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The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Opposition leader speaks on Hizb utTahir

CANBERRA, 21 July –  Australian opposition Leader Tony Abbott has conceded that members of Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir hold concerning views, but as long as they do not incite terrorism, the group has a place in Australian society.

Speaking to radio shock jock Alan Jones last week, Abbott said if reports that the group was
agitating to establish an Islamic caliphate were correct, it would be “abominable, absolutely abominable”.

But he continued: “The general principle in this country is that we don’t punish bad thoughts, we don’t even punish bad words, as long as those words don’t amount to incitement to break the law.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir ­ an international Islamist group that has a small branch in Australia ­ is banned
in some countries, mostly in the Middle East. It has come under fire on a variety of fronts, not
least because of its anti-Semitic rants. and calls for the eradication of the Jewish State.
The Bangladesh arm of the group released a statement earlier this year calling on Muslims to
“teach the Jews a lesson” and “march forth to  fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth”.

In 2007, then attorney-general Philip Ruddock oversaw an investigation into possible terrorist
links with the local branch, but eventually decided not to proscribe the group.

Abbott said the group has very limited support in  this country at the moment, and argued the
mainstream Muslim community is not behind it. “My  hope, my expectation, my confidence is that this  is a minority view among Australian Muslims, but I’ve got to say anything that looks like an incentive, an incitement to break the law, is something [that] should certainly attract the very closest interest from the law enforcement agencies.”

Hizb ut-Tahrir has come back into focus after hosting a conference in Sydney earlier this month.

A spokesperson for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said it would be inappropriate to
confirm or deny whether the group is under investigation by Australia’s intelligence agencies.

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Union for Progressive Judaism condemns Israeli Convdersion Bill

MELBOURNE, 22 July – The local Union for  Progressive Judaism (UPJ) has added its voice to global Reform and Conservative condemnation of attempts to push a conversion Bill through the Knesset.

Sponsored by Yisrael Beitenu MK David Rotem, the Bill would delegate the authority to municipal rabbis to carry out conversions to, in an attempt to streamline the conversion process for non-Jewish Israelis.

The Bill’s opponents complain that the same clause effectively provides legal backing for the
authority of the Orthodox rabbinate over all conversions, and threatens the status of those
who converted overseas through non-Orthodox rabbis.

In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, signed by UPJ president David Robinson and other senior officials, Progressive Judaism’s Asia-Pacific roof body expressed “great disappointment and shock” at news that Rotem had taken action to drive the Bill through the Knesset without coordination with representatives of all streams of Judaism.

Rotem’s action also drew the condemnation of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who had been working to bridge Diaspora and Israeli concerns over the Bill since it was proposed earlier in the year.  While American Jewish organisations have been most vocal in speaking out against the Bill, the UPJ rejected Rotem’s view that some concerns about the proposed legislation are solely American, writing “We believe that it is important for you to know that the grave concerns expressed about this legislation extend far beyond the United States .

“We join the leadership of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in viewing this Bill in its
current form as an affront to all Progressive and Conservative Jews.”

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) also weighed into the debate. ZFA president Philip
Chester wrote a letter to Netanyahu, warning that the passage of such legislation “would do
incalulable harm to the unity of the Jewish people”.

Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Centre, the advocacy arm of the Progressive movement in Israel, told The AJN during a recent visit to Australia that those
parts of the Bill “bring us back from our tremendous achievement [in Israel’s Supreme Court] of six years ago that allReform and Conservative conversions all around the world are recognised in Israel for purposes of aliyah.”

Rotem, defending the Bill on Monday, told The Jerusalem Post that he was unwilling to delay
resolving a problem that affects thousands of immigrants.

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Controversy or birthright

SYDNEY,  23 July – Australian Birthright program organisers have rejected reports in the
international media claiming a recent group visit to Hebron was “unprecedented”.

An article, first published in the New York Jewish Week last week, reported that the trip
made by the Australian Chabad Campus Birthright  group earlier this month also “raised questions about whether the program has shifted policy on visits to the West Bank”.

But Rabbi Yehudah deVries, who is responsible for the Australian Chavaya Taglit-Birthright Israel trips for Chabad Campus students, said that those undertaking the extended program for longer than the 10-day free trip have always visited Hebron, with the exception being the past two years.

Rabbi deVries explained he was approached by Birthright’s official trip organiser, Israel
Experience, to arrange the visit to the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Ma’arat HaMachpela, the site
where ­ according to the Torah ­ Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sara, Rebecca and Leah are buried.

“The entire 10-day program was submitted for Taglit’s approval, as always, and was, as always, approved.

“This includes security approval,” he explained.

“The trip went ahead and was run according to exact security requirements,”

Rabbi deVries said security would not have been approved if the army, police and education
department had deemed the visit to be a potential risk.

“If we can visit Kibbutz Misgav Am, which is in the firing range of Hezbollah on the Lebanese
border; we stand on a Golan Heights border lookout at Mizpe Gadot and look into Syria, then why make a point ofHebron being either dangerous or political?” Rabbi deVries questioned.

And as for the politics of the visit?

“Politics should not be brought to the groups. Taglit-Birthright Israel is most young people’s
first experience of the land of Israel. Let them see as much as possible . and let them make
informed decisions based on their own intellect and experience,” he said.

The Zionist Federation’s Israel Programs coordinator Brendan Bensky said the visit formed
part of the Chabad Campus group’s Jewish historical aspect and was approved by Birthright.
This trip was the first time an Australian group undertook the Birthright program mid-year.

*
Israel a point of difference in Australian election campaign

CANBERRA, 23 July – Just two days into the election campaign, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott touted his party’s “unshakable commitment” to Israel.

Speaking at an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce lunch in Melbourne on Monday, Abbott took the opportunity to criticise the Rudd-Gillard Government’s record towards Israel.

“I have to say that it’s a little disappointing, given the deep affinity between the Australian
people and the Israeli people that the current Australian Government has somewhat weakened our longstanding bipartisanship on Israel,” Abbott said before the crowd of more than 1000
businesspeople and Liberal Party faithful.

“I want to reiterate here today, the Coalition’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and I want to assure you that a Coalition government would never support a one-sided United Nations resolution against Israel to curry favour with an anti-Israel majority in the General Assembly,” he said.

He continued: “And we would never overreact to any international incident, because we appreciate that Israel is under existential threat in a way that almost no other country in the world is.”

He told guests, including dozens of the nation’s finest journalists, who were following Abbott’s
campaign trail, that Australia needs to appreciate that “a diminished Israel diminishes the West”.

The Opposition Leader also used the opportunity to pay tribute to the achievements of the local Jewish community. He commented that Australia is the only country in the world, apart from Israel, where Jewish people have occupied the highest offices, including as the governor-general.

Among guests at the Crown Casino lunch were Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Finance Andrew Robb, Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu and former treasurer Peter Costello.

Costello, who travelled with Julia Gillard to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel
Leadership Forum, delivered the vote of thanks, endorsing his former cabinet colleague’s tilt at the top job.

“Tony Abbott is a man of commitment and a man of drive,” Costello said. “I know he was party of a very successful government, I don’t know that about Julia Gillard.”

*
Canadian MP Calls on Australia to charge Iran with conspiracy to commit genocide

MELBOURNE, 22 July-  Australia should be the first country to refer Iran to the United Nation Security Council, a senior Canadian politician said this week.

Irwin Cotler delivered keynote addresses and met politicians from both sides this week during a whirlwind tour of Australia supported by the Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC).

The human rights law professor and former Canadian attorney-general said Australia, as a
signatory to the United Nations genocide convention, needs to “exercise leadership” and
refer Iran to the UN Security Council for conspiracy to commit genocide.

When probed as to why his country, which for many years has been outspoken on preventing genocide, would not do that itself, Cotler said “political leaders live in an insular bubble where issues of the day overwhelm these issues”.

“The country that does it first will be applauded by history,” he told the audience

He added that if Australia did refer Iran for investigation, Canada would certainly support the move.

Cotler, who chairs the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition, which recently completed a report on “The danger of a nuclear, genocidal and rights-violating Iran, said the evidence is
available to indict Iran over conspiracy to commit genocide.

The report states: “Repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and ‘prophecies’ of its
demise all work to normalise the idea of genocide in the minds of the Iranian people. Articulated in the context of demonising rhetoric implying a clash of civilisations, calls for the
annihilation of the Jewish State begin appearing not only moral and justifiable, but natural as well.”

Asked why, if the evidence is clear, Iran has managed to escape scrutiny, Cotler replied: “It
certainly does make a mockery of international law and it sustains a culture of impunity”.

“The Iranian regime can intensify incitement, knowing they won’t be held to account,” he said.

Cotler added that it is not just through incitement to genocide that the Iranian regime
threatens global stability. He said suspected nuclear weapons development, Iran’s sponsorship
of terrorist organisations and violations of the rights of the Iranian people were four distinct
threats posed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Ashley Brown selected for Australia Under 19 Football training squad

Ashley Brown joined North Caulfield Maccabi Junior Football club in 2010 and is a part of the
successful U18 Youth Development Programme, and plays in the Boys U16 and Under 18 competition.

Ashley will hopefully be selected later this year to once again compete in the Asian Qualifiers. She has just returned from the FFA Nationals in Coffs Harbour where she competed in the Victorian U17 girls team and was selected in the All Stars team (representing the best players of the tournament). Ashley has a long and impressive  record of achievement on the football filed.

In 2006, Ashley aged 11 made the Victorian Primary Schools State soccer team, and was
included in the National Training Centre in Victoria for advanced players. At the time she
was the youngest player ever to be included in that squad.

In 2007, aged 12 and in 2008 aged 13, she was part of the Victorian State u15 team. In 2008 she was selected in the U17 Australian Team and travelled to Malaysia to compete in the Asian
Qualifiers. She was in the starting lining up playing against Thailand and Myanmar and the team finished top of their group. In 2009 Ashley won the Maccabi Victoria Deloitte’s Rising Star Award and in 2009, she was selected again in the Australian U 17 squad for the Asian Qualifiers (but unfortunately had to withdraw three days before due to injury). In
January 2009 Ashley represented Victoria in the National Futsal Championships.

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Tragic end to World Cup trip

MELBOURNE, 23 July–A local teenager critically injured in a diving accident in Malaysia died in Melbourne on Thursday.

On Tuesday, an air ambulance carried 14-year-old Reagan Milstein and his mother Tamara home from Singapore, where he had spent 18 days in hospital in a critical condition.

Upon arrival, he was taken straight to Melbourne’s Monash Medical Centre, where he remained in intensive care.

His mother Tamara said on Tuesday that while the family were very relieved to have their son
safely home, they now “embark upon the next stage of this sad journey where the road ahead will be very difficult and filled with uncertainty”.

“The family would like to express their immense gratitude to friends, family and the wider
community who have provided so much comfort and  support and helped them all cope during this tragic time,” she said.

Tributes flooded in to the Facebook group ‘Regan’s Recovery’. Family, friends and other
members of the community had been posting their wishes and prayers on the Facebook page since the accident.

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Australian Education Minister stand on Holocaust Studies

CANBERRA, 26 July – Despite lobbying from the Jewish community, Education Minister Simon Crean failed last weekend to commit to compulsory Holocaust education in Australian schools.

Speaking to a standing-room only audience at the opening of the Jewish Holocaust Centre’s
refurbished main exhibition on Sunday, Crean praised the efforts of curator Jayne Josem.

“What struck me coming in was the joy, the happiness and the pride when I came in, but
you’re quickly brought back to perspective when you’re taken through the museum,” said the minister, whose full portfolio takes in education, employment, workplace relations and social inclusion.

Moving on to political matters, Crean discussed the draft national curriculum, which is open for public consultation until July 30. He outlined the option of year 10 students undertaking a
study of the Holocaust as part of their history classes.

“It is vital that our children are aware of the past and that they learn from the past,” he said.

But despite lobbying from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry for Holocaust studies to be made compulsory, the Member for Hotham did not give any indication this would be happening.

“All students in year 10 will undertake a depth study of war and peace in the 20th century, this
includes the impact of World War II on the modern world and will give students the chance to study the history of the Holocaust,” the former opposition leader said.

He added that the curriculum authority was also charged with building lessons of tolerance and respect into the curriculum, which is set to be unveiled later this year.

“Good education does help deliver a good citizen [and] the Jewish Holocaust Centre does a great job in fostering that understanding and that belief in tolerance and acceptance and that belief in diversity,” he said.

Speaking immediately before Crean, Josem said that since its opening in 1984, more than a
quarter of a million students have been guided around the centre by a survivor guide. But she
spoke of the challenge with today’s students – who come to the centre with piercings, low-slung shorts, iPods and mobile phones.

“Our job here is to penetrate through their digital armoury and get them to think about why they’ve come.”

The museum’s new interactive story pods and modern presentation, which were developed with the input of survivors, will go some of the way to achieving that.

“They arrive indifferent . but they leave different,” she said.

More than 500 people braved the rain to attend Sunday’s opening, which was held in a marquee alongside the museum, with overflow crowds watching on screens inside the centre. As deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard had accepted an invitation to open the refurbished exhibition, but she sent Crean in her place because of a timing clash/

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Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

 

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