Home » Author, Politics and Media, Recent Posts

ZFA Alienates (plus updates and headlines)

October 4, 2013 – 10:09 am23 Comments

By Anonymous:

intimidation2I am a university student in Australia with a youth movement background. For reasons of my own, I don’t want my name published with this article.

The ZFA released an ‘advocacy update;’ on Wednesday October 3rd entitled ‘The J Street Crowd and its idiosyncrasies’ in which the writer claims that the J Street Crowd shows a ‘disregard for Israel’s right to peace with security, [which] leaves an uncomfortable taste in the mouth’ The writer’s tone is of thinly veiled mistrust towards J Street, demonstrated by the fact that half the article is dedicated to discrediting the organisation rather than describing the conference the article is purportedly about.

There are many issues pertaining to the claims discussed in the article, but its core problem is simpler and more pertinent than its lack of cogent argument. The ZFA used its weekly ‘advocacy update’ to slander the largest progressive Zionist body in the world – an organisation that, according to it’s mission statement, supports ‘the state of Israel as homeland of the Jewish people.’

The ZFA essentially decided it would be a good use of community resources to write an article that suggest that J Street supporters are parochial, naïve and don’t really have Israel’s best interests at heart.

There is nothing wrong with someone writing an article criticising J Street; many respected Jews and Israelis have done so. But this is a situation where a body that proclaims to represent Australian Zionists is publishing an article that offends a large proportion of Australian Zionists! And community leaders wonder why they are charged with being unrepresentative. And they wonder why young people don’t come along to the establishment community events.

Through this article, the ZFA alienates members of our own Jewish community who may have an affinity with the J-Street position. In particular, young people are more likely to be progressive thinkers and affiliate themselves with J street. So, whilst the ZFA and the JCCV and all the other abbreviations in our community bemoan the lack of ‘youth engagement’ – they simultaneously publish divisive and inflammatory articles that are sure to offend the exact people whom they are attempting to attract! The saddest part is that the community is investing tens of thousands of dollars into ‘community youth development.’ I’m certain that over the next few weeks I will receive another facebook invitation to an event aimed at ‘nurturing young Jewish leaders’ or something along those lines. But the money is being wasted. The issue is not a lack of enthusiastic, passionate young people – it’s just that those young people don’t feel connected to the ZFA. No amount of free drinks at a ZFA party will excite people who feel that the ZFA only represents a certain version of Zionism.

So the ZFA, and the community, has arrived at a crossroads and a decision must be made. The ZFA can continue to be a vanguard for only one type of Zionism, and lose support of any other Zionists; or it can further Zionism in all its colours and earn the respect and support of the entire Australian Jewish community. *** Headlines: Shabbat Parshat Noach Candle lighting: 6.09pm Shabbat ends: 7.07pm Art Spiegleman  – of Maus fame – is coming to Melbourne. The Jewish International Film Festival begins October 30 in Sydney and November 6 in Melbourne. *** Headlines from J-Wire: Melbourne’s Jewish Care goes retail. Sydney’s The Central Synagogue will host the Police and Servicemen Remembrance Service this Friday evening. John Safran with Julia Zemiro. The ABC apologises to ECAJ Australian movie director Kane Senes has just finished shooting his feature film “A Relative Stranger”  in Austin, Texas. Yad Vashem Founder passes away. and more… *** Headlines from The Shtetl Voice: Sydney house for rent. Family Parsha. Parsha Noach in a nutshell. From days gone by. Melbourne house  for rent. Kosher Australia symposium. Mayanot concert: Souls On Fire. Lamplighter for Parshat Noach Annual Jewish Anglican Friendship Dinner. Wizo Breast Cancer Awareness Seminar Yavne Israel Raffle Arnold Block z”l Meorial Lecture Series: Rabbi James Kennard asks whether should Jews live in Israel? Designer Jewellery Daylight savings reminder And more… *** From Gift of Life Australia:

Please help
Gift of Life Australia raises awareness [ not funds ] about the life saving possibilities that anyone within the Jewish community has the opportunity of  performing  the mitzva of saving the life of another Jew, by donating their blood stem cells.
Nowadays, life threatening disorders such as Leukaemia,aplastic anaemia and immune deficiency syndromes can be cured by replacing the sick blood cells with matching healthy ones.
Only 1 in 3 patients will find a match within their family, the other 75% need to look for a match on the unrelated Stem Cell /Bone Marrow Donor Registries.
As DNA is inherited , the likelihood of finding a match is higher within one’s own ethnic group but , the Jewish community is under-represented on the Australian & Worldwide Donor Registries so the chances of a Jewish patient finding an unrelated match is only about 1 in 10 000 !
Family matches are also hard to find because many Jewish bloodlines were
severely severed by the Holocaust & most families are not over endowed with relatives !
Gift of Life Australia was set up to facilitate the enrolment of 18-45 year old healthy men & women of ethnic minority groups onto the Aussie Stem Cell & Bone Marrow Donor Registry,a world wide Register.The testing consists of completing the Red Cross / ABMDR medical questionnaires & forms and giving a small , two teaspoons blood sample.
Anyone may go anytime to any Red Cross Blood Donation Centre or Mobile Unit and whilst donating blood ask to join the ABMDR . As special forms and test tubes are required, an appointment is advisable.
A special blood testing session has been set up for Tuesday 8 October 4-7.30pm at Caulfield Blood Bank,by appointment : Shula 0414 780 444, info@giftoflifeaustralia.org.au . The flyer with details is attached.
There have been over 2 million transplants worlwide with no adverse side effectcs to the donors ever reported.
Today there are several Leukaemia patients including a 1 year old and a 46 year old ,in Melbourne who will die unless we find a stem cell donor for them ASAP  within the Jewish community as no one in their family has been found matching.
….there are still about 15 000 young 18-45 year olds in Victoria  who have not heard about this program ,hence my plea to you to help with “spreading the word “
Call me please if you have any questions


Print Friendly


  • gs says:

    This is an important piece.
    The ZFA is a conservative organisation and their Israel updates are consistently demeaning towards anyone who has critical views on Israel.

    It’s worth noting that all the leaders of the ZFA and Zionist Councils tend to be from the Mizrachi/Bnei Akiva crowd so it’s no wonder that the agenda of our representative Zionist bodies lean to the right.
    Good on these leaders for stepping up and taking on these roles.

    I think that if you want to be a progressive Zionist in Australia then it’s worth engaging with Ameinu, or NIF, or UPJ (or Habo/Hashy/Netzer).
    There are many active and passionate progressive Zionists in Australia, but don’t expect to find a home in the ZFA.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Should we be at all surprised that the writer feels the need to remain anonymous, rather than being labelled and vilified for decades to come? The ZFA has been captured by the ideology of the hard right and the settler movement.

    Whether it is critiques and alternatives from the non-Zionist or Zionist left or the middle (J Street, NIF), the response it much the same, and to bring the considerable resources of the ZFA and others into play to stomp on, and marginalize critics. Danny Lamm at a recent JCCV plenum (wearing several hats), insisted that there is a “continuing existential crisis to the state of Israel”. Crying wolf is a useful technique to keep people frightened, but it is wearing thin.

    For young people it is completely alienating. But it has been the same behaviour for decades. The split will probably get even wider.

  • Agent P says:

    GS, the difference is those leftist organisations don’t claim to represent every Aussie Zionist. The ZFA does. Additionally the youth movements you mentioned are members of the ZFA but have no voice.

  • Seraphya says:

    What makes this even more ridiculous is that 9 Members of Knesset spoke at the conference. These MKs were from 6 different Zionist parties, four of those parties are actually part of the government coalition! One of those MKs is part of the Likud party, which is the party that formed the government. One of those MKs is actually a minister with an important portfolio in the current government of Israel!

    The ZFA clearly knows this, because it talks about them is passing while demonizing Jstreet and the attendees.

    This line crystalizes the issue:
    “But hopefully the sentiment of Tzipi Livni will be absorbed somewhat, even if subconsciously.”

    Why is the ZFA advocating for one specific type of Zionism over another explicitly?

  • frosh says:

    In my opinion, the author, while raising an important issue, would probably have lent more weight to their cause had they published this under their own name. After all, it’s not a whistle blowing piece, and despite the imaginings of Larry Stillman and friends, our community machers, while sometimes overzealous to protect both turf and ideology, operate neither like the mafia nor a Stalinist regime.

    Anyway, be that as it may, the author has stated as a matter of fact:

    this is a situation where a body that proclaims to represent Australian Zionists is publishing an article that offends a large proportion of Australian Zionists!

    My questions to the author are:

    1) What is meant by “a large proportion” e.g. roughly 5%, 25%, 50%, or 75% of Australian Zionists?

    2) And importantly, how have you ascertained this proportion?

    Despite my criticisms and questions, I do think you raise a very good question in your concluding paragraph, that applies not only to the ZFA, but to many other Jewish community establishment organizations. These organization need to consider whether they ought to be more politically pluralistic, and if so, where the lines should be drawn.

    Disclosure: Yes, I am a strong critic of J-Street in particular. I believe J-Street serves to undermine Israeli democracy, but I think organizations such as NIF are vastly more worthwhile in that they at least serve to strengthen Israeli democracy. See here more details on my views about this.

  • Seraphya says:

    It seems unfair to post a year old article from dershowitz about J-street without m entioning that J street actually responded to the criticism:

    While re-reading the ZFA post I was trying to figure out where certain ideas were sourced from. In this specific case, the passive use of it was reported makes you wonder “who reported”?” and no specific example provided. Especially this claim:

    “It was also reported that members of the crowd, which was composed largely of self-defined progressives, weren’t very moved when a number of attending MKs discussed rising income gaps in Israel. Pluralism though was a popular subject, and Calderon was greeted by rounds of applause when she mentioned the need for increased religious diversity in Israel.”

    It turns out at this whole entire paragraph was lift from an earlier mentioned article: http://www.timesofisrael.com/mks-fire-up-j-street-crowd-with-social-causes/ . It was copy+pasted without even any sort of attribution.

    Another paragraph is unattributed, but may not reach the above level of plagiarism as the above example. This paragraph was quoting a speech, however the transcription of the speech including the punctuation was lifted from TimesofIsrael:

    “They want… four options. Some of them might want to stay where they are. Some of them might want to resettle somewhere else, in a third country. Some of them might want to choose to come back to the state of Palestine. And some of them might want to return to their original homes. But all of them- all of them- want one thing. Full recognition of the Nakba that has befallen our people (sustained applause).” – http://www.timesofisrael.com/j-street-crowd-applauds-palestinian-right-of-return/

    Tabletmag, which also used the same quote punctuated the speech quite differently, which clearly shows that this was not the only logical way to punctuate the speech but that it was a clear copy+paste. http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/147016/j-street-attendees-show-support-for-right-of-return

    What makes this copy+pasting even more disappointing, is that the nuance and context from the article is lost.

    From the article which was copied from:
    An attendee at the conference told The Times of Israel that when a speaker said on Sunday that the Palestinians need to understand that there will be no right of return, the audience applauded, as well.

    According to J Street’s blog, “The refugee issue should be negotiated and resolved as part of an agreement between official Israeli and Palestinian authorities and endorsed by both peoples. J Street would support the approach outlined in commonly accepted models of a two-state solution under which the vast majority of refugees would be resettled outside the internationally recognized borders of Israel, while receiving compensation.”

    From Tabletmag:
    Such approval for the right of return departs from J Street’s official position on the subject, which is in line with the Zionist mainstream. “The refugee issue should be negotiated and resolved as part of an agreement between official Israeli and Palestinian authorities and endorsed by both peoples. J Street would support the approach outlined in commonly accepted models of a two-state solution under which the vast majority of refugees would be resettled outside the internationally recognized borders of Israel, while receiving compensation.”

    Additionally, an explanation for the applause was the way it was, is also explained on these websites, for instance:

    Support for security is “built into the baseline” of what J Street delegates believe, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, told me. “J Street is not a pep rally for the IDF. It is a convention of people who are trying to ensure the goal of the IDF that both peace and security are achievement. It is not a crowd where people are going to rah-rah over the IDF but will acknowledge that you can’t have security without peace.” -http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/147016/j-street-attendees-show-support-for-right-of-return

  • Seraphya says:

    Frosh, I must disagree with you on this one. If I wanted to continue in elected positions in AUJS I would not put my name to an article like this. I feel comfortable commenting here, because of the extreme backlash. When I ran with the Labor-Right group for a seat on the student union environment committee the allegedly politically pluralist AUJS chapter at UniMelb tried to formally kick me off the board and exclude me in other ways. Our communal organizations are so broken, that is a mild example why you would want to publish this anonymously. (Note: not all of AUJS is as problematic as MUJSS was during the period of a few years ago, I am not trying to defame AUJS as it is no worse in general, and is often much better than other communal organizations)

    I applaud those who stay and work in communal organizations are try to make sure that our communal organizations stick to their aims and platforms in a proper manner. I have seen too much that sickens me to want to try to improve things from the inside, so I don’t mind using my name. However, those who are oppressed inside our community by ideological purists who are against diversity and nuance and want to contribute to community through traditional channels have to remain anonymous.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    @ Frosh — ” operate neither like the mafia nor a Stalinist regime.” Did I say this? No, I said they operated like they have operated for decades. Look at back issues of the Jewish News from the 80s when even mentioning the possibility of a Palestinian state was tantamount to being a traitor. Then the official line changed in Israel, and well well, they changed. Loyalists.

  • Seraphya says:

    The full talk by Shelly Yachimovich is available here:

    The reason the audience doesn’t clap in this case when discussing poverty, is because she was talking more about the problems of the income gap. Unlike when she was talking about gay rights and religious pluralism where she was articulating specific plans for progress.

    She actually does get applause when talking about a strong and secure Israel(at time 8:55)

    And because what is the internet without a good conspiracy, did they cut out part where she finished the phrase “true Zionist dream” so that they could hide the lack of applause? There is a clear jump in video and audio at 9:02

  • frosh says:

    Seraphya, you wrote:

    Frosh, I must disagree with you on this one. If I wanted to continue in elected positions in AUJS I would not put my name to an article like this.

    I would put it to you that any community voluntary-based organization that is going to kick you out for expressing a reasoned opinion isn’t worth being involved with. So from my perspective, there’s nothing to lose.

    I’d also like to stress that my comment here is about a general principle, and not at all a statement about AUJS. It’s been a long time since I was a student. For the record, the only recent involvement with AUJS that I’ve had in recent years was for an AUJS Q&A panel at Monash earlier this year, and I found the AUJS representatives involved with that event to be highly professional. But I have little knowledge about how AUJS operates in general.

    Shabbat Shalom.

  • Philip Mendes says:

    The ZFA report on the J Street conference raises a number of questions: did the ZFA spokesperson actually attend the conference, and who judged the relative support for the Fatah speaker and the Labor Party speaker? Is this a fair and balanced report of the views and tendencies at the conference, and if not, what agenda is being pushed? I would be keen, as a comparison or control group if you like, to see whether the ZFA publishes similar reports on the pro-settler Zionist Organisation of America’s conferences, and if so, whether the tone is similarly sceptical or more positive.

  • Philip Mendes says:

    Interesting to read this forcefully presented speech by a leading Meretz member of Parliament from that same J Street conference:


  • Philip Mendes says:

    And an excellent report on the J Street Conference here from my friend Ralph Seliger:


  • letters in the age says:

    Generational change is always complex with every community.

    Look at our current political class where certain sectors of the hard right have become mainstream.

    I respect your anon identity as you seem to know the ramifications of going public.

    That is very revealing and speaks volumes about the whole Jewish community..

  • Michael Burd says:

    I wait for the day a Palestinian/ Arab conference invites Israeli Zionist Politicians to express their views ..

    The fringe Jewish progressives are the best advocates the Palestinians and Arabs have at their disposal.

  • Ian Katz says:

    Amazing how so many of the lefties themselves have never educated themselves by going into the Palestinian territories or Jordan. Sorry to disappoint you but there are plenty of Arabs that are too happy to cooperate and live side by side with Israel and even the settlers

  • “a body that proclaims to represent Australian Zionists is publishing an article that offends a large proportion of Australian Zionists!”

    (a) Do you actually have verifiable statistics to prove the proportion of Australian Zionists offended by the article?

    (b) Since, by implication, you are claiming that a large proportion of Australian Zionists support J-Street, do you have verifiable statistics to prove that claim?

    (c) What, exactly, is a “progressive Zionist”?

  • Sabra says:

    Why is the community so split? Why can’t Jews worldwide join in support of Israel? Why was I born so NAIVE?

    G-d help us all…..

  • Michael Burd says:

    Sabra let me tell you this phenomenon of Jews contributing to their own destruction , self condemnation and collaboration with our enemies or those that wish us harm is not new. There have been self hating Jews for ages.
    . The progressive or Left wing Jews will have us believe. that by parroting Muslim/ Arab demonization and monotonous criticism of Jewish/ Israelis this makes them better Zionists or better Jews, the strange thing is they really believe this.

  • letters in the age says:

    I didn’t know that Jon Stewart was a self- hater??


  • Hilary says:

    Larry, having been subject to some really vicious internet stalking some years ago by someone(a non-Jew on the Left)who profoundly disagreed with my own views re Israel I appreciate only too well that sometimes anonymity is the better part of valour, but I’d like to stress that fear of reprisal is a two-way street, affecting people on the Right as well as on the Left.
    Some years ago a certain overseas Jewish academic, interviewed by the AJN, expressed the view that large-scale Muslim immigration to Australia of the kind witnessed in Europe would in all likelihood be disadvantageous for Jewish advocacy for Israel at government level, since the Muslim electorate would prove much larger than the Jewish one and governments would inevitably be influenced by that fact.
    Believe it or not, a band of Jewish leftists in Melbourne actually took it upon themselves to write to that person’s head of department overseas as well as to the vice-chancellor of the university where that person worked drawing attention to that person’s “Islamophobe” views and deploring the fact that someone employed by them could hold and express them!
    That’s all water under the bridge now, and I mention it not to rake it up but to emphasise that virtue does not always reside with the Left!

  • Ari says:

    While not intending to get into the nitty gritty of statistics as the problematic lines here have already been mentioned I will point out that the ZFA is a body representative of the Zionist Movement of Australia because any organisation which is Zionist (that is has within their constitution the updated Jerusalem Platform which is the programme of the Zionist Organisation) is a member and votes in members and any other issues. The Zionist youth movements are members as are many other organisations – and they can vote. This piece strikes a low blow by implying that there is no democratic process instead of simply urging the organisations that make up the voters to take a more progressive stance. Now discussions of what and who is a Zionist are good for youth movement programmes but the real answer to the question is anyone who is a member of the World Zionist Organisation – that is has adopted (or belongs to an organisation who has adopted) the Jerusalem programme plain and simple. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_Program). IN a truly old-world democratic/party sense, you are not a Zionist unless you are a card-carrying member of the political movement – that movement has the right to define itself however it chooses. NOw you can advocate for that to change and even chooses to abandon the movement and start another one – but it gets really confusing when you call the other one by the same name as Zionism.

Leave a comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.