18th June 2016
The ECAJ submitted a series of pertinent questions to five major parties in the lead-up to the 2016 Federal Election.
Below is a Summary of their responses, plus each of their detailed individual responses.
Hover your cursor over each link to view title and then simply click on that link to view.

20th May 2016
by Julie Nathan
In cities around the world, anti-Israel protesters commemorate Al-Nakba Day on May 15. ‘Nakba’ is Arabic for ‘catastrophe’. This is the day on which the Jewish state, Israel, was re-established in 1948, as recommended by the UN resolution to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Instead of establishing an Arab state, the armies of five Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon) invaded the country to obliterate the nascent Jewish state and grab as much territory as possible. It is the Arab failure to destroy Israel at birth that is commemorated on Al-Nakba Day.
In Sydney, several hundred protesters gathered outside the Town Hall on Sunday to “commemorate 68 years since the Nakba (catastrophe) befell not only Palestinians but humanity as a whole.” These are the words of Palestine Action Group (PAG), the organisers of the rally. Apparently, PAG consider it a catastrophe for “humanity as a whole” that a tiny Jewish state was founded on the same land where previous Jewish states had existed, and where Jews, who are indigenous to the land, have continuously lived for over 3,500 years.
Mona Abu Zalaf, the MC, began the speeches by making the bizarre accusation that Israel has “Judaised our villages, our culture, our land.” Several other speakers followed, including from the Maritime Union of Australia.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon told the rally “the great crime of the 20th century is now the great crime of the 21st century – that is the Nakba. It started in 1948, it’s the longest military occupation in history.”
Rhiannon’s words lay bare her real agenda. By referring to the Nakba as the “great crime of the 20th century” Rhiannon was proclaiming that the suffering and deaths in the Armenian genocide, the Nazi genocide of Jews, the Pol Pot genocide of Cambodians, the Rwandan genocide, the massacres of Muslims in Bosnia, and other mass killings are less important than the deaths of about 7,000 Arabs in the Arab-initiated war in 1948, a war in which 6,000 Jews were also killed.
By calling the ‘Nakba’ the “great crime of the 21st century” Rhiannon relegated the suffering and deaths from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Syrian civil war with over 250,000 deaths and over 2 million refugees to a lesser status than the concerns of the Palestinians.
By stating that Israel’s “occupation” started in 1948, Rhiannon was saying that Israel itself is occupied territory, not just the territories Israel captured in the Arab-initiated war in 1967. By this statement, Rhiannon is denying the legitimacy of Israel and Israel’s right to exist.
Rhiannon then spoke of the situation in Lebanon for Palestinians. She decried that “There are 1.5 million Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon. They are not allowed to work, not allowed to build, have no electricity, have no water. They are living under the most appalling situation because Israel dispossessed them.” What she failed to mention is that these restrictions and conditions are imposed on the Palestinians living there by the Lebanese government under Lebanese law.
It is Lebanon, not Israel, which enacted the official discriminatory laws against Palestinian refugees and their Lebanese-born descendants, including the severely restricted rights in the areas of work, education, housing and health services. For example, Lebanese law has prohibited Palestinians from working in over 70 types of jobs, including professional, mercantile and administrative, although in 2005, the law reduced those bans to 20 types of jobs. Yet to Rhiannon, Israel is to be blamed for how the Lebanese treat their fellow Arabs, the Palestinians.
Peter Slezak also addressed the crowd, proclaiming: “I represent APAN, the ‘Australia Palestine Advocacy Network’, the largest umbrella group for Palestine in Australia.” He encouraged protesters to take part in APAN’s campaign to lobby federal MPs to support Palestine, and drew attention to the “I support Palestine & I Vote” stickers being distributed to the crowd. Slezak proudly announced that “APAN has now come out in support of BDS.”
The BDS (boycott, divestment sanctions) campaign has as its aim the elimination of the state of Israel. BDS* is ostensibly focused on economic measures, however, its true and unstated aim is to delegitimise Israel – the nation State of the Jewish people – and to make Israel a pariah state, just as Jews were once a pariah people. Terms like ‘racist’, ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘apartheid’, ‘war crimes’ and ‘genocide’ are regularly deployed by the BDS campaign to falsely attribute those traits to Israel. BDS is another weapon in the long war against Israel. BDS is waged as a war of narratives and propaganda, rather than of economics.
APAN’s adoption of BDS indicates how the lobby group has abandoned its previous non-committal stance on whether it supports a one or two state solution to the Arab-Israel conflict, and has embraced the extremist position that works towards isolating, demonising and eliminating the only Jewish state in the world. They do this in order ostensibly to create the 23rd Arab state in the world.
Chants abounded at the rally and the march from those supporting the destruction of Israel with the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” to those supporting violence against Israeli Jews with “Israel out of Gaza, intifada, intifada” and “Resistance is justified, when Palestine is occupied.” Translation: Violence is justified against the whole of Israel.
Banners and placards included the text of “End 68 yrs of occupation. Support BDS!” impliedly opposing Israel’s right to exist; “Google: Rothschild Zionism!” espousing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories; and “One Holocaust doesn’t justify another” comparing the Nazi genocide of six million Jews with the Arab-Israel conflict which is one of the least deadly of the world’s international conflicts. The message is a false analogy aimed at demonising Jews, by minimising the evil of the deliberate and planned mass extermination of six million Jews by the Nazis, and in turn retrospectively justifying the Holocaust against the Jewish people. Other banners and placards had references accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing, war crimes, apartheid, and targeting children.
The political organisations flying their colours at the anti-Israel protest were the red flag of the Communist Party of Australia, Maritime Union of Australia, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance, The Greens, and Students for Palestine at Sydney University. This year, there were no Hezbollah, Hamas, or Shahadah flags, as at previous anti-Israel protests. Although people dressed in traditional Muslim garb comprised 80% of the protesters, the slogans on the banners were extreme Left rather than Islamist.
Al-Nakba Day commemorates and bemoans the existence of a Jewish state in part of the Jewish national homeland. Proponents talk of occupation and ethnic cleansing.
While the partition of India into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan in 1947 resulted in 12 million refugees and up to 2 million deaths, no one calls for the destruction of Pakistan. While China occupies Tibet, Turkey occupies Cyprus, Morocco occupies Western Sahara, Indonesia occupies West Papua, and many other occupations continue, only Israel (whose occupation of the West Bank and Gaza occurred in a defensive war in 1967) elicits international protests and a BDS campaign.
Al-Nakba Day proponents’ choice of Israel’s independence date is significant. It signifies their opposition to a Jewish state in Palestine. It is not in support of an Arab state in Palestine, unless it is established on the ashes of Israel. Al-Nakba Day is not about empowering Palestinians to create a state next to Israel. Al-Nakba Day is about demonising Israel and opposing Israel’s existence. Proponents seek to blame Israel solely for the situation the Palestinians are in – the refugees from the 1948 and 1967 wars and the absence of a Palestinian Arab state.
An Arab state could have been established at any time after the British Mandate in Palestine terminated on 15 May 1948. The Arabs of Palestine could have established an Arab state at the same time Israel was re-established – when the British Mandate ended. An Arab state could have been declared at the armistice agreement in 1949. The Arabs could have established an independent state at any time between 1948 and 1967, while Gaza was under Egyptian Arab control, and the West Bank was under Jordanian Arab control. The fact that no Arab state in Palestine was established shows that the real issue is not the non-existence of an Arab state in Palestine but the existence of a Jewish state.
When al-Nakba Day proponents accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, they never mention the fact that while some 160,000 Arabs chose to remain in Israel, all Jews in the Arab controlled territory of Gaza and the West Bank were either killed or fled to Israel. That is ethnic cleansing. No Jew could remain. In addition, 850,000 Jews were expelled or fled from Arab countries, from 1941 onwards, with many settling in Israel. Most of the Arab world became Judenfrei (free of Jews).
Anti-Israel activists are free to organise and attend al-Nakba Day protests. The Palestinian Arabs have indeed suffered over many years. They have suffered at the hands of their own leadership in the past and the present, at the hands of Arab countries which took them in but have treated them abominably and refused to integrate them, and at the hands of the UN, which has kept them as refugees. However, al-Nakba Day is not about pursuing a state for Palestinian Arabs. It is about pursuing the destruction of the one Jewish state in the world.
* See Inside BDS for a comprehensive document on the origins and development of BDS, its tactics, strategy, and aims.

Antisemitic placard at the Nakba Day protest, Sydney, 15 May 2016

Julie Nathan is the Research
of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

by Julie Nathan
February 10, 2016
This letter is addressed to that small fraction of the political Left which not only criticises Israeli government policies or practices but also demonises and denigrates Israel at every opportunity and thus denies its legitimacy.
We see you, we hear you, day after day, making your ignorant, bigoted and malicious accusations against Jews and Israel. You claim to be speaking for human rights and for justice, but your words and actions betray you. You are haters, liars and bullies.
You presume to define our Jewish identity to suit your own sensibilities and convenience. You assert that Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism. You say we are only a religious group and deny our 3,500 year old history as both a national and a faith community. In short, you presume to tell us who we are – a liberty you would not dare to take with any other group – and you are wrong.
You say you have nothing against Jews. You say you are only against Zionists. You categorise us into “good Jews” who oppose Israel and “bad Jews” who support Israel. This is your cynical, sinister way of offering acceptance only to those Jews who are so lacking in knowledge or moral fibre that they are willing to embrace your hollow caricature of what it means to be Jewish. You are against the millions of Jews, the overwhelming majority, who are proudly Jewish and support Israel’s right to exist as the State of the Jewish people.
You are guilty of ignoring, minimising and obfuscating the antisemitism within your ranks. You claim to be anti-racists but will not condemn the all too obvious anti-Jewish racism which is manifested every day by adherents of the anti-Israel movement – on websites, on social media, at demonstrations, in public lectures, talks and speeches. When this antisemitism is exposed, you go into hysterical denial, accusing those who expose the ugly anti-Jewish racism you have helped to spawn of trying to stifle public criticism of Israel. As if there is any shortage of public criticism of Israel.
When Jews are attacked or murdered in Istanbul, Mumbai, Toulouse, Paris, and elsewhere, you blame the victims – you say “Israel is the cause of antisemitism”. You say “If Israel behaved better, then Jews throughout the world would not be attacked.” Yet you would not dream of blaming the victim for any other form of racism or racially-motivated violence.
When Jews are murdered in Israel, you defend it, excuse it, minimise it and at times condone it. You demonise Israeli Jews. You say they are “occupiers, oppressors”, whether they live in a remote outpost on the West Bank or in Tel Aviv. These Jews, you claim, are “settlers” who steal Arab land. You say all of Israel is Arab land. You cry: “Resist!” You give succour and encouragement to those who murder Jews.
You say “Israel is illegitimate. Israel must go.” You say “the Jewish state has no right to exist.” The only state in the world you say must be destroyed is the one and only Jewish state. The right you claim for all other peoples, that of national self-determination, you deny to the Jewish people.
You call Jewish Israelis “invaders, occupiers, colonialists, and settlers”, even though 80% of them are native born. You call them a “western implant to control the Middle East.” You tell them to “go back” to Poland and Germany – the graveyard of our people. Your true message is abundantly clear.
You talk of indigenous rights, yet deny the fact that the Jewish people, and our Hebrew language, culture and religion, are indigenous to the land of Israel. You ignore the fact that Jews have continuously lived in the land of Israel for 3,500 years. You ignore our national, religious, and cultural origins in, and continuing connections to, the land of Israel.
You ignore or belittle Jewish concerns. You ignore the fact that for millennia Jews were ostracised and oppressed, persecuted and massacred, a powerless people, a numerically small people, existing at the whim of popes, caliphs and kings, and the mobs of the host society. You expect us to forget what it is like to be stateless pariahs, an alien nation in the midst of other nations. You demand that we become stateless once again.
You say you are not anti-Jewish, only anti-Israel. Yet the false accusations you make against Israel are the same as those previously made against Jews. You say that Israel and “the Zionists” control the banks, the politicians, the media; that they lust after Palestinian/gentile blood, and are satanic in every way. Within the rubric of “anti-Zionism”, you have repackaged and redistributed every collective, racist lie that was ever told about Jews.
You call us Nazis. You equate the Jewish Star of David with the Nazi swastika. You equate Zionism with Nazism. You equate Jewish Israel with Nazi Germany. You equate us with the murderers of our people. You lie and demonise. You do not polemicise against us for the sake of the truth. The truth does not interest you. You say these things deliberately in order to re-traumatise us. Knowing that we are still haunted by the genocide perpetrated against our people more than 70 years ago, you implicitly call for another genocide against us by equating us with the perpetrators.
Your words mean: “as Nazi Germany was destroyed, so too it is morally just to destroy Israel.” Your words say: “if the Israelis and Zionists are so evil, then maybe Hitler had good grounds for committing genocide against the Jews.” Your words say: “if Hitler had succeeded in wiping out the Jews, then there would be no Israel.” Your words say: “in retrospect, Hitler was doing the world a favour.” The murder of six million Jews in Europe was not enough to satisfy your blind, self-righteous hatred. You are preparing the way for the murder of the six million Jews in Israel.
You call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until Israel bends to your demands and self-destructs. You lie when you say that BDS is only about Palestinian rights and justice, knowing full well that the BDS movement aims at eliminating the Jewish state. You do not care about Palestinian Arabs when their fellow Arabs oppress or kill them. Only when you can blame Israel do you speak up. Of all the countries in the world, you only target Israel for boycotts, divestment and destruction.
For you it is an inconvenient truth that Israel is a liberal democracy with equal rights for all, including LGBT people, who are free to live as they choose. You ignore that in neighbouring countries, gays are hung on cranes or thrown off buildings. You ignore that planting trees in Israel is an age old Jewish commitment to reinvigorating the barren land. So, in the depths of your moral and intellectual bankruptcy, you accuse Israel of “pink-washing” and “green-washing”. You twist and distort every good thing about Israel. To you, demonising Israel is more important than gay rights or the environment.
We see you, we hear you, day after day. Your lies about Jews and Israel is a rehash of the false accusations against the Jewish people and Jewish religion in previous centuries. The terminology has changed, but the sentiment, the actions, and the venom, remain the same. You come from the same mould as the Pharoahs, Crusaders, Inquisitors, Almohads, communists, fascists, Nazis, and Islamists. You are the contemporary standard-bearers of a long historical line of prejudice, envy and hate. Hang your heads in shame.
Julie Nathan is the Research Officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry
This article first appeared in the Times of Israel and J-Wire

15th February 2016
The “resolution on Israel-Palestine” passed by the NSW State Labor Conference on February 14th, which “encourages all party members visiting the region for the purpose of understanding the conflict to spend substantial time in both Israel and Palestine”, reflects precisely what has occurred for many years when MPs and others have participated in the Jewish community’s sponsored trips to Israel.
What began as a proposal to ban these trips altogether, and was subsequently watered down to a proposal requiring all ALP MPs on such trips to spend “equivalent time” in Israel and the territories, has ended up as a rejection of both of those proposals and an endorsement of the Jewish community’s long-established practice for sponsored trips of the region.
On the more substantive issues concerning the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the NSW ALP endorsed the 2015 Federal conference resolution which, for all its flaws, was far less problematical than the resolution passed by the NSW ALP conference in 2014. Significantly all 28 of the anti-Israel motions that had been orchestrated through various branches were rejected outright.
All in all, this is a pleasing development. The attempt to move Labor into a more and more hostile posture towards Israel this time suffered a firm rebuff.
This was made possible by the efforts of the many friends of Israel and the Jewish community within the ALP to each of whom we are very thankful.
The Australian Jewish community can also be proud of the role played by its community organisations, especially the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Australia Israel Labor Dialogue.

Robert Goot AM SC,
Executive Council
of Australian Jewry
Peter Wertheim AM,
Executive Director,
Executive Council
of Australian Jewry

Peter Wertheim AM Executive Director
ph: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904
e: pwertheim@ecaj.org.au | www.ecaj.org.au

26th November 2015

26th October 2015
ECAJ President Robert Goot, and Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, met for almost an hour on Wednesday, October 21, with Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. The meeting was sought by the ECAJ following media reports of a shift in Australia’s foreign policy towards Iran and the Assad regime in Syria.
The Foreign Minister stated in the clearest possible terms that there has been no shift in policy.
“We continue to have discussions with Iran about the repatriation of 8,000 of their nationals who came to Australia by boat,” Ms Bishop said.
“This includes how best the Iranian government can process these matters, however there is no specific plan to establish consulates in Sydney and Melbourne at this time.”
Ms Bishop said, “We have asked the Iranian government to provide us with any information they might have about Australian citizens who have joined Islamic State in Syria or Iraq. We have made this same request of other governments”.
The Foreign Minister confirmed that the Australian government has welcomed the final agreement that was concluded in July between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) concerning Iran’s nuclear program. However, she emphasised that Australia’s sanctions, including the autonomous sanctions, will remain force until there is verification, and international acceptance, of Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the agreement.
“This government remains resolutely committed to Israel’s right to live in peace and to defend itself,” Ms Bishop said. “I have raised concerns with the Iranian foreign minister about negative statements towards Israel.”
More generally, Ms Bishop said that the government was very proud of its solid record of support for Israel, especially at the UN. She said that at the end of December 2014, just before Australia’s two year term on the UN Security Council came to an end, Australia voted against a Palestinian-drafted motion calling for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2017. The motion was defeated without the need for the US to exercise its veto. Australia’s official Explanation of Vote criticised the motion stating:

“It lacks balance and seeks to impose a solution put forward by one party alone. Final status issues can only be resolved between the two sides. A process agreed by both sides is the only way forward to reach an enduring agreement.”

Recalling the incident, Ms Bishop noted the sharp contrast between the present government’s depth of commitment to Israel and the harsh and unfairly critical attitude adopted by the previous government under former Foreign Minister Bob Carr.
On the question of Syria, Ms Bishop expressed the view that the Assad regime had long ago lost its legitimacy, saying: “Any government that militarily attacks its own citizens with chemical weapons and barrel bombs has forfeited its right to govern.” She noted that the difficulty right now is that there is no way to remove Assad. “He has the support of only a small percentage of the Syrian people but is being maintained in power by Iran and by Russia. In the absence of a viable option to remove Assad from power, there is no alternative but to accept that his departure is not necessarily a precondition for achieving a political settlement of the conflict in Syria. All options have to be left open.”
The Foreign Minister concluded by saying that she was happy for the ECAJ to communicate to the wider community the views she had expressed at the meeting.

Robert Goot AM SC,
Executive Council
of Australian Jewry
Peter Wertheim AM,
Executive Director,
Executive Council
of Australian Jewry

Peter Wertheim AM Executive Director
ph: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904
e: pwertheim@ecaj.org.au | www.ecaj.org.au