Updating the situation in Israel

October 30, 2015 by Emily Gian
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Over 200 people packed Melbourne’s Beth Weizmann for an Israel situation briefing co-hosted by Zionism Victoria, the Zionist Federation of Australian and the Jewish Community Council of Victoria. 

L-R Jennifer Huppert - President, Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Nick Staikos - Member for Bentleigh, Hon James Merlino MP - Deputy Premier of Victoria, Graham Watt MP - Member for Burwood, David Southwick - Member for Caulfield, Abeselom Nega -Member of the Board, - Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Anat Sultan-Dadon, Sharene Hambur - Acting President, Zionism Victoria, John Searle - Chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Philip Chester - Immediate Past President, Zionist Federation of Australia

L-r: Jennifer Huppert – President, Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Nick Staikos – Member for Bentleigh, James Merlino  – Deputy Premier of Victoria, Graham Watt MP – Member for Burwood, David Southwick – Member for Caulfield, Abeselom Nega -Member of the Board, – Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Anat Sultan-Dadon, Sharene Hambur – Acting President, Zionism Victoria, John Searle – Chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Philip Chester – Immediate Past President, Zionist Federation of Australia

Acting President of  Zionism Victoria Sharene Hambur said it was important for the community to not only show solidarity with Israel but to call what is happening in Israel by its true name – terrorism. This is the same terrorism, no matter where it occurs, whether in the streets of Parramatta in Sydney or in the streets of Israel. 

There to lend their support was politicians such as MP James Merlino – Deputy Premier of Victoria, Graham Watt – Member for Burwood and Nick Staikos – Member for Bentleigh,and John Searle – Chair of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Abeselom Nega -Member of the Board, – Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

State Member for Caulfield and co-chair of Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel David Southwick stayed back to offer support and take suggestions from audience members about how to better advocate for Israel as a community.

Anat

Anat Sultan-Dadon

The guest speaker for the evening was Anat Sultan-Dadon, who assumed her role as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Canberra at the end of August. Her previous post was as political counsellor in charge of Press, Culture and Public Affairs at the Embassy of the State of Israel in The Hague. Since joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in 2004, she has been posted in Cameroon and Berlin and served in Israel as a desk officer for Russia and Ukraine. This was her first large speaking engagement since arriving in Australia. Commending Australia’s support and friendship, she said it was heartwarming to be out of Israel and still be standing next to an Israeli flag.

Sultan-Dadon gave a solid overview of the current situation in Israel, pointing out guidelines that the Jerusalem municipality had released for how citizens should act in public spaces in the current climate, including how to apply First Aid in the event of a stabbing attack. No other city in the world would accept receiving such guidelines from their municipality. She contrasted this with a flyer released by Fatah in Jerusalem, which praised the perpetrator of one such stabbing attack as a martyr. 

The current situation is being spurred on by incitement from political and religious leaders and is based, in part on a fabrication about the status of the Temple Mount. This lie, says Sultan-Dadon, has persisted since 1929 and yet the mosque still stands, while synagogues, churches and even mosques throughout the Arab world have crumbled.

Moderated by Jennifer Huppert, President of the JCCV, Sultan-Dadon then fielded a range of questions from the audience about the Palestinian education system, media bias, and the age-old question – why Israelis so terrible at hasbara. Also in attendance was a large contingent from the Youth Movements, a number of them contributing by asking thought-provoking questions. Sultan-Dadon was warm and articulate and is no doubt a welcome addition to the Embassy staff in Canberra.

Immediate Past President of the ZFA Philip Chester stressed the importance of community members advocating for Israel in their work-place, at university and among friends, by personalising the story, and asking how we would react if we did not feel safe walking down the street?  

Chester also made mention of the fact that of the 300 Australian youths currently in Israel on a  program, only 4 have returned home due to the security situation. This says a lot, he said, about the affinity members of our community feel to Israel. And just as those Australians in Israel are doing their bit to stand with Israelis in their time of need, we need to stand with Israel over here by advocating for Israel whenever and wherever we can.

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