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Terror Connection Down Under
Al Qaeda down under? Australia's tiny Jewish community a target?
Copyright © The Jewish Week

June 18, 2004

BY LERON KORNREICH

MELBOURNE, Australia--Jews around Australia are coming to grips with news that their community was marked as potential targets by al-Qaeda as early as 2000, well before the 9-11 attacks.

Jack Roche, a British-born convert to Islam and admitted al-Qaeda operative, was sentenced two weeks ago to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.

During the trial in Perth, prosecutors also revealed that Melbourne mining magnate Rabbi Joseph Gutnick, a major benefactor of Chabad Lubabvitch, was considered a possible target.

“I found it initially hard to believe,” said Gillian Polack, a Canberra resident and president of the local National Council of Jewish Women. “Except for Joseph Gutnick, the Australian Jewish community is such a small, small player.”

Roche, the first person to be tried and convicted in Australia under new anti-terror laws enacted after 9-11, insisted his role was limited to videotaping the Israeli Embassy.

Jeremy Jones, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said he was not surprised to hear of the plot “because we know the Australian Jewish community is in the same position as virtually any Jewish community in the world.”

Jones recalled the 1982 bombings of the Israeli Consulate offices in Sydney and the Hakoah Club, a predominantly Jewish social club.

“We are not virgin territory for anti-Jewish or anti-Israel attacks,” he said.

Security is tight around Jewish institutions, exceeding those in some American cities. Guards patrol entrances to synagogues in Melbourne and Sydney every Shabbat, questioning people before allowing them to enter.

“We have maximum security at all times, but more so since 2000,” said Malvina Malinek, an active member of Melbourne’s tightly knit Jewish community.

She added: “There was never any shortage of anti-Semitism and anti-Semites” in Australia. But Malinek has sensed a definite rise since the outbreak of the second intifada.