Apology for Israeli speaker

‘We made a big mistake’ say conference sponsors

The apology has been welcomed by all major Jewish bodies in Australia, as well as Farchi himself.

Dr Moshe Farchi. Photo: AFP/Jack Guez
Dr Moshe Farchi. Photo: AFP/Jack Guez

Dr Moshe Farchi, the Israeli speaker “disinvited” from a mental health conference in Queensland has received an apology.

Professor Philip Morris, executive director of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association (ANZMHA) which sponsored the Frontline Mental Health conference, apologised on a Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) webinar he asked to address, together with Farchi earlier this week.

“This was wrong. We made a big mistake. And it was not done for any malice, [it] was not done to disrespect him or the Jewish community In Australia or overseas,” Morris said.

The apology has been welcomed by all major Jewish bodies in Australia, as well as Farchi himself, who had been scheduled to give a talk at the conference on the Gold Coast earlier this month before being told at the last minute he could not attend.

Organisers had cited security concerns, following pressure from pro-Palestine activists angry at an Israeli being present.

Morris said the decision was made by people who felt that it was the right thing to do when they’d been given a lot of “attacking” material from people who were very proud of the Palestine cause who didn’t want Farchi at the conference.

“Now, a mistake was made. We apologise for that. And I personally apologise to Dr Moshe for what happened. And I apologise to the Jewish community in Australia and overseas because it’s caused great hurt,” Morris said.

Photo: Professor Philip Morris.

Morris believed people should not be removed from conferences for any reason when others try to force their opinions on others.

He said the ANZMHA is refunding all Farchi’s expenses so he won’t be out of pocket and is trying to organise a way he can give the speech he would have made at the conference in future.

Farchi accepted the apology, saying he appreciated Morris’s honesty and sincerity.

“I’m sure that this decision was not like pretending to me that [it was a] vote of the Australian people or the organisation, it was because of this huge amount of threat that were … transmitted by those organisations,” he said.

Farchi said he would prefer to put what happened aside and move forward.

“I look forward for more and more collaboration because we … have so many things, important things to do in the future and we should not allow this group of people to disturb us,” he said.

A joint statement from the ZFA, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, and the Australian Academic Alliance Against Antisemitism welcomed the apology.

ZFA CEO Alon Cassuto said it is deeply worrying that the threat of violence would see any organisation give in to demands and cancel a public intellectual of the calibre of Farchi based on their identity and nationality.

“By setting the record straight, making clear the ANZMHA would reimburse Dr Farchi and, more importantly, announcing that Dr Farchi would be invited to address members in the future, Dr Morris has made clear not just his remorse, but a genuine desire to stop this incident from becoming a dangerous precedent,” Cassuto said.

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