Home > Australia, Garry Fabian, Gaza, Israel, Palestinian Authority, West Bank > The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

The Jews Down Under~Roundup of Australian Jewish News

Garry Fabian

Compiled by Garry Fabian

Christians, Jews meet on boycott

SYDNEY,   20 August – Australian Jewish and Christian leaders have met in Sydney to heal the wounds caused by a call last month for Australians to boycott Israeli goods made in occupied Palestinian territories.

The National Council of Churches in Australia  called for Australians to consider the boycott at the request of Middle Eastern churches, but the Jewish community was outraged.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ)  president Robert Goot wrote to the council that the resolution was a “most unpleasant surprise… we feel that we have been badly let down by people we have long thought of as our friends”.

Last week senior members from both councils – including heads of the Australian Catholic and Anglican Churches, Archbishops Phillip Wilson of Adelaide and Phillip Aspinal of Brisbane – met to restore good relations. Yesterday both council released a joint statement saying there had been
a “serious exchange of views” which helped Christian leaders better understand Jewish concerns and Jewish leaders better understand why
the resolution had been adopted.

But the resolution- which called for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and to all acts of terrorism, and suggested churches
consider a boycott of Israeli goods from the occupied territories – remain in place.

Representatives of both groups will meet again to work on a “more comprehensive” statement for the Christian council to consider at its next meeting in November.

*

The race for the Jewish vote

MELBOURNE, 20 August – As the election race enters itS last days, all political parties try to offer something for everybody. The Opposition Liberal Party’s go-to man this election campaign took time out of his busy schedule on Monday to drop by Adass Israel School.

Goldstein MP Andrew Robb, the shadow minister for finance and the party’s campaign spokesperson, visited the school to officially confirm the Coalition would also commit $15 million to securing Jewish schools.

He was joined by the local Liberal candidate Kevin Ekendahl, the Liberal incumbent in Higgins  Kelly O’Dwyer and Kooyong Liberal hopeful Josh Frydenberg.

Earlier in the campaign, the ALP announced it would add $15 million to the Secure Schools Program, which it introduced in 2007 to protect
vulnerable schools from serious security threats.

*
Jewish Group calls for partial boycott

MELBOURNE, 19 August – The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) has defended its new policy to support partial boycotts of Israel,
posting on its website that it has become “the first community-affiliated Jewish organisation” to call for divestment from Israel.

But its support of limited boycotts and its emphasis on communal affiliation to underscore its position have triggered a strong reaction from the Jewish community.

An August 13, the AJDS website stated while not supporting full boycotts, it “envisages boycotting specific Israeli academics openly supportive of the occupation” and other sanctions, but would consider each case on its merits.

AJDS executive member Tom Wolkenberg said the shift follows a 12-month review, which culminated in a special meeting of the organisation on August 8 where the new policy was adopted.

Asked if embracing a partial boycott was the first step, he said: “I don’t think it can at all be seen as the thin edge of the wedge.

“It’s looking purely at the occupation and how a very limited BDS [Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions] policy could in some way be a lever to change the situation with the occupation.”

Wolkenberg also defended the AJDS decision to invite Australian-Palestinian activist Samah Sabawi to the special meeting, saying, “It was
more to try and be provocative and let all issues, everything, be on the table”.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president John Searle said the AJDS “has placed itself clearly outside the prevailing views of
Victoria’s Jewish community” and called on the group to reverse its stance.

“The fact that the AJDS has sought to legitimate its views by describing itself as a community-affiliated Jewish organisation, claiming credibility by associating itself with the JCCV, is reproachable.

“While the AJDS is an affiliate of the JCCV, this is a tribute to the latter’s inclusive nature rather than an acceptance of the AJDS’ views.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry also voiced its concern, with executive director Peter Wertheim slamming the AJDS position as “naïve” and comparing it to “the global assault on Israel’s legitimacy”.
Zionist Federation of Australia president Philip Chester described the BDS campaign as “nothing more than a deliberate and concerted campaign to delegitimise” Israel.

“This decision by the AJDS is completely at odds with the position of every responsible organisation in our community and deserves the most severe condemnation.”
*

*
Extremists move against Dreyfus

MELBOURNE, 20 August – Voters in the Melbourne seat of Isaacs are being urged not to vote for ALP candidate Mark Dreyfus ( who is Jewish) due to his support for Israel.

An advertisement, endorsed by the Australian Muslim Palestine Committee, appeared last week in The Dandenong Leader, saying “When voting put Dreyfus last. No more support for Israel.”

Meanwhile, Australian Muslim Palestine Committee president Asem Judeh wrote this month in Muslim newspaper The Crescent Times, “It is well known that the Israeli state has sponsored murderous and terrorist acts, and that it has systematically deprived Palestinians of their land and basic rights.

“One reason the Israeli lobby is so organised and aggressive is because it has to ensure that Israel is above criticism.”

Judeh then continued, “The Zionist influence is growing. There are two Zionist Jews [sic] Labor MPs, Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus. After this election, another Australian Jew will become Liberal MP.

“Those MPs are the organised lobby representatives. Their job is to silence any MPs who dare to criticise Israel in the Parliament. They use parliamentary committees to defend Zionism and attack those who dare to criticise Israel.”

Dreyfus, who is Jewish and represents a very multicultural community that includes many Muslim families, condemned the campaign.

“These ads taken out against me are misleading and an affront to how parliamentary democracy is practised in this country,” the QC said. “I am confident that the local community recognises this hate campaign for what it is, and will reject a campaign that prejudges me for my
religious faith, not on my record of working for my local community.

“No Australian, politician or otherwise, should be prejudged or vilified for their religious belief.”

Dreyfus added that he has worked hard with the Muslim community and appreciated the support he had received in return.

“The response from local Muslim community leaders has been heartfelt and touching,” he said.

“A group of local Muslim community leaders came to my office last week to condemn this campaign and assure me that this campaign does not reflect the views of the local Muslim community.”

Muslim politician Adem Somyurek, a member in Victoria’s Upper House, also threw his support behind Dreyfus, drawing parallels between the
campaign and anti-Muslim comments made by disendorsed Liberal candidate for Chifley, David Barker.

“This advertisement . does two things: first, it seeks to question the candidate’s loyalty to Australia; and second, it publicly identifies the
candidate as a member of a minority faith and in doing so has as its objective electoral backlash by bigots, in this case anti-Semites in the community,” he said.

O’Connor pledges more funds to protect Jewish schools

SYDNEY. 19 August – Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor re-affirmed that Labor would put another $15 million into the Secure Schools Program when he visited The Emanuel School last Thursday.

O’Connor, who was joined by Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and Arts and Kingsford Smith MP Peter Garrett, had earlier
made the same pledge in Melbourne.

Also at the announcement was Wentworth Labor candidate Steven Lewis.

This week, the Coalition, led by shadow education minister Christopher Pyne and shadow attorney-general Senator George Brandis, also
pledged its support for the additional $15 million commitment.

The program, which provides schools with fences, closed circuit TV and other infrastructure, is designed to protect students and teachers from
terrorist threats. It was first introduced by the Rudd Government in 2007.

*

The Age’s ‘anti-Israel bias’ condemned by Jewish leaders

MELBOURNE, 20 August==Jewish Community Council of Victoria President John Searle and Zionist Council of Victoria President Dr Danny Lamm have again strongly criticised Melbourne broadsheet The Age for its ongoing anti-Israel bias over a number of years.

The leaders of Victoria’s peak Jewish bodies jointly observed that during the tenure of Andrew Jaspan and particularly that of his successor
Paul Ramadge, The Age had increasingly engaged in a war of words against Israel.  Apart from steering its readership to a more anti-Israel
position, Searle and Lamm consider that The Age’s strident line had also had the hopefully unintended by-product of legitimising antisemitism in this country.

“There is no particular reporting or opinion piece that has prompted our criticism at this time.  Frankly, our community has simply just had
enough of The Age’s lack of balance”, Searle noted. “Despite our best efforts to present Israel’s case, there have been too many instances
of anti-Israel statements to count, ranging from the blatant such as Michael Backman’s ugly smear job in 2009 to the more subtle and insidious”, Searle continued. “An example of the latter includes a recent article reprinted from The UK’s The Daily Telegraph which stated “Netanyahu will come under fierce pressure from Obama to extend a
10-month freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank”. The Age’s version made the following insertions “illegal Jewish settlements in the
occupied West Bank” (The Age, 070710). Such changes make a world of difference.”

“We make this statement with regret”, Lamm continued.  “However we have spoken to Mr Ramadge on a number of occasions, both privately and in public forums.  While he is adept at making the right noises about The Age’s impartiality, his follow through leaves a great deal to be
desired.  We believe that The Age’s record speaks for itself.  Quite simply The Age is not a friend of our community.”

*
Australia faces hung Parliament

CANBERRA, August 23 – The Australian Federal elections produced an outcome, or more accurately non-outcome, with both The Australian Labor Party, the current government, or the Liberal/National Party Opposition gaining an outright majority of seats. While some seats are
still in the balance, due to postal and absentee votes still to be counted, the balance of power is still in the hands of four independents and one seat won by The Greens.

What will be the impact on the Jewish Community?.

While on the domestic scene it will not change very much, one of the worrying developments is that in the Senate (The Upper House) The Greens will have the balanced of power. The Greens, while until now have not been in a position to influence Government decisions,
This is now changed with them holding the balance of power and having a strong impact on Government policy, irrespective if when the dust settles, Labour or the Conservatives will form Government.

The issue on the mind of the Jewish community is that The Greens have taken an anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian stand for a number of years in
the past, and now that they in a real position to influence Government policy, how will this play out in the future?  It presents a scenario that
has serious implications, both Labor and Conservatives having been very supportive of Israel over a long period.

*
Jewish Battlegrounds decided at Election

CANBERRA, August 23 – While the next government is yet to be decided, a number of Jewish MPs were successful on polling day.

Despite a strong swing to The Greens in Melbourne  Ports, home to around 20,000 Jewish voters, Labor’s Michael Danby held on for the fifth time.

In Wentworth, with a similar number of Jewish voters, Liberal Malcolm Turnbull was given a resounding endorsement to continue as the local member.

In the leafy inner-eastern Melbourne seat of Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg made history by becoming the first Jewish Liberal MP in Canberra.
Declaring his win before an audience of hundreds of friends and party faithful, Frydenberg said he was proud to have been elected as only the
seventh ever member of the 110 year-old seat.

“We have won Kooyong and we can win  government tonight,” he said, after thanking his family and campaign team for their support.

Labor incumbent Mark Dreyfus increased his support in the Melbourne southern bayside seat of Isaacs.

“Regardless of the final decision tonight, the people of Melbourne Ports can be assured we will stand up for them in Canberra,” Danby said.

“We have our own opinions here, we stand for a more cosmopolitan and pluralist Australia,” he said, referring to the strong national swing that saw Labor lose many seats.

“I don’t care what bogans and rednecks think elsewhere we stand up for it here and our opinions count as much as their’s.”

His Liberal opponent Kevin Ekendahl saw his party’s primary vote reduced in the seat.

Ekendahl had one message for Danby: “stop being complacent”

“Get out into the electorate. Start working hard,” Ekendahl said.

In the Sydney seat with the most Jewish voters, Wentworth, Liberal Malcolm Turnbull increased his majority by a whopping 11.5 per cent.

His opponent Jewish lawyer Steven Lewis said despite the defeat he had enjoyed the campaign.

“It was a great campaign. We fell short today but we had great enjoyment in what we did, we threw everything into it,” he said.

“Everyone said it was going to be a big ask, but we did the best we could given the facilities that we had.”

Lewis declined to say whether he would consider running again in the future.

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s a bit too early to speculate on that right now, we’re still waiting for the [rest of the] results to come in here today.”

But he was full of thanks with those who had assisted with his campaign.

“I’ve been working with a great group of people, volunteers who have come in to help us, day in and day out. I’m surrounded by some fantastic people in the party and we’re just grateful that we did the best job we could.”

*

Fabian is Australia bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: