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Victorian Islamic and Jewish community leaders dine together

July 27, 2011 – 9:44 pm12 Comments

JCCV President John Searle (left) with ICV President (and Galus reader!) Hyder Gulam

Amongst the many press releases we receive on a daily basis, we received one yesterday from the JCCV about a dinner they had with the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV).  In a sea of bad news, it’s always good to read about this kind of bridge-building. The JCCV is an umbrella group representing a range of Jewish organisations, some religious, but many secular.  The ICV is also an umbrella group, but with more of a focus on Islamic religious organisations. Here’s the presser:

Last Monday evening marked a further significant step in cementing an ongoing meaningful relationship between Victorian Jews and Muslims at the executive dinner held for the leadership of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria and the Islamic Council of Victoria.

Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) president John Searle, said “the significance of the meeting for both communities cannot be underestimated; the feeling of friendship in the room was palpable as was the desire to dispel misconceptions about one another”.

Searle went on to say “the dinner served to develop relationships and understandings between the executives, as people first, with diverse backgrounds, interests and skills and as representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities and the key challenges we both face. The funny thing is that when discussing our individual backgrounds, it became clear that there were far more similarities than differences”.

Hyder Gulam, President of the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV), said that a key priority of the ICV is to establish peaceful and harmonious relationships with all Australians, regardless of race, religion or overseas events.

Hyder stated “taking the first step to build bridges and useful partnerships with the Jewish community makes the critical statement, that the ICV says no to all forms of racism and that the ICV will forge partnerships on issues that affect them as Australians and as practising members of the Islamic faith.”

The executives considered the many issues facing the Islamic and Jewish communities and found much in common. They spoke of the importance of imagery and leadership in developing religious harmony. One only need imagine the sight of a Rabbi and a Sheikh walking down the street together or deep in discussion over a coffee to understand how simply a few can make a significant difference.

The outcomes of the dinner were that the JCCV and ICV plan to work together on issues of mutual concern such as Kosher and Halal slaughter, events and activities to create harmony and understanding and engaging youth in faith and community activities. The ICV have already extended an invitation to their next function and have invited Searle to give a lecture on Leadership to representatives of their community.

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  • Reality Check says:

    Great stuff. The meeting should have been at Max Brenner

  • Ittay says:

    I wanted to commend both John Searle and Hyder Gulam for making this meeting public, especially in light of the words John said “The funny thing is that when discussing our individual backgrounds, it became clear that there were far more similarities than differences.”

    These words need to be heard throughout our communities, and perhaps all the way to Norway where a great attack on multiculturalism took place against youth supporters of the Norwegian labour party who advocate for multiculturalism.

    I was appalled to read an editorial last week in the world’s most widely read Jewish newspaper (Jpost.com) which described the events in Norway as an “opportunity to seriously reevaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere. While there is absolutely no justification for the sort of heinous act perpetrated this weekend in Norway, discontent with multiculturalism’s failure must not be delegitimatized or mistakenly portrayed as an opinion held by only the most extremist elements of the Right.”

    Writing in The Age yesterday, Aslak Sira Myhre noted that “Some hours after the terror attack in Oslo, the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said our answer to the attack should be more democracy and more openness. Compared with former US president George W. Bush’s response to the attacks of September 11, there is good reason to be proud of this. But in the aftermath of the most dreadful experience in Norway since World War II, I would like to go further. We need to use this incident to strike a blow to the intolerance, racism and hatred that is growing not just in Norway, nor even only in Scandinavia, but throughout Europe.”

    This meeting is a good first step to ending intolerance in Jewish and Muslim communities in Victoria.

    Well done to the ICV and JCCV.

  • letters in the age says:

    Nice peeps!!!

  • TheSadducee says:

    “This meeting is a good first step to ending intolerance in Jewish and Muslim communities in Victoria.”

    – yeah – how many openly gay practicising Jews/Muslims were at the dinner and/or are invited to be members of these groups?

    and the Age quote was absurd too – comparing the attack of trained terrorist operatives of Al-Qa’ida operating and with support from within Taliban Afghanistan with delusional loner Breivik to score a cheap anti-Bush point should have been dustbinned.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Ittay,

    I don’t want to detract from the positive story about the JCCV and ICV, but I do feel the need to take issue with your comment.
    I haven’t read that JPost article you refer to, but just examining the excerpt you provided, I’m not exactly sure why you’ve described that particular sentiment as “appalling”.

    While I personally am in favour of multiculturalism, I think it’s fair to say that there are people who have reservations about multiculturalism who are not violent extremists. Just as there are those who have reservations about the Likud government policy but are not terrorists.

    What I do find more concerning is that Norway’s Ambassador to Israel apparently still suggests that terrorism against Israeli civilians is more justified than the recent massacre in Norway.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Sadducee,

    I agree with you about that quote from the Norwegian PM.

    However, as far as your comments about the JCCV-ICV dinner, as is standard practice at these things, attendees were not requested to declare their sexual orientation, so your question is not easily answerable.

    However, you might like to click on the banner advert with the JCCV emblem and the rainbow flag, as this is relevant to your question. And in case anyone is wondering, it’s not pay-per click :-)

  • TheSadducee says:


    Of course they don’t ask about their individual sexuality/practices – however I sincerely doubt that there is a single openly-gay group incorporated into either of their organisations – and they have the chutzpah to talk about tolerance etc!

    Although not a fan of the man himself, I can only refer you to:


  • Ittay says:

    Hi Frosh,
    In response to the editorial in Jpost which I referred to in my earlier post, Bradley Burston wrote in Haaretz today:

    “[The Jerusalem] Post’s roundhouse punch was saved for the “failure of multiculturalism,” polite society’s favoured cloak for anti-Muslim bigotry:
    “Perhaps Brievik’s inexcusable act of vicious terror should serve not only as a warning that there may be more elements on the extreme Right willing to use violence to further their goals, but also as an opportunity to seriously re-evaluate policies for immigrant integration in Norway and elsewhere.”
    As my colleague Noam Sheizaf wrote on +972, in suggesting that the Oslo attack be used to re-evaluate immigration policy, “Brievik couldn’t have said it any better.”
    The Post seems, retroactively, to have seen his point. After the editorial appeared in the Sunday paper, the following paragraph was added to the online edition [Again, emphasis in the original]:
    “The editor-in-chief adds: As a newspaper, The Jerusalem Post strongly denounces all acts of violence against innocent civilians. This editorial is not aimed at deflecting attention from the horrific massacre perpetuated in Norway, nor the need to take greater precautions against extremists from all sides.”
    There’s a certain cowardice in this, and not only because it’s author is hiding behind a shield of anonymity. {The author} is using the dead to sell hatred to the living. The dead deserve better. So do the living.”

    And that’s why I found the editorial appalling. To those who are reading this that are against multiculturalism, I’d be interested to hear your alternative vision (provided it’s not a reworking of the ‘White Australia Policy.’)

    Shabbat Shalom

  • Yaakov says:

    I am so glad that the ICV and the JCCV are beginning to find common ground. It’s been a long wait – Muslims have been in Victoria over 110 years.

    Bilal Cleland, an academic based in Melbourne’s north, has written a very good history of Muslims in Australia. Like two other often-hated minorities, the Jews and the Chinese, Muslims were much in evidence by the time of Australian Federation.

    I would hope that some joint work would help our Muslim friends address a rather serious imbalance: The Chinese have had two Lord Mayors of Melbourne in Wellington Lee and John So. Through the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek, ethnic Chinese are involved in much property development in Melbourne including through Australand. Chinese and Jewish students feature disproportionately in the annual VCE top 20 lists. As for we Jews, past Lord Mayors include Sir Michael Michaelis and Sir David Davis; Governors-General include Sir Isaac Isaacs and famous World War 1 General Sir John Monash, whose name graces one of the country’s largest universities. Many an unemployed Melbournian was given relief work building the Sydney Myer music bowl during the Great Depression, and thousands have been treated in hospital wings bearing names such as Smorgan or assisted by the Mental Health bodies supported by the Pratt foundation.

    I’ll leave it to others to explain the absence of Muslim names on our public buildings, our streets, our corporations. But I trust that the JCCV will take seriously our historic Jewish role as a “light unto the nations” and provide some leadership.

    Leadership is needed in another area too. As did many Muslims, I as a Jew joined a demonstration last Sunday on the steps of the old Melbourne GPO against dictator Assad of Syria, a demonstration called by the ICV.

    I was surprised to see that one of the people co-ordinating the rally was Mick Armstrong whose Socialist Alternative thugs have twice in recent weeks (and always during Shabbat) tried trashing the Max Brenner chocolate shop in Melbourne Central because of it’s parent company’s supplies to the Israeli Defence Force.

    Armstrong, along with Arab militants concentrate on Israel more than their own corrupt regimes. Which may explain why, whilst living in their own “strong-man” cultures, Arabs in countries neighbouring Israel enjoy standards of living variously one-half (Saudi Arabia) to one-seventh (Jordan) to one twelfth (Egypt) of the average standard of living in Israel. (CIA world Factbook 2009). In June, 2011, the Israeli minimum wage was raised to ILS 4100 orapproximately AUD 1150 (http://www.hilan.co.il/calc/MinimumWageCalculator.aspx). This is higher than Iran’s (AUD 270), Saudi Arabia’s (ILS 2750), Jordan’s (AUD 140), Lebanon (AUD 312). Moroccan farm workers earn less than 12 shekels a day and industrialised workers 4.45 shekels an hour; Israeli Minimum wage is 22.04 shekels an hour. That’s not the fault of the workers of the Arab countries… they’re simply conned by the situations created by the systems controlled by their leadership, as Zimbardo would have it.

    This leaves me still wondering why the smart brains behind the far-left Trotskyist sect Socialist Alternative haven’t worked out how to support workers in Arab countries other than by protesting against Israel. They were handing out plenty of anti-Israel pamphlets at the anti-Assad rally but there was not a singe Trostkyist leaflet decrying Arab dictatorships to be seen. Even Armstrong’s grouping’s international website blames the failure of the Egyptian revolution on the Egyptian Army’s kow-towing to Israel by continuing to supply natural gas.

    Can’t Armstrong and his SA cronies work this out? There’s only one pipeline and that’s where it goes, Israel. If you turn the gas off, how else are you going to raise the money to improve living standards for your people? Even Lenin had a transitional “New Economic Program” in 1921 involving capitalists.

    Armstrong’s group are active in the front-group “Students for Palestine” on campus, as his fore-runner groups were active in just about every front group from the anti-uranium struggle of the late 70’s to the anti-Fraser of the same time to the unemployed workers’ union. Why? As a “propaganda group”, they “do not have the capacity to lead workers in major struggles and recruit on that basis … we are primarily arguing our ideas … not agitating for mass action” (M. Armstrong, From Little Things Big Things Grow). It is in this capacity that they will chase headlines, using the example of the day for whatever mileage they can get out of it.

    The particular ideas in respect of the socialist experiment that became Ben Gurion’s Israel, sprouted by Armstrong and SA are odd given the predominantly Jewish nature of his particular branch of Trotskyism. Trotsky, of course, was a Jew. The prominent revolutionaries Luxembourg, Zinoviev and Kamenev were Jews; Tony Cliff, the founder of the International Socialist Tendency, was born in Palestine; a Jew. Prominent members of the tendency in Australia have included the Jews Janey Stone, Alec Kahn, Rick Kuhn, Dave Nadel and Jeff Goldhar, all members of the national Executive when I was a baby member 33 years ago.

    Degania lives. Sde Boker lives. Ashdot Yaakov is still there. Old kibbutzim are having new life breathed into them as young Israelis escape the cities and the economic downturn. Egged buses are still run collectively. Look about your non-Jewish friends in your 50’s and many of them will have worked on kibbutzim in their 20’s. In fact, 101 years after the founding of the world’s first collective farm, I’d have to say that the Zionist entity has some problems but seems to have been successful especially when seen in comparison with the achievements of its near neighbours.

    Compare Degania with the difficulty that Mohammed Yunus had in expanding Grameen Bank collectives in Bangladesh – 25 years after the establishment of the first Kibbutz, Jewish labour productivity outstripped Arab labour productivity in Palestine sevenfold. 25 years after the floating of Grameen banks, at least in the part of India I worked, rural villagers are still lucky to earn the equivalent of the price of a litre of milk in an hour. And that’s where our programs were successful.

    For those who believe in scientific Marxism it’s taking them a long, long time to realise that their theory is fundamentally flawed. Nearly 20 years ago now SA-intellectual Tom O’Lincoln wrote,

    “Without us, the demonstrations against Whitlam’s sacking or the strikes against Fraser’s attacks on Medibank would never have taken on such a radical edge. We have helped create a socialist tradition that looks specifically to the rank and file in the unions and in campaigns, and seeks to challenge conservative bureaucracies. These contributions to real struggles are complemented by the creation of an intellectual tradition committed to socialism-from-below…We have contributed much, and we can contribute much more if we get our act together.”

Surely getting one’s act together would have one realise that demonstrating against the government of the one state where Arabs can freely vote without fear of militias or sectarian attack, the state in which Arabs enjoy the highest minimum wage in the Middle East as well as social security; the state in which Arabs enjoy the best health care and have the best chance of entering university – might not be a way of achieving socialism of any sort. Let the SA fight the Arab dictators in the same way as they fought the Soviet ones and the world might value their contribution a little more.

    We surely have a lot to teach our Muslim neighbours about when it comes to running a state, even when it comes to co-operative enterprise, and the similar attitude of Jews and Muslims to social obligations as needing to be discharged before one can rely on one’s claim to rights is a good starting point. We need to have hundreds and thousands of Jews demonstrating next to our Muslim neighbours when next they protest against Arab strong men, to show that the answers to problems that we have put into practice in the democratic state of Israel may not work completely but are a viable alternative to dictatorship and oppression.

  • Ittay says:

    Today is the first day of Ramadan and Rosh Chodesh Av. Benjamin Netanyahu posted a video message on YouTube on Sunday, wishing Muslims in Israel and all over the world a happy month of Ramadan. see: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/watch-netanyahu-extends-greetings-to-muslims-at-start-of-ramadan-1.376214

    Ramadan Kareem!

  • TheSadducee says:

    “We need to have hundreds and thousands of Jews demonstrating next to our Muslim neighbours when next they protest against Arab strong men, to show that the answers to problems that we have put into practice in the democratic state of Israel may not work completely but are a viable alternative to dictatorship and oppression.”

    -I’d get out there and do it, but usually the political alternative is radical Islamism and I don’t support religious fundamentalism which manifests itself in oppression and intolerance.

  • Ittay says:

    Further to the discussion about the Jpost editorial after the terrorist attack in Norway, the paper has now apologized for writing it. Their statement from the Editorial Board says that the editorial
    “inappropriately, raised issues that were not directly pertinent, such as the dangers of multiculturalism, European immigration policies and even the Oslo peace process. […]
    [We] hope that the Norwegian government and people will accept the Post’s apology
    and forgive us for any offense or hurt caused by our editorial and columnists at this sensitive time.”

    Jpost are to be commended for making this apology. Could this be the beginning of an era filled with responsible and non-inflammatory reporting of faith and multiculturalism? I hope so.

    Shabbat Shalom and Ramadan Kareem!

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