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The NIF controversy – a chance for closure

February 21, 2010 – 10:07 pm41 Comments

It’s no secret that there has been something of a community controversy concerning the recent cancellation of Israeli academic and former Knesset Member, Naomi Chazan’s, visit.

For those that have been trekking in the Himalayas, here’s a quick and sloppy account of the events so far:

  1. Chazan was set to come to Australia as a guest of the Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ), and also to launch the UIA Progressive Trust Appeal.
  2. Meanwhile, back in Medinat Yisrael, Im Tirtzu, an Israeli student group, spearheaded a campaign against Chazan and the New Israel Fund (NIF), of which Chazan is the chairperson.
  3. As result of this campaign, Chazan’s trip to Australia was cancelled.

The Australian controversy essentially boils down to the following:  The UPJ has claimed that Chazan herself cancelled the trip in order to attend to the Israeli controversy surrounding the NIF; alternatively, the UPJ has also claimed that it was mutual decision, based on not letting the criticism of Chazan in Israel detract from the planned fundraising effort.

However, Chazan has given a very different impression of how things went down, suggesting that the decision to cancel her visit was made entirely by the UPJ.

The Zionist Council of Victoria had also planned to co-sponsor a public lecture involving Chazan, but then withdrew that sponsorship.  They have been more forthright in explaining their reasoning, stating that they withdrew their co-sponsorship of Chazan’s lecture because they consider the activities of the NIF inimical to their interests.

There sure is a lot of ‘he said, she said’ about this whole affair, which is why we are delighted to be able to offer our Melbourne readers a chance to find out for themselves what the NIF is all about, and also hear from the NIF about the recent controversy.  Even though Chazan’s visit has been cancelled, Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the NIF is currently in Australia for family reasons.  While in Melbourne, Sokatch will give a talk at the Herzl club, and we have been informed that there will be ample time for supporters and detractors alike to ask tough questions.

The event is being hosted by Shira Melbourne, who are at pains to point out that they do not endorse any political platform and are hosting the event in the interests of promoting critical discussion.

When: Wednesday 24 February, 8 pm
Where: Shira Melbourne (at the Theodore Herzl Club), 222 Balaclava Rd, Caulfield
Entry: $5

The flyer can be viewed here.

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