Shame on all of us

July 17, 2014 by  
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We in Australia, many of us immigrants or children of immigrants, enjoy a wonderful life.

We live in a country governed by constitutional law, protected by rule of law, the latter administered by an independent judiciary , freedom of speech and so on.

And yet we read daily about people seeking to come to this country having escaped intolerable conditions……………who but the desperate would travel in a leaky boat without adequate shelter not knowing what awaits them?

At present there are several thousand of these boat arrivals , including hundreds of children, incarcerated on various islands, Manus, Nauru etc

We are a community noted for our generosity , well educated and well resourced.

We have been vociferous in our lobbying of the present government not to amend S.18 C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Yet no Jewish organization, the rabbinate, the ECAJ, Bnai Brith, the Jewish Museum and all the other myriad Jewish organizations have met the current publicity about asylum seekers with anything other than deafening silence.

Of all peoples, in view of our history, that silence shames us.

As if incarcerating people on remote islands and refusing to process their applications for a protection visa is not enough now it appears that our government has colluded with the government from which these people are escaping by returning them to that country .

Article 33 (1) of the UN Refugee Convention states:

No Contracting State shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Is it not time that we, the Jewish community, raised our voice to compel our government to at the very least abide by its international legal obligations?

Ellen Goodman

Paddington NSW


19 Responses to “Shame on all of us”
  1. My apologies to Morris Tobias. I had not seen a copy of the letter prepared by B’Nai Brith. It is excellent. The problem with the B’Nai Brith approach,however, is that Jewish communities reside almost exclusively in blue ribbon Coalition electorates and accordingly have little if any affect on government policies.

    I resigned from the Immigration Detention Advisory Group in 2002. It did give me the opportunity to visit detention cetres such as Port Hedland and Woomera. For those responding to my letter accusing asylum seekers of being economnic refugees I suggest a visit to one of these places would probably cause them to doubt the veracity of thier views.

    It is also important to bear in mind that Australia accepts approximately 240,000 new arrivals per annum. The asylum seeker quota is usually about 15,000.

    • It is also important to be aware that asylum seeker policies since the advent of Pauline Hanson have ceased to be bipartisan. More recently the politics of asylum seekers has been exploited by appealing to xenophobia………….it’s “us” law abiding, visa seeking Aussies versus “them illegals”.

      I, too, escaped Nazi Germany.

      But unlike some who have respnded to me with ridicule, I have learned that, “them” is readily deployed from one “them” to another.

  2. Otto Waldmann says:

    When using some plural involving people you DO NOT represent in any formal or informal way, Ms. Goodman, you are not being 100% kosher, just as well as those your are bleeding for who manipulate principles, institutions and some people’s credulity into attaining irregular goals. For it is irregular to engage in deceiving tactics to circumvent known procedures, not to mention the totally intellectually inappropriate use of historical NON-ANALOGUE data, see comparisons between refugee cases in distinct historical circumstance. .
    Proclaiming with hubris in a patronising manner principles accepted and followed, in fact, by those you target as shameful is not only offensive but drastically counterproductive.
    Officially the current Government follows the letter of the law. There is NO moral basis on which you can claim ANY injustice committed by Australia.
    Elementary knowledge of geography and a few basic elements of political realities would have placed the author of this pathetic piece in a more respectable stead, rather than the mire she found herself in at the hands of the much better prepared objectors .
    Enthusiastic lack of access to more sophisticated approaches can only be conducive to public ridicule. Happy now !!!

  3. Yosi Tal says:

    soon we will like be most European countries where a Jew cannot walk in the street! So Ellen you self righteous fool you go on supporting unrestricted illegal immigration,It will lead to nirvana here for our Community!!!!!!!

  4. Ellen Goodman has made some very good points in her letter, however she has accused B’nai B’rith, among other Jewish organisations of remaining silent on the issue. The letter below was sent to Scott Morrison and was published by both J-Wire and the AJN as well as being sent to several politicians from both sides of the house.

    This letter attracted both commendations and criticisms from the readership.

    February 2014
    Dear Mr Morrison,

    We are writing on behalf of the Australian members of B’nai B’rith Australia and New Zealand who wish to express their grave and growing concern about current Australian immigration policies relating to the indefinite and prolonged detention of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australian waters by boat. We note that as at 31 December 2013, 5,660 asylum seekers were in closed detention facilities in Australia of whom 1,028 were children.

    We are particularly disturbed about the removal of asylum seekers and their children to offshore locations. Australia ratified the U.N.Refugee Convention over sixty years ago and thereby took responsibility for the protection of asylum seekers irrespective of their mode of arrival on our shores. They have a right to our protection yet we have outsourced these responsibilities to other sovereign governments with very limited capacity and resources to undertake them on our behalf.

    We note that as at 31 December, there were 1,229 asylum seekers sent by the Government of Australia to Manus Island; 838 were sent to Nauru of whom 116 were under the age of 18. The more recent removal to Nauru of 10 unaccompanied minors who arrived by boat is evidence of the determination of the government to implement policies without regard for evidence of the long term negative impacts that indefinite detention in offshore locations has on children. We are outraged that there is no provision for independent oversight or monitoring of the conditions under which asylum seekers are being detained or the impact of detention on their wellbeing.

    We are also very concerned about the withholding of information from the Australian public about asylum seekers; specifically there has been a decline in transparency regarding:
    • details of boat arrivals – numbers, origin, age, details concerning the return of asylum seekers to transit countries and countries of origin;
    • details of bilateral agreements with offshore states where asylum seekers are being held including measures taken to protect the security, physical and mental wellbeing of asylum seekers;
    • information both to the Australian public and to the asylum seekers themselves about strategies and progress towards processing their claims to asylum and determining their refugee status.
    We maintain that withholding such information is not in the public interest and is contrary to our Australian democratic values of liberty, fairness and rule of law.

    Internationally, B’nai B’rith is committed to upholding human rights – for over 170 years, the organisation has actively engaged in defending the principles of social justice and equity. We have been and continue to be proud of Australia’s compassionate support for refugee settlement and of Australia’s past record in living up to its responsibilities and commitments by protecting persons fleeing from persecution.

    We believe that current policies are extreme and harsh; they discourage and challenge the right of the persecuted to seek asylum in Australia and have resulted in recent images of desperation and fear on Manus Island. These images are most disturbing.
    B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand would like to place on record its opposition to current policies and stand up on behalf of asylum seekers whose voices cannot be heard in the current highly charged policy environment.

    This letter seeks to urge the Government to review policies and return to full commitment to our responsibilities under the Refugee Convention. In the words of Edmund Burke:
    “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

    Signed by the Senior Vice President of B’nai B’rith Australia / New Zealand

  5. There are many passionate Jewish advocates for refugees. They are in the forefront as usual in all the legal battles which are even now before the High Court. As individuals we can all do what every citizen can do. As a community we have responsibilities for our community and for our people.

    I too was a stateless person as a child survivor of the Shoah with my parents. We wanted to join family members in the USA after the war. The Americans had a quota system for all of us in the European refugee camps, i.e. they took only a certain number of people each year from each country of origin. We applied from Italy in ’48 and our quota came through in ’56. Luckily we were able to obtain a permit to Australia in ’49 from a family member here because the Italian government wanted us all out of Italy by then. We had to go wherever we were wanted,- not where we wanted to go. We had no idea where or what we were going to. Luckily for us, we came here and stayed on happily in Australia,- but legally!
    I don’t blame anyone wanting a better life for themselves, but given the trouble spots all over the world, there is a flood of people who will pay whatever it takes to try their luck somewhere else. Europe is now Eurabia,- we really do not want to end up like that,- which we would do if we’d have open-door policies. The crime rate and anti-Semitism in many parts of Europe is appalling because of it.
    Bad conditions for the detainees however are inexcusable and quite unnecessary!

  6. Bella Ceruza says:

    As a migrant proud to have borne the name ‘New Australian’, I totally agree that individuals need to be treated with respect and decency. The hard facts are that we are a country of 25M. …perhaps 15M adult taxpayers, perhaps 10M households.

    Currently there are 40M refugees world wide.

    Unless each taxpayer can accommodate, support – incl paying for medical/dental/schooling etc – 3 asylum seekers, there needs to be a better solution than merely preaching about being nice.

    That being said, those of you preaching – please call the migrant absorption centre and provide much needed accommodation and mentoring for individuals who have landed on our shores.

  7. Robin Margo says:

    Some Jewish organisations have spoken out against Australia’s appalling
    treatment of asylum seekers – JewishAid initiated its “What Would You Do?” campaign, Emanuel Synagogue, North Shore Temple Emanuel and Newtown Synagogue have long organised support for asylum seekers and refugees, B’nai B’rith Australia/New Zealand and the AJDS have protested against offshore processing, and there may be others. But I agree with Ellen Goodman that our state and federal roof bodies have indeed been shamefully silent. They have high-sounding policies on paper but what do policies mean if they are not actively promoted in times like these? Even those in our community who would support humane regional arrangements should be speaking up against the inhuman conditions and treatment on Manus Island and Naru.

  8. Paul Winter says:

    What an overemotional lot of twaddle!

    For one thing there are a whole number of Jews involved in working with refugees; a great many of those are associated with the Reform movement and there are many Jewish lawyers helping refugees gain asylum.

    But for another thing, a great many Jews, who like me have been a refugees, see right through the games these economic invaders are playing. When people who use valid travel documents to fly to Indonesia toss their documents and pay thousands to get on leaky boats, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are nor fair dinkum. After the war Jews ran around trying to get copies of documents the Nazis and their allies destroyed; I had no birth record until I was over 60 and got in touch with the Jewish kehilla in Budapest. When I left Hungary in ’56, I got an A5 bit of paper that served as my passport to Australia.

    I am sick and tired of the bleating of the likes of you who depict those of us who are more experienced and level-headed as heartless. I do not want people to hop on boats to get to the head of a 50 million – yes 50 000 000 – queue. I do not want to be asked – how long can one wait in a refugee camp. If your life is not in danger, you stay put and wait your turn; your case in far less urgent than that of the Nubians in Sudan who are facing genocide. Your case is less urgent than that of the Rohigyas of Burma. And when you are a Tamil and in a UNHCR run camp in Tamil Nadu which financed the Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger movement, you stay put! A refugee, you are not!

    So stop your immature self-flagellation and ensure that our country welcomes and supports the world’s genuine needy. And let us also make sure that those we welcome do not turn out to be or breed jihadis who seek to suppress us and to dominate our society.

  9. Rubbish, Ms Ellen Goodman. As a first generation Austrslian whose parents arrived here legally with appropriate papers indicating their names and other necessary details, I find it most offensive to be described as “shameful” for not joining in the ill-informed emotional hate-campaign against the government for its border protection policy that enables about 200,000 people a year to migrate legally to a country whose migration programs have meant that one in four Australians were born overseas.
    The intellectual dishonesty involved in pretending that turning back the boats means returning people to the country where they were oppressed is transparent: for the Tamils in the latest headlines, they came from India, where they were not oppressed and where the sixth most populated state is Tamil Nadu and where many have admitted they were merely economic refugees seeking a nicer lifestyle; for all those, particularly Muslims, coming through Indonesia, who had “papers” when they arrived there but none on their illegal voyage towards Australia, being returned to Indonesia where they already had achieved “asylum” from oppression in their home nations, does not represent anything like the shameful situation of the German Jews turned away pre-war from the USA who were sent back to the Nazis. It diminishes the horror of that situation by pretending that the current one is similar. And it demeans those who peddle this dishonesty.

  10. Roz says:

    Thank you Ellen Goodman for stating so clearly what some of us have been thinking and talking about. We should be ashamed. I know I am.

    • Roz,
      I’m not!
      I’m far more concerned with the legal citizens of this country and our safety of which is compromised world wide.

      As the Australian Jewish community this is our focus. i.e. – the attack on a Melbourne Jewish man, the attack on the Synagogue in Paris, the attack on the Synagogue in Belgium, the countless attacks we all suffer in our personal and professional lives, almost thinking we must make excuses and let people continually get away with anti Semite rants and denigration. The poor Dr who was kicked off a Jet Blue plane the other a complaining “palestinian”* woman, and this is not to mention the daily rocket attacks on our Brethren and relatives in Israel who are under constant rocket bombardment, harassment, and real physical and violent pressure from guerrilla and militia groups in the surrounding Arab countries.

      Refugees can come here legally, and be processed by our fair system like everyone else. The message is clear, no boaties, no human trafficking, no illegal boat people and please DO NOT use your children as poor innocent victims, that is no difference to Hamas using human shields.

      Just because Ms Ellen Goodman who belongs to Immigration Detention Advisory Group jumps up and down doesn’t mean we have to, nor does it mean we as a Australian Jewry should EVER feel ashamed-
      We have a lot to deal with right now, and doing her job for her is NOT one of them.

      A G

      *I will always write palestine and palestinian with a small “p” as I do not acknowledge their right to a state or their existence, but see them as a displaced peoples who belong to greater Syria and Jordan to the west and Egypt to the south.

      to see more about Ms Ellen Goodman click on link below.

  11. Adam says:

    Dear Ms Goodman,
    What a wonderful article,
    please note though we are one of the smallest groups on the planet.
    There are maybe at best 20million Jews worldwide, compared that to Christians and Muslims and Hindus.
    Statistically we are not significant, as yet we make a lot of noise and worse have a lot of noise and attention from the worlds anti Semites.
    Yes, some of us agree that the suffering of Children is never good and some of us were actually victims of worse, we would never want for this for any others.
    You should also know that Jews everywhere in front and behind the scenes try and do what is right and just and best for all humanity.
    And please note that some of us Jews who may not be so obviously vocal, helped end apartheid in S.Africa only to see the ANC call our beloved Israel an apartheid state.
    Please consider this point of view, before you request a voice from the community to be concerned with illegal boat people when really at this time – we should knuckle down and protect our own.

    A G

  12. Fionayael says:

    Agree with every single word, Ellen. We hear about 1,000 children in detention, but what are we doing.

    It is not illegal to seek refuge.

  13. Well said Ellen.
    I fear that we have become mainstream, unknowing and selfish like all those around us. After all its much easier that way.
    Many of us don’t have parents telling us about their hardships in any number of wars or in immigrating to Australia.
    Many of us have become blase’ about the hardship of others and are more concerned about who wins Idol or Master Chef.
    Its a horrible place to be and not somewhere we Jewish people should even consider given our history.
    Thank you for reminding me Ellen. I will be using your ammunition to prick the consciousness of those around me.

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