Glen Eira Council adopts the IHRA definistion of antisemitism

April 27, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Following a scare that prompted creating a petition, the Glen Eira Council passed the adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism on Tuesday evening with a 6-1 vote in favour.

Glen Eira council

One councillor abstained and one was absent.

Before the vote, there had been concern in the Jewish community that it would be rejected after a report from Council officers published on Friday suggested that Glen Eira’s current anti-racism policies were sufficient.

Zionism Victoria launched a petition which garnered more than 2,200 signatures in just three days urging Glen Eira Councillors to support the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

To date, the IHRA definition has been adopted by 40 countries, including Australia, as well as numerous international organisations, municipal authorities and academic institutions, who regard it as a critical tool in combating rising antisemitism.

It has also been endorsed by all Jewish community roof bodies in Australia, among them Zionism Victoria which represents 56 communal organisations in the state, including synagogues, schools and youth movements.

Among those addressing Glen Eira Council on Tuesday evening ahead of the vote was Zionism Victoria executive director Zeddy Lawrence who said, “I’m aware there is an official protocol for submitting a petition a week before council meets, but the report recommending the definition be rejected only came out on Friday.

“I therefore request that if you don’t accept the petition itself, you at least accept the sentiment of the 2,200 people who’ve signed it, and the strength of feeling they’ve expressed.”

All of the councillors present spoke in favour of the motion and voted for it, with the exception of Councillor David Zyngier who ultimately abstained.

Noting that Glen Eira is home to Australia’s largest Jewish population, Zionism Victoria president Yossi Goldfarb thanked councillors for “heeding and respecting the wishes of the community”.

“Tonight’s vote underlines the close relationship Glen Eira Council shares with residents, its principled stand against antisemitism and, indeed, racism in all its forms.

“Not only will it help our community combat the scourge of antisemitism, it sends a clear message to all cultures, ethnicities and minorities fortunate to call Glen Eira home that Council is committed to their wellbeing and to standing in solidarity with them to tackle the prejudice and bigotry that they may face.”

Prior to launching the petition, Zionism Victoria sent a five-page submission to Council, last week explaining why the IHRA definition should be adopted and that the fringe groups in the community who opposed it were a tiny minority driven by their own political agendas.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria was retained by Glen Eira Council as a consultant, to advise it of the Victorian Jewish community’s position on the effects of the Council adopting the IHRA working definition on antisemitism.

As part of that work, president Daniel Aghion met with the councillors in an informal session for one hour.

He told J-Wire: “The JCCV congratulates the City of Glen Eira on its strong and proactive leadership on combatting antisemitism, by adopting the IHRA working definition of antisemitism in its entirety and also resolving to encourage other Councils to adopt it. During the debate, Mayor Magee said that it was a proud day for the Council. We agree. The Victorian Jewish community shares that pride and rejoices in it. We thank all of the Councillors who voted for the motion, and particularly thank Councillor Esakoff for bringing the motion to the Council.”

As well as Zeddy Lawrence, other speakers on Tuesday evening included Jewish student activist Josh Feldman and senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) Jamie Hyams who is also a former Glen Eira mayor.

The Zionist Federation of Australia welcomed the decision with the ZFA President Jeremy Leibler saying, “As the city council with Australia’s largest Jewish population, it makes absolute sense for Glen Eira to adopt the working definition, and I applaud the decision to do so. While there were a handful of voices that urged the Council to reject this motion, that it was adopted 6-1 shows the incredibly strong community support for the working definition.”

The working definition is a vital tool in the fight against antisemitism, as it helps identify antisemitism, thus better enabling education efforts. It has been adopted by dozens of countries, including Australia, and local governments, now including Glen Eira.

AIJAC congratulated the councillors, especially Cr Margaret Esakoff, for her initiative in bringing this most significant matter to the Council. The IHRA definition is a very constructive tool in the ongoing battle against antisemitism. We hope other Councils and institutions follow Glen Eira’s moral and principled leadership in adopting this very widely accepted definition.

To date, the IHRA definition has been adopted by 40 countries, including Australia, as well as numerous international organisations, municipal authorities and academic institutions, who regard it as a critical tool in combating rising antisemitism.

It has also been endorsed by all Jewish community roof bodies in Australia, among them Zionism Victoria which represents 56 communal organisations in the state, including synagogues, schools and youth movements.

Among those addressing Glen Eira Council on Tuesday evening ahead of the vote was Zionism Victoria executive director Zeddy Lawrence who said, “I’m aware there is an official protocol for submitting a petition a week before council meets, but the report recommending the definition be rejected only came out on Friday.

“I therefore request that if you don’t accept the petition itself, you at least accept the sentiment of the 2,200 people who’ve signed it, and the strength of feeling they’ve expressed.”

All of the councillors present spoke in favour of the motion and voted for it, with the exception of Councillor David Zyngier who ultimately abstained.

Zionism Victoria president Yossi Goldfarb thanked councillors for “heeding and respecting the wishes of the community”.

“Tonight’s vote underlines the close relationship Glen Eira Council shares with its Jewish residents, its principled stand against antisemitism and, indeed, racism in all its forms.

“Not only will it help our community combat the scourge of antisemitism, it sends a clear message to all cultures, ethnicities and minorities fortunate to call Glen Eira home that Council is committed to their wellbeing and to standing in solidarity with them to tackle the prejudice and bigotry that they may face.”

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