Police are investigating a potentially antisemitic attack on two Jewish men outside a supermarket in Melbourne’s south-east which left one of the victims in hospital.
Sunday night’s alleged assault is the latest incident involving Melbourne’s Jewish community following the introduction of landmark legislation last week to ban the public display of the Nazi swastika.
Yacov Gozlan told reporters he was leaving the Coles supermarket near the corner of Glen Huntly and Orrong roads in Elsternwick about 10.30 when he saw someone allegedly attacking an Orthodox Jewish man. “He was holding the religious man’s hat behind his back and pushing him back with the other hand towards a transit van,” Gozlan said.
“I said to him ‘I’m Jewish, he’s Jewish, leave us alone’, and he started bashing me straight away.”
The 50-year-old says he ran inside the supermarket, where the assault continued. Gozlan alleges he was gouged in both eyes during the altercation, which left him with severe bruising and lacerations. He spent Sunday evening at the Austin Hospital.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed a 33-year-old man was arrested at the scene and was assisting police with enquiries. No charges have been laid.
“A 50-year-old man stepped in to assist after witnessing another man being allegedly subjected to anti-Semitic abuse. Upon doing so, the man was allegedly then punched and knocked to the ground by a 33-year-old man,” the police spokeswoman said.
The spokeswoman said officers were looking to identify the person who was allegedly on the receiving end of the anti-Semitic abuse and urged them to come forward.
“Victoria Police understand incidents of anti-Semitism can leave communities feeling targeted, threatened, and vulnerable. We treat any reports of anti-Semitism seriously,” the spokeswoman said.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said many members of Melbourne’s Jewish community no longer felt safe.
“We cannot allow anti-Semitism to become the new normal, and I understand why many feel on edge and believe it is open season on the Jewish community,” Abramovich said.
“Though Jewish Victorians should be able to walk the streets of Melbourne safely and free from physical attacks, we have now reached a staggering stage whereby being identifiably Jewish makes one a likely target for harassment and abuse,” he said.
Last week, two men were charged by police after allegedly plastering Nazi swastika stickers on fences, light poles, bus stops and a Jewish community centre in Caulfield – just a day after the Andrews government introduced legislation to criminalise public displays of the Nazi swastika.
The legislation, which has bipartisan support, will mean Victoria is the first jurisdiction in the country to ban the display of the hate symbol, enabling police to remove and confiscate items that breach the ban.
“We know that this is a symbol of hate and division, and it is incredibly harmful and damaging, the messaging it sends,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes told The Age last week.