Chutzpah and The Petulant Zionists

For our non-Jewish readers: the past week has been the lead up to the eight-day Passover festival.

It’s a time of frantic and compulsive cleaning and bizarre shopping practices in preparation for eating far too much. A post about the nature of this festival is coming in the next couple of days.

What this means for the blog is sporadic posting until after the festival ends on April 6th.  In order to get updates on new posts during this time, you can subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of the blog (if you know how it works, in which case, you’re one up on me). I also post updates on Facebook for every new post.


This week’s Jewish News contained a particularly interesting piece (page 4) about Albert Dadon’s Leadership Forum.

The forum itself was held last year and was something of a coup. Israeli and Australian political leaders were brought together by Dadon’s organisation, the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange (AICE) to discuss various ways in which the ties between the two countries could be strengthened.

There were petulant whispers, none of them quite confident enough to be voiced publicly that somehow, Dadon was not playing by the rules because he operated independently of existing Zionist organisations.

Then, in the wake of the passports affair, with Australia/Israel relations in a fragile state, the Leadership Forum released its recommendations and findings, placing Stephen Smith – who had been very vocal regarding the passports – firmly back in the pro-Israel camp as he endorsed them.

By any measure, this was masterful advocacy, yet the AJN still reports on Dadon as though he’s a maverick, operating just outside the bounds of acceptable Zionist practice. An entire article was devoted to “establishment” communal reactions.

The very curt response from the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), as printed in the AJN may only be a portion of the full quote. If it is not, it is speaks of a profound chutzpah and very bad grace.

Rather than graciously congratulating Dadon for greatly helping to  restore Israel’s standing in Australia, ZFA President Philip Chester says (emphasis mine):

“The Zionist Federation of Australia welcomes the efforts of other organisations  in assisting it in encouraging and working towards an even closer relationship between Australia and Israel on a number of fronts.”

Even without the lack of any mention of Dadon or AICE, the ZFA’s sheer sense of entitlement is quite bizarre for an organisation that does not – and can not – represent all Australian Zionists. That brief statement contains a world of assumptions about the organisation’s proprietary attitude over all matters pertaining to Australia and Israel.

Robert Goot, meanwhile, was more forthcoming with his praise – perhaps because his organisation falsely claims to represent all Australian Jewry, as opposed to just Australian Zionists. He may not have felt Dadon’s success quite so acutely, as encroachment on his turf.

The only concerns for any genuine Australian Zionist should be: are Australian/Israeli relations being enhanced by a particular event or initiative, are those events/initiatives ethical, and are they being conducted in such a manner as to avoid compromising loyalties?

Albert Dadon’s Forum, and the release of the recommendations, fulfil each criterion and for that, true leadership should congratulate him.


In the interests of transparency, it is appropriate to note that I have worked for AICE in the past but am not currently employed by the organisation and have no ties to AICE or Albert Dadon whatsoever.

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Related posts:

  1. In The AJN 1: The Stark Contrast between Albert Dadon and the JCCV
  2. The Sensible Jew Salutes Antony Loewenstein.
  3. Dani Klein of StandWithUs and The SJ in Dialogue
  4. Dvir Abramovich in The Age: No Laughing!
  5. SJ Signs off – temporarily

11 Responses to “Chutzpah and The Petulant Zionists”

  1. Gustav says:

    Transparency is one thing…….but to be so fulsome in praise of Dadon and then footnote the blog entry with a rather opaque reference to not “currently” [whatever that means!] employed by AICE [Dadon's attempt to muscle in on AIJAC and various Jewish communal "voices"] is disingenuous. “The past” noted in the footnote was very recently – wasn’t it Ms Fein?

    Why not be open, truly transparent and candid?

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    • Alex Fein says:

      Gustav, when it comes to generating Zionist conspiracy theries, you really need to be more creative. The note itself contained all relevant information and the simple fact is, I no longer work for AICE or Albert Dadon.
      But welcome back, nevertheless. Your anti-Zionist take has been missing from this blog for a few months. Mohan’s been doing all the heavy lifting himself.

    • Sisu says:

      I think I might be in love with you, Ms Fein. Clever, insightful, and scathingly brilliant, all in one package.

      Was that too fannish? :)

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  2. Morry says:

    I was looking at the statement you posted, Alex, “The Zionist Federation of Australia welcomes the efforts of other organisations in assisting it in encouraging and working towards an even closer relationship between Australia and Israel on a number of fronts”, and wondering what I might have written. I would welcome the efforts of people not of my organisation, but of other organisations in helping me achieve my aims … as was done here. In fact, Dadon could easily have issued a similar statement about the Zionist Federation and its work.

    I doubt that I would have worded a statement much differently, but there is undoubtedly a reason that you see something bizarrely inappropriate in it. Would it be fair to say that you are far from a fan of The Zionist Federation, but a big one of Dadon? It’s the only obvious explanantion for you seeing a put down (one that requires a specific emphasis), where others see applause.

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    • Alex Fein says:

      Morry, the post sates clearly its objection to the statement’s implied ownership of ZIonist advocacy in Australia.

      It’s an important point. As mentioned, the organisation has no mandate to represent all Australian Zionists and it is probably impossible for it ever to get such a mandate. Far better, is for it to position itself as one of a number of advocacy organisations.
      There is also the crucial point made in that post that Dadon’s organisation succeeded where our other organisations either had no effect or actively did the community damage. Please re-read the Mossad/passports affair post if you are unclear on the damage to which I’m referring.

      Your suggestion that my motives for writing this post were personal, is neither correct nor fair.

      While there are aspects of the ZFA’s behaviour that I criticise, I very much admire the work of certain members. The Victorian chapter’s Executive Director, for example, Ginette Searle, is not only singularly competant, but an extraordinary advocate, and I only wish the organisation had the vision to put her front and centre in public matters nationally. Similarly, Emily Chrapot is an impressive figure. While I disagree with her approach, her intelligence and knowledge are obvious and, like Ginette, she never lets her own ego dominate the actual work. Then there’s Danny Lamm. While I’m not a fan of everything he’s said or done; he is obviously a good guy, who puts in so many hours for the community, and is willing to give of his time to anyone who wants/needs to speak to him.

      As for Philip Chester, I have never met him, and only know him through the printed word.

      My point is, this is not about being a “fan” of individuals or organisations.

      This is about structural issues (representation/turf wars) and outcomes. Dadon was successful, the other organisations weren’t, in pulling off something that benefited Australians, Israelis, and specifically Australian Jews during a very difficult time.

    • Morry says:

      Alex, I simply read no implied ownership where you do. I do read an implied congratulation and encouragement. The Zionist Federation represents those zionist organizations and zionists who hold it as their roof body, a very large proportion of the zionist population. Whether it is an effective advocate is a separate question, and I tend to agree with you regarding generational differences and that some of the senior leadership may possibly be mired in the past.

      I fully agree with you regarding Emily and Ginette and have nothing but the highest praise for them personally, and their amazing efforts and commitment, aside from both being truly lovely people. Danny too. Like yourself, I’ve never met Philip Chester.

      Given that Dadon was so effective, and resources are limited, wouldn’t it be a good idea for them to pool resources? Both are clearly doing amazing work, and I’m sure that both can count many successes. I don’t see it as any kind of competition, but rather an opportunity for people to work together.

      I see the statement issued as saying just that, and acknowledging successes. It seems that you don’t … and that’s OK, and perhaps I shouldn’t have speculated, but simply asked you why you do see it as you do …. why you read it with the particular emphasis that you added. You seem to assume that it’s a given and seem genuinely surprised that anybody may read it differently. I really am sorry for putting words in your mouth. It’s not something I do, and I presumed an understanding that may or may not be so. I had thought from what you’ve written previously that you consider that organisation somewhat fuddy-duddy, with shining lights like Emily and Ginette as the new future that highlights the relative tiredness … but it was a while ago when you posted the article, and perhaps my memory too, is somewhat fuddy-duddy.

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  3. [...] Agree with Sensible Jew on one Thing She’s right about this: Robert Goot, meanwhile, was more forthcoming with his praise – perhaps because his organisation [...]

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  4. melina smith says:

    hey alex, Happy passover to you and all those in the community!

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  5. Alex Fein says:

    Sisu! You make me blush! Or you would, if I weren’t acutely aware that I’m not your “type” :) But I am extremely flattered nevertheless. As you are aware, the fandom goes both ways!

  6. Alex Fein says:

    Morry, I sympathise with having a fuddy-duddy memory! But I choose to blame mine on pre-Pesach madness :)

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