Apology from ACHPER?

August 21, 2019 by Emily Gian
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The Victorian Deputy Premier and Minister for Education James Merlino has met with Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler and Zionism Victoria President Sharene Hambur who are  confident that the Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER), an organisation representing Victorian teachers, will offer a belated apology for distributing a factually inaccurate and deeply offensive Year 12 practice resource.

Jeremy Leibler

Last month, ACHPER was forced to withdraw a sample exam paper, which stated that “an example of an individual being persecuted for their religion could be the Arab families living in Israel who practise the Islam religion rather than the Jewish religion, including unlawful demolition of homes and forced displacement and detainment of these families.”

Sharene Hambur

“The public outcry from Jewish and non-Jewish students and their families gave ACHPER little choice but to recall the paper,” said Mr Leibler. “But the organisation’s refusal to agree to an independent investigation of how and why such ignorant and offensive material found its way into the exam paper in the first place, was entirely inadequate. As is its ongoing refusal to issue an apology.”

“The Zionist Federation of Australia and Zionism Victoria have been in discussions with the State Government, seeking its support in pressing ACHPER for a more appropriate response, including an independent inquiry, which would be made publicly available together with an unqualified apology”.

“In the meeting today with the Deputy Premier, Ms Hambur and I were able to convey to him directly the concerns of the community – both about the resource itself, and ACHPER’s resistance to responding in a way that would reassure us the same thing won’t happen again”, Mr Leibler concluded.

Ms Hambur remarked, “We understand that ACHPER is an independent organisation and that the government has no involvement in the materials that it produces. In fact, the Deputy Premier was unaware of the offensive material until it became public. In our meeting, it was clear that Mr Merlino understood and shared our concerns, and he reassured us that he and his Department had informed ACHPER that the government expected the ZFA’s calls for an independent inquiry and an apology to be fulfilled”.

Mr Leibler and Ms Hambur thanked the Deputy Premier for his efforts in pursuing a meaningful resolution to this issue from the outset.

The principal of Mount Scopus Memorial College Rabbi James Kennard told J-Wire: “I welcome the involvement of Deputy Premier Merlino and I hope that he is successful in obliging ACHPER to issue an apology for disseminating false slurs about Israel. To date, they have refused all requests from me to do so.

I thank David Southwick MP and Mr Leibler and Ms Hambur for their actions which have resulted in some government action.
An apology would be an essential and welcome first step, but ACHPER will not have fulfilled its obligation to right this wrong until it has:
1. Publicly retracted its false accusations against Israel and the Jewish people.
2. Confirmed that the writer of the slander no longer works for ACHPER and that if they are a serving teacher, measures have been taken to ensure that they cannot poison young minds with their propaganda.
3. Explained how the editing panel oversaw the publication of the original falsehood without amending it, and that the editing panel will work effectively and robustly in the future.
Until these actions are taken by ACHPER, I believe that the Minister should be withholding government funding to the organisation.

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