Netanyahu comes to Australia amidst protests from the Australian Jewish community – media release 20/2/17

i Feb 21st 2017

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.


Statement about Aboriginal incarceration and call to action

i Aug 5th 2016
Aboriginal incarceration in Don Dale

Don Dale Centre in Darwin. Photo: Nicholas Gouldhurst.

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:

  • The NT government to be sacked
  • The Royal Commission to be extended nation-wide
  • To shut down Don Dale
  • Release the Don Dale kids
  • No transfer of kids to adult prisons, and
  • Justice and protection for the children who are detained.

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.


Statement about accusations of anti-Semitism in the Greens

i Jun 23rd 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.”


Statement about the Greens withdrawal from candidates forum

i Jun 11th 2016
Greens VS Zionism Victoria

Stephanie Hodgins-May’s campaign poster. Image found here.

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


AJDS Statement about Limmud Oz

i Jun 5th 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