was killed in what officials describe as an Islamic terror attack on a public school in France
  • A gunman, who identified himself as inspired by Islamic State, killed two Swedish nationals in Belgium 
  • A six-year-old Muslim boy was fatally stabbed by a man yelling “Muslims must die” in the US.

Both the Islamophobia Register Australia and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) have spoken of terrifying surges in attacks.

Julie Nathan, ECAJ’s research director, says one antisemitic incident was reported in the week before the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. In the week after, there were 37.

The Islamophobia Register Australia reported a quadrupling of reports since the attack.Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to Washington next week for a state visit after US President Joe Biden returns from a wartime mission to Israel.

ASIO chief warns of ‘spontaneous violence’, growing threat at home

Australia ramps up security at synagogues, mosques as parliament divides on Gaza

War could fire up neo-Nazis and extremists at home as ASIO also on alert abroad

Israel-Hamas war: abuse and death threats as Arabs and Jews face echoes of the violence in faraway Australia

Israel advises nationals to leave  Türkiye immediately 'due to escalating terror threats'
National Security Council raises travel advisory to  Türkiye to highest level; “There's concern over heightened motivation of terrorist actors and lone assailants to target Israelis in various countries worldwide.”

‘Disgusting calls to violence’ against Israel surface in Bay Area graffiti
Graffiti calling for violence against Israelis and praising the October 7 Hamas terrorist operation that killed over a thousand civilians has hit San Francisco and Berkeley.

Two Jewish primary schools vandalised with red paint in suspected hate crime (London)
Police are investigating whether the two crimes, which occurred five days apart and in the same area, are linked.

Global task force against antisemitism warns of danger ahead due to Israel-Hamas war
ADL-partnered J7 says international spike in antisemitic incidents following massive terror onslaught likely a harbinger of more “worrying reports” from world’s Jewish communities.

Photo: ASIO Chief Mike Burgess (The Mandarin)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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