Dr Jamal Rifi sentenced in absentia for his work with Project Rozana

August 25, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Sydney doctor Dr Jamal Rifi is reported to have been sentenced to ten years’ jail for working with Israel through a connection with Melbourne-based Project Rozana.

Dr Jamal Rifi

Dr Rifi told the ABC’s PM program: “I was informed by my brother that a journalist close to Hezbollah in Lebanon made an announcement that the Lebanese military tribunal sentenced me to 10 years’ imprisonment for being a collaborator and a traitor with the enemy.”

Project Rozana is Chaired by Ron Finkel in Melbourne but the organisation has Boards established in Israel, the U.s. and Canada.

In a statement issued today, Project Rozana said: “Project Rozana undertakes life-saving and vital work in Palestine and Israel with a primary focus on children and health, building better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians via health initiatives. To remain effective and properly serve the children and families who need urgent and necessary medical treatments, and to protect our brave and committed volunteers and staff, we cannot, and will not express political views on regional issues, or make comment on the rights or wrongs of lines on a map. We are neutral, secular, and interested only in life-giving and life-sustaining results for the people whom we seek to aid. This is our proven strength, building bridges between humans and finding immediate solutions where others falter.

Therefore, it was with some dismay, that yesterday we learned of the sentencing of our colleague, Dr Jamal Rifi(Board Member of International Humanitarian agency, Project Rozana), to ten years imprisonment by a Lebanese Military Court. The hearing was undertaken ‘in absentia’ and shrouded in mystery. Dr Rifi was unaware of the proceedings and has lived and worked as a respected medical doctor in Australia for many, many years. Dr Rifi is an Australian citizen. He is currently spearheading the main battle against Covid-19 in his local LGA, in Sydney, and has also been instrumental in the Arabic speaking and immigrant communities, instigating publicity campaigns about the necessity of vaccination and containment of the virus. He has been acknowledged by the Government as vital to fighting this disease and its spread within Sydney’s populace.

It has been alleged that Dr Rifi is guilty of ‘collaboration’, of ‘working and helping the enemy’, in this case, it would appear to refer to his life-saving humanitarian work (often medical based) with Project Rozana, working long distance from Australia – and helping oversee medical assistance to chronically and critically ill children which is being undertaken in Israel and Palestine by Project Rozana.

In the distorted world of Dr Rifi’s detractors, the concept of providing humanitarian medical outreach to critically ill Palestinian children needing treatment within hospitals in Israel is a bridge too far and, it would appear, unacceptable to those who preach hate and conflict. Daily, Project Rozana’s volunteers ferry sick from their homes in the Palestinian Territories to hospitals in Israel. This transport is free, as is the medical treatment the children receive. It is undertaken with the complete knowledge and support of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government.

In these turbulent and uncertain times, humanitarian values and medical-based programmes are more vital than ever in building people to people bridges of hope.

The Board of Project Rozana calls on Australia’s political leaders, community elders in leadership roles, and all compassionate and sensible people everywhere, to be united in their support of Dr Jamal Rifi AM in his continuing work in the health and humanitarian sectors.”

Chair of Project Rozana Ron Finkel told J-Wire: “Followers of sport are very familiar with the phrase – attack the ball not the man! In the upside-down world of Hezbollah, it is an article of faith that you attack the MAN and not the ball (in this case the Mission of Project Rozana). The reason for their choice is obvious. What can you say negatively about an international NGO that focuses on people-to-people trust-building. You attack Dr Rifi an incredibly passionate and hard-working member of the Lebanese community and of Australia more broadly,” said Ron Finkel the Founder and Chair of Project Rozana. “He joined Project Rozana in 2017 because his vision of building bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health, aligned with the Mission of Project Rozana.”

The Co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim commented: “Dr Jamal Rifi is an Australian citizen of Lebanese background who has been a general practitioner of medicine for decades.  In Australia, he has worked tirelessly to improve health and other services for the Arabic speaking and immigrant communities and to break down barriers and sources of misunderstanding between them and the wider community.  Similarly,  he has supported a range of causes to assist people in need in Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza.

This has included his work with Project Rozana, an NGO initiative to provide medical assistance to chronically and critically ill Palestinian children. Of necessity, the project requires building co-operation and better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians in order to save these young lives.

For this, Dr Rifi has reportedly been convicted by a Lebanese military court of ‘collaborating’ with Israel.  The conviction reflects adversely only upon the black-hearted individuals who sat on the court.   They will twist any truth and tell any lie to perpetuate their hate-filled world view which insists on a negative, one-dimensional conception of Israel that is utterly divorced from reality.  By convicting a good man who has worked faithfully to help others, the court has placed itself in the dock. It is a spectacular self-indictment.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council says it stands with Dr Jamal Rifi.

AIJAC also called on all others Australians to likewise support Dr Rifi, whose only crime was trying to assist sick Palestinian children.

In 2019 the Hezbollah-linked newspaper, Al Akhbar, published an article accusing Dr Rifi of collaboration with “Zionists”. The writer of the story, Lea Azzi, insisted that the problem with Project Rozana is that “It is a medical and humanitarian project and under this umbrella, they are normalising the relationship with Israel… So the enemy becomes a human.” Following the Al Akhbar story, a group of Lebanese lawyers reported Dr Rifi to Lebanese authorities for visiting Israel (which he did as part of his work with Project Rozana), which is a crime in Lebanon.

AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler said, “Dr Jamal Rifi’s only crime is seeking to help Palestinian children. AIJAC is proud to stands with him in the face of these malicious charges and we call on all Australians to do likewise.”

AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein added, “Dr Rifi is yet another victim of the terrorist Hezbollah, which has done so much to destroy Lebanon, economically, politically and socially. Their utter intolerance and violent hatred are truly laid bare by their attitude to Dr Rafi’s work to help Palestinians in need of medical care, especially children.  Apparently, it is better that Palestinians do not get the healthcare they require than Israelis and Jews be treated as ‘human’.”

Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s Director of International and of Community Affairs, noted ” I have known Jamal Rifi for many years, through his amazing work promoting communal harmony in Australia and in leading interfaith and multicultural collaborative action in many areas. His charity, open-mindedness and passion for building strong, tolerant communities are the very antitheses of the theocratic thugs of Hezbollah. The charge against him, and the ‘conviction’, speak volumes about Hezbollah and those who collaborate with them.”

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