The AJDS executive has decided to place on the public record the following correspondence between the AJDS and the JCCV on the topic of our letter to Bob Carr.
Please read and judge for yourself.
Letter 1: AJDS to Bob Carr
See PDF here
The Hon. Senator Bob Carr
PO Box 6100
Canberra, ACT 2600
5th December 2012
Dear Senator Carr,
Our organisation supports the compromise decision of the Australian government to abstain on the recent UN General Assembly vote to upgrade the Palestinian status to a non-member observer state.
We also strongly support your decision for DFAT to call in the Israeli ambassador over Israel’s subsequent announcement authorising the construction of 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and development of an area of land known as E1, between Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Although the headlines in the recent edition of the Australian Jewish News, “You’ve Let Us Down” – in reference to the abstention by Australia at the UN – reflects the views of some in our community, it is by no means a universal view. We know this because articles we wrote which were published in both the Age newspaper and the Australian Jewish News in August 2011, arguing in favour of the recognition of Palestine, received support within our community.
In August of this year we visited Canberra and met with several Labor members including Maria Vamvakinou, Laurie Ferguson, John Murphy, Kate Lundy, Claire Moore, and Andrew Leigh. We put to them that there is another constituency in the Jewish community, supportive of Israel, who believe that it is time for Australia to speak plainly to Israel about the urgent need to resume negotiations towards a two state solution to the conflict. Steps such as settlement expansion, and indeed rocket fire from Gaza, work against a resolution.
By way of reference, our organisation is an affiliate of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.
Harold Zwier & Larry Stillman
For the AJDS executive
Letter 2: JCCV to AJDS
See PDF here
17 December 2012
Dear Mr Kaiser, Mr Zwier & Mr Stillman,
Your letter dated 7 December 2013 [sic] to the Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been brought to my attention.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria is the elected roof body of the Victorian Jewish Community with 60 organisations as its constituents. These organisations cover the full spectrum of political and religious thought and philosophy and rightly so, do free from interference.
However, that does not entitle any organisation affiliated with the JCCV to purport to speak on behalf of the JCCV or on behalf of the community as a whole.
The final sentence of your letter to Senator Carr, by placing your organisation within the context of the JCCV, seeks by implication, to attach itself the imprimatur of the JCCV.
I would therefore request that you make the appropriate clarification on your website.
Nina Bassat AM
cc the Hon. Senator Bob Carr
Letter 3: AJDS to JCCV
See PDF here
306 Hawthorn Road Caulfield 3162
8th February 2013
Re: Your letter of 17th December 2012 in response to our letter to Senator Carr of 5th December
My apologies for the delay in replying to your letter. I have been away for the last month and a half.
I was surprised at your suggestion and concern that the letter we sent to Senator Bob Carr, regarding the abstention by Australia at the UN General Assembly in the vote to upgrade the status of Palestine, in any way implied we spoke either for the JCCV or for the Jewish community in general.
By its decision to become an affiliate of the JCCV in October 1993, the AJDS chose to firmly place itself as an organisation within the organised Jewish community rather than one outside it. While the AJDS is interested in the issues of social justice, refugees, Aboriginal reconciliation and conflict resolution among others, it is the issue of Israel that has caused the most tension within our community. Our willingness to be fundamentally supportive of Israel and publicly critical of Israel on some matters of Israeli policy, sets us at odds with those in our community who believe that we should either remain silent, or at best raise criticism behind closed doors. Yet the AJDS represents a constituency within the Jewish community and the legitimacy of our voice was manifest in the decision by the JCCV to accept our affiliation in October 1993.
When we deal with people and organisations outside the Jewish community any reference to our JCCV affiliation is simply a way of making clear that we speak as Jews who are proudly part of our community, representing what we regard as a moderate and objective perspective on matters relating to the Middle East and Israel. In our experience, the reaction of those outside our community, whose goodwill towards Israel is not in question, is largely positive towards the views we express.
In our letter to Senator Carr of 5th December, we wrote:
“Although the headlines in the recent edition of the Australian Jewish News, “You’ve Let Us Down” ‐ in reference to the abstention by Australia at the UN ‐ reflects the views of some in our community, it is by no means a universal view. “
Both those paragraphs make clear that there is a diversity of views in the Jewish community on matters relating to Israel. Indeed in your email to me on 6th February, quoting your comments at the JCCV plenum meeting of 4th February, you wrote “We are a diverse community, with many divergent views…”.
No ordinary person reading our letter could reasonably infer therefore that we tried to represent ourselves as speaking on behalf of the whole Jewish community, or on behalf of the JCCV. We simply expressed a different voice in the Jewish community – and our letter made that clear.
You wrote, “The final sentence of your letter to Senator Carr, by placing your organisation within the context of the JCCV, seeks by implication to attach to itself the imprimatur of the JCCV.”
Let me remind you that our final sentence said, “By way of reference, our organisation is an affiliate of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria.”
If the reputation of the JCCV as the roof body of the Victorian Jewish community confers a certain status on its affiliates then the price paid by the JCCV for its reputation, is to represent the community in all its diversity. That was the decision of the plenum in 1993 when we became an affiliate. That is the decision of the plenum every time a new organisation is affiliated.
If stating that we are an affiliate of the JCCV implies that we have the approval (ie. imprimatur) of the JCCV then it does so precisely because the JCCV has approved our affiliation. On no reasonable interpretation of our words does it imply that we speak on behalf of the JCCV.
We note that a copy of your letter to us was sent to Senator Carr. We have done likewise with this reply.
Harold Zwier Executive member
cc. The Hon. Senator Bob Carr