Jewish Council of Australia: ‘Stop silencing Palestinian voices’

April 9, 2024
Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah is an outspoken critic of Israel's war on Palestine. Photo: Randa Abdel-Fattah/Facebook

The Jewish Council of Australia (JCA) said on April 5 that attempts to remove pro-Palestinian voices should be “deeply concerning to all who value a plural and open society”.

The JCA was responding to the push by Liberal Senator Dave Sharma and Zionist lobby groups to force NSW Labor to remove Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah as a judge on the Multicultural NSW Award, because she has criticised the Israeli government and the political ideology of Zionism.

The $30,000 award is offered for a work that that “considers aspects of cultural diversity and multiculturalism in Australian society”.

Abdel-Fattah is a Palestinian Egyptian Muslim writer, academic, activist, former lawyer and the multi-award-winning author of 14 books published in more than 20 countries.

Abdel-Fattah is one of three judges, along with Chinese-Australian writer, comedian Jennifer Wong and multi-award-winning comedian, writer, journalist, and broadcaster Sam Shah.

Dr Elizabeth Strakosch, Executive Officer of JCA said Abdel-Fattah, an “important academic voice supporting Palestinian human rights” has consistently “made a distinction between the political ideology of Zionism and Jewish people”.

Strakosch said attempts to smear Abdel-Fattah as antisemitic and have her removed from professional appointments is “another example of anti-Palestinian racism”.

Sarah Schwartz, JCA Executive Officer, said: “Attempts to silence Palestinian voices under the guise of political bias sets a dangerous precedent for intellectual debate and democratic values.”

She said diversity of thought “enriches our society and should be embraced”.

“It is imperative for diverse perspectives, including robust critiques of the political structures which enable this war to continue, to be respected and given a platform for discussion,” Schwartz said.

Dr Max Kaiser, JCA Executive Officer, said the “demonisation of outspoken Palestinians by right-wing Israel lobby groups and Senators only adds fuel to the fire of anti-Palestinian racism” which then exacerbates other racism, including antisemitism.

“As scholars of history, law, and politics, we emphasise the necessity of open dialogue and debate.

“It is important to distinguish Jewish identities, which trace back over 3000 years and span different cultures and traditions, from the State of Israel and the political ideology of Zionism.

“Many Jews do not hold Zionist views. Many, if not the majority, of people who hold Zionist views today are Christian Zionists.

“Zionism, as a political ideology, should be subject to critique, not shielded from scrutiny.”

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