In the AJN 2 – Congratulations and Caveats: AIJAC

On opposite ends of the political spectrum, this week, there have been signs of Jews behaving sensibly – together.

The AJN (page 6) reported on the AIJAC sponsored Inter-religious Coordinating Council of Israel’s members’, Rula Shubeita, Issa Jaber, and Dr Debbie Weissman, visit to Australia.

After overcoming the cognitive dissonance, there are many elements of this initiative on which to congratulate the organisers and participants. It was a very smart move on AIJAC’s part to shift its image as Israel’s attack dog, to something altogether friendlier (that nevertheless reflects well on Israel).

Interfaith events in general strike me as being a bit like chicken soup versus the flu: can’t hurt.

Connections between communities are vital for maintaining social harmony, but what exactly is the point of discussion panels that speak to people unlikely to cause trouble in the first place?

ForĀ  interfaith meetings to have any value, they need to abandon the niceties and go after the tougher issues of how exactly to forge bonds that will prevent division and disharmony at the grass-roots level. These bonds need to be social, professional, business and organisational, and as yet, they just don’t seem to be anywhere near the top of Australia’s interfaith agenda.

After all, the real trouble-makers rarely make the time for panel discussions.


Also reported in the AJN this week (page 5) is a report on AIJAC’s attempts to block al Manar from being broadcast into Australia. Most readers will be aware of the vile nature of al Manar’s propaganda. Not only is the channel clearly anti-Semitic, inciting the killing of Jews, but it generally espouses a foul ideology that is in diametric opposition to liberal democratic values. It is quite conceivable that individuals in Australia might be inspired to act after watching the vitriol and hate al Manar broadcasts. And they might very well act against Jews.

While the abhorrent nature of al Manar is clear cut, our community’s current involvement in its banning is less so. Free speech certainly has its limits (incitement to violence being the most obvious), and there is a case to be made for communal representation to government on the matter.

What concerns me is that AIJAC seems to be taking the lead in pursuing the al Manar ban. AIJAC is privately funded and is – if such a thing were possible – even less accountable to the community than the roof bodies. That they are doing the right thing in this circumstance is simply the community’s good fortune.

A private organisation lobbying for Israel’s interests is one thing, but such an organisation’s immersing itself in Australian public policy is something else entirely.

This really is a case of the Jewish Lobby trying to silence someone it doesn’t like. While al Manar has no business broadcasting in a liberal democracy, there needs to be a more appropriate body pursuing this cause. Unfortunately, that body doesn’t yet exist, because Jewish Australians are without true representation.

It is some comfort, therefore, that while we sit and wait for either Moshiach or accountable leadership (you might like to place bets on which will come first), AIJAC is taking the necessary action on the al Manar issue.

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4 Responses to “In the AJN 2 – Congratulations and Caveats: AIJAC”

  1. Princess says:

    Great post. Good to see someone understanding the nuances of community issues with such acuity. Keep writing.

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  2. Hi Sensible Jew,

    A couple of things here. First, the interfaith group wasn’t just AIJAC’s work. The JCCV and ZCV also organised elements of their trip. I understand the hosting duties of the community function at Beth Weizmann was shared by all three organisations.

    Second, AIJAC tackling the al-Manar issue is a kick-arse idea. Possibly I’ve misunderstood your writing, but I don’t think al-Manar should be treated as a racism or hate-speech issue. I’m a big believer in free speech stuff. The issue is that it’s a media organisation owned and operated by a terrorist organisation. It doesn’t matter what the media wing says, it should be banned, as long as Australia has obligations to the UN (which it does) to freeze all Hezbollah assets.

    The Jewish community raising the issue might be a problem for you and others, but if no one else is going to tackle the issue, it’s up to the Jews to roll up their sleeves. We can’t ignore something just because everyone else is and we don’t want to ruffle feathers. If it’s the right thing to do, do it. Lead the way in a good cause, and you’ll be able to look back and see a lot of people following you. A long journey begins with one step. Do not follow where the path may lead.
    Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. He that would be a leader must also be a bridge, yada yada yada.

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  3. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Princess.

    Thanks for your kind words.

    I look forward to reading more of your feedback in the future.

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  4. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Elder. Lovely to see you, as always.

    Firstly, you are quite right that AIJAC was not alone in hosting the interfaith group. I singled them out because of the initial incongruence, and then because of the realisation that they were behaving very intelligently by being involved.

    Regarding the al Manar issue, perhaps you misunderstand: I not only think the station breaches boundaries of free speech (because it incites violence), but I also think there is an important role for Jews to play in this particular issue.

    My reservations stem from two sources: 1) AIJAC, as a lobbyist for Israel, can be seen to have a conflict of interest and to an extent dilutes the message that this is an issue of Australian Jewish security. 2) The JCCV can’t reasonably replace AIJAC in this matter, because it is not actually representative, and because whoever writes their media releases/policies on complex issues (such as the Lexicon of Terror project) does not execute his/her job with requisite competence.

    My post concluded that it is therefore better than nothing to have AIJAC lobbying on our behalf, but it’s far from ideal. Ideally, there would be a genuinely representative body that could lobby on policy issues on Australian Jewry’s behalf.

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