November 27, 2012 by  
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Leaders of the Jewish communities of each of the States, the ACT and New Zealand gathered at the Beth Weizmann centre in Melbourne on Sunday for the Annual General Meeting of the The Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

David Irvine addresses the meeting

Reviewing the past 12 months, ECAJ president Dr Danny Lamm presented his report, which ran to a mammoth 106 pages with 90 attachments.  Discussion among Councillors focused on the ongoing negotiations between the ECAJ and Qantas in connection with the Australian airline’s proposed agreement with Emirates Air, the draft national education curriculum in ancient and modern history for Years 11 and 12, the ECAJ’s efforts to mediate in the dispute between World Vision Australia and Shurat Hadin over the destination of aid money to a Palestinian organisation in Gaza, communal security, and plans for an expanded ECAJ – ACT Jewish community presence in Canberra.

ECAJ Councillors heard a rare public address from guest speaker David Irvine, the Director General of Australia’s internal intelligence service, ASIO.  Speaking about Australia’s security outlook he provided a detailed analysis of the ongoing threat of terrorism to Australia and the rapidly developing global problem of cyber-espionage and sabotage, before fielding questions.

Senator Scott Ryan (Liberal, Victoria), also stimulated discussion after outlining the Federal Opposition’s proposals for amending existing legislative protections against racial vilification.  Many Councillors expressed opposition to the proposals.  Noting the extent of the Councillors’ disagreement with any watering down of the existing law, EACJ Executive Director, Peter Wertheim, told Senator Ryan, “You are among friends, and even friends who agree on most things can occasionally differ.   This is one issue about which we differ.”

Wertheim expressed concern that Senator Ryan had given Holocaust denial as an example of the kind of publication that would no longer be prohibited if the Opposition’s amendments are made law.  Senator Ryan stressed that the Opposition has not finalised its position and is committed, if it wins the next election, not to amend the existing law until after it has completed an extensive public consultation including, in particular, with the Jewish community.

Israel’s Deputy Chef de Mission in Australia, Meir Itzhaki, gave the meeting an overview of the political, diplomatic and strategic outlook for 2013, having regard in particular to the aftermath of the recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas.  He described the year ahead as Israel’s “year of decision” for many issues, including Iran and Palestinian statehood, with the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ having raised more questions about the future stability of the region than it will answer.  He noted that the Palestinian Authority’s bid for an upgrading of its status to a non-member observer State is due to be voted on in the UN General Assembly on November 29.

Councillors also heard reports from the heads of the Communal Security Groups in Sydney and Melbourne and about the situation on campuses from AUJS head, Daniel Nash, and were given a tour of the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia adjoining Beth Weizmann.



One Response to “ECAJ AGM”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    The Jewish communal leaders are wrong to oppose changes to the present racial vilification law. Clearly we do not want the sort of language to which Jews were subjected in the Nazi era, used against any group. At the same time we should not restrict comment to what is politically correct. Specifically, the case against Bolt for pointing out that white skinned people living in our society as Europeans, are not playing the game when they gain preferrence on the basis of some remote ancestry. A person should not be hauled before a court on the basis that some person’s feelings were hurt, especially not by the telling of a truth. Further, the laws at present are not being applied equally. When Rev Naliah (hope I got his name right) of Catch the Fire Ministries made some adverse comments about mohammedans at a closed meeting, he was hauled before the courts on vilification charges and the evidence was video footage obtained by video cameras supplied by the Vic. anti-defamation unit. Soon after that I complained about SBS’s broadcast of a filme which was derogatory toward Israel and Jews. My complaint was dismissed. It is insanity to keep a law in place when it is abused and applied against us by our enemies. Or perhaps it could be used to our advantage if our communal leaders brought vilification charges against the rat-bags who boycott Max Brenner’s screaming that there us blood in the chocolate.

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