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Victorian Greens dealing with Levitical Leprosy

April 12, 2011 – 6:35 pm32 Comments

Greens Senator Hanson-Young, with some friends who just bought some new scarves at The Gap

By Yaakov Gorr

Whilst Shabbos shul-goers were leyning Parashat Metzora, the Victorian Greens were in their State Conference and dealing with a leprosy of a different kind.  A representative of the Greens’ NSW branch had been invited to attend in order to explain the policy adopted by several candidates in the recent NSW state election on “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” against Israel.  The national position of the Green, and also that of the Victorian branch, is not supportive of the idea of BDS.

According to a senior Greens member who I’m in contact with and who had attended the meeting “BDS is not the Victorian position and not the national position.  BDS has been proposed as a policy for the Greens a few times but the proposal has been defeated.”

And the red spots affecting the Marrickville Town Hall?  Well, supposedly the spreaders of evil speech will be taken outside the organisation until they are considered to be ritually pure, and this may involve Marrickville City Council reassessing several of its positions. According to my contact, it is not uncommon for municipalities to take points of view on international issues if there are members of that community within the municipality – for example Yarra City Council did a lot of work with East Timorese, many of whom were living in Yarra during that country’s struggle for independence, and currently does good work with asylum seekers.  There are, however, few Palestinians in Marrickville.  Many Marrickville politicians – both from the Greens and Labor – have viewed the backlash against the policy and are having second thoughts.

Those second thoughts ought to have been influenced by a reading of two new documents, produced by Arab intellectuals, which were made available to Victorian Greens, which showed that of the best countries to be an Arab in the middle east, ranked by education, unemployment rate and GDP per head, Israel was in the top six along with oil rich countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and UAE.  GDP per head is twelve times higher in Israel than in Egypt, eight times higher than in Syria and four times higher than in Jordan.  Unemployment rate for Arabs in Israel is half that of Egypt, Syria, Iran and Morocco.  School completion for Arabs in Israel is eight times higher than that of all citizens of Tunis, Mauritania or Algeria.  Israel doesn’t just rank ahead of every Arab country in the UN Human Development Index, it also ranks ahead of Finland, Austria, and the UK.

Some Victorian Greens now have a desire to meet “Green-minded” members of the Jewish Community with a view to thrashing out a new Middle East policy.  Many appear impressed not only by Israeli achievements in terms of the return to collective farming by disaffected city youth, water recycling, service taxis as a means of public transport, and take-up of solar hot water systems, but also of new industries of an ecological bent which could provide green jobs in Australia such as commercial fisheries, methane production from farm waste, and drip irrigation.

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  • Kovi Rose to Yaakov says:

    Sorry i don’t quite see what your contention was.
    Are you pro-greens and are you subsequently saying that there is nothing too far left-wing in their policy with regards to israel?
    “Please Explain”

  • frosh says:

    Hi Kovi,

    I think the author is saying that the majority of Victorian Greens who think the NSW Greens got it wrong.

    Of course, the question remains: do they think this because that is what they believe morally, or is it for electoral reasons.

    Listening to Bob Brown being interviewed, it sounded like he merely thought the NSW Greens made an electoral/tactical mistake. He didn’t actually condemn their policy from a moral standpoint.

    However, it does sound like the Victorian Greens are in general more balanced than the federal branch, and certainly the NSW branch.

  • Yaakov says:

    I support the Victorian position which is basically a two-state solution. And I don’t like the settler position. As for the NSW position on BDS, I oppose BDS. I’m a Zionist and an Israeli citizen.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Okay fair enough then frosh.
    Yaakov, are you saying you don’t like the Green’s position on the settlers? Or that you concur with the National Green’s stance of unilaterally removing all settlers from the Judea/Samaria Region and the oxymoronic call for the dismantling of the separation wall in order to attain peace and halt violence?

  • Kovi Rose to Yaakov says:

    By the way Yaakov, please tell me if i sidetrack the comment thread at any stage, that is not my intention; i just wish to understand your views

  • Lionel says:

    The Greens policy on Israeli issues is based on somewhat deficient information.
    In a recent email from Jake Wishart, Community Engagement Officer, Office of Adam Bandt MP, he writes to me ‘The Australian Greens also oppose the ongoing construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza and oppose the existing illegal settlements in these locations’ [April 4, 2011].
    Clearly, the fact that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza 5 years ago wasn’t noticed by the Greens.

  • Why do the Greens need a Middle East policy? Surely their more relevant nexus to the region is the huge amount of oil production happening over there. Do they have anything to say about whether that is good for the environment? If anything, they should promote a boycott of peak oil and encourage sustainable energy!

  • Marky says:

    Good question, David. What’s green about their Middle East policy?

  • Sam says:

    The Federal Greens seem to be governing the whole country from the cross benches, so they feel the need (and confidence) to enunciate policies that are beyond their normal key areas of energy and environment. Witness the re-emergence of the carbon tax which Labor knows is unpopular with the majority of the electorate, and was spectacularly dropped by K Rudd prior to the last election. You can be sure that this is not J Gillard’s preferred position.

  • @Sam – the Greens had these policies for years, well before they had the amount of power they now hold.

  • philip mendes says:

    Good article cousin – yes Mr Gorr is my second cousin.

    I am happy to talk to the Greens about their policy. From previous discussions with the Greens, it seems to me that what happened was that they spoke in well-intentioned fashion to representatives of the Arab community, and representatives of the Jewish community.

    The problem was that the chosen Arabs were representative of their community, but the Jews – mainly affiliated with either AJDS in Melbourne or Jews against the Occupation in Sydney – were not.

    This meant that the Greens policy was skewed towards the Palestinian nationalist perspective, and guaranteed to upset 98 per cent of Australian Jews including many who sit on the Left of the spectrum on both Australian and Israeli issues, but will not support a one-sided policy that totally blames Israel, and treats the Palestinians as innocent cleanskins.

    Happy to discuss further. The Greens could do far worse than duplicate the current Israeli Peace Initiative headed by Yitzhak Rabin’s son, Yuval.

    Philip Mendes

  • janice says:

    Is there a bit of nepotism at play here Galus?

    Getting relatives to write or friends of friends…?

    Conflicts of interest maybe?

    Three degrees of Jewish seperation.

    Kindly divulge.

  • Kovi Rose to Dr Phil says:

    Phillip, do you know what sources the Greens are using for their policies? i.e. are they speaking to open-minded Israeli’s or center or right-wing people?
    Or are they building their Middle-Eastern policy on the basis of interviews conducted with Palestinians and left-wing onlookers who might not be totally well informed?

  • frosh says:

    Hi Janice,

    The fact that one very occasional contributor happens to be 2nd cousin of another regular contributor is hardly a conflict of interest for the editors. Furthermore, Philip has disclosed this relationship (which was barely necessary), so what further transparency would you require?

    Disclosure: At a bar-mitzvah I attended last year, I discovered that through a chain of marriages, Larry Stillman (another regular Galus contributor) and myself are also ‘related.’

  • Malki Rose says:

    Wow Janice,
    now there’s a good argument FOR intermarriage!

    In future perhaps you’ll need to ask for full disclosure of genealogical and marriage records before publishing.

    (Especially with Melbourne Jews, given that many are of Polish Jewish background and may have come from towns only a few kilometres from one another… I hope you don’t have mishpocha from Brzhezhiny!!!)

  • Marky says:

    Frosh writes:”Larry Stillman and myself are also related”

    Now there is something you can include in your kids’ shidduch cv’s, Frosh. It will surely assist them to marry into upper crust circles”

  • philip mendes says:

    Malki: my maternal grandfather was actually born in Safed (Palestine) and his family origins were in Iraq so not much connection with the Polish brethren.


  • TheSadducee says:

    I suspect a large part of the motivation for the NSW Green’s position was related to the idea that they expected to win more seats than they did in the recent election and this would have legitimised such a position – they were however too overconfident and jumped the gun so to speak – this is what I think Brown may have been suggesting.

    As to Marrickville – Byrne has nothing to lose now so she will push ahead and try to trail blaze the way – expect assertions of lobby influence etc when it is opposed. It will become an internal issue for the Greens with regards to Brown and Rhiannon’s positions dominating the party.

    I personally think their BDS position is too broad and unclear and in the case of Marrickville Council will make it hard and politically unsustainable for them to implement (eg. the Council computer replacement costs at approx $3 million estimates).

    If they had limited it to a boycott of companies directly operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Golan, Sheba’a farms they would have a strong argument. However, if they are going to implement a boycott then it should also be applied the Palestinian Government (i.e. Hamas) with an aid and trade boycott as well. It could then be hardened as appropriate.

    As to policy – if the Greens anticipate/plan on becoming a major party then it is appropriate that they develop policies regarding international issues. Whether it is appropriate for Marrickville Council to do so is another matter entirely.

  • Sol Salbe says:

    Seeing I got my last guess as to GA editorial decisions wrong, I’ll ask first: Who selected/suggested the headline?

  • janice says:

    Just checking guys….!

    All is good in the world;)

    Love the comments and witty satire.


  • letters to the age says:

    There are a number of European Scandinavian councils that boycott on human rights issues.

    These protests also occurred within student councils at universities et al.

    I love Woody Allen and would be sadly depressed if could not be able to watch any of his films as a result of the boycott.

  • Sol Salbe says:

    Hi Letters to the Age,
    I like Woody Allen as well but even as a full-time monitor of the Israeli media, I’m not aware of any investments WA has made in Israel or in the Occupied Palestinian (or even Syrian) territories.

  • rachsd says:

    Hi Sol,
    Actually, I just found out recently that someone from my work boycotts Woody Allen. Of course, that has nothing to do with Israel, and she doesn’t boycott Israel; rather it’s because of his relationship with his ex-wife’s daughter, starting from when she was a minor – I think it’s because of his misuse of his position of power.

  • frosh says:

    Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon still refuses to drop NSW Greens’ call for Israel boycott

    To use an admittedly somewhat objectionable phrase from another Green (Jenny ‘Akiva’ Green), is it time for Bob Brown to “grow a pair” and bring this division to a head, instead of hiding from it?

  • Sol Salbe says:

    It seems as if the person responsible for the “leprosy” in the title is not eager to come forward. So far s/he hasn’t done so.I think that the way the NSW Greens went about their BDS policy was a long way from clever, but lepers they are not.[Must have lived too long in Australia to be so charitable and polite – the Sabra term would have been more like “they were bloody stupid”.] The point was brought to me by Yoel Marcus (who is no Lefty) in today’s Haaretz:
    ההצהרה באו”ם ב-1975, שהציונות היא גזענות, היא פסיק ביחס להכרה הצפויה במדינה פלסטינית בגבולות 1967. ובמקביל מתארגן המגה-משט לעזה. במלים אחרות: הופכים אותנו למדינה מצורעת.
    The translator did not quite capture Marcus’s style but you get the gist of it. “The 1975 UN declaration to the effect that Zionism is racism is negligible compared to the anticipated recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. And at the same time the mega-flotilla to Gaza is being organized. In other words: They are turning us into a pariah state.”
    As in Israeli I want to avoid being associated with a leper state, calling others lepers can only get us to switch our gaze from where it ought to be focussed.

  • rachsd says:

    Hi Sol, If you had actually read the article, you would have been able to work out for yourself where the title comes from and the sense in which it was used.

  • letters in the age says:

    Sadly the Woody Allen comment was tongue in cheek and fell flat within the context of the Greens incident.

    It’s the stupidity of what constitutes a boycott and everything that is perceived as being “Jewish.”

  • KMA says:

    Letter which was distributed to the Marrickville Council

    Dear Fiona,

    In the wake of the election which even the drovers dog could have won, the election you lost is a clear indicator that your anti Israel policies have cost you your credibility, not only with both major parties but also with your less cozy brothers and sisters who are green with envy at the success of coalition, and in your case, Labour’s win, despite all the odds..

    Be that as it may, perhaps you should read the attached link, then do your utmost best to ensure Australia does not obtain any benefits from the (terrible) advances which may end up being used here in Australia.

    And dear loser, whilst your at it, perhaps you should boycott the useage of the following technologies.

    Furthermore I fervently wish you, and like minded thinkers never to be faced with any life threatening illness which may require medicines or technology developed by your nemesis as that may put you in the odious position of having to argue that in the interests of consistency, you would prefer those close to you, meet their fate rather than possibly be faced with the terrible tragedy of being saved by the objectionable Israelis and/or their technologies, which you would have us boycott.

    Unless you really means, selectively boycott what suits you?

    No need to answer Fiona. Two or three lies in the past few weeks is more than any sane man could stand.

    With everlasting rejection and with good riddance.



    The Middle East has been growing date palms for centuries. The average tree is about 18-20 feet tall and yields about 38 pounds of dates a year. Israeli trees are now yielding 400 pounds/year and are short enough to be harvested from the ground or a short ladder.

    Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world’s population, can lay claim to the following:

    The cell phone was developed in Israel by Israelis working in the Israeli branch of Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel. Most of the Windows NT and XP operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel.

    The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel. Both the Pentium-4 microprocessor and the Centrino processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel.

    The Pentium microprocessor in your computer was most likely made in Israel.

    Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.

    Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel.

    The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.

    Israel has the fourth largest air force in the world (after the U. S, Russia and China). In addition to a large variety of other aircraft, Israel’s air force has an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16’s. This is the largest fleet of F-16 aircraft outside of the U. S.

    According to industry officials, Israel designed the airline industry’s most impenetrable flight security. U. S. officials now look to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats.

    Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined. Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

    Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world.

    Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin – 109 per 10,000 people — as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed.

    In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the U. S. (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech).

    With more than 3,000 high-tech companies and startups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world — apart from the Silicon Valley, U. S.

    Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the U. S.

    Outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies.

    Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK.

    On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech startups.

    Twenty-four per cent of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees — ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland – and 12 per cent hold advanced degrees. Israel is the only liberal democracy in the MiddleEast.

    In 1984 and 1991, Israel airlifted a total of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews at risk in Ethiopia, to safety in Israel.

    When Golda Meir was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969, she became the world’s second elected female leader in modern times.

    When the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed in 1998, Israeli rescue teams were on the scene within a day — and saved three victims from the rubble.

    Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship — and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 – in the world.

    Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.

    Israel was the first nation in the world to adopt the Kimberly process, an international standard that certifies diamonds as “conflict free.”

    Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books.

    Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees, made more remarkable because this was achieved in an area considered mainly desert.

    Israel has more museums per capita than any other country.

    Medicine… Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentationfor breast cancer.

    An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment. Every year in U. S. hospitals 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes.

    Israel’s Givun Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. Used to view the small intestine from the inside, the camera helps doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.

    Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device is synchronized with the heart’s mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors.

    Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions.

    Israel places first in this category as well. A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the ClearLight device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct — all without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.

    An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California’s Mojave desert.

    All the above while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth.


  • letters to the age says:

    By overstating their case, supporters of a boycott have damaged their cause. The movement needs to do its homework to find out whether any Israeli, Australian or foreign companies in Australia are in fact exploiting Palestinian resources. By focusing only on those activities which are incompatible with the law of occupation, a targeted strategy is likely to gain wider support.

    Sounds reasonable to me written by Dr Ben Saul is a citizen of Marrickville, Associate Professor of International Law at Sydney Law School and a barrister, specialising in the law of armed conflict.

    Happy Pesach!!!

  • Yaakov says:

    At the risk of being personal, I will disclose that back in the days when Sol Salbe was a know it all trotskyist in one faction, I was a rather more junior know it all trotskyist in another. And yes somehow I’m related to Philip Mendes who I see about once a year, I think out grandmothers (now both at least 14 years dead) were sisters.

    There is absolutely no need for the sort of red internationalism of trotskyism or the soviet-dictated stalinist perversion in the green movement, we should be neither left nor right but out in front in our aim to prevent further environmental degradation of the planet…. something that fits in perfectly with tikkun olam in my view.

    Sol, read the source material. You were not good at this when you were selling Direct Action and age has not improved you. It’s the translation of the name of the parsha, but of course you’re a native Hebrew speaker and you knew that.

  • Sol Salbe says:

    Wow, little did I ever realise that the sectarianism which drive so much of Left-wing activism can still be at play at least 20 years later when neither person has any association with any such left-wing organisations! Somebody should study this aspect and come up with a beautiful Ph D thesis.

    I didn’t allude to your mishpoocheh. Everyone should be judged on their merits and not on their Yuches. Whether you are related to Philip Mendes, Rosa Luxemburg, or Michael Burd should be immaterial on Galus discussion and I for one have never raised it.

    I also have not expressed an opinion about the direction the Greens should go. (I did say that the NSW Greens applied their BDS policy in a less than a brilliant way and I stand by my comments.)

    If you want to kick the person and not the ball that is your choice. Iwant comment on personal attacks. You may regard the allusion to the parasha as cute and clever but to a secular Jew it is totally meaningless and, as I argued ,in that particular case politically unsound. [Just to give an idea of how meaningless it is to secular Israelis: It took a long time for anyone to notice a few weeks back that the weekly Parasha listed in Haaretz was “Blah Blah Blah”.

  • Yaakov says:

    Here’s the BIG weakness in that argument, Sol. My first sentence includes: Shabbos shul-goers were leyning Parashat Metzora, The rest of the argument talks about “a different sort of leprosy”.

    Now were I not a shul-goer, I might have thought that to talk about red spots and leprosy was a little prosaic, and I just might have wondered if the allusion to the parsha was relevant to the rest of the article. I might have run the first sentence through a search engine and revealed the answer.

    Karl Marx, a secular Jew who actually took the time to research things, were he alive and well in 2011 would not need to spend years in the Reading Room at the British Museum, he could do it all on line on the laptop from the comfort of his nearest Starbucks and in rather less time. You’re not telling me that one of the greatest thinkers of all time wouldn’t have run the first sentence through a search engine to see if it shed light on the rest of the article?

    I’m playing the ball and not the man. Do that few seconds research before you criticise. And whilst Trotskyists weren’t as big on self criticism as some other sects, even secular Jews can learn something from the tradition of Yom Kippur – it’s OK to say “I was wrong”, it might be a little embarrassing but it’s OK.

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