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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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