Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia | ABC PM

October 30, 2013

Jewish leaders accused of ignoring homophobia

Alison Caldwell reported this story on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 18:34:00

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MARK COLVIN: A rift is developing in Australia’s Jewish community over the treatment of homosexuals.

A major gay and lesbian support group claims Jewish community leaders are ignoring discrimination and hate language aimed at homosexuals. It wants Jewish representative bodies to come up with a clear policy upholding gay rights.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: When two young people were shot dead in Tel Aviv last month at a gay and lesbian youth centre, Melbourne-based Michael Barnett wanted nothing more than for the leaders of the Australian Jewish community to take a stand against violence towards homosexuals. But he says his calls for action fell on deaf ears.

MICHAEL BARNETT: The Israeli leadership, the Prime Minister, the President of Israel, they spoke out against intolerance and hatred and said you know, everyone deserves respect.

Yet in Melbourne where there is the family of one of the two people killed, there wasn’t even a single statement from the community leaders.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the silence from the Jewish leadership was symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

MICHAEL BARNETT: There’s a lot of intolerance of gay people in the Jewish people. Calling gay people perverted and disgusting, comparing gay people to people who commit incest or bestiality, there’s all this language that gets used from people like some rabbis in the orthodox world who speak out against gay people.

ALISON CALDWELL: Michael Barnett is the coordinator of Aleph Melbourne, a support group for homosexual people in the Jewish community. He believes representative groups are afraid to express their support for homosexuals for fear of offending ultra-orthodox groups in the community.

MICHAEL BARNETT: I want every state and national Jewish peak body in Australia to have a specific, unambiguous policy addressing the persecution of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews in regard to homophobic hate and intolerance, irrespective of whether it originates from outside or inside the Jewish community.

The policies must be enforced with the same zero tolerance afforded to anti-Semitism and holocaust rhetoric and other hate crimes.

ALISON CALDWELL: Much of his anger is levelled at a Jewish blog which recently described homosexuality as “depravity and debasement” and extolled the virtues of reprogramming homosexuals.

In July, a Sydney rabbi wrote to the Australian Jewish News, comparing homosexual intercourse with adultery, bestiality and incest.

JOHN SEARLE: If it’s a matter that’s guided by religious laws, then those laws will presumably be applied. Now I can’t say very much about those because I’m not an expert in those areas.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle is the president of the Jewish Community Council in Victoria. It describes itself as the roof body of Victorian Jewry. On its website, it says it shows zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism and racism but it has nothing to say about supporting or protecting gay or lesbian people within the Jewish community.

JOHN SEARLE: If we need to rewrite a policy that was written some time ago, we can certainly look at that and if it needs to be adjusted in any way, we can adjust that.

ALISON CALDWELL: John Searle says he’s against vilification of any sort.

JOHN SEARLE: The JCCV has issued statements condemning vilification of all minority groups, including vilification based on grounds of sexual orientation, sexual preference.

ALISON CALDWELL: He says the council has sought advice from numerous sources on how to be more inclusive and will invite gay and lesbian support groups to events in the future.

Michael Barnett says it’s not enough.

MICHAEL BARNETT: Lip service, motherhood statements, platitudes, rhetoric, anything but “yes, we’re going to do this and take it seriously”.

JOHN SEARLE: I reject the allegation or assertion that inviting people to participate in community events is simply lip service.

ALEX FEIN: My blog is called The Sensible Jew.

ALISON CALDWELL: Jewish blogger Alex Fein has written about the issue in recent weeks. She says the vast majority of Jews support homosexuals and describes those who don’t as minority extremists. But she says groups like the Jewish Community Council of Victoria need to be more proactive.

ALEX FEIN: It’s not enough to say that homophobia is problematic. I think all people of good faith would like to see concrete action.

MARK COLVIN: Alex Fein the author of the blog known as the sensiblejew.wordpress.com, ending Alison Caldwell’s report.


How many must die to warrant a response from the JCCV?

September 13, 2011

[SOURCE]

The United States Consulate General Melbourne in association with the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia  held a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of September 11 2001 attacks on Sunday the 11th of September 2011 at the 9/11 Memorial Trees, Kings Domain, Melbourne.

The JCCV had a representative at this solemn occasion:

Mr Simon Tisher, Executive Member of Jewish Community Council of Victoria lays flowers.

JCMA: "Mr Simon Tisher, Executive Member of Jewish Community Council of Victoria lays flowers."

On August 11 2009, 10 days after the Tel Aviv attack where two Israelis where brutally murdered in a youth centre, I sent out an email asking a number of community leaders to speak up and condemn some anti-gay sentiments being published on a Jewish blog in Melbourne.  The response to my email from John Searle, JCCV President, was:

From: John Searle <jsearle@vicbar.com.au>
Date: 12 August 2009 11:38
Subject: RE: Gay hate is rife in Jewish Australia on AJNwatch (resend)
To: Michael Barnett <michael@aleph.org.au>
Cc: Geoffrey Zygier

Hi Michael,

I was thinking we should have a chat about this over a coffee one day next week. I might even ask Geoffrey to join us. Can you make it one morning at 7.30 or 8.00 in the Caulfield area or does it have to be in the city in which case I would suggest 10.00 or 10.30?

I was thinking Wed next week.

JS

We ended up meeting at John Searle’s house, the evening of Wednesday August 19, 2009.  I was accompanied by Colin Krycer, also from Aleph Melbourne.  At this meeting I politely asked John Searle to issue a statement from the JCCV condemning the attack in Tel Aviv.  His response was that the JCCV doesn’t issue statements for many issues, of which this was but one.  At this meeting I handed John Searle a printed copy of this letter that I had written, outlining a draft proposal for an anti-homophobia strategy for the Australian Jewish community.  I subsequently sent through an electronic copy of it.

I quote from the JCCV’s “About Us > Overview” page:

Through consultation, advocacy and working with government, other faith and ethnic communities, the media, service providers and the general public, the JCCV seeks to achieve the following goals:

And in partnership with the State Zionist Council of Victoria:
A more sophisticated public understanding of Israel’s efforts to achieve peace and security
Effective counteraction of misinformation on Israel, the Middle East and the Arab/Israel conflict
A more sophisticated public understanding of Israel in relation to contemporary Jewish identity.

I seem to be getting a number of messages from the JCCV.

  1. They are prepared to make a public statement about the terrible attacks in the USA on September 11, 2001.
  2. They are concerned about issues relating to peace and security in Israel.
  3. They are concerned about contemporary Jewish identity in Israel.
  4. They are not prepared to comment on the horrific death of two young Israelis killed in a youth centre in Tel Aviv.

I am really puzzled by the JCCV’s reluctance to be outspoken on an issue that is core to their agenda.  What is so wrong with condemning an attack on young Israelis, given the Zionist and peace-loving nature of the JCCV?  The only conclusion I can make, in comparison with their response to September 11, is that perhaps insufficient people were killed on August 1, 2009 in Tel Aviv to warrant a response from the JCCV.

I politely ask the JCCV to reconsider their stance on which international events they make statements on, especially when it comes to contemporary Israeli youth, and issue a belated and sincere statement about the 2009 attack.  It’s not asking too much is it?


ECAJ vocal on terror attacks in Norway

July 25, 2011

[SOURCE]

In March this year I wrote about the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) and their ability to write letters of support as it suits them.  Yesterday the ECAJ, through its president Dr Danny Lamm, published another letter of support, this time in response to the horrific attacks in Norway.

On behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the elected peak national body of the Australian Jewish community, I extend our deepest sympathies to the Norwegian government and people following the double terror attacks in Oslo on Friday and especially to the injured and to all Norwegians who have lost loved ones.

I encourage the ECAJ to write these heartfelt letters for each horrific tragedy that happens around the world.  It is necessary to see communities supporting each other in times of hardship.  However if the ECAJ is going to write letters when there are terrorist attacks in Norway, tsunamis in Japan or bombings in Jerusalem, then it must also respond to violent shootings in youth centers in Tel Aviv.

The hypocrisy will become increasingly apparent the next time this morally bankrupt organisation remains silent when again the victims are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews, in Israel or anywhere else.


ECAJ and The Hypocrisy of Selective Outrage

March 28, 2011

A bomb blows up near a bus stop in Jerusalem and one woman is killed and 39 injured.  Peter Wertheim, the Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) wrote a letter of condolence to Yuval Rotem, the Ambassador of Israeli to Australia, to convey his deepest sympathy.

In the week prior to the bombing I wrote on how the ECAJ is prolific in writing such letters when Israelis are victims of hate, or in other catastrophic situations such as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The ECAJ also likes to put pen to paper for more vacuous situations, such as the letter written to George Pell on the canonisation of a Catholic woman who has been purported to have performed miracles subsequent to her death.

All it seems to take for the ECAJ to write a letter of outrage, condolence or congratulation is a bomb at a Jerusalem bus stop, a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or the canonisation of a Christian.

Yet when Israeli youth are murdered in cold blood in Tel Aviv by an unknown gunman with unknown motives, the ECAJ turns its back on the tragedy and stays silent.  I put it that they stayed silent because this was a crime in a gay and lesbian community centre and that the ECAJ are too afraid and gutless to issue a statement of condolence for the death of gay and lesbian youth.

This silence is deeply offensive and it continues to leave a black mark on this organisation that I’m ashamed to say calls itself Australian.  It reeks of hypocrisy and double-standards and exposes the organisation for its moral bankruptcy and spinelessness.

The ECAJ still has no platform position on the welfare of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Jews in Australia, despite it calling itself a council representing Australian Jewry.  It is clear to me the priorities of this organisation, an organisation with a penchant for selective outrage, are not with the welfare of any Jew, Australian or otherwise, who is GLBT, and if that’s the case, then that clearly makes the ECAJ a hateful and intolerant Jewish organisation.


On the ECAJ, Itamar and a Zionist agenda

March 17, 2011

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issues media releases and letters when significant events occur in Australia and around the world.  This week the ECAJ issued one statement on the Japanese tsunami and two on the Itamar shooting, one to the Israeli ambassador Yuval Rotem and the other to the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.  So prolific is the ECAJ that going back to the beginning of 2009 one can find approximately 70 media releases on their website.

On August 1 2009 two Israelis were gunned down in a horrific attack in a youth centre in Tel Aviv.  Fifteen other people were seriously injured.  This was a serious event in Israel that was reported extensively in the Australian Jewish press and by numerous other media outlets globally.

The ECAJ ignored this shooting in Israel.  It turned a blind eye to the event and let it pass as if to say the deaths were insignificant and inconsequential.  It would appear that the ECAJ is not interested in the deaths of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Israelis.

Now when I see the ECAJ speak out against the brutal deaths of Israelis in this most recent, abominable situation, it sends me the message that they are shamelessly using these deaths to fulfil their Zionist agenda, and could actually care less about the victims or their family.

On behalf of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak national body of the Australian Jewish community, I write to thank you and the Australian government most sincerely for issuing a prompt, public condemnation of the shocking stabbing murders of an Israeli mother, father and three of their children late on Friday night, 11 March 2011, in Itamar, south-east of Nablus.

I commend you and the Australian government for your long standing friendship with Israel and for your firm and principled condemnation of these latest heinous murders of Israeli civilians.

I ask the ECAJ to explain why they were silent when Liz Troubishi and Nir Katz were murdered and fifteen of their peers injured in the most horrific of circumstances, at close range by a masked gunman.  Why did these deaths not see the ECAJ issue a statement of condolence to the families and a strong message of outrage and condemnation at the senseless waste of life of the two young Israeli Jews?

The ECAJ appears to be a cold, spineless and heartless organisation, driven by a blinkered Zionist agenda.  The ECAJ does not appear to be an organisation that the Australian Jewish community or wider Australian society can be proud of.


Remembering the 2009 Tel Aviv Agudah (gay centre) shooting

August 25, 2010

Watch this video and remember Liz Troubishi and Nir Katz, two young people murdered in the Tel Aviv Agudah (gay centre) shooting on August 1 2009.  Other victims of the shooting escaped with their lives, but will be scarred forever.  They were all victims of a terrible hate crime.  The perpetrator remains on the run.

Fight hate.  Fight bigotry.  Fight intolerance.  Promote unconditional love.

Michael.


The Executive Council of Australian Jewry remains silent on Gay Youth Suicide

May 5, 2010

In the aftermath of the August 1 2009 shooting at the Tel Aviv GLBT youth centre and the subsequent AJN Watch hate blog against gay Jews I wrote a letter (Aug 23 2009) to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).  Two days later (Aug 25 2009) I followed that letter up with a copy of a letter I sent the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).  It was a very tense time, given these events, both locally in Melbourne and overseas in Israel.  It remains disturbing that to the present day neither the JCCV nor the ECAJ have spoken out against this homophobic intolerance and hate.

In my second letter I made mention that the ECAJ Policy Platform page on the ECAJ web site featured Israel at #1 (whilst Australia didn’t feature until at least #13):

The peak body of the Australian Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), does not have a single statement on homophobia. I actually question its priorities and wonder it is it simply a self-serving bag of hot air or if it really gives a damn. First on it’s list of priorities is Israel.    I would have thought that an organisation that spoke on behalf of the Australian Jewish community would actually put Australia first and place some importance on the welfare of Australians. Go figure.

You can see the ECAJ policy platform (“Confirmed in 2008″) here as it stood on September 8 2009.   As of November 2009, just two months after my letter to the ECAJ, you can see here that not only have they moved Australia to the top of their policy platform list, but there are in fact two entire sections devoted to Australia, appropriately placed above a third section devoted to Israel.  Well, that’s quite something.  I’m pleased to see that the ECAJ is listening and has started to get its priorities right.

Sadly though there’s still not a single mention of anything closely resembling a policy on dealing with homophobic hate targeting people in the Jewish community.  Nor is there a policy on the merits of accepting homosexuality as normal, given the overwhelming evidence of destruction religious intolerance of homosexuality has on young people.

I still maintain that topic #27 (Young Adult Representation) and topic #28 (Jewish Burial Rights) would be best combined and simply called “Jewish Young Adult Burial”, at least while there’s no policy dealing with homophobic hate and intolerance.

Wake up ECAJ.  Every day you remain silent and don’t fight the intolerance and hatred of homosexuality in your community, the more blood you will have on your hands.  Suicide amongst same-sex attracted youth is a very real problem in the Jewish community.  One only has to wonder just how much you love your children.


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