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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Jewish news of Australia and New Zealand

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Young leaders call for calm

Two young Australians helped soothe tensions at the World Zionist Congress in Israel last week, when a debate on settlements descended into fervid argument.

With a left-wing majority, a resolution on a  two-state solution and a settlement freeze was passed, causing the right-wing bloc to revolt and members of the left-wing bloc to subsequently oppose them.

Witnessing the division in the room, chairman of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS)  Liam Getreu and former Melbourne Bnei Akiva leader and new immigrant Jacob Wytwornik took to the stage to call for calm.

“People ran into the middle of the room and onto the stage and demanded from the steering
committee that they revoke the vote, or take a revote,” Getreu told The AJN. “The left, wanting the vote to remain, similarly charged in. At this point around 15-20 people were huddling around the front and on stage, starting to get heated with each other,” he explained.

“It was at this point that Jacob and I were watching, thinking that punches were about to be
thrown, partly in shock and disbelief, and very disappointed with where the Zionist movement had come to.

“It was that impetus ­ that feeling helpless ­ led us to do something.”

Previously told that the committee had deep respect for the opinions of the youth, Getreu and Wytwornik felt compelled to take to the stage.

“It seemed that as soon as we introduced ourselves and began to speak about what we were
seeing on stage and the build-up in tension throughout the day, how it disappointed us and
how we felt that it was betraying the spirit of Zionism and calling into question our ability to
achieve the ideals of our movement and of Herzl, that the room was actually listening,” Getreu said.

“It was very difficult to believe that after such a long day of shouting, people were actually listening.”

Pleading for calm and highlighting the similarities between everyone in the room, their appeal was met by applause.

“Everyone on stage, and as we were walking back to our seats, everyone in the aisles, was eager to come up, shake our hands, and tell us ‘kol hakavod’. It was a wonderful feeling,” he said.

“Thankfully, even though people weren’t on their best behaviour afterwards, the room, as a whole, was much better. It could have been because of what we said, or because we weren’t discussing such controversial and divisive issues anymore, or a combination of the two. But I think that what we did was a great thing to do.”

Shechita appeal to NZ Prime Minister

WELLINGTON, New Zealand,  30 June – Attempts to overturn  the recent ban on shechitah in New Zealand were taken to the top levels of government last week.  Representatives of the community met with New  Zealand Prime Minister John Key to air their concerns regarding new guidelines for animal slaughter and the negative implications they pose to the community.

“On Friday, a small group met with the Prime Minister to express to him the views of the New Zealand Jewish community with regard to the new Code Of Animal Welfare and its effect on shechitah and the Jewry in New Zealand,” chairman of the New Zealand Jewish Council Geoff Levy told The AJN. “The Prime Minister understands our point of view. He said, ‘We want the Jewish community to be strong and vibrant in New Zealand’.”

Community representative David Zwartz stated that they are now awaiting a response from the Prime Minister, whose Jewish mother  fled Austria on the eve of World War II.

Zwartz added that they are also preparing for a potential legal challenge to the regulations.
Asked whether they anticipate Key intervening on the community’s behalf, Zwartz said simply that they would “have to wait and see”.

Also this week, Agriculture Minister David Carter responsible for implementing the ban on
shechitah by imposing a law to ensure stun guns are used prior to animal slaughter ­ has
apologised for comments made last week in his address to the Association of Rural Veterinary Practices.

Carter had told the group that “there are no exemptions” to the new regulations. He added: “In doing so, we may have upset a relatively small  religious minority, and I do appreciate their strong feelings for this issue, but frankly I don’t think any animal should suffer in the slaughter process.”

New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman confirmed that an apology had been made for any offence caused.

New PM accused of being ‘too soft on Israel’

CANBERRA, 30 June – A former Australian ambassador to Israel has accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of being silent on the  “excesses” of Israel, and has questioned why her partner has been given a job by a prominent Israel lobbyist.

In a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Burns, who was ambassador in Tel Aviv between 2001 and 2003, said Ms Gillard had been “remarkably taciturn on the excesses of Israeli actions in the past two years”.

He also questioned the propriety of Ms Gillard’s partner, Tim Mathieson, being employed as a real estate salesman by the founder of the Australia Israel Forum, Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon.

Mr Dadon is close to prominent pro-Israel Labor MP Michael Danby, who was influential last week in the coup that installed Ms Gillard as Prime Minister.

Ms Gillard, who was accompanied on the Israel trip by Mr Mathieson, disclosed his appointment to Mr Dadon’s Ubertas Group in a letter to the registrar of MPs’ interests in December, saying the job had started the previous month. A spokeswoman for Ms
Gillard said at the time that she did not expect any perceived conflict of interest to arise from the job.

But Mr Burns, in his letter, said the perception that Ms Gillard’s support for the Australia
Israel Leadership Forum was linked to Mr Mathieson’s job was unavoidable.

“Happy coincidence? In this new world of  ‘whatever it takes’ ALP federal politics, is this
a new benchmark in ‘jobs for the boys’?” Mr Burns wrote.

He questioned Ms Gillard’s stance given that she led an Australian delegation to Israel last year for the inaugural meeting of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum.

Albert Dadon also publishes the magazine of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange.

“It looks a bit funny when you go on this tour to promote bilateral relations, but you don’t seem to have any reservations about the issue that was number one on the horizon,” Mr Burns said.

The first meeting of the Australia Israel Leadership Forum last June came six months after
Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza in December 2008, in which more than 1300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died.

Ms Gillard, who was acting prime minister when the invasion took place, put out a statement at the time criticising Palestinian group Hamas for firing rockets into southern Israel, but pointedly declining to criticise Israel for causing civilian casualties.

“Clearly the act of aggression was engaged in by Hamas which commenced shelling with rockets and mortars into Israel,” Ms Gillard said at the time. “That is what breached the ceasefire, and Israel responded.”

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith have since expressed unease at Israel’s subsequent blockade of Gaza.

“She went there for a couple of days of talks and I don’t think made any critical comment about the blockade of Gaza or treatment of Palestinians in general,” Mr Burns said.

“And now we learn from both Rudd and Smith that there were concerns within the Australian government about the blockade, that we didn’t agree with the blockade. Well, we never said so at the time, and she didn’t say so,” Mr Burns said.

Mr Burns was supported in his criticism of the government’s attitude towards Israel by another former Australian ambassador to Tel Aviv, Peter Rodgers, who served
in the Israeli capital from 1994 to 1997.

Mr Rodgers told The Age last night that under successive governments, Australia’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had become increasingly unbalanced, and that this was
unlikely to change under Ms Gillard’s stewardship.

“There’s been a marked swing away from the old attempt to be even-handed on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to a much more determined pro-Israeli position, and I think Gillard is part of that,” he said.

The criticism of Ms Gillard by Mr Rodgers and Mr Burns comes after The Age revealed on Saturday that her partner had been utilising controversial relaxed foreign real estate ownership regulations – introduced by the Rudd government – to market a
residential skyscraper in Melbourne that hasn’t been approved for development yet.

Yesterday, the state opposition questioned Mr Mathieson’s role in another Ubertas project,
claiming Planning Minister Justin Madden late last year approved the company’s plans for a
50-level tower at 350 Williams Street in Melbourne only after lobbying by him.

“Justin Madden has approved a huge building that  will overshadow the Flagstaff Gardens simply due to the lobbying by Julia Gillard’s spouse, who works for a company owned by a Labor mate,” Liberal planning spokesman Matthew Guy said.

“The minister should have never been anywhere near the approval of this project for a rolled gold Labor mate,” he said.

But a spokeswoman for Mr Madden said he had never talked to Mr Mathieson about the project. She accused the opposition of “blindly slinging mud”.

Ubertas has now gone back to Mr Madden’s department seeking approval for an additional
35-level tower on the site, which is currently occupied by the offices of labor law firm Holding Redlich.

Mr Madden’s spokeswoman said the approved 50-level tower had been designed to avoid
overshadowing the Flagstaff Gardens. She said it would only overshadow the entrance to the Flagstaff underground train stationon the corner of William and La Trobe streets.

Neither Mr Dadon nor Mr Mathieson returned calls from The Age about the project earlier this month.

The Age sought responses from Mr Danby and Mr Dadon for this article, but received no responses.

Ms Gillard’s office confirmed that Mr Mathieson was working for Mr Dadon several days a week, but declined tocomment further.

Senator condemns vilification of Israel

CANBERRA, 30 June  – A Victorian Liberal Senator has branded those on the Mavi Marmara as anti-Israel activists with an “agenda”, who broke a legally founded maritime blockade to further the aims of Hamas.

In a Senate speech last week, Scott Ryan said: “I did not realise that peace activists were so well armed, in this case, with knives, chains, firearms, Molotov cocktails and pepper spray. By viciously attacking the soldiers, they quickly betrayed their true agenda with their
anti-Semitic cries, as they did by their refusal to cooperate with the UN, Israeli or Egyptian
authorities, who could have facilitated the entry of the humanitarian materials to Gaza.

“This was no peace flotilla; it was part of an orchestrated campaign to vilify the State of
Israel for doing nothing more than would be expected of us in this place: to protect its own citizens.”

Senator Ryan described the Gaza blockade as “well founded in law, but it is also well founded in the entirely legitimate need for a state and government to take reasonable action to protect its citizens – for Gaza under Hamas cannot be treated as if it or they were a reasonable neighbour, and in no way can it be considered a partner for peace.”

“Despite a lack of coverage of the reality of Hamas, we should be in no doubt as to what it is.
It is a terrorist organisation, dedicated to the use of violence against innocent civilians to
achieve its objective. In this case, its objective is nothing less than the elimination of
the Jewish State and of Jews in their homeland.”

Senator Ryan said those who doubt the intensity with which some countries in Israel’s
neighbourhood hate the Jewish State should check out what is aired on local ­television.

“I have seen a dramatic serialisation of that historic slur, The Protocols of the Elders of
, being broadcast on television as if it were a mini-series we would see on our own TV screens, and the portrayal of a Disney-like children’s character being killed by Jews on a children’s program. And, of course, there is the constant denial of the reality of the Holocaust.

“The schoolbooks the Palestinian Authority distributes to schools contain no reference to
Israel or the three wars that were started against it.

“No state is perfect. But that does not mean one abandons those simply in need of security. In this case, it is the people of Israel who have that need – the need for no more than what we expect in Australia,” he said.

In another development, Victorian ALP Senator David Feeney has responded to a letter from Union Aid Abroad’s executive director Peter Jennings, who claimed the Gaza blockade was “collective punishment” and contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention.

“I don’t accept this. The blockade is not collective punishment of the people of Gaza. It
is a defensive measure intended to stop Hamas using Gaza as a base from which to attack Israel,” Feeney stated.

“You assert that the blockade is inhumane. I don’t dispute that the blockade is causing
hardship. I do dispute your contention that it is causing ‘immense human suffering’ in Gaza.”

Senator Feeney emphasised that Gaza was not totally blockaded. “Goods are brought to Israel by sea, then sent into Gaza by land after inspection. Israel continues to supply Gaza with electricity, which Hamas pays for with international aid money (while at the same time
firing rockets at the power plant that supplies it).”


Courage to Care  – A educational Program/Exhibition

Each person can make a difference. Patron: Professor David de Kretse, AC, Governor of Victoria; A Travelling Educational Program

This project was commenced by B’nai B’rtih in Australia in 1992, and has operated successfully since, with some 300,000 plus students, as well as the general public in several states over the last 20 years attending these exhibitions.

Courage to Care, a travelling educational program and exhibition, aims to inform and educate on the  dangers of prejudice and discrimination. A key objective of the program is to combat bullying and racism by empowering the individual to make a difference. It educates visitors, in particular senior school students, towards an understanding of the roles of victim, perpetrator and bystander by exposing them to survivors of the Holocaust and their rescuers. The program and exhibition pays tribute to those individuals who have been
designated as “Righteous among the Nations”, those men and women who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save others. Courage to Care is about learning from the past to create a better future.

Through powerful presentations, film and discussion the interactive program demonstrates
that through mutual support everyone can make a difference. It includes workshops particularly designed for secondary school students (Years 9 -12). The program involves a 2 hour session in four parts. It includes a brief introductory DVD, a survivors testimony, an exhibition with a worksheet activity and small group discussions led by trained facilitators. The program is supported as a valuable resource by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD). It contributes to the objectives of the DEECD’s strategy, Education for Global and Multicultural Citizenship – A Strategy for Government Schools 2009-2013. The program promotes social cohesion, well-being and a sense of belonging for all students in safe and secure learning environments, and building the capacity of the school community to identify and address overt, subtle and institutionalised racism, stereotyping and other forms of prejudice. The domains of the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) pertinent to the Courage to Care program include Interpersonal development; Civics and citizenship; Thinking processes; Communication and The Humanities. More
exhibition details can be found at

It is a project of B’nai B’rith in Victoria, the oldest service organisation in the world
(originating in 1843) and the largest Jewish community organisation with over 100,000 members in 60 countries worldwide. Courage to Care started in 1992 as a static
exhibition and until 2000 travelled to many  regional centres in Victoria. Since 2000, with
the support of the DEECD, a formal educational program was developed and the exhibition has now visited every major regional centre in Victoria with many thousands of students having participated in the program.

Feedback from teachers has been extremely positive, indicating the experience has had a
significant impact on students’ understanding of the importance of tolerance and acceptance of the “other”, the appreciation of difference and the need to speak out about injustice and
discrimination. Recent teacher comments include: “It was compelling to hear from someone who had actually experienced the events …. it was relevant to students as she (the survivor) was a similar age to them when she went through the experience.  .. “Mind blowing. The students were totally locked in, riveted. ”


Jewish Candidates to go head to head

MELBOURNE, 1 July – Two Jewish candidates will go head-to-head in a battle for the seat ofCaulfield in the November 27 Victorian election.(The electorate contains the largest Jewish population in Melbourne)

Educator Heather Abramson, who  has been preselected as the ALP candidate, will face
Liberal contender David Southwick. The Liberal candidate is no stranger to Jewish-versus-Jewishpolitical battles, after an unsuccessful 2004 bid to oust Michael Danby from the federal seat of Melbourne Ports.

Southwick, who aims to take over the mantle when Caulfield Liberal MLA Helen Shardey retires after 14 years representing the Caulfield electorate,launched his campaign on Sunday at the Florian Convention Centre in Elsternwick, where he was introduced by Victorian Liberal leader Ted Baillieu.

A businessman who lectures in business studies at RMIT, Southwick briefly outlined his policiesthis week, with a strong emphasis on education,and a pledge to carry on Shardey’s pursuit ofpublic safety issues. He said he is determined tocombat hate crimes against minorities, includingthe Jewish community, in an electorate that -with 28 per cent of voters being Jewish – has the highest proportion of Jews in Victoria.

Southwick also said he wants to work towards ensuring “that the legal system provides for a
due process in dealing with racial vilification”.

Abramson, who has 30 years experience in the education sector, has served on the board of
Sinai College in Brisbane and was a union representative at her most recent school, The
King David School’s Armadale campus.

She said she would foster the Brumby Government’s initiatives for “an education system thatprovides opportunities for young people to participate and prosper in our economy”.

Abramson said she and Jennifer Huppert, who is also Jewish, will run as a team. Huppert is
seeking re-election in the Legislative Council (Upper House) for Southern Metropolitan Region. “Jennifer has a law degree and I have one in education. Our joint education and life
experience make us quite a team,” she said.

Asked if she was concerned about running against a Jewish candidate, she said: “I feel we arerepresenting two different parties, we represent two different policy platforms and I just don’t think it’s really an issue.

Southwick is unfazed at his second electoral face-off with a co-religionist. “I find it quite
interesting that the Labor Party attacked me for standing against Michael [Danby], and has now looked at doing the same with me. But again, I personally don’t see any issue with that.”

The Age does no credit to journalism
(commentary by Garry Fabian)

MELBOURNE,  June 29, 2010–The Melbourne Age newspaper has stunned and
appalled the Jewish community today by confecting a scandal about the fact that the Prime Minister’s partner works for a Jewish businessman Albert Dadon.

It inaccurately describes Albert as an “Israel lobbyist” which suggests he is paid to promote
Israel. That’s simply not correct and conveys a false impression.

Dadon is an investor, in property and many other things and was the Chair of Melbourne’s
international Jazz Festival and created the Australia Israel Leadership Forum, which we
assume he modelled on the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue formed by Phil Scanlon.

We have never read Scanlon described as a “pro-American lobbyist.”

(The Age) suggests that because Julia Gillard’s partner works for a Jewish businessman that she is therefore incapable of making up her own mind about foreign policy matters relating to Israel.This is about as low and disturbing as it gets.

Indeed, we understand that the editor of the Age, Paul Ramadge, has previously put much effort into duchessing Mr Dadon in an attempt to rescue that newspaper’s reputation in Melbourne’s Jewish community which increasingly regards it as an apologist for misogynist and racist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Sources tell VEXNEWS that Dadon went to some effort to encourage The Age to open its eyes toboth sides of the story in the Middle East andthat a member of The Age’s staff was invited toattend Australia Israel Leadership Forum events, including one in Israel.

Ramadge endorsed this and went to some trouble to undo the damage done by his
predecessor Andrew Jaspan whose attacks on Israel seemed to know no decent bounds.

That reputation will be confirmed by today’s breathtakingly anti-semitic attack that deems all Jews to be  “pro-Israel lobbyists”.

The story was based around a letter from a retired and grouchy Arabist crank, Ross Burns
which prompted a page seven story in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Naturally the Age put it on the front-page and beat it up within an inch of its life.

We have previously written of the fact that Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and
Trade has a real problem with anti-Israel bias. Ross Burns, a career diplomat who was given many sweet plum Ambassador appointments, is a perfect embodiment of this.

Burns has now retired into the comfort of superannuation and is completing a PhD at
Macquarie University on archaeology in Syria. He very frequently visits Syria. He has a keeninterest in its antiquities and ancient ruins.

He has a long history of blowing anti-semitic dog-whistles against Israel, with a steady streamof cranky letters to the editor, speeches, appearances on an appreciative ABC and so on.

His latest suggests that because Julia Gillard’s partner works for a Jewish businessman that she is therefore incapable of making up her own mind about foreign policy matters relating to Israel.

This is about as low as it gets. Where will this obscenity end? Will The Age’s Jewish employees soon be subjected to tests to ensure they are not “pro-Israel lobbyists.”

As for Burns, he is an old crank, who is just running out his private hatreds of Israel in
public view, for his private benefit. No doubt he’s prominent on the wily Syrian Ambassador’s invitation list to sip on Johnny Blue in the wee hours. He’s an angry old man who is entitled to peddle his nasty views.

But The Age has a greater responsibility than that.

And when journalists wonder why we will celebrate the imminent demise of this newspaper, this is why.

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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