Australian organisations raise concern ahead of Israel’s elections

February 25, 2019 by J-Wire
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The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Zionist Federation of Australia and The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council have expressed deep concern of two mainstream political parties in Israel bonding with the Otzma Yehudit, a party known for its racist links.

Jeremy Leibler

The Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) does not typically comment on the internal political machinations of the State of Israel. Israel operates its system on robust democratic principles, and it is inevitable that observers from afar will deeply disagree with one or more parties in any given election. However, the recent announcement that “Otzma Yehudit” (Jewish Power) and “Bayit Yehudi” (Jewish Home) are forming an alliance and could be part of a future governing coalition has compelled the ZFA to express its deep concern regarding such a union.

The Jewish Power party was formed by the disciples of Rabbi Meir Kahane and is inspired by his ideology. Kahane was the founder of a minority, extremist group and was ultimately banned from entering Knesset. Kahane espoused deplorable racist views which are entirely inconsistent with the principles on which the modern State of Israel was founded.

President of the ZFA, Jeremy Leibler, said, “as a bastion of democracy in the Middle East, Israel’s Knesset has a proud history of promoting the rule of law, equality and freedom, irrespective of race, religion, gender or ethnicity. The ideology of Jewish Power is antithetical to these important values. Electoral gains should never justify sacrificing the very values underpinning the Jewish State that we, as Diaspora Jewry, are proud to support.”

Mr Leibler added “Notwithstanding this disappointing development, the ZFA is confident that both the Israeli electorate and Knesset will continue to take any steps necessary to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic character”.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has commented on its dismay on the news that the  Jewish Home and the National Union, have agreed to join forces with Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) in Israel’s upcoming national election.

Co-CEO Peter Wertheim said: “The ECAJ does not ordinarily comment on Israel’s internal politics taking the view that these are matters for Israel’s citizens, whose rights, interests and security are at stake.

Peter Wertheim

However, we have never hesitated to speak out in support of Israel’s basic right to exist in peace and security, or against attempts to undermine Israel’s foundations as a Jewish and democratic State, as these are matters which engage the interests of the Jewish people as a whole. We have condemned attempts from the extreme left of politics to impugn Israel’s legitimacy, through the BDS campaign and by other means; fought against Islamist bigotry towards Israel and the Jewish people; and denounced the agenda of the extreme right to convert Israel from a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-party democracy into an ethnically or religiously exclusivist society.

We are therefore compelled to express our deep dismay that two mainstream Jewish political parties in Israel, Jewish Home and the National Union, recently announced an agreement encouraged by the Prime Minister to join forces with Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), a party which is widely seen as extremist and racist, and the political heir of the Kach Party founded by the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s under a Basic Law outlawing incitement to violence and later exiled entirely from Israel.

The unity ticket announced by the three parties is cynical and opportunistic, and a betrayal of fundamental Jewish and Zionist values. The leaders of Otzma Yehudit are disciples of Kahane, and there is now a possibility that at least one of them will be elected when Israel goes to the polls on April 9, and Kach’s poisonous ideology will return to the Knesset.

Dr Colin Rubenstein

Whilst the presence of one MK from Otzma Yehudit out of a total of 120 MKs would be largely symbolic, this is the kind of symbolism that matters. It will be used with equal cynicism by those who seek to demonise and delegitimise Israel.

All of Israel’s citizens equally, regardless of ethnic background, religious affiliation (or absence of religious affiliation), gender or sexual preference, will have the right to vote in the elections. We trust that they will have the good sense to turn their backs on Otzma Yehudit, and treat the recent agreement with the contempt it deserves.”

The Executive Director of The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council Dr Colin Rubenstein agrees. He stated: “While AIJAC does not normally seek to influence Israel’s electoral processes, watching from afar, it is deeply regrettable that recent political maneuvers in Israel appear likely to bolster the credibility and electoral prospects of Otzma Yehudit, a party comprised of followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Kahane was a divisive and racist figure whose original political party was appropriately disqualified by Israel’s Central Elections Committee. That disqualification was subsequently upheld in Israel’s Supreme Court.

For decades, AIJAC has consistently condemned and opposed Kahane and his followers – as we do the discriminatory and offensive beliefs now espoused by Otzma Yehudit. These are indeed ‘reprehensible’ – as argued by our partner organisation the American Jewish Committee (AJC) – and inconsistent with the Jewish values and democratic ideals integral to Israel’s political and social character.

AIJAC hopes and expects that both Israel’s voters and political leaders will overwhelmingly reject the prospect of such abhorrent values being represented in their robust democratic institutions.”


2 Responses to “Australian organisations raise concern ahead of Israel’s elections”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    Australian Jewish representative organisations actively monitor all aspects of media injustice, et al, in regard to Israel and speak out appropriately. That’s a form of political involvement and activism. Jews involved with Israel have a right to opinion and this particular issue is an important one. Keep the poison of racists, and violence, out of the Knesset.

  2. Dudi Lieber says:

    Yeah, fair point that Kach had an unacceptable ideology. But let’s paint the full picture. They fail to mention that Benny Ganz has chosen to bolster himself with Palestinian MK’s who align themselves with Arab and Muslim states that do not recognise Israel, they support terrorism for real (not just ideologically), and call for it’s total destruction.

    Will these organisations also condemn that?

    Are we so comfortable with Islamic terror that we have become blindsided to the other enemy within? True, Otzma is possibly not the ideal representative for world Jewry – but Palestinian ministers who support terror are astronomically worse! They want us gone.

    If Ahmad Tibi, the former assistant to the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, has a right to be in the Israeli Knesset, then so does Otzma.

    Otzma are running under a legit ticket. So why the rash statement?

    Our friends in Canberra know how politics work, they know shtick. No need to be goody goody two shoes to impress them. Why play the apologists? Pauline Hanson is a racist, but she is considered a legitimate Australian politician. What’s the go guys?

    Also, Australian Jewry is totally unaffected by the process of voting in Israel, so why speak out on this particular issue? It kinda does appear to be meddling in the process of the Israeli elections. And that in itself – is a serious breach of a democratic process!

    Perhaps Australian Jewish representative organisations should, as they have until now – remain out of Israeli politicking.

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