When a local council decided to dabble in roads, rates, rubbish……and racism

This week we have Vic Alhadeff, Chief Executive Officer, of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies guest blogging at the JCA.  This is his take on the events surrounding Marrickville Council’s resolution on an anti-Israel boycott and how the Board of Deputies in conjunction with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry played an integral part in ensuring a successful outcome for our community and Israel.

For the first time in the history of this state, a political party is represented in both Houses of Parliament with a policy that is described by its architect as designed to destroy the State of Israel – to bring about a Palestine next to Palestine, not a Palestine next to Israel.

And for the first time in the history of this country, a local council, Marrickville, passed a resolution to implement an identical policy – an anti-Israel boycott. A boycott of “all goods made in Israel and any sporting, institutional, academic, government or cultural exchanges”.

We cannot underestimate the danger to our community inherent in both these developments. There was a time when anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism were separate and distinct. It is now axiomatic that the demarcation between them is often impossible to discern. And it is of concern that harsh critics of Israel frequently fail to understand this.

Both developments sounded alarm-bells for the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. We immediately understood that by adopting those policies, the NSW Greens and Marrickville Council had effectively signed up to the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) strategy, which seeks Israel’s destruction.

The popular response to Marrickville Council’s anti-Israel position was overwhelming in denouncing the notion that a local council had chosen to dabble in international affairs. And when Marrickville’s own investigation disclosed that implementing the boycott policy would cost Marrickville ratepayers $3.7 million, all forms of media went into overdrive, almost universally seeing fit to direct their ire at the ill-considered resolution. Strong opposition was also forthcoming from the Federal Government and Opposition, as well as from the newly-elected NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

With the Inner West Jewish Community and Friends Peace Alliance in the vanguard, the Board of Deputies, in conjunction with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, worked closely with federal, state and local-government politicians, media, community leaders and various other identities to ensure that there was widespread appreciation of the insidious nature of BDS, how the policy would hurt the people it claimed to assist and why local government should leave foreign affairs to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. On one day alone in early April, the Board of Deputies, through interviews conducted by our President and myself, featured over 500 times in the media.

Ultimately, commonsense prevailed and the resolution was overturned. But we can ill-afford to take our foot off the pedal. This example demonstrates clearly why the ongoing work of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is so critical.

Through its JCA-funded activities the Board of Deputies works tirelessly in building relationships, informing opinion-makers and training and activating community members.

We encourage every member of the NSW Jewish community to play your part and become a member of the Board of Deputies. The first year’s membership is free. Simply sign up here.  It will take a minute of your, time but you will be playing your part in taking responsibility for the well-being of our community and supporting your community’s roof body.

For regular updates you can follow Vic on twitter @VicAlhadeff

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For some light relief here’s the Chaser’s take on this.