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Yes to Greens, No to BDS

June 6, 2012 – 7:54 pm14 Comments

Herschel Landes, campaigning for the Greens, and against extended clearways.

As part of the lead up to Limmud Oz 2012, we have been publishing some articles by presenters in order to give our readership a taste of some of sessions on offer. Here is a letter we received from a reader who suddenly found themselves involved in local and then even federal politics.

Hi, my name is Herschel Landes. I’m a 59 year old proud Jew with a very special attachment to Israel, emotionally and physically, especially as I have a daughter , son in law, and three wonderful Israeli grand children as well as many family members and good friends living in Israel. Last August, I took a keen interest in the social justice movement in Israel and the current issues confronting Israelis.

I am also a keen supporter of the Greens here in Australia. In 2011, the BDS controversy drove a wedge deep into that support as I had to defend myself in an extremely hostile community. Nevertheless, I was also part of a small group of Jews determined to confront this issue and to convince the Greens to review this policy and to engage with the Jewish community in a positive and constructive dialogue. Today I am proud to say that I can introduce the Greens at Limmud Oz this June.

My association with the Greens grew out the Clearway debacle in 2008 when the then Brumby State Government fought a three year battle with the traders of all inner city shopping precincts , trying to force traffic through these shopping precincts. While hundreds of cars were being towed every month, traders and local councils fought stubbornly to defeat a bad decision. The defeat of clearways policy was attributed to the Liberal Party but it was actually the Greens involvement, particularly in the City of Yarra, that was pivotal to this defeat. The decision in early 2010 by the Yarra Councillors to support the Stonnington Council was the turning point of the campaign and so began my association with the Greens who had been listening to the concerns of the traders and believed they had the right approach to the problem of traffic congestion through better public transport outcomes rather than yet more traffic.

The Greens seek a sustainable world, community social justice, and cities that do not depend on cars.  I found myself most comfortable with their outlook, and while I have never really been involved in politics, I found a group of people I enjoyed listening to. They were articulating ideas that resonated with me – sustainability, over consumption, green house emissions, global warming, social justice, decentralised democracy, public transport, and community involvement.

Furthermore, I instantly noticed that it was their young membership and their enthusiasm that was generating a powerful alternative to the well worn politics of spin and power. Here was something fresh and exciting, bringing to the table priorities that I believe are important in making a better world for the next generations.  More importantly, as I campaigned in support of Adam Bandt for Melbourne and Kathleen Maltzahn for Richmond, I was handing out leaflets with young Jews who were also keen to make a difference, attracted to the Greens philosophy and their generational change of ideas. Adam Bandt won the seat of Melbourne and became the first lower house representative for the Greens. The Greens increased their representation on the Senate and suddenly Australia was embracing Green values – implementation of a carbon reduction program, greater dental care, the Mining Tax, marriage equality, and a more humanitarian approach to asylum seekers.
In December 2010, a motion to support the BDS was moved by Sylvia Hale in the NSW State Council, apparently without debate or dissent. This decision not only led the NSW Greens to face the ignominy of the Marrickville debacle, but also put themselves in direct conflict with the Federal Greens who had resolved against supporting a BDS policy.  The BDS resolution of December 2010 had also become a source of internal division within NSW and disappointment for the Federal party.  In mid 2011, in response to the BDS controversy, I approached Adam Bandt’s office to assist, and as with the clearway dispute, the Green leadership listened and a meeting was organised with Bob Brown, Adam Bandt, and some progressive members of the Jewish Community. The case was eloquently put as to why the BDS was hypocritical and being used to cloak an anti-Semitic agenda, that racism was a major concern, and that progressive Jews could NOT support the Greens in this situation. The BDS was toxic and destroying the Greens credibility. In late 2011, the NSW Greens backed down on the hard line resolutions and early in 2012, one of the first statements made by newly elected Greens leader Christine Milne, was to the Jewish Community stating that the Greens DO NOT support the BDS, and that they have put this divisive policy behind them.

But the other outcome from the Bob Brown meeting was the encouragement to the Greens to listen to what Jews have to say and the issues that impact them, particularly when it comes to Israel, as well as how Israel balances decisions in an increasingly unstable region and with a world increasingly frustrated and demanding a just outcome for Palestinian Arabs and for Israel to meet it’s human rights obligations.

Meanwhile, the Greens have helped stop the ridiculous Malaysia solution for the offshore processing of asylum seekers. Jews, having always been interested in social justice, would in my view relate to this, especially when, as of March 2012, there were 1,023 children in all forms of detention.

I have a strong sense of the importance of education, again a very Jewish philosophy. In my mind, the Greens, and in particular the people I speak to, talk of the need to invest in fixing the structural deficiencies within our education system and to prioritise the education of our children by properly applying proceeds in our affluent society.

Finally, it is fundamentally clear my mind that as the world approaches the limits on fossil fuel production, as the cost of fossil fuels increase, and as the demand for cleaner air becomes louder, cities and transport systems that depend on fossil fuels will need to adapt. I feel the Greens are the only political force driving this change. Our congested environment is putting stress on resources such as water and food, and again it is the Greens demanding change. These issues are just as relevant to Australia as they are to Israel. In the new Green paradigm, global security, including economic and human risks, will depend on a political will to confront and change ideas and bring about innovation and reinvention of society in order to be able to deal with those risks.

Senator Richard Di Natale has been invited to speak at Limmud Oz on Monday 11 June from 3:45pm – 4:45pm. His session will be an opportunity for the Jewish community to engage with the Greens and to put their concerns to him as well as to clarify any concerns with the Greens’ policy agenda, including pollution taxes, mining tax, dental plans, animal rights, marriage equality bill etc. I encourage attendees to come and say hello.


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  • Gedalia says:

    The core of Limmud is about Jewish learning. The movements own catchphrase is “Limmud: dedicated to Jewish learning in all its variety”.

    It seems Limmud has wandered off track by running presentations that have little or no element of “learning” in connection to Jewish tradition or subject matter. Community identity is important, but where is the nexus to a specific learning outcome in this presentation?

    THe Limmud UK website under its mission statement section writes:
    “Limmud will programme its events in such a way as to avoid religious or political conflict. However we do recognise and appreciate that ‘arguments for the sake of heaven’ can make a positive contribution to furthering our education and understanding. Sessions should therefore be educational and not polemical.”

    THat last sentance says it all. Limmud means learning, and this topic, while an interesting discussion, does little to advance the cause of Jewish learning.

  • Ittay says:

    Hi Gedalia,
    I am a young Jew who believes that it wrong to send live cattle to Indonesia for inhumane slaughter, wrong to send asylum seekers to Malaysia for “processing” where their human rights will be denied, and that it is wrong that same sex people don’t have marriage equality

    I also think that it is right for dental care to be a part of Medicare and that for big polluters to have to pay for the damage they are causing to our environment.

    Whilst the Q&A at Limmud Oz being promoted by Herschel doesn’t directly relate to Jewish learning, it certainly does relate to an argument for the sake of wellbeing of Jewish Australians, namely, which political party is more likely to lead to Australia to becoming a more just and compassionate society.

  • TheSadducee says:

    The representation here of the NSW Greens’ position is interesting –

    their Review and resolution at the end of 2011:

    1. rejected that they had been motivated or affected by anti-semitism (not surprising – how many people who claim to be progressive are going to admit that anyways?) and provided themselves with the figleaf of suggesting that “legitimate” criticism of Israel is not antisemitic (without defining legitimate of course), and threw in the obligatory (and meaningless in the context) pairing of anti-semitism with Islamophobia.

    2. argued that the BDS is a legitimate non-violent tactic – which calls into question their rejection or acknowledgement of the seriousness of the matter at all.

    3. encouraged people to do whatever they feel is right for them i.e. do the BDS, just don’t claim to do it as a NSW Green policy.

    4. and advised that there are different views on the matter and they would educate people on the matter i.e. they’ll keep fighting the fight with the rest of the Greens etc.

    Effectively, the NSW Greens have only changed their public policy – there has been no real change of point of view and/or realisation of the problems of their earlier position other than the political expediency of amelioration of the policy.

  • Elliot says:

    Many of us were distressed by the pro-BDS position adopted by the NSW Greens, apparently agreed without much thought or discussion. And I for one was not at all convinced by the compromise resolution referred to by “TheSadducee”. However, I have been strongly encouraged by the recent adoption of the outspoken opponent of BDS in the NSW Greens, Cate Faehrmann, as the Party’s lead Senate Candidate at the next election. This selection was made by a ballot of the membership of the NSW Party. I believe the tide has definately turned in NSW and their membership is falling in line with the rest of the Party on this issue.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I can only refer you to this article which really showed the problems in the NSW Greens (and more broadly).


    Don’t get me wrong – I’m sympathetic to most of their views, but I don’t think things have got particularly better in the last few months despite your suggestion otherwise.

  • Pinchas says:

    In what way is BDS environmentally friendly?Progressive? and all the other adjectives the Greens like to pat themselves on the shoulder with?
    In fact the Greens have been infiltrated by hard line Stalinist, Marxist,ultra leftist ideologues and they are still there in the Green movement just waiting for their next opportunity.
    Marx, a Lutheran convert, descendent of Rabbis on both sides of his family set the leftist tone on Jews in his essay on the Jewish problem. The little tin god of Socialism was an antisemite that even the Nazis quoted.

  • Pinchas says:

    @ Ittay
    No decent human being could support the inhumane activities in SOME Indonesian slaughter houses. Knee jerk banning ALL exports to ALL slaughter houses was to say the least half baked policy formulated on the run
    The cruelty in Malaysia is nothing new neither is their apartheid,homophobia corruption and antisemitic outbursts .
    Our self righteous,self annointed moral guardians somehow have failed to be moved as they blithely ignore religious & racial persecutions and widespread human rights abuse to focus on one P.C topic.
    How many $ millions are earmarked for starving Africans? Nuba who are being starved to death and terror bombed by Sudan as we speak? Deliberate starvation In the Horn of Africa? etc etc.

  • Jonny says:

    I think Di Natale will gave his hands full at Limmud. I wish I could be there to ask the policy suggested for Syria… A BDS? Pacifism? Too hard? Hershel you seem like a nice guy… But the I am very unpersuaded with the lack lustre response of the Greens on issues in the mid east.

    I certainly think the BDS is sufficiently learning oriented to be on the limmud agenda… But it will be tough to keep it non political.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Ittay – how about a session delivered by a rep from the ALP or the Liberals?! The issues they will discuss will no doubt be of relevance to us as Aussies and to the broader social conscience that Jews have!?

    Limmud should not be turned into a political free-for-all. It should be limited to specifically JEWISH issues – religion, culture, literature, etc.

  • Herschel Landes says:

    I am very encouraged that Senator Di Natale is attending Limmud Oz. It is a powerful step in building bridges and congratulations are extended to a very small, but dedicated group of young (and not so young) jews seeking to make a difference. I believe the message of the Greens is important and that Jews have a part to play. Last last year while i was also marching with over a million Israelis seeking social justice and a better outcome, I was also fighting the NSW Greens. I know that the tensions within Israeli society an middle east society is difficult and very volatile. But I also know that the representations from some in the NSW Greens last year crossed boundaries of acceptability and it was fought extremely hard by a very small number of which I am very proud to have been part. Clearly there is a great deal more to the story than I wished to reveal but I urge everyone to take the opportunity to meet with Senator Di Natale with an open mind. When we spoke to Bob Brown last year, we made the point that Jewish life in Australia is vital, and that our aspirations and values are just as important as any other community. Limmud Oz is an opportunity to exchange ideas, issues, culture and religion- let’s welcome this conversation.


  • philip mendes says:

    It is pleasing to read that the Greens are now talking to mainstream members of the Jewish community, rather than limiting their contact to a small group of Jews on the Far Left. This dialogue can only be good for both sides, and will particularly help the Greens to develop a better understanding of Jewish concerns on Israel and a range of issues.

  • letters in the age says:

    The Wheeler Centre was buzzing when Adam Bandt spoke there last week!!

    Great to see them engage with Limmud Oz!!

  • Levi says:

    Anyone who supports the greens or is interested in dialogue with this radical extremist party needs to seek serious help.

    Just about everything that the greens stand for is antithetical to Judaism and Jewish values. did someone mention marriage equality? How far will this “equality” be extended? Will it eventually allow a brother and sister (two consenting adults) to marry one day?

    Everyone has the right to their opinion, but don’t bring Judaism or your Jewish identity into this…especially when it’s an affront to Jewish values and a contradiction to Jewish law. If you want to form your own religion based on your own version of “tikkun olam” which involves “marriage equality,” fighting Japanese whalers, assisting Muslims to come to Australia (thus emulating Europe’s success story of bringing in Muslim “refugees”) and/or embracing any other sexy or chic cause of the day, be my guest. Call yourselves Jedi knights or the “enlightened ones” for all I care. But don’t invoke Judaism.

  • john nemesh says:

    perhaps we could both learn from a frank communication between us.

    I would be keen.

    My team and I were to degree responsible for the Green loss in Marrickville–both state, and then council elections.

    We however allied with the ALP.


    John Nemesh

    PS The Greens from Brown’s instructions then had me charged on a law Milne broke as well—but obviously was not charged.

    The law was 100 years old, carried a year in jail and $10000 fine—-and wait forit—HAD NEVER BEEN USED!!

    Hubris, hypocrisy , racial profiling, and thug activity with intimidation all happened in Marrickville courtesy of the Red Greens.

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