Letters to the editor, October 29
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Letters to the editor, October 29

A nif-ty defence?

I READ your chilling article on the front page (AJN 22/10) that Ismail Al-Wahwah of Hizb ut-Tahrir wants to slit our collective throats. I hope this doesn’t come to fruition, but I am wondering if I did ever, God forbid, find myself in this position, would there be a window of opportunity to ask him which definition of antisemitism he subscribes to? Is it the IHRA working definition? Hopefully, if I told him that I follow the NIF and the AJDS who share his disdain for Israel and tell him Liam Getreu is my mate, this will save my life … won’t it?

Robert Weil
Highett, Vic

A ‘right’ to exist?

YOUR report on Hizb ut-Tahrir (AJN, 22/10) quotes Scott Farlow saying, “Israel and the Jewish people have a right to exist.” What a bizarre term of phraseology!

“A right to exist”? Presumably that “right” is equivalent with everyone else’s “right” to breathe. Surely the “right” of “Israel and the Jewish people”, and, indeed every other legitimate nation and group of people is to live free from persecution and prejudice, not merely “to exist”.

Alan Slade
Dover Heights, NSW

Harmful definition

ANDRE Oboler (AJN, 22/10) appears unable to counter criticisms of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism without resorting to a straw man argument.

Without offering evidence, Oboler suggests there are two types of Jewish groups who oppose the definition: one believes all forms of hate speech are permitted; the other, he says, is prepared to sacrifice the human rights of Jews while “championing the Palestinian cause”.

Setting aside that Oboler cites no such groups, he overlooks the many Jews who believe the path to peace must be one characterised by open dialogue, acknowledgement of difficult truths by all parties, and a clear-eyed examination of all obstacles. A definition of antisemitism, like IHRA’s, that stifles such dialogue, will do more harm than good.

In naming the IHRA definition as antithetical to its own goals, Jewish Greens (Vic) are joined by such groups as AJDS, Jews Against Fascism, Jewish Labor Bund (Vic), NIF, Jews for Refugees (NSW), and Meretz Australia, all of whom support the rights of Palestinians and Jews to self-determination in their own states.

When it comes to antisemitism, these groups stand at the front line, joining with anti-racist allies, to combat the growing threat of white supremacist neo-Nazism in Australia and to build on what Oboler himself describes as Australia’s “strong record of combating antisemitism”.

Sadly, the IHRA definition is one that divides us. The fight against antisemitism requires that we be united.

Dan Coleman
Convenor, Jewish Greens Victoria

Fringe fictions

DAVID Zyngier and Dan Coleman, I read with interest the article you co-authored in The Age last week “Fighting antisemitism needs solidarity, not definitions”.

Such pieces effectively give comfort to those who express their antisemitism through attacking Israel. You dispute that the IHRA definition of antisemitism is supported by the great majority of Australian Jewry. But Carly Douglas’s AJN article last week proves you wrong. You also try to present the government’s adoption of the IHRA definition as some type of right-wing conservative victory and you conveniently ignore that Labor here and Labour in the UK have also endorsed it. As the great Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions –but not their own facts.”

If a definition which has been adopted by most genuine democracies makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you look at your own behaviour rather than trying to undermine such an important tool in fighting antisemitism. Further, frankly it’s about time the loud but small minority of fringe-left Greens Jews stopped exaggerating to all and sundry how representative they are of the Jewish community.

George Greenberg
Malvern, Vic

Support for Gersh

LAST week The AJN chose to publish an article regarding Rabbi Gersh Lazarow. It was a very sad piece because it seems to give a voice to someone who had a very clear agenda. It should be noted that the article was published a few days before the AGM of Temple Beth Israel. The timing is interesting.

His sermons have taught the community so many lessons for many years and having borrowed some elements without crediting the source does not lessen their import. Rabbi Gersh has led his community with extraordinary energy, care and wisdom through incredible adversity.

I don’t know many people who would be able to withstand the pressure he has been under in terms of health and community politics. Do we judge people on their worst days or their best days? In the end, this article may succeed in damaging an esteemed rabbi and an important congregation. I hope the anonymous congregant will feel great satisfaction in what they have achieved. I wish Rabbi Gersh even further success and hope that he can withstand this communal squabbling to return to leading and teaching his community.

David Opat
Caulfield South, Vic

Was it plagiarism or not? It doesn’t matter

WE were saddened to read about the situation which arose surrounding the apparent plagiarism attributed to Rabbi Gersh Lazarow, senior Rabbi at Temple Beth Israel. We have been associated with TBI for over 57 years, weddings, funerals, bat mitzvahs and The King David School. We listened to the rabbi’s sermons over the High Holy Days.

Was it plagiarism or not?

In our minds it does not matter. His words comforted us, gave us hope, uplifted our spirits during the difficult COVID times. His words were not for financial gain.

Should we not be helping each other and sharing words of comfort in our community?

We understand. TBI has had a difficult 18 months and all have put in exceptional hard work and many hours to bring TBI to the home. Thank you.

Do not allow this situation to destroy all the good work.

Allow those words to lift spirits and continue in peace.

May Hashem bless us all.

Margaret and Stephen Grunfeld
Highett, Vic

Telling the truth

HENRY Herzog’s contribution (AJN 15/10) cites “this pro-Israel Jewish lobby”, seemingly giving credence to John Lyons’ allegation of undue influence in regarding Middle East conflict.

He then progresses into Trump derangement syndrome by attacking Sharri Markson’s well-researched Wuhan documentary as well as what he calls “the reality defying” Sky News organisation, conveniently ignoring that Sky’s presenters consistently, unequivocally and unambiguously champion support for both Israel and the Australian Jewish community.

In respect of Israel and the Jewish community, I prefer Sky to the hypocrisy, bias, slander and misinformation that emanates from “Our ABC”, CNN, BBC, The New York Times, social media and the gaggle of news networks.

In the 22/10 edition of The AJN, Herzog opines that though regrettably the culture of antisemitism has not been defeated (no argument there), happily “other hate cultures are being cancelled”. He continues that “cancel culture is in the eye of the beholder and is dependent on one’s sensitivities”.

What tripe. Cancel culture is not dependent on one’s “sensitivities”, it judges the past by skewed standards and reaches conclusions that disregard the truth, whether that truth is palatable or not.

For example, it’s telling a school student that she is entitled to her “truth” about supposed Israeli genocide and Israeli apartheid while the Vice-President of the US listens and fails to correct the fallacy but tells the young woman that her version of the truth is legitimate. Correcting the fallacy would have been a far greater response from the woman who is a heartbeat (and only a frighteningly small one) away from the presidency.

That is no way to fight antisemitism and no way to tell the truth. The truth, Henry, is that your “sensitivities” are very transparent and fly the flag of truth at half mast.

Ian Gelbart
Caulfield North, Vic

Thank you CSGs

IT is with deep appreciation that I recognise the contributions made by many organisations and people over the last 18 months to help manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Jewish institutions, families, ordinary individuals, the elderly and vulnerable.

I especially acknowledge the work of the Community Security Groups (CSGs). Under challenging circumstances they have spared no effort and devoted countless hours to keeping the Jewish community safe in the face of both old and new sources of threats to our physical security. They have met new and difficult problems with complete professionalism.

In addition to protecting our shules, the day schools, and other communal institutions, they have gone even further and adapted their operations to enable them to contribute to the support of those who have been the most severely affected by the pandemic and by government-mandated restrictions on movement and contact.

More recently all the CSGs and their governing bodies have come together with the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) to establish the National Council for Jewish Community Security to work towards a unified approach to communal security and the management of crises by Jewish communities across Australia.

None have surpassed the dedication of the professional staff and volunteers of the CSGs, and I would like to thank them personally and publicly for all their hard work.

Jillian Segal
President, ECAJ

Protecting our planet

I HAVE been following the letters about climate change with interest. I am not a scientist but I am an environmentalist at heart.

Rainforests, rivers and coral reefs are so beautiful. It does alarm me when I see the landscape damaged in various ways. Logging has depleted thousands of hectares of pristine rainforest. Rivers run dry when humans divert too much water to farmland. Coal mines scar the landscape. We need to re-plant where we have over-logged or mined. We need to halt the bleaching of coral reefs. Scientists are doing this and are also developing new hardy seaweeds that grow quickly and replenish depleted stocks. I like the idea of electric cars because they will not pollute the air with petrol fumes. It concerns me that we are still using non-biodegradable plastics. I applaud those dedicated naturalists that spend their lives saving endangered species.

Perhaps we humans have needed a climate debate to wake us up so we will begin to care about our environment. The Torah, Mishnah, Midrash, Talmud and Jewish law speak of and codify the seriousness of people’s obligations to protect the environment. These references pertain to air, water, and noise pollution; the dangers inherent and proper disposal of toxic matter; the prevention of pain, not to mention cruelty to animals; overgrazing the land; water preservation, and designating open areas around cities.

Sue Zimmerman
St Kilda East, Vic

Hurricane trends

BRIAN Levitan is dead wrong about US hurricanes and tornadoes (AJN 22/10). I note the following, based on several peer-reviewed studies:

There has been no trend towards fewer hurricanes or tornadoes. Furthermore, last year 12 tropical storms made landfall, shattering a 104-year-old record.

There has been a distinct trend towards hurricanes that are stronger, intensify more rapidly, and are longer lasting and slower moving after making landfall.

Accordingly, all but one of the 14 (inflation-adjusted) costliest hurricanes have occurred since 2004.

Combining all types of US weather and climate disasters, the long term trend in billion-dollar events is stark. Their average frequency has more than doubled from five per year during 1980-2009 to 12 per year during 2010-2019, reaching a record 22 events in 2020. Their total cost has increased by 50-100 per cent with each successive decade since the 1980s.

Geoff Feren
Ex Bureau of Meteorology
St Kilda East, Vic

Heartland links

BRIAN Levitan (AJN 22/10) cites Stanley Goldenberg as an “acknowledged world expert on hurricanes” but fails to mention Goldenberg’s association with the Heartland Institute known for its rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change and the negative health impacts of smoking.

Donors to the institute and their conferences include ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers and the Scaife family foundations financed by the Mellon industrial, oil and banking fortune.

Cherry-picking on the relationship between hurricanes and climate change is typical of climate deniers. The relationship is complex. Recent work shows that while fewer storms may form and their location is shifting, warmer oceans increase their intensity.

Ray Peck
Hawthorn, Vic

Iceland revisited

IN response to Iceland Facts (AJN 22/10), and contrary to Al Gore’s prediction that “the Arctic would be ice free by 2013”, some of Iceland’s major glaciers have, since 2019, experienced expansions of ice.

“Icelandic glaciers are expanding for the first time in decades” – Electroverse 21/10/2021.

Many scientists agree that glacial ice formations also correlate with Multidecadal Cycles (Growing Iceland, Greenland glaciers make scientists gasp – CFACT 19/5/2019)

In 1922, The Washington Post claimed, under the heading, “Radical change in climatic conditions”, melting Arctic ice and disruption of wildlife. Major climate changes are caused by natural cycles. (Prof Ole Humlum – University of Oslo, PhD glacial geomorphology)

Brian Levitan
Gordon, NSW

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