Marrickville's condemnation of Israel in Gaza War causes outrage
SYDNEY - Marrickville Council's decision to approve a motion condemning Israel's recent actions in Gaza, and calling on the Australian Government to ban the sharing of military
intelligence with Israel, has sparked protests from Jewish leaders and groups.
On February 19, Marrickville Council ( a Sydney municipal area) voted 9-3 in favour of the motion that condemned Israel's December war in Gaza and its alleged "use of internationally banned weapons containing phosphorus".
The council, which has a sister-city relationship with the West Bank city of Bethlehem, also called on Israel "to withdraw from all settlements in the occupied territories, share water resources equitably with the Palestinians and negotiate with the [Palestinian] elected government".
Greens Councillor Cathy Peters, who proposed the motion, stated she felt the council had an obligation to speak out against "the continued oppression of the Palestinian people."
"When it comes down to humanitarian issues, it's important for everyone to speak out," she said, adding that the issue was "close to her heart" because her father was a Jewish refugee from Berlin who fled Berlin in 1938.
"[My father] has suffered in Germany the sort of repression that has been foisted upon the Palestinians for the past 50 years," she said.
Peters admitted she didn't feel the need to consult with Jewish groups beforehand because "there's been adequate information about it in the press".
Meanwhile, Jewish leaders and community groups have slammed the council's stance.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said: "Marrickville's motion is full of inaccuracies, uncritically accepting assertions, which have been exposed as Hamas propaganda, levelling charges against Israel for which no
foundation in fact or international law has been established, and ignoring realities on the ground."
He added that it is unfortunate the council has continued its "unbalanced approach" to this conflict -- almost two years after it decided to enter into the controversial sister-city
relationship with Bethlehem.
Woollahra Councillor Anthony Boskovitz expressed
similar concerns, calling it "despicable" that a
local council would even consider taking such action.
"I find it hard to fathom that such a motion could be approved and that the community would not be furious at the lack of attention to the crumbling infrastructure in their area," he said.
"[Councillor Peters] should concentrate on her constituency and allow the federal politicians to deal with issues of a foreign nature."
Inner West Chavurah, a Jewish network based in Sydney's inner west, called the motion "divisive".
"It inflames the feelings of victimhood on both sides that cause the problem in the first place," a spokeswoman said.
She said the Marrickville Council could take a few lessons from neighbouring Leichhardt Council, which scrapped its plans last year to establish a sister-city relationship with Hebron, after holding talks with Jewish leaders.
Pressure on Australia's foreign minister to say NO to Durban II
CANBERRA- Foreign Minister Stephen Smith is under immense pressure to announce Australia's withdrawal from the Durban Review Conference (also known as Durban II).
Earlier this week, representatives from the US Department of State said the United States would not attend the conference, which is a follow-up to the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
The US has joined Israel and Canada in pulling out.
Some European countries have also indicated they
are considering not attending the conference in Geneva. Both Opposition MPs and Jewish leaders implored Smith to follow suit.
"The agenda of the Durban II conference is warped beyond redemption," Liberal Senator Michael Ronaldson said.
"Australia's international diplomacy should combat bigotry, and not legitimate (make legitimate) anti-Semitism."
Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, both called on Australia to follow the US.
"The world's leading democratic nations must now speak with one voice to make it clear that any document that emerges from this tainted conference lacks their support and is utterly
devoid of moral authority," Goot said.
"Particularly in view of the recent decision by the US
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administration ... we think it's appropriate for the Australian Government to make the same decision," Chester added.The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) also requested Australia's withdrawal
AIJAC chair Mark Leibler said it is understandable that Australia wanted to wait and see, but "as the US Government noted on Friday, in withdrawing from participation in the process, the current draft outcome document for the
conference is simply 'not salvageable'".
"In the interests of that vital struggle, the only principled and constructive step Australia can now take is to withdraw from the Durban II process -- unless and until the current
politicised draft outcome document is thrown out
and the process commences again from the beginning."
Robert Goot, also vice-president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), sent Smith a recent WJC resolution that noted "there is every reason to believe that the worst elements from the [first Durban] conference declaration may be included or even accentuated."
Council cancels anti-Israel exhibit
MELBOURNE- The City of Melbourne has removed a
public art display from a walkway near the main
railway station amid concerns that it is unjustly critical of Israel.
The display created by controversial artist Van Thanh Rudd, a nephew of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, features a rock supposedly thrown at Israel Defence Force (IDF) soldiers in the West Bank.
The work suggests that Veolia, the parent company of public transport operator Connex, is being protected by the IDF as it conducts "illegal operations" in the disputed territories.
The exhibition went on display a few days ago in a subway leading to the railway station, but was removed by council officers after complaints from a passer-by and the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission. (ADC)
"Council has not approved the specific artwork in question and did not have prior knowledge of its installation" City of Melbourne CEO Dr Kathy Alexander said" Council intends to review the controversial art work in line with its Protocol
on Artworks and establish a review panel that will provide a recommendation on further action". (The group staging the artwork received a grant of $25,000 from the City Council last year).
ADC chairman Tony Levy questioned the judgment of the councils public Art Department. " We have no objection to art just as we have no objection to fair comment and criticism. But creating some sort of icon out of a weapon is deeply
offensive....characterising Israel in this way is having a direct effect on the way Jews in Australia are treated. Anti-Semitic attacks are increasing and there is a direct correlation
between Israel being treated as an international pariah and Jews being victimised here" Levy said.
Call for Chevra Kadisha accountability to the community
MELBOURNE - Community leaders have called on the
Melbourne Chevra Kadisha to be more accountable to the community it serves.
Rabbi Meir Shlomo Klugwant, president of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV), said that while the Chevra Kadisha had taken some stops to be open to the community, things are not perfect.
"The lack lof facilities at Lyndhurst ( a new Jewish cemetery recently opened on the urban fringes of Melbourne) is extremely unfortunate" Klugwant said.
However he said that the Chevra Kadisha has agreed that when a shtiebel is built at Lyndhurst, it will consult with the RCV on its design. Rabbi Klugwant's comments followed an
accusation in the Jewish community that the Chevra Kadisha is a closed organisation and it has let lapse a planning application for facilities at the new cemetery.
Myer Herzberg, presidnet of the Melbourne Chevra Kadisha confirmed that an application for rezoning had been made to the municipality where the cemetery is situated, but the application was not for the express permission to build a shtiebel.
"The actual building of the shtibel is not approved. We have to get permission to put a shtiebel in and they are very sensitive, because they want it to blend in and it's farmland, so we
are through that" Hezrberg said.,
However, Jewish Community Council president John
Searle who has been trying to contact Herzberg without luck did not accept the excuse.
"I am still receiving complaints and I regard the stonewalling we're receiving from the Chevra as still unacceptable. It is time they realised that they need to be accountable to the community".
A Department of Human Services (DHS) spokesperson said the operation of cemeteries is left to the individual trust, The legislation which governs cemeteries and burials, does not require the installation of facilities, such as shelters or public toilets for mourners.