News and Events

Peace and Harmony, Not Violence and Racism

Israeli flag march on Jerusalem Day, on Sunday. Credit: HAZEM BADER / AFP

Israeli flag march on Jerusalem Day, on Sunday. Credit: HAZEM BADER / AFP

I suspect most Progressive Jews are saddened by the level of violence taking place in our Jewish homeland. They are also probably wishing that those with influence in Israel today can address this as a serious and dangerous matter that can become an existential threat to the future of the State of Israel.

The violent attack on Women of the Wall by Ultra-Orthodox young women bused to the Kotel by departments of the World Zionist Organisation shocked Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews alike. The outcry was so loud that the Chairman of the WZO was forced to publicly distance the organisation from the violence and the board of the WZO passed a motion forbidding such behaviour in the future.

Recently we have seen the return of the Nationalist Flag March to Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate and Muslim Quarter. This has been described by the media as being very ugly and full of violent racist chants by the participants. It was unlike more recent years when, after a High Court ruling, police and organisers were able to silence violent behaviour with threats of arrest.

This year, from early morning thousands of marchers started arriving at the Temple Mount and filled the streets of the Old City. Young Jewish youths were heard chanting “Death to the Arabs” and cursing, as well as blocking the streets.

As thousands joined the march, the most extreme groups sang inflammatory songs leading to Palestinian stores being forced to close and residents locking themselves in their homes. Unfortunately, it is reported that chaos ensued with clashes taking place between Jews and Palestinians.

One can only guess why the violence has returned to the March. Perhaps its because the pandemic stopped the march in recent years or because of perceived extremist campaigns throughout right wing groups last year in support of Netanyahu, Likud, and the Jewish supremacist organisation, Lehava.

Tensions have also arisen with the death and funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh with the flying of thousands of Palestinian flags on the Temple Mount and in Palestinian neighbourhoods and the Jewish response of thousands of flags flying during the march and attached to municipal buildings and the Old City walls.

While it is a blessing that by the end of Jerusalem Day there was apparent peace, one can only hope that violence and clashes don’t return with each celebration in Israel. This is not the type of Jewish homeland we want. We Progressive Jews seek a pluralist Israeli society where the entire population can live in peace and harmony.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2022-05-31T17:55:02+10:00May 31st, 2022|News|

Violence Against Women of the Wall at the Kotel by Haredi Women

Young woman with flag

A young woman raising a WZO flag uses a whistle to disrupt Women of the Wall prayer service. Credit: Orly Erez Likhovsky

Background

The Progressive/Reform Jewish world was shocked and distressed to see young Ultra-Orthodox women who were brought to the Kotel last Rosh Chodesh on buses branded with the logo of the World Zionist Organisation, violently attack women who had gathered to pray.

Australian and British Jewish leaders expressed their distress at the role played by the World Zionist Organization in these attacks last week. Additionally, a large number of Jewish Federation leaders across the United States called an emergency conference with WZO Chairman Yaakov Hagoel seeking an explanation.

Concern has been raised that WZO Chairman Yakov Hagoel is also acting chairman of the Jewish Agency. The particular concern is because it was the Jewish Agency that spearheaded the Kotel deal to stop the very attacks against Women of the Wall that have now occurred.

While it is accepted that the WZO represents many different religious and political parties and movements, the Jewish Agency on the other hand is meant to be a non-partisan organisation set up for the benefit of the Jewish people.

Response by the World Zionist Organization Chairman and Executive

In response to the outrage expressed both within Israel and the Diaspora over the involvement of WZO departments in the Kotel attack, the WZO Executive met and subsequently published the following adopted resolution.

“The World Zionist Organization strongly condemns the conduct displayed at the event held at the Western Wall on Monday, Rosh Chodesh Iyar, in collaboration with the Liba Center while using WZO symbols. This behaviour does not represent the WZO’s fundamental values and runs completely against the ethos and ethics of the Zionist movement which is committed to pluralism and mutual respect between all streams of Judaism.”

“The World Zionist Organization shall not partner, either directly or indirectly, with organizations whose values, goals and/or activities showcase any aspects that demonstrate contempt, harassment, violence, and/or harm to the legitimacy of members and/or entities of the Zionist movement.”

“If any member of the Cooperation Committee wishes to propose a partnership with an entity which demonstrates any of the above conduct, this partnership shall not be approved. Management members may submit their suggestions for discussion at management meetings, yet only the Management is authorized to make decisions on this matter.”

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2022-05-20T15:45:34+10:00May 20th, 2022|News|

Antisemitism by Student Union

Melbourne University

Melbourne University

The Zionist voice of Progressive Judaism for Australia (ARZA) supports the UPJ, prominent Jewish leaders and organisations in condemning the Student Union of Melbourne University for outrageously supporting the anti-Israel BDS movement and demanding an academic boycott to cut ties with Israeli institutions, researchers, and academics.

This, in the very week we remember and celebrate the United Nations passing of the resolution of May 14, 1948, establishing the Jewish State in Eretz-Israel. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State was irrevocable, providing for the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

Attempting to deny this right by supporting the BDS movement against Israel is itself anti-Semitic, racist, and hateful and denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination afforded to other peoples.

Those who know Melbourne University for the institution it is and the fine reputation it enjoys also regard this action as shameful. The Student Union should be held to account for the harm they have now caused.

Fortunately, Melbourne University has spoken out about this matter in a public statement whereby they said in summary:

This anti-Semitic motion… is not the position of the University of Melbourne, nor is it one that is endorsed or supported by the University. “The University of Melbourne is deeply committed to the values of inclusion and respect, and all members of our community must feel welcome and safe from discrimination or racism. Any form of anti-Semitism is antithetical to who we are and what we stand for. Tackling it and its damaging effects is a responsibility of all members of our community.”

ARZA congratulates Melbourne University for the forthright way it has called out anti-Semitism on campus and recognised the need for respect and for its community to feel welcome and safe.

Perhaps the university should investigate the level of funding received by the Student Union and given its shameful behaviour whether its funding should be re-evaluated.

Additionally, given the Australian Government has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of anti-Semitism, it would make clear the attitude of Melbourne University and all other Australian universities if they too adopted this definition.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Australian Zionist Youth Council and Netzer for bringing Australian Zionist youth groups together to respond and reject what they described as this “anti-Semitic and deeply hurtful motion to our community”.

It is wonderful to hear that the Federal Mazkira of Netzer Australia, Noa Abrahams, is working with AUJS at Melbourne University to identify actions on campus to further respond to this distressing matter. We are extremely proud of the leadership being shown by our Jewish youth.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2022-05-20T15:45:07+10:00May 5th, 2022|News|
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