David Grossman: Why? Who died?– translated by Sol Salbe

Sol Salbe has done the world a great service by translating David Grossman’s essay about the death of a Palestinian in Israeli police custody. It is all too reminiscent of an Australian indigenous death in custody story.
As Sol writes:
Last Friday Haaretz did something unusual: it placed an opinion piece on top of its front page. But it wasn’t just an ordinary opinion piece, it was written by one of the country foremost novelists, David Grossman. The article, like Emile Zola’s J’accuse, to which it has been compared, was a moral critique. Many who read it were very moved. But the moral missive never appeared in English (at least to my knowledge). The English Haaretz has always been somewhat reticent in presenting Israel to the world. And of course translating Grossman is not easy, he is a master of the language and the art of writing.I have no idea whether I have done justice to this work. But it needed to be translated. The message is too important.*Hebrew original: http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/politics/1.1649589*Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia .
For the rest go to

Liberty Victoria: The Kafkaesque world of security assessments.

Liberty Victoria has issued an important press release concerning security assessments of refugees in Australia. The text is below, and also in the attachment.
Yesterday evening, some 50 people in Australia went to sleep not knowing whether they will ever be released from immigration detention. These people have committed no crime. They have spent more than a year in detention seeking to demonstrate that they are genuine refugees. At the end of that process, they have been found to be genuine refugees. That is, their case that they would be persecuted if they returned to the country from which they fled has been accepted.
They had the fair and legal expectation that they would then be released so as to pursue new lives either in Australia or some third country that would accept them for resettlement. They are still locked up.

AJDS  supports   anti-bullying program   in  schools 

In an article recently published in the Australian Family Association journal, Rabbi Dr Shimon Cowen writes that the real goal of the homosexual “anti-bullying” program for schools is “the teaching and validation of homosexual behaviour at the early stages of child education”. He further argues that homosexual behaviour is a moral wrong.
Rabbi Cowen is essentially claiming that the homosexual “anti-bullying” program for schools has an agenda hidden behind the overt purpose of eliminating bullying behaviour.

The Solution to Bigotry is more Free Speech

Rabbi Shimon Cowen has published an article in a conservative journal highly critical of programs to promote anti-bullying of young gay people, because he believes them to ‘normalize’ homosexuality.
His views aside, the issue is an important one for advocates of free speech and how to deal with what is seen as offensive speech.
I offered this opinion in Galusaustralis.

EVENT: Re-imagining the Jewish Community: A Forum for Young Jews

Sunday, 4 March 2012
15:00 until 17:00
Multicultural Hub Melbourne -Green Room, 506 Elizabeth Street (opposite the Queen Victoria Market), a short walk from Melbourne Central station
What kind of Jewish community do we want?
What issues are important to us and what do we want to do about them?
Lots of us young Jews are searching for a Jewish identity which is relevant to the issues facing the world today. Many of us also feel alienated from the mainstream Melbourne Jewish community.
So let’s come together to talk about the kind of Jewish community that would be meaningful to each of us. We’ll talk about the kinds of ideas, events and programs which could exist: we’ll challenge the idea that there can only be one Jewish community, or one Jewish way of thinking, in Melbourne.

Dealing with Iran– James Zogby

James Zogby is one of the most intelligent voices in the Arab-American community, and this is an excellent article (in Tikkum magazine) about Iran, Israel, and the US
“There are lessons to be learned in order to avoid a confrontation from which no one will emerge a winner. Those in the U.S. who point to Israel’s 1981 strike against Iraq, conveniently ignore the fact that Saddam emerged undeterred. The next two decades witnessed Iraq and Iran engaging in an orgy of blood-letting, in part leading to Iraq’s fatal occupation of Kuwait and all that followed. Then there were Israel’s repeated invasions, occupations and bombardments of Lebanon which only devastated that country, leading to the emergence and empowering of Hizbollah. Or Israel’s war and strangulation policy against Gaza which only resulted in death and destruction, increasing bitterness and a deepening Palestinian divide, making the search for peace more difficult.”
Full text

Much too promised land– Hal Wootten

Wootten offers a long critique of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s critique of The Promise.
He is a distinguised jurist and public figure in Australia
“If it is to maintain balance among the destabilising forces raging within and without, Israel is in desperate need of trusted but frank and independent critical voices such as the Diaspora could provide. Australian Jews can play such a role only if they open their eyes and ears and hearts and minds to the messages of the writers, artists, thinkers and people of insight and goodwill in the world, rather than attempt to shoot the messengers. Fortunately more and more are doing this. ”
Read his critique.

Students for Palestine's planned protest at a synagogue should be condemned.

The AJDS deplores the decision undertaken by Students for Palestine to hold a protest outside Adass Synagogue in Melbourne on Saturday, February 25th. There is no excuse for religious harassment, whether or not it is to make a political point.
We also note that their decision to cancel was largely driven by a realisation of the adverse reaction to such a protest in the wider community, not because of any twinge of conscience on their own part.
AJDS Executive
14 February 2012

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society in 2011 – Report presented by Harold Zwier at the 2012 AJDS AGM

12th February 2012
Rather than simply talk about the activities of the AJDS over the past year, I want to track our activities in the context of major and not so major events happening locally and in the wider world. It has been an interesting year and much has happened that has been of direct interest to us.
Nationally we have seen the introduction of a carbon tax passed by the federal parliament amid an environment of increasing scepticism about climate change.
The High Court threw out the Federal government’s so called Malaysia solution by which the government planned to deport to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia, in exchange for accepting 4000 refugees from Malaysia. That both the government and opposition continue to play political games with the lives of asylum seekers is abhorrent to all who value the overriding importance of human rights, the protection of people escaping persecution, and the need to treat people with common dignity.

Enhancing the AJDS' Engagement with Young People – Research Report

In 2011, the AJDS commissioned a Research Report about engagement with younger politically and socially active people in the Jewish Community. It was researched and ritten by Helen Rosenbaum, PhD.
The following extract summarizes the report, with the full report attached.
For any inquires, please contact Max Kaiser at co @ ajds.org.au.
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) has existed for over 20 years as a “Jewish Voice Amongst Progressives and Progressive Voice amongst Jews”. With fluctuating levels of activity – as can be expected from a voluntary committee – the AJDS has attempted to provide a forum for debate and discussion on social justice, human rights, conflict resolution and environmental issues. While these issues resonate well with many politically aware young people, an examination of the AJDS membership indicates that we have failed to attract young people.
This research was undertaken to explore how AJDS can engage more effectively with people aged 25-45 years, who are politically aware and generally share AJDS’s socially progressive values and concerns. Sixteen people were interviewed, encompassing 13 young Jews under 45 years of age and representatives of Jewish and non-Jewish organisations. Eleven of the 13 young interviewees are actively engaged either professionally or in a voluntary capacity in political activism, promoting social justice, or supporting environmental advocacy.
The findings indicate that a socially progressive Jewish voice is valued by politically aware young Jews, many of whom are searching for a secular Jewish community to belong to. The young interviewees greatly appreciate AJDS as a counterbalance to the conservatism of the mainstream Jewish community and its leadership. However, it appears that for the majority of young Australian Jews, the AJDS is not visible. Indeed, even amongst those who do know of us, there is a lack of clarity about our scope, values and goals.
Please see full report attached-