A representative from the Department of Communications will be included in discussions about Australia’s commitment to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), after concerns were raised in Senate Estimates about an article published by the ABC.
The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has welcomed this move.
“The inclusion of a communications expert will strengthen Australia’s commitment to fight antisemitism and Holocaust denial,” Dr Colin Rubenstein, AIJAC’s executive director, said.
“I note that at the 2020 IHRA meeting, member countries, including Australia, expressed deep concerns about rising antisemitism. AIJAC welcomes the decision by the Australian Government to extend its IHRA working group to include a representative from the communications area.”
In March this year, Liberal Senator Eric Abetz asked ABC managing director David Anderson whether he knew about the widely-used IHRA definition of antisemitism. Anderson noted he did not. Senator Abetz then raised an article published by the ABC, written by Salman Abu Sitta, called “The moral case against Zionism”.
Among other objectionable comments, Abu Sitta wrote “Racism and apartheid are intrinsic to the Zionist doctrine. Without the forcible expulsion of Palestinians, Israel could not have existed as it is today. There is not a single acre of land acquired by Israel in 1948 that was gained without recourse to military force.”
While the ABC did not see it necessary to remove Abu Sitta’s opinion piece, it published a counter-argument from the Zionist Federation of Australia titled “What Salman Abu Sitta misrepresents about Zionism”.
Senator Abetz noted in Senate Estimates that Abu Sitta’s piece was potentially in breach of the internationally respected IHRA definition of antisemitism by seeking to dismiss the entire Jewish nationalist movement, Zionism, as racist.
Australia, as a member of IHRA since June 2019, convenes an inter-departmental committee to ensure Australia upholds the requirements of IHRA.
AIJAC understands that this committee comprises representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney General’s Department. Now that committee will be extended to include a representative of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, which has responsibility for both the ABC and SBS.