Unpublished letter to Haaretz
Contrary to the imputation in Dan Goldberg’s April 22 article “At the heart of Australian Jewish community’s schism: the ‘Israel lobby’ debate”, in deciding the best way to respond to then NSW Premier Bob Carr’s unfortunate decision to present the Sydney Peace Prize to Hanan Ashrawi in 2003, there was no daylight between AIJAC and the other communal representative bodies in either Sydney or Melbourne.
There was never any agreed decision by communal leaders, as Goldberg’s unnamed source claimed, to have a quiet word to Carr to convince him not to present the award which was then supposedly torpedoed by AIJAC. There were instead widespread, polite and public calls across both the Sydney and Melbourne communities for Carr to reconsider his decision to present the award, in which AIJAC was very much in the mainstream.
And the best evidence disproving this claim can be found in the pages of the weekly Australian Jewish News (AJN) – of which Goldberg was co-editor at that time.
From September 26 to November 7, across seven editions and in exhaustive detail through editorials, articles, op-eds and letters, a range of communal groups and individuals overwhelmingly and very publicly called on Carr to reconsider his decision.
According to the AJN’s October 24 edition, this included the NSW Board of Deputies which “formally called on…Carr to reconsider presenting” the prize, contrary to the myth of a Melbourne-Sydney divide.
Furthermore, the AJN didn’t merely report the story. It repeatedly editorialised on the topic and clearly supported and reflected the widespread and public opposition in the Jewish community to Carr’s decision.
Take the AJN’s October 17 editorial – in Melbourne entitled “Carr’s wrong call” – which accused Carr of an “uncharacteristic lapse of judgement” and argued that “by presenting [Ashrawi] with the prize, he is endorsing her track record”.
The claim of a quiet, diplomatic Sydney approach ruined by AIJAC was a post-facto invention which is simply inconsistent with the facts of what actually occurred over the relevant period.
But Haaretz readers would be unaware of this reality because, ironically, in an article seemingly framed to argue that the Australian Jewish Community’s leadership is unrepresentative, Goldberg failed to seek a response from AIJAC on any of these matters.
Dr. Colin Rubenstein
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council