'Zionism is racist, evil'

‘Rude’ response to Jewish mother

Conlan told The AJN that he wants freedom and liberation for all Palestinians and Jews, but this is not possible "so long as Zionism exists".

Merri-bek councillor James Conlan.
Merri-bek councillor James Conlan.

A Merri-Bek councillor has sparked controversy by dismissing concerns about antisemitism by a Jewish mother in the area.

The woman, who did not wish to be identified, is quoted in the Herald Sun as saying things are so bad, she has taken her mezuzah down.

In a letter responding to her concerns, independent councillor James Conlan is quoted as saying, “Of course you have a right to feel safe, but you do not have a right to attempt to quash the calls for peace, freedom and self-determination of an entire group of people.”

Conlan told The AJN that he wants freedom and liberation for all Palestinians and Jews, but this is not possible “so long as Zionism exists”.

“While my response to the resident may have been confronting, Zionism is a racist, evil ideology that is being used to justify a genocide. We all must urgently dismantle Zionist thinking to stop this genocide,” he said.

Conlan also wants Jews to be freed from the “racist clutches” of Zionism.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president Philip Zajac said, “It is unimaginable that Cr James Conlan would dismiss the safety concerns of other minority groups in his community the way he dismissed the concerns of a Jewish resident. Jewish Victorians must be able to feel safe moving through their community, regardless of what is happening in the Middle East.”

The JCCV invited Conlan and his colleagues at the Merri-Bek Council to participate in their Jewish Immersion Program to better understand the diversity of the community.

Caulfield MP David Southwick said Conlan’s extremist rant is an appalling example of antisemitism and ignorance.

“Councillor Conlan’s contemptuous dismissal of the justified concerns of a young Jewish mother about antisemitism and his subsequent statement show he is unfit to be a councillor. Merri-bek Council needs to urgently enforce its anti-racism policy against Cr Conlan,” he said.

Dean Hurlston from the NGO Council Watch said Conlan has been churlish, disrespectful, arrogant and rude towards a community member who was simply expressing her safety concerns.

“If mothers in our community can’t rely on the men elected to represent them, to make them always feel safe, to respect them, to treat them with dignity, then it says everything about Conlan and his dismissive views of mothers and women who feel unsafe,” he said.

Hurlston insists that councillors are not elected for their personal opinions, but rather to reflect their communities’ views on local issues.

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