The Israeli Prime Minister is due to arrive in Australia on Wednesday 22nd at the invitation of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Despite the strong support that the Australian government has given the current Israeli government, there is growing concern and condemnation of Israel’s actions under Netanyahu.
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) endorsed and spoke at a protest, ‘Melbourne says no to Netanyahu,’ organised by a Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and held in Melbourne on Sunday February 19th. The AJDS is particularly concerned with the rising shift in right wing, anti-democratic policies, and recurrent human rights violations committed by Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership.
Most recently, there has been a record-breaking increase in the demolition of Palestinian and Bedouin houses and villages, as well as the passing of the Expropriation Bill which retroactively claimed some 4,000 Palestinian houses and permitted increased settlement building, despite international condemnation of the settlements as a clear barrier to peace.
Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian State and refused to engage in negotiations for peace, while enacting policies that further dispossess Palestinians of their land and basic freedoms.
Dr Jordy Silverstein, AJDS executive member, says:
“The Israel that Netanyahu has furthered is not one that represents Jewish or democratic values: it moves Palestinians and Israelis further away from achieving justice and peace. As a result, increasing numbers of Jewish people worldwide are standing up in opposition to the policies and practices of Netanyahu and his governmental coalition.”
In one example, a petition titled ‘Jewish Australians say no to Netanyahu’, initiated by a diverse group of Australian Jews, has been signed by over 600 Australian Jews and their supporters, with many commenting on their disappointment, as Jews, in the actions of the State of Israel under Netanyahu. The petition draws attention to increased demolitions, the two wars in Gaza, the corruption charges that Netanyahu is currently under criminal investigation for, and Netanyahu’s blind support for President Trump despite the climate of antisemitism that he is invoking.
Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts’ planned Caulfield visit in November, 2016, which was organised by a far Right Jewish group, was cancelled due to a collaborative effort within the broad Jewish community. While the One Nation senators claimed it was the extremist Left that shut them down, as Michael Brull wrote in New Matilda, “It is hard to take those claims seriously. What really happened is that a small but diverse group of Jews intended to protest One Nation. Rather than face a few hundred protestors, One Nation cancelled the event. There is no evidence that any violence was being planned, let alone that the heavy police presence would have been unable to contain it.”
Jews Against Fascism, a broad spectrum of locals, organised the diversity picnic in place of the divisive planned talk.
In the week prior, on November 25 2016, the following was published as the lead letter in The Jewish News; its relevance hasn’t waned since the introduction of Trump’s Muslim immigration ban and the ongoing racism of Australia’s asylum seeker policy:
You were strangers
For a Jewish group to be hosting a meeting on the dangers of Muslim migration is a contradiction in terms. Let us remember that the injunction “do not oppress the stranger for you yourselves were strangers in the Land of Egypt” is repeated 36 times in the Torah, more often than any other injunction.
But we are told that Muslims pose a terrorist threat. Let us consider the case of the USA. The FBI has issued a report on terrorist attacks on US soil between 1980 and 2005. And it finds that Islamic extremists account for only 6% of these attacks, in other words 94% of the attacks were launched by non-Muslims.
Charles Kurzman, Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina, has found that in the 11 years from 2001 to 2012, 33 Americans have died as a result of terrorism launched by their Muslim neighbors. During that period, 180,000 Americans were murdered for reasons unrelated to terrorism. Kurzman concludes that the Muslim rate of involvement in terrorism is less than 10 per million.
I suggest that Avi Yemini, who has called this meeting with One Nation Senators, inform Senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts that at the Evian Conference in 1938, called to discuss the issue of increasing numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution, Australia’s Minister for Trade and Custom, Thomas White, said:
“It will no doubt be appreciated also that as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration.”
Then Yemini should ask Hanson and Roberts to comment on this statement.
The Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia was used for the mandatory detention of asylum seekers between 2002-2007. In 2003 detainees protested and set fire to the facilities over the Easter Weekend protests. This happened again with worse results in 2005, but then Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said that acts of vandalism and self harm by asylum seekers were “unattractive” protest measures. These protests united the struggle of those inside the detention centre with the fight of Australians who traveled from across the country to camp near the site for the weekend, adding their voices to this movement.
Sylvie Leber was at the Baxter convergence in 2003. She shares her photographs and private notes from the Easter protests of that year:
I’ve just returned from the three-day 2003 Baxter convergence. I kept diary notes during this time.
Friday 18th April.
Our first of several spokes council meetings was held at midday in the centre of town (Port Augusta). The local indigenous community had given us a traditional welcome. They were to stick close by us for the next three days.
We decided whether the camp should be on the West or Eastern approach. A consensus was reached without too much trouble. Scouts from Adelaide had done their homework in the previous weeks.
I have come armed with all sorts of art materials and small paper banners. I also had my own version of riot protection gear: swimming goggles and a respirator in case police used pepper spray and tear gas like they did last year at Woomera.
We headed towards Baxter Detention Centre. Baxter is on Federal Military land and adjacent to aboriginal sacred land. Apart from a few sheep grazing on the prickly saltbush and an occasional long train in the distance, and the long water pipe, the backdrop for the Easter weekend was the spectacular Flinders Ranges. The detainees can’t see out of the detention centre. They can only see the sky. The police wanted us at least 2KM from the detention centre. Roadblocks had been set up to stop cars that were not police or media from getting through.
The battle with police over where to set up camp ensued, police flexed their muscle, they were determined to move us. I noted about four different types of uniform. A tall thin man with dreadlocks played violin in front of them. While a group of parents put up tents, their children played nearby with water pistols. The Chief inspector of police warned us to move back. At 4.45pm they brought in the horses and started pushing us back. People in the front line were picked out and arrested. They used unnecessary levels of force and arrested people. Police grabbed possessions as they advanced. Chaos ensued. There was screaming, yelling, young women in tears. My worst fear was that a policeman would split my bare head open with a baton. Throughout all this someone was flying a kite with a love heart painted on it. People were searching for their packs – a young woman who had lost her things spotted her bag and ran and hugged it exclaiming “My baby!” The water pipe was to be an asset for us. It acted as a barrier to the heavily armored police who could not outrun us, was somewhere to hide possessions under as well as being cool to touch, providing shade and acting as a vantage point to film and photograph the events that were unfolding. An older and disabled activist from Melbourne had collapsed during the police violence. There were a handful of physically disabled people amongst us and several sprightly women in their 70s. We had legal observers, medics and couriers (iXpress) on hand. Meanwhile the police were holding their first media briefing in town.
Dejectedly the group moved back up the hill. We all knew we had stuffed up the first day. During the night various small groups tried to breach the police line around Baxter, some got arrested.
Evelyn and I started to chalk the word Freedom in as many languages as we could on the one metre in diameter water pipe while others set up camp. The sun was harsh, the air was dry. I understand why Dusty is an Aussie outback nickname. Many people wore bandanas and scarves over their nose and mouth. I sensed these bandanas were more than protection from the red dust, some of their significance remained a mystery to me.
Baxter Detention Centre is a high-tech, militarized facility based on the infamous J Ward at Pentridge, which was closed down after six months because the suicide attempt rate was so high.
There are rotating video cameras on high poles – high tech observation towers without the guards. There are two outside fences. The inner one is a 9,000-volt electric fence. There are several detainee compounds each is surrounded by an electric fence. Detainees are under constant video surveillance except in the toilets and showers.
From a distance the detention centre at night is lit like a night football match at the MCG.
At night the detainees could easily hear us and when our protest group was silent after making lots of noise their distant calls were faintly audible. All phone calls have been banned during the lockdown inside.
I spoke to my daughter by mobile. She asked me “Did you get arrested?” (I had warned her that this could happen but that I was not a frontline person. I’m scared of batons splitting my head open.) As our conversation was ending she asked? “Did you steal some refugees?”
I was getting ready for bed when there was a desperate knock on the door. “Sylvie are you in there? It’s A I’ve been arrested and I’m really strung out”. A looked a mess. He was completely covered in red dust. He had been thrown to the ground, held face down with a policeman’s knee on his neck unable to breathe, his arms were twisted behind his back and handcuffs put on. He showed me the bruises. He’d lost his possessions. It turned out he had been the first to get arrested and had just gotten out on bail. The charge on his bail form was “Fail Cease Loiter” he was to come back in June. A was the most unlikely of arrestees. The doco crew next door kindly lent him some bedding. His bail condition stipulated that he was not to take part in any of the protest activities and that he wasn’t to venture further than the first road block.
Today we had a much more successful day. We were no longer a rabble we were strategic and organized at all three of our actions. The police were in overkill mode. A group went down at 9.00pm to hold a can
dlelight vigil of mourning. People sat quietly and sang. Arrests were made. A young woman had been arrested earlier in the day for flying her kite in a restricted zone near a military airport.
We were a mixed crowd. I enjoyed seeing the colorful appearance of the passionate young people. The Desert Rats without Borders, feral anarchist punks, were the most visually striking group, dressed in black, interesting tattoos, intricate hair designs, body piercing, some men wearing kilts and a few wearing black bandanas over their mouth and nose. The Greens added an air of respectability. There were several sprightly older women, a couple of New Romantic-looking fellows from the VCA, Melbourne’s elite art school, and many 30 and 40 something women who had left their partners and children behind. The array of T-shirt messages was to be constantly stimulating and entertaining.
There were the Queers for Refugees, Rural Australians for Refugees, the Radical Cheer Squad who never failed to amuse with their witty routines. Food not Bombs were impressive providing yummy vegetarian food made from “found food”. No One is Illegal had organized the water truck; the Refugee Action Collective organized the concert. Indymedia set up the media tent
Yesterday a plain-clothes policeman with a backpack had been recognized by one of the local aborigines who had formerly been a policeman himself. A crowd gathered and hounded him out of the camp. We had no idea of how many spies there were amongst us. The police had expected about three thousand of us there was overkill everywhere
It was beyond my expectations to meet two Australian Correctional Management (ACM) building subcontractors, who worked at both Woomera and Baxter, during the concert. Australasian Correctional Management was a private company running several immigration detention centres. The guys seemed to have pretty good communication with the women and children of the housing program and the men in the detention centres. They described how the community of Woomera had done a lot in terms of material assistance to the housing program residents. I found it confronting to meet these two blokes because my feeling was that no one should work for ACM if they had a conscience. They told me that they were part of the protest but they wouldn’t take part in any action, as they feared losing their jobs. They were happy to talk to anyone at the camp and answer any questions but would not appear on film. They confirmed that at Woomera the women were still taken shopping by guards.
During the concert we were able to do a mobile phone hook up with one of the detainees over the PA . We learnt that contrary to misinformation before the protests we had the full support from the people inside.
It was meant to be a 7.00 am start as it was the cool time of the day, people from Perth had a 30-hour trip ahead of them and we had to pack and be at the Port Augusta jail by 1.30. A group of us filled balloons with helium and with felt tips wrote messages to detainees. We finally headed off at 8.30 for our last of the five actions at the detention centre. We released our balloons in unison; we hoped some of them would land in the compounds. A Jewish group from Sydney stuck rows of yellow Jewish stars around the entrance and handed yellow flyers to the media pointing out the similarities as well as the differences between Australia’s Detention Centres and Nazi Concentration Camps.
We made lots of noise and as we left we tried to get past the police close to the fence, the Darth Vader–like police chased us again, a few more arrests but most of us could easily outrun the police so heavily weighed down by their uniforms.
When we got back we heard about a four-wheel drive full of police armed with machine guns who had driven through the camp. Channel Nine was negotiating with some of us to get our handy cam and Super 8 footage of this. Apparently four hours earlier someone had pointed a tripod at the relentless helicopter that has been hovering above us day and night for the three days.
As the camp was packing up a spectacular whirlwind of red dust swept through the camp sweeping objects up towards the blue sky. Similarly we had swept through Port Augusta and the desert for three days. On the way to the Port Augusta jail solidarity protest (80% of prisoners are aboriginal) we noticed the police having a damage control press conference. They were being questioned by the media about the machine guns.
I thanked Noelene, the aboriginal elder who had spoken and sang at the Rock Out Against Racism concert the night before, for having us. She replied “Well you know where we are now, come and see us anytime.”
Coming home I realized that Australians must fight to protect our fragile and eroding freedom and understood that if we are complacent how easily our government will be able to take it away.
For the economic rationalists: the South Australian Government spent $1,000,000 on the protest. There were about 500 protestors. Each protestor cost them$2000. It only cost me $300. It was a worthwhile investment to put refugees in detention back on Australia’s agenda.
Thank you to all my fellow protestors and all the people back home who supported the Baxter 2003 convergence in other various ways.
Animal rights NGO, Animals Australia, along with three Israeli animal protection groups – Anonymous for Animal Rights, Let the Animals Live, and Israel Against Live Shipments – have launched a campaign to end live exports.
The trade is objectionable to most Australians, due to the horrific conditions sheep and cattle are subjected to on the long voyages, and also upon arrival, where they are kept in feedlots until an often cruel and unregulated slaughter. All in all, these animals are kept in extremely unclean, overcrowded and unattended conditions for months. A great deal has already been written elsewhere about this ongoing horror.
But animal welfare is not necessarily a motive for those concerned over climate change. Here are some reasons I learned for condemning live exports also for environmental reasons:
The shipping of live animals for slaughter overseas is carried out by extremely polluting ships running on diesel fuel.
Upon arrival, excessive pollution is produced by cows in feedlots, by the concentrated animal sewage.
Then, countries often import grain for the feedlots, which in turn perpetuates the unsustainable grain industry in those poorer countries (this results in Dutch Disease – the decline of other sectors to give rise to grain production for export). Export-based economies put local producers at a disadvantage in different ways. But back to the environment.
Yet, Animals Australia has focused on animal welfare in its campaign to stop live exports. It also decided to support the Israeli animal rights NGOs in the hope that if Israel no longer imports Australian meat-producing animals, then its neighbour, Jordan, to which Australia exports a far higher number of livestock, might cease to do so as well.
Since New Zealand ceased the live export trade over a decade ago, its economy has benefitted, and of course so have the sheep.
What’s crucial to remember is the link between the beef industry and commercial vested interests. And agribusiness is extremely powerful. Meat production practices, combined with the forest clearing needed to produce grain for feed, together account for an untold percentage of carbon emissions. It seems outrageous that the myriad unsavoury effects of all this should go largely concealed while the status quo is maintained.
Visit Animals Australia to find out how you can help this campaign.
This post is part of Just Voices #11 – Climate Change.
In November of 2015, the Victorian government implemented its Forest Industry Taskforce, following Daniel’s election promise. The taskforce, funded by the Victorian government, brings together various interest groups representing unions and environment groups to develop policy recommendations for the future of Victoria’s forests.
The Taskforce will seek broad community support to address key challenges facing workers, forest, wood and fibre industries, and Victoria’s environment. Victorian Campaigns Manager with the Wilderness Society, Amelia Young, said in a media release: “This is a unique opportunity for stakeholders to work together to recommend solutions that benefit all Victorians, conserve high-value ecological assets, and deliver new investment and employment opportunities, especially in regional communities.”
The taskforce is led by stakeholders and is the first time in Victoria that policy recommendations have been delegated to stakeholder groups. It brings together groups that have historically been at odds with each other’s interests, from environmental NGO’s to industry representatives, with the challenging task of finding common ground for the consumption and conservation of forest resources. The top priorities f
or the taskforce are to prepare policies which ensure:
For more information, visit: http://forestindustrytaskforce.com.au/
This post is part of Just Voices #11 – Climate Change.
By David Rothfield.
It hardly got media coverage but, yes, they said it. Those gathered for the U.S. Democratic Party Convention last July declared that they could not to wait for others “…to lead the world in combating the climate emergency” (my emphasis). The closing declaration of the Convention went on to say that “… our generation (must) now lead a World War II-type national mobilization to save civilization from catastrophic consequences.”
If Hillary Clinton wins the Presidency, then, in the words of the Declaration, “within the first 100 days of the next administration, the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, climate experts, policy experts, activists and indigenous communities to chart a course toward the healthy future we all want for our families and communities.”
This must be the first time that the term ‘emergency’ has been embraced by any major political party in relation to the climate crisis. It has taken some ground-shaking climate events, as well as a measure of success on the part of the global climate movement to bring about this new dynamic.
The year 2014 had the distinction of being declared the hottest year, globally, on record. The record didn’t last long because, in short succession, 2015 beat that record and now, based on weather records of the first 8 months of 2016, this year is set to be declared hotter than the previous 2 ‘hottest’ years. For the first time, NASA has published a ‘mid-year’ climate analysis, in which they reported that each month so far, this year, “has been the warmest respective month globally, in the modern temperature record” which dates back to 1880.
The added energy in the global climate system has been causing record-breaking storms and cyclone damage around the globe, most notably in our back yard, in the western pacific. There have been record-breaking heat waves and drought events across the Indian sub-continent, with temperatures in the 50s for days on end. Similarly, record-breaking droughts, accompanied by widespread crop loss and starvation have swept across Southern and Eastern Africa as well as Central America and South-East Asia where Vietnam and Papua New Guinea have been particularly affected.
Warm pacific temperatures have been killing the Great Barrier Reef with a record-breaking bleaching event, affecting 93% of the reef.
These warm temperatures have been leaving their mark in the Arctic too, which has experienced increased melting of ice cover for over a decade. The ice cover, this northern summer, was 40% less than the prevailing average cover of the 70s and early 80s.
Reduced ice cover has flow-on warming effects due to the albedo phenomenon, the changing reflectivity of the earth’s surface. Heat reflective white surfaces, are being replaced by heat absorbing blue, brown and even green surfaces across the Arctic. This amplifies and accelerates the global warming trend.
To cap off the reasons why politicians should be worried, there is new evidence that global warming is having a greater toll on Antarctic ice cover than previously thought. New studies have revised estimates of sea level rise this century with the Antarctic alone potentially adding 1 m. to previous estimates. The latest estimates of sea-level rise are up to 2 m. within the lifetime of many of our grandchildren.
The Paris Climate Conference has been hailed as a success, though that depends on what your measure of success is. If all signatories to the Agreement fulfill the commitments they brought to Paris, we may succeed to reduce a predicted catastrophic temperature rise of 4° C to a disastrous 3° C, still well short of the aim of 1.5° C to 2.0° C.
But is even 1.5° C, average increase safe? Such an increase will kill the entire Barrier Reef. By the end of this century, it will cause what today is still regarded as a 1:100-year storm event to become a frequent event every year along Australia’s eastern seaboard. Such events leave hundreds of thousands without power and have many thousands
evacuated from their homes. In Victoria, events such as the 2009 bush fires will become frequent. In Melbourne we will experience sea-level rise of possibly 2 m, sufficient, with added storm surge to flood Docklands, large parts of South Melbourne, Albert Park and Elwood, as well as beach fronts all along the Mornington Peninsula. As Prof. David Karoly, climate scientist from the University of Melbourne says, “Our climate is not safe now, so what does dangerous climate change mean?”
The U.S. will not be alone if it adopts an emergency climate change mobilisation program. China is already making rapid strides to bring its carbon emissions under control and achieve its ambitious emissions reduction targets, an expanding economy notwithstanding. India is not far behind.
Australia is still committed to a policy based on keeping our coal industry in business and expanding coal exports. That both China and India are rapidly phasing out coal imports has not yet registered.
The environment movement meanwhile is mobilizing to declare 2017, the year for declaring a global climate emergency. It will centre around a declaration for which mass support is to be sort. That declaration can be found here.
This post is part of Just Voices #11 – Climate Change.
Like many around the country, members of the AJDS were appalled watching the Four Corners episode last Monday which told the stories of the brutality of Don Dale prison. Although these stories have been previously reported on and shared – particularly by Aboriginal peoples, groups, and media – it was this airing which captured the nation’s attention. Now that our attention has been drawn, we are surely responsible for responding with action.
Aboriginal incarceration rates across Australia are higher today than they were during the days of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and indeed almost none of the recommendations issued by the Royal Commission have been implemented. Across the country, Indigenous children are 26 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in detention. In the Northern Territory, 97 percent of the youths in jail are Indigenous. These facts and statistics point to a problem of over-policing of Aboriginal people, as their lives are routinely criminalised and their bodies treated by the state as expendable. The current situation is part of a very long history of colonisation in this country – understanding why matters are as they are today, and working to change the situation, must therefore deal with the underlying problems caused by our continuing settler-colonial present. We must work towards decolonisation and justice for Aboriginal peoples. Proper land rights and self-determination is required.
We also need to be making connections between the incarceration of Aboriginal people – both children and adults – and the continued indefinite detention of asylum seekers, in Australia and in detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. If we look across these different groups of people, we can see that this country is one with a disastrous relationship to locking up racialised people. Racism in this country has many outlets: these are but two.
While the Federal Government has announced a Royal Commission, large groups of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and across Australia have made clear that this is an ineffective response. AJDS stands alongside these groups and calls for more serious and immediate changes to be made.
Last weekend we saw protests on the streets of almost all the capital cities in Australia. In Melbourne, led by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR), people occupied the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets for 12 hours. On Tuesday, family members and community members of the Aboriginal children incarcerated in Don Dale held a sit in in the Chief Minister of the NT’s office and made a series of demands, and called on people around the country to jam the phones and emails of Adam Giles, Nigel Scullion, John Elferink and Malcolm Turnbull every Tuesday until their demands are met. Their demands are:
We encourage all AJDS members and supporters to make phone calls and send emails in support of these demands. We also encourage you to watch the WAR Facebook page, and join in any actions they call, standing in solidarity with them and their work. This is an issue which requires our immediate and ongoing response and action. Beyond feeling horrified, it is clear that we must do something.
This statement was issued August 5, 2016.
The AJDS issued a statement 11/06/16 critical of the decision by Stephanie Hodgins-May, Greens candidate for Melbourne Ports, to pull out of the Zionist Victoria event. We stated: “we feel that it’s important that local candidates be prepared to address and engage with audiences in their electorate.”
Whilst this move by Stephanie has been hurtful to some in the Jewish community, the uproar following her decision has been highly inflated and overly accusatory, with allegations from the Jewish community both in the media labelling Stephanie and the Greens anti-Semitic.
AJDS does not associate itself with this canard. We want to reiterate that the AJDS statement was in no way meant to insinuate any labelling of Stephanie or the Greens as anti-Semitic. The term “anti-Semitic” is thrown around much too freely.
There is no evidence that the Australian Greens or any of their representatives are anti-Semitic. There appears to be a confusion (sometimes deliberate), between the political views of Greens on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the impression that these views are anti-Semitic. In fact, the views taken by Greens on issues such as the Occupation or a two-state solution are by and large, those taken by members of the Israeli left, including support for two, legitimate states (see their policy statement here). Such views are in fact also supported by members of the Labor Party and supporters of Palestinian rights are even found in the Coalition.
Regrettably, Michael Danby has used Hodgins-May’s action for his own political agenda, which tries to wedge the Jewish community by creating a climate of fear of “Green” anti-Semitism.
In a statement released by Danby (9/6) he claimed; “The Greens boycott of the Jewish community shows their deep and intractable antagonism towards the Australian Jewish community.” Danby has also been caught handing out how to vote cards that preference the Liberal candidate for Melbourne Ports ahead of the Greens, defying his party’s National Executive (SMH 16/6).
Stephanie has responded to the controversy that she is in fact willing to be involved with the Jewish community, stating that she has accepted numerous invitations from Jewish community groups, including AUJS, Habonim, Mt Scopus and Jews for Refugees.
This indeed shows her willingness to engage with the needs and concerns of the Jewish community at large, and that she took particular offence at generalized views put out by Zionism Victoria about the UN, a body which she has worked for in the past.
While we stay out of election politics and do not endorse or promote any particular party or candidate, we believe that the Greens should not be dismissed by politically inflated accusations that they are anti-Semitic, and reiterate from our original statement that the issue has been “drawing attention away from the important local and national policies on which this election should be decided.”
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) is disappointed that Greens candidate for Melbourne Ports, Stephanie Hodgins-May, has decided to withdraw from the candidates forum organised by the Australian Jewish News and Zionism Victoria (ZV). While Hodgins-May may disagree with the politics of these groups – she has specifically mentioned ZV’s attitude towards the United Nations as the basis for her withdrawal – we feel that it’s important that local candidates be prepared to address and engage with audiences in their electorate. Her decision to withdraw has the very real possibility of drawing attention away from the important local and national policies on which this election should be decided, which is a disservice to the electorate.
This statement was issued by the AJDS June 11, 2016
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) is deeply disappointed that the organising committee of Limmud Oz 2016 has decided that the invitation extended to Bassam Dally – who was to speak with Sivan Barak (a member of the Executive of the AJDS) in a conversation entitled “Fighting for Coexistence” should be withdrawn. While the organisers claim that the programming policy enables them to ban Bassam from speaking, we believe that this decision represents a hopeless and shameful misstep and should be reversed.
Limmud Oz makes a claim to being a space for broad discussion, dialogue, and challenging conversations. Yet, in deciding that Bassam is not allowed to speak they have effectively applied a very specific and limited litmus test to one speaker. Indeed, this test demonstrates a deep disrespect for the intelligence of the attendees of Limmud Oz and the Jewish community, and shows the organisers to be out of step with where the community is headed. It beggars belief that the organisers truly believe that talking with a Palestinian who also supports the principles of BDS will harm the community. Indeed, a current poll in the right-leaning Australian Jewish News shows considerable support for hearing the views of BDS supporters at Jewish events. Jews of all ideological persuasions want the right to judge for themselves.
In any case, Bassam and Sivan’s session did not plan to touch on BDS in any way. Ironically, it was to be a session about dialogue and coexistence. The possibility of these seem distant when this session, and likely one of the sole Palestinian voices at the Conference, can be swiftly silenced by invoking the BDS bogeyman. At the same time, the organisers thought it appropriate to include in the program a talk with the antagonistic and loaded title, “ The BDS Movement and the Demonisation of Jewish Supporters of Israel.”
Barring people from a conference because they promote a strategy of non-violence as a response to decades of violence is extremely counter-productive. Such censorship limits the already miniscule number of Palestinian voices that mainstream Jews hear. It is also out of step with the increasing support at home and worldwide from Jews themselves.
Moreover, if the reports are accurate that Limmud Oz’s funding was threatened if Bassam had participated, then we worry about the place of donor funding in the community. Surely, as a community, we should be striving to make spaces for the most challenging and demanding conversations, not allowing financial imperatives to close them off.
The Jewish community in Melbourne, and throughout Australia, would benefit immeasurably from talking more, and more openly, with Palestinians. We have much to learn. Sadly, it would seem that the organisers of Limmud Oz are intent on ensuring that this will be made more difficult.
The AJDS calls on Limmud Oz to reverse their decision, and to ensure that future programs are not tainted by this restriction on the sharing of knowledge and open conversation. Our Jewish community will be richer for it.
This statement was written by the AJDS Executive Committee, June 5, 2016