What can be done to stop the hate and protect our community

The following is the translation of an article by Dr Michael Milstein’s the head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Dayan Centre at Tel Aviv University: https://www.ynet.co.il/news/article/yokra13943293.

The Palestinians describe a tragic historical cycle that was forced upon them, but refrain from admitting that it stems from the strategic choices made by the public and the leadership together, in which the refusal to recognize the connection between cause and effect is prominent.

Nakba Day, observed on May 15, was described this year by many Palestinians as a continuation of their permanent historical destiny, centred on displacement, refugees, carnage and destruction. Some even claimed that the current campaign in Gaza is the great Nakba, the one that surpasses the extent of the harm it inflicted on the Palestinians over the original one from 1948.

However, the similarity between the past and the present is also embodied in many “shadows” that the Palestinians do not deal with, chief among them: the lack of national leadership (in 1948 it was the first to flee, and today it is hidden underground, without dialogue with the public), alongside the permanent gap in the national agenda of order and realistic goals instead of illusions and slogans. And so, the refugee camps continue to serve as a symbol of the Palestinian fate, and they receive a “recent addition” in the form of aid trucks and crowds chasing packages dropped from airplanes.

The tendency towards rapprochement, maintaining total dependence on the world and escaping responsibility and self-criticism are therefore replacing an orderly and unrealized national strategy.

The Palestinians describe a tragic historical cycle that was forced upon them but refrain from admitting that it is the result of the strategic choices made by both the public and the leadership. In this framework, the refusal to recognize the connection between cause and effect (opposition to the partition plan in 1947 and the October 7 massacre that started the current war) stands out, along with adherence to a dichotomous image according to which the Palestinians are eternal victims and Israel is “absolute evil”. All this while avoiding soul-searching and adopting passivity and fatalism in the face of the disasters arising from the national decisions that are being promoted. The tendency towards rapprochement, maintaining total dependence on the world and escaping from responsibility and self-criticism are therefore replacing an orderly and unrealized national strategy.

Years after the Nakba of 1948, a Palestinian national identity exists, but a heavy question mark arises regarding the existence of a Palestinian civil society. This is a collective that so far has not protested the unprecedented disaster brought upon it by Hamas, and large parts of it, as Palestinian public opinion polls show, are in favour of the October 7 attack, support Hamas and refuse to believe that Palestinians have committed war crimes. This is an expression of a long-standing bipolarity: glorification of violent attacks that are wrapped in the heroic terminology of “resistance” and “subjugation”, and on the other hand convergence in rapprochement.

Paradoxically, the strength of the Palestinian national movement outside the Palestinian arena today is greater than that which exists between the river and the sea. From the support demonstrations on the campuses, in fact, the first virtual national movement in the world was born, which serves as a symbol of the Z generation culture. Supporters of the Palestinian struggle adhere to general slogans, identity politics, fashion embodied in the watermelon symbol and wearing a cap, and as little complexity and knowledge as possible. These are embodied, for example, in the understanding of the anti-liberal character of Hamas or in the recognition of the corruption and political oppression that currently characterize the entire Palestinian system.

The war in Gaza evoked memories of the Holocaust and was extinguished from the bottom of the collective consciousness in both communities, along with unprecedented suspicion and hostility. In such a situation it is unlikely to hope for reconciliation. In the background, the difficulty of developing a fruitful dialogue between a community that specializes in self-flagellation and one that largely refuses to recognize the suffering of the “other” and the ability of its members to commit war crimes is intensifying. Between a society adhering to a monolithic and dichotomous narrative of a struggle between angels and devils – to a second where self-criticism and protest against the leaderships, including during wars.

The events of the past week in Rafah illustrate the gap described. The severe injury to Palestinian civilians – apparently caused by a Hamas ammunition explosion and not an IDF attack – was widely reported in Israel and an in-depth investigation into the matter was promoted. Hamas, on the other hand, jumped on the incident as a propaganda asset, and among the Palestinian public there were rather weak doubts about the question of who is responsible for the destruction of the fabric of life that existed until October 7. With no horizon for the end of the suffering, among the bad alternatives on the Palestinian issue, Israel should choose the less bad and more realistic one. The deepening of contact between the nations is the worst, with the potential to lead to a bleeding situation like the one experienced at the Balkans with heavy prices in the political, economic, security and social fields. The necessary way out for two hostile communities with such deep cultural and value differences is physical separation. However, this is accompanied by an acute dilemma in view of the Palestinians’ immaturity for sovereignty, embodied in the fact that when they already experienced it – after the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 – they focused on jihad and not on self-development.

Israel’s leaders are required to settle between the two poles: on the one hand separation and on the other hand painful decisions, but at the same time not to risk existential threats, for example following the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. One of the required lines of thinking is the creation of a physical border, while leaving the gates of the Palestinian entity in the hands of Israel – the Jordan Valley and the Philadelphi corridor on the Egyptian border. This is for an unspecified period of time, during which it is to be hoped, and without erring on the side of fantasy, that a stable and sober Palestinian leadership will be established and the entrenched hostility towards Israel will diminish. Right now the likelihood of such a scenario is clouded, but the very idea is essential to develop a realistic and non-conception based discussion of the kind that tragically shattered on October 7th.

The author is the head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University

2024-06-03T17:04:36+10:00June 3rd, 2024|Uncategorized|

Freedom of Speech vs Hate Speech

A call for courageous leadership

Freedom of speech is fundamental to the existence of liberal democracies. The ability of an individual or minority group to express opinions, protest and debate pluralistic ideas without the fear of prosecution or intimidation is vital for the vibrancy of an open society, where the rights of the individual are at the very centre. From the days of the 19th Century philosopher John Stuart Mill (“On Liberty”), it has become one of the foundation rights that differentiates our society from authoritarian regimes where such liberties are, at best, limited.

The escalation in hate speech in Australia and around the world since  October 7th raises serious questions about the level of tolerance that liberal democracies can and should maintain to enable the exercising of this fundamental right, when it comes at the expense of public safety, psychological abuse, threats and incitement to violence, and in extreme circumstances, the potential to undermine the fabric of democracy itself.

“Tolerance, which conceives the right to freedom of expression as a carte blanche allowing any speech, in any circumstances, might prove counterproductive, assisting the flourishing of anti-tolerant opinions and hate movements. Therefore, we have to be aware of the dangers of words, and restrict certain forms of expression when designated as levers to harmful, discriminatory actions; for words, to a great extent, are prescriptions for actions.” (Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Speech, Media and Ethics The Limits of Free Expression).

We have been witnessing a Tsunami of antisemitic hate speech across Australia and globally, from chanting of “gas the Jews” near the Sydney Opera house just days after the massacre of October 7,  and chants calling for genocide of Jews, to harassment and intimidation of young Jewish students on university campuses, staff presenting opinions as facts, where students feel the need to understate or hide their Jewish identity in order to be included in campus life or even attend classes. Other forms of abuse have also occurred at festivals, medical centres and other public places.

In attempting to address this challenge, a recent Task Force on Antisemitism at Columbia University adopted three key principles:

  • First, the vital role of free speech, exchange of ideas, and rigorous debate.
  • Second, the responsibility to respect and protect the right of others. “Our right to speak must not come at the expense of the right of others to speak, teach, research, and learn. We must not use the “heckler’s veto” to shout down other speakers, tear down or deface posters, disrupt classrooms, or impede other essential functions of the University. These “rules of the road,” which are known as “time, place, and manner” restrictions, are essential to the academic enterprise. Intellectual inquiry cannot proceed without them… These limits must be applied consistently and even-handedly. It would be unacceptable for them to be invoked selectively to silence particular voices. Rather, time, place, and manner restrictions must be content- and viewpoint-neutral.”
  • Third, treating all members of our community with respect. Everyone deserves to feel safe. The University must be a welcoming home to all students, faculty, and staff, regardless of their race, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, military service, or other legally protected status.

Harassment and discrimination cannot be tolerated. Nor should anyone be free to engage in violence or to call for violence against individuals or groups to which they belong. Members of the community who have Jewish heritage, Israeli origins, Zionist views, or other minorities for this matter, should not be excluded or intimidated.

There is an urgent need for leadership to address this issue in Australia, not just rhetorically but by enforcement. The responsibility to protect free speech, as well as safety and anti-discrimination, calls for leadership to take action. This includes implementing legislation and policies, and on-the-ground enforcement.

On a more strategic level, there is a need to look at the deeper undercurrents of antisemitism and its relationship with various foreign actors whose aim is to abuse the democratic system and create polarization of western societies by intensifying binary world views and undermining our peaceful social fabric.

Heads of universities, members of local, state and federal governments, and law enforcement agencies all bear responsibility to ensure the right balance is maintained so that social cohesion, inclusiveness, and prosperity of ideas flourishes. Furthermore, this is essential to avoid escalation that could undermine our cherished liberal way of living and protect our pluralistic democratic society for future generations. Neglecting to do that is betrayal of leaders duty to defend our democracy.

I highly recommend listening to the interview (link below) with David M. Schizer who served as Dean of the Law School at Columbia University and who worked closely with the esteemed Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Schizer was part of the (previously mentioned) Columbia University task force established to tackle the rise of antisemitism on American university campuses:


Ayal Marek
President ARZA.org.au
Co Vice President Union for Progressive Judaism

2024-06-03T16:50:36+10:00June 3rd, 2024|Uncategorized|

Minutes of the ARZA AGM – 7 December 2022

Date: Wednesday 7 December 2022
Time: 7pm – 8pm
Chair: Steve Denenberg
Minutes: Cassandra Barrett
Location Online via Zoom

Meeting opened 7.00pm.

1.0 – Attendance

Persons in attendance (in order of joining):

Steve Denenberg; Helen Shardey OAM; Tony Leverton; Cassandra Barrett; Rabbi Dr John Levi; Philip Bliss; Philip Levy; Jerome Winston; Sefi Shalam; Kathy Kaplan OAM; Ayal Marek; Dr Sue Silberberg; Caroline Heard; Benjamin James; Janet Henrie; Rabbi Aviva Kipen; David Cohan; David Knoll AM; Alex Gajic; Howard Nathan QC.

Confirmed attendee numbers meet quorum requirements.

2.0 – Apologies and proxies

Apologies received from (in order of receipt):

Rabbi Fred Morgan; Dr Nick Dyrenfurth; Noa Abrahams; Charles Simon; Barbara Simon; Avishai Conyer.

One proxy received from Avishai Conyer, appointing Sefi Shalam.

3.0 – Approval of previous minutes

Motion: That the minutes of the 2021 AGM are accepted.

Moved: Philip Bliss
Seconded: Philip Levy
Passed unanimously.

4.0 – Matters arising


5.0 – President’s Report

  • Annual report circulated and taken as read.
  • Recent activities of highlight include: Dr Sue Silberberg and Benjamin James recently attended the Arzenu seminar in Israel as representatives of ARZA Australia; Committee Member Ayal Marek has been exploring opportunities for programs that offer tools to challenge antisemitism; Avishai Conyer and Ben James have planned to co-develop a paper on Progressive Zionism; and the Progressive Taglit cohort will soon depart for Israel.
  • President expresses thanks to the Board, noting that herself and the Treasurer are completing the final year of their terms; to outgoing Progressive Shaliach Sefi Shalam for his enormous contribution to ARZA and Taglit; to Noa Abrahams, with congratulations her successful term as Federal Mazkira of Netzer; and to attendees for their ongoing support.

6.0 – Treasurer’s Report

  • Treasurer’s Report circulated with annual report, including statement of income and expenditure and auditor’s report.
  • Relatively minor change overall – a net loss of $2500 compared with net surplus of $2100 for previous year. Expenses are modest. Moratorium on membership fees the primary driver. Priority of Executive will be to drive membership in order to restore previous position.
  • Treasurer expresses thanks to Board colleagues, and to financial assessor Janet Henrie and auditor Debra Arnold – a pleasure to work alongside them and appreciate their advice and support.


  • Dr Sue Silberberg: What did the Arzenu reimbursement relate to?
  • Treasurer: A one-off reimbursement of election costs that were paid in advance.
  • Philip Levy: Critical to reinstate collection of membership fees by shuls; is this under way? Have shuls agreed to do so?
  • President: Have recently spoken to Emanuel, who had stated that their policy is to include ARZA membership. TBI has reported that they will include in the next membership cycle – significant gain, as the decision to change under the tenure of the previous Board was impactful. President expresses appreciation for the support of the various synagogues in collecting membership dues.

Motion: That the Annual Report, including President’s Report and Treasurer’s Report, is accepted.

Moved: Steve Denenberg
Seconded: David Knoll AM
Passed unanimously.

7.0 – Re-appointment of Auditor and Honorary Solicitor

Motion: That Debra Arnold be appointed as honorary auditor.

Moved: Tony Leverton
Seconded: Philip Bliss
Passed unanimously.

Motion: That Janet Henrie be appointed as financial advisor.

Moved: Tony Leverton
Seconded: Philip Bliss
Passed unanimously.

Motion: That Norbert Schweizer be re-appointed as honorary solicitor.

Moved: Steve Denenberg
Seconded: Tony Leverton
Passed unanimously.

8.0 – Motion to amend Constitution [clause 25.1 (c)]

Background to proposed amendment:

  • Role of second Vice President has been vacant for some time.
  • The current constitution restricts the Vice President role to representatives from Melbourne and Sydney – an historic clause that was intended to ensure shared representation across Victoria and NSW.
  • Feel that the current clause is discriminatory, and not in the spirit of a national organisation. The proposed amendment enables all states to be represented at the leadership level. It also supports greater participation in leadership by younger people.

Motion: That the proposed amendment to the Constitution [clause 25.1 (c)] is accepted.

Moved: Helen Shardey OAM
Seconded: Philip Bliss.
Passed with majority.

Comment: David Knoll commends the cooperation between NSW and Victoria, and affirms the importance of supporting inclusion and representation of other states. The approved amendment is aligned to the UPJ’s efforts to seek active participation by smaller states and the Asia-Pacific.

9.0 – Election for the office of one [1] Vice-President

  • Following approval of proposed amendment, Ben James (South Australia) stands unopposed as candidate for Vice President. Mazal tov Ben.

10.0 – Election for the office of up to four [4] Ordinary Committee Members

  • One nomination received by Ayal Marek. Mazal tov Ayal.

Comment: Helen Shardey OAM notes that Avishai Conyer, who was previously an ordinary committee member, now becomes an Ex-Officio member as Netzer Federal Mazkir. Additional committee members, particularly from un(der)represented states, are welcome.

11.0 – General Business

  • Kathy Kaplan OAM: Reminder re: upcoming workshop on organisational governance and communication. Free for all PJV members.
  • Howard Nathan: Kehilat Zdot Zadav (Bendigo) recently unveiled a chanukiyah as part of a multifaith ‘peace park’ initiative.
  • Rabbi Aviva Kipen: Highlighted need to cultivate ongoing conversations re: political challenges in Israel that are balanced and respectful. May form the basis of some programming for ARZA in anticipation of the next World Congress. Helen affirmed importance of maintaining strong representation at WZC, particularly given loss of some mandates in the US. Possibility of an election at the local level – important to ensure that ARZA membership is strong in order to maintain or improve our mandates.

12.0 – Close

Chair congratulates President Helen Shardey OAM for her hard work.

Chair thanks all in attendance for their continued support and affirms invitation for additional committee members to support the current Board. Congratulations to Helen for her hard work.

Meeting closed 7:40pm.

2023-11-16T08:57:50+11:00November 16th, 2023|Uncategorized|
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