A very interesting viewpoint in the Economist.

This is very reminiscent of the situation in Australia. “The prevailing political sentiment in Jewry today is of aggressive defensiveness, a curious amalgam of victimhood and intolerance. Dissent about Israel is discouraged and often gagged outright. Among British Jewry, some 300,000 strong, “a positively McCarthyite atmosphere has been created,” says Jonathan Freedland, a political columnist. […]

Limmud Oz–an opinion from Harold Zwier

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society recently criticized the decision by the Limmud Oz committee to decline a proposed session at the Limmud Oz 2012 Festival of Jewish Learning and Culture. The session was entitled “Beyond Tribal Loyalties” and featured a panel discussion by several of the contributors to a book of the same name. So […]

Forum LimmudX: Too hot to handle?

A public forum with some of the contributors to the recently published book:  Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists : Sivan Barak, Peter Slezak, Vivienne Porzsolt, David Langsam, Nicole Erlich, and Avigail Abarbanel (editor). This forum was refused a place, without explanation, in the program of Limmud Oz 2012he Festival of Jewish Learning. […]

Jews for Refugees Meeting – Sunday the 22nd of April

In 2002 the 'Jews for refugees' group held a successful Pesach gathering/rally outside the Maribynong Detention Centre. It attracted over 600 Jews to protest against the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Check out this article on the protest for inspiration http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/25603 In 2012 there are over 4,500 asylum seekers still in detention. 500 of these are children and 250 people have been in detention for over 2 years. We invite you to participate in a discussion about what we, as Jews, can do to oppose the horrendous treatment of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. Please come to a meeting on Sunday the 22nd of April at 2 pm at the Melbourne Multicultural Hub- White room, 506 Elizabeth St (Opposite the Queen Victoria Market).

UN report on Israel and the Occupied Territories & then Israel spits the dummy.

For uncritical or one-eyed supporters of Israel, this report will be rejected out of hand as biased and exaggerated. In fact, this is a very sobering document about the situation in Israel proper and the Occupied Territories from the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the UNHCR. The report has two key findings-- -- "The Committee recognizes the issues related to security and stability in the region. The State party [Israel] should, however, ensure that, in conformity with the principles of the Convention, measures taken are proportionate, do not discriminate in purpose or in effect against Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or any other minorities whether in Israel proper or in territories under the State party's effective control; and that they are implemented with full respect for human rights as well as relevant principles of international humanitarian law. --- "The Committee reiterates its view that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law but are an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population, without distinction as to national or ethnic origin. Actions that change the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan are also of concern as violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Within the 1967 borders, The Committee is also highly critical of Bedouin relocation laws, saying that they "would legalize the ongoing policy of demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities" and that "The Committee is concerned about the current situation of Bedouin communities, particularly with regard to the policy of demolitions, notably of homes and other structures, and the increasing difficulties faced by members of these communities in gaining access on a basis of equality with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health. " The report also comments on the need for stronger anti-discrimination laws, and "to make every effort to eradicate all forms of segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities". Unfortnately, Israel appears to have spat the dummy. I cannot locate any official response to this report, and Israel "will bar a U.N. team from entering Israel or the West Bank for a planned investigation of Jewish settlements". The team comes from an associated UNHCR body. Source.

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report on Israel and the Occupied Territories

For supporters of Israel, this report will be rejected out of hand as biased and exaggerated. In fact, this is a very sober document. For those who admit that there is human rights abuse, in the Occupied Territories, the report is very much what we already know, that institutionalised separation that is par for the course, particularly in the Occupied Territories and that the Bedouin are subjected to a forced removal. The report has two key findings-- -- "The Committee recognizes the issues related to security and stability in the region. The State party [Israel] should, however, ensure that, in conformity with the principles of the Convention, measures taken are proportionate, do not discriminate in purpose or in effect against Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or any other minorities whether in Israel proper or in territories under the State party's effective control; and that they are implemented with full respect for human rights as well as relevant principles of international humanitarian law. --- "The Committee reiterates its view that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are not only illegal under international law but are an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights by the whole population, without distinction as to national or ethnic origin. Actions that change the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan are also of concern as violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Within the 1967 borders, The Committee is also highly critical of Bedouin relocation laws, saying that they "would legalize the ongoing policy of demolitions and forced displacement of the indigenous Bedouin communities" and that "The Committee is concerned about the current situation of Bedouin communities, particularly with regard to the policy of demolitions, notably of homes and other structures, and the increasing difficulties faced by members of these communities in gaining access on a basis of equality with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health. " The report also comments on the need for stronger anti-discrimination laws, and "to make every effort to eradicate all forms of segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities".

Say NO to Pinkwashing!

The spin doctors in the Israeli government and organizations like 'Stand With Us' are trying to exploit the fact of Israel's progressive environment for gay, lesbian and transgender people to divert attention from the effects of the Occupation. Speaking tours sponsored by hasbaraniks are encountering opposition in the US, and this happened in Seattle. " On March 15, 2012, the Seattle Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Commission (SLGBTC) cancelled an event because the Commission wanted to stand up to "Pinkwashing"—diverting attention from Israel's occupation and abuses of human rights by praising Israel on LGBT issues. This is a huge victory for the queer Palestinians and Jews who testified in favor of the decision and all who support them and will make real dialogue possible. " Read more more here. A New York Times oped also discusses the politics involved:" The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation has named these tactics “pinkwashing”: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life. Aeyal Gross, a professor of law at Tel Aviv University, argues that “gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool,” even though “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.” "

David Grossman: Why? Who died?– translated by Sol Salbe

Sol Salbe has done the world a great service by translating David Grossman's essay about the death of a Palestinian in Israeli police custody. It is all too reminiscent of an Australian indigenous death in custody story. As Sol writes: Last Friday Haaretz did something unusual: it placed an opinion piece on top of its front page. But it wasn't just an ordinary opinion piece, it was written by one of the country foremost novelists, David Grossman. The article, like Emile Zola's J'accuse, to which it has been compared, was a moral critique. Many who read it were very moved. But the moral missive never appeared in English (at least to my knowledge). The English Haaretz has always been somewhat reticent in presenting Israel to the world. And of course translating Grossman is not easy, he is a master of the language and the art of writing.I have no idea whether I have done justice to this work. But it needed to be translated. The message is too important.*Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.1649589*Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia . For the rest go to .

The Solution to Bigotry is more Free Speech

Rabbi Shimon Cowen has published an article in a conservative journal highly critical of programs to promote anti-bullying of young gay people, because he believes them to 'normalize' homosexuality. His views aside, the issue is an important one for advocates of free speech and how to deal with what is seen as offensive speech. I offered this opinion in Galusaustralis.

EVENT: Re-imagining the Jewish Community: A Forum for Young Jews

Sunday, 4 March 2012 15:00 until 17:00 Multicultural Hub Melbourne -Green Room, 506 Elizabeth Street (opposite the Queen Victoria Market), a short walk from Melbourne Central station What kind of Jewish community do we want? What issues are important to us and what do we want to do about them? Lots of us young Jews are searching for a Jewish identity which is relevant to the issues facing the world today. Many of us also feel alienated from the mainstream Melbourne Jewish community. So let’s come together to talk about the kind of Jewish community that would be meaningful to each of us. We’ll talk about the kinds of ideas, events and programs which could exist: we’ll challenge the idea that there can only be one Jewish community, or one Jewish way of thinking, in Melbourne.