Protesters who covered a Jewish-owned gelato store in Civic with anti-Israeli stickers could fall foul of new legislation in the ACT.
In a photo captured by a “concerned member of the community” and submitted to the Australian Jewish Association (AJA) on Sunday, 26 November, the outside of ‘Anita Gelato’ on Bunda Street, Civic, included stickers depicting the star of David with a red line through it.
AJA CEO Robert Gregory said the incident was “reminiscent of darker periods in Jewish history”.
“We are taking this incident very seriously,” he told Region.
“We know this is not an isolated incident. We have lots of reports from across Australia of similar vandalism on this particular chain and other Jewish-owned stores since the initial [Hamas] attack on 7 October. Australia is experiencing a wave of antisemitic vandalism.”
Anita Gelato was founded in Netanya, Israel, by Anita Avital and her son, Nir, in 1998. They opened four stores in the Tel Aviv area, followed by others around the world. Here in Australia, there are six in Sydney, one in Brisbane and one in Canberra.
Vandals previously targeted the Brisbane store in 2021 when the name “Israel” was crossed out from a list of locations on the store’s signage.
Mr Gregory reiterated that these businesses are “not connected with any overseas conflict”. He urged the community to “come together to lower the rhetoric and support the Jewish community during this very difficult time”.
“My message to Canberrans is that Jewish businesses are never a fair target.”
Anita Gelato Canberra was vandalise by antisemites.
AJA is aware of numerous Jewish businesses targeted in multiple cities in recent weeks.
Many cases are not public yet and not all victims want to go public. pic.twitter.com/xA1pPIzIh7
— Australian Jewish Association (@AustralianJA) November 26, 2023
The stickers used in the vandalism of the Canberra store appear to be the same as those distributed during pro-Palestine rallies held across Australia since the 7 October attack.
The AJA will attempt to track down the source of the stickers so it can pursue legal action.
Here in the ACT, the public display of Nazi symbols (chiefly swastikas) is banned under legislation passed in August 2023. This also applies to people in the ACT who broadcast a Nazi symbol to a public audience beyond Canberra’s borders, such as on social media.
The maximum penalty is a $19,200 fine or 12 months in prison, or both.
The only exception is for “legitimate reasons”, such as people of Jain, Buddhist and Hindu faiths, teachers, artists and protesters demonstrating opposition to fascism or Nazism.
In response to questions about the vandalism at Anita Gelato, Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury told media on 27 November “there is no place for that sort of hatred in our city”.
“Canberra is a welcoming city. People should not be attacked because of their race, religion, ethnic background – this is a city of tolerance and there is no place for that sort of attack in our city.”
He said ACT legislation is broad enough to cover “a whole range of antisemitic or other racial vilification”, where it is possible to identify a perpetrator.
“I would expect [the vandals] to be prosecuted under this legislation.”
Over the past two weeks, ACT Policing has received two reports of city-based businesses being covered in propaganda stickers.
A spokesperson said police “will continue to monitor this type of behaviour and will prosecute as required those who are responsible for acts of public nuisance, vandalism or criminal damage”.
“Aside from these incidents, there have been no Islamophobia or antisemitic offences reported to ACT Policing in the past two months.”
Anita Gelato Canberra was contacted for comment.