Senator and union leaders report on their visit to Israel

August 1, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Liberal Senator for Queensland  Amanda Stoker is a recent graduate of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) Rambam study program to Israel, and addressed an AIJAC function in Melbourne to discuss impressions of her visit to Israel in June. 

Senator Amanda Stoker with AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein

Senator Stoker’s Rambam group also included Senator Kristina Keneally (ALP, NSW), Senator Anthony Chisholm (ALP, QLD), Senator Jonathon Duniam (Lib. TAS), Senator Stirling Griff (Centre Alliance, SA) and Hon. Alfred Ngaro, member of the New Zealand House of Representatives.  Senator Stoker thanked AIJAC for providing her with an opportunity to have a greater understanding of Middle East realities through meetings with quality speakers and visits to places including Jerusalem, Sderot, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Israel’s northern border with Syria.

The group also visited Ziv Hospital where Israel is treating Syrians injured in the ongoing civil war.  Senator Stoker mentioned that she was particularly impressed by the Israeli culture of entrepreneurialism, which appeared to come from “a lack of complacency” and was shocked by the antisemitism and incitement she witnessed in the Palestinian media, which was exposed to her in a meeting with the director of Palestinian Media Watch Itamar Marcus. She also mentioned Israel’s resilience as something she greatly admired and would like to see fostered in Australia.

Another group of Rambam graduates consisting of trade union leaders also discussed the impact of the their study visit to Israel in December at an AIJAC luncheon on July 20.  The group consisted of seven trade union leaders and was organised by AIJAC’s Rambam Israel Fellowship Program together with the Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue, headed by ACTU Assistant Secretary Michael Borowick, who accompanied the delegation.

Ben Maxfield and Michael Borowick from the Australia/Israel Labor Dialogue, Nina Taylor, Jamie Hyams and Tzvi Fleischer from AIJAC, Robert Tonkli and Justin Power

Reporting back on their experiences of the Rambam program were Nina Taylor, Organiser with the Community and Public Sector Union who is also a councillor at the City of Glen Eira; Justin Power, Assistant Secretary of the Queensland branch of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA); and Robert Tonkli the Assistant Secretary of the NSW Branch of the SDA.  The group mentioned that highlights included speaking with Start-Up Nation author Saul Singer and  meetings with the Histadrut – Israel’s national trade union centre. Both Taylor and Powers noted that were impressed with the Histadrut’s efforts to ensure equal workplace rights for Palestinian workers, which they felt few people in Australia were aware of. Justin Power said that he now much better able to discuss the situation in the Middle East with colleagues convincingly because he could speak in terms of “what I experienced” rather than “what I heard.”

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