Ed: 38: September/2013
This year, Sydney's Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair (MEFF) took place for the 29th time.
Tens of thousands of Muslim Australians, and, each year, a growing number of non-Muslim visitors, enjoyed a carnival, musical entertainment, speeches and (halal) food, with booths promoting charities, selling a variety of goods and soliciting support for a range of causes.
Federal, state and local elected officials, representatives of religious, national and ethnic organisations, sporting personalities and television celebrities contributed to the atmosphere in what has become an established feature on Sydney's calendar.
Also running in this election are a plethora of minor parties - some of them single-issue lists; some of them attempting to provide a voice for under-represented constituencies; some of them quirky; some of them built around a well-known local identity. However, others represent voices of political extremism.
On September 7, Australians will be privileged again to make their democratic choice regarding the country's future direction. That choice also challenges members of Australia's Jewish community, who, like their countrymen, must decide between competing parties and candidates, each coming to the table with persuasive arguments over how they can serve society best - a society of which the Jewish community is an integral part.
As has become routine, there were widespread statements of condemnation from various international players after Israel announced in mid-August that it would be approving just over 2,000 new units in east Jerusalem neighbourhoods and certain large settlements. Never mind that every single one of these apartments, if built (and this will take at least a couple of years), will be in an area that will remain Israeli according to every serious peace proposal.
Jakarta was rocked on August 4 by a bomb exploding at the Ekayana Buddhist Centre - injuring three people among the 300 who had gathered to hear a sermon. A note found at the scene stated: "We respond to the screams of the Rohingya", indicating the attack was in response to violence against Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar (Burma).
The Ekayana Buddhist Centre had been previously hailed as a symbol of Indonesia's tolerance towards ethnic Chinese Buddhists in Jakarta. However, the bombing has led to concern that the violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar may now be spreading to Indonesia.
In keeping with a long-standing pre-election tradition at the AIR, we sent a series of ten policy questions to the campaigns of both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to help inform our readers as they go to the polls on Sept. 7. The questions - designed to focus on political issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community - deal with issues including Israel and the peace process, communal education, counter-terrorism and communal security, the Iranian nuclear crisis, multiculturalism, racial hatred laws and the vexed question of asylum seeker policy.
"We must get possession of Egypt," wrote Napoleon two years before he sailed to Alexandria and marched on Cairo. More than two centuries later, Egypt's military leaders likely thought something similar as their soldiers opened fire on Islamist demonstrators, leaving Western diplomats alarmed, Egyptian liberals unperturbed, and Israeli policymakers scrambling to remap a rapidly changing Middle East.
Watching all six living former heads of the Shin-Bet - Israel's internal security service - talking candidly, and even humbly, about their experiences during their service, there is no escaping the feeling that something very unusual and special is happening.
If for no other reason, this makes the film "The Gatekeepers" a true cinematic achievement. Getting six of the most influential men in Israel's security establishment - individuals generally far more used to being behind the scenes than in front of the camera - to talk openly about the most secretive, controversial and thorny issues they have faced is nothing short of extraordinary.
During a meeting of the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council on July 22, a consensus was reached among the 28 foreign ministers representing each of the EU's member states. After months of discussion, it was agreed to ban Hezbollah's military wing. In doing so they joined Australia, Canada, the United States and Israel, among other states, in condemning Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
The move is likely considered a significant political achievement by Washington and Jerusalem, both of whom have long urged the EU to act to curtail Hezbollah's history of fundraising, garnering support and perpetrating violence in Europe.
However, like Australia, Europe chose only to implement a partial ban on Hezbollah, despite claims made by both Hezbollah's top leadership and counter-terrorism experts that no distinct factions exist within the greater unified organisation.