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MEDIA RELEASE - Info Arab Council

COMMUNITY RELATIONS COMMISSION CHAIR IS UNTENABLE




CRC CHAIR IS UNTENABLE

16 July 2014

(Translation of this article appears in Arabic section)

This morning, NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities was told in person why the Chairperson of the NSW Community Relations Commission (CRC) had to be replaced.

The delegation of six was led by Arab Council Australia and prominent citizens, including a Jewish leader, who were concerned that the CRC would be crippled if Vic Alhadeff remained in this position.

"We are disappointed with the Minister’s reaction. It needs to be understood that what the CRC Chair has done cannot be undone. It is the antithesis of community relations,” Ms Randa Kattan, Chief Executive Officer of the Arab Council Australia stated.

The urgent meeting was held in the light of the statement issued by Mr Alhadeff in his capacity as CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which copy-pasted the official Israeli justification of its attacks on Gaza which have now killed 190 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

The meeting follows the letter to the Minister on Monday, signed by 36 community organisations and 22 community leaders.

As the issue has reached the Arabic language media, these numbers are expected to grow.

"We were told that both Premier Mike Baird and Minister Victor Dominello had reprimanded him and directed him not to repeat his propaganda statements." Ms Kattan said.

"This issue is much more than one statement on one occasion, it is what he represents: a mouthpiece for an occupying state."

"But Mr Alhadeff has burnt his own bridge. Rather than proactively preventing animosities spilling over into Sydney, he was playing Israeli politics in Australia. As such, he no longer has confidence in being an independent and neutral arbiter,” Ms Kattan stated.

“One cannot be a pro-Israel ambassador and a pro-harmony ambassador. It is an insult to our intelligence and morality.”

The delegation plans to widen the exposure of this untenable position.

“On principle, people have already decided to suspend their involvement with the CRC so long as he is at the helm. This cuts across religions and communities. With the daily

bombardment of images of fatalities in Gaza, the moral disgust will only grow. Already there is international media attention on this issue.”

“Mr Alhadeff had offered no apology and the Minister offered no solution.”

“If the Minister walked away from what is morally right, then he gives us no choice but to walk away from the very institution that is supposed to prevent these rifts in community relations. It is now up to Premier Mike Baird, who was not Premier at the time of the appointment, to rise to the challenge of the exit plan.”

Dear Minister

Concerns over statements by the Chairperson of the CRC

We the undersigned are writing in relation to the Chairperson of the NSW Community Relations Commission (CRC), Mr Vic Alhadeff and a recent statement he made in his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies about the escalating conflict in Gaza. We attach the statement in question for your information.

The situation in the Middle East is complex and sensitive and impacts on people and groups in many communities in Australia. It is therefore essential that any comment from a prominent government representative on the situation - irrespective of other roles he or she may hold - is properly measured before it is made public. The alternative is likely to cause deep divisions and mistrust in a highly charged and tense environment where peoples on both sides have relatives who are living in that region.

The CRC needs to maintain an impartial leadership role and improve relations between communities, particularly during these difficult times. We need the CRC to publicly stand with the entire NSW community and not have its Chairperson making divisive and one-sided comments that only serve to alienate a large section of the community, incite disharmony and intolerance.

In light of this statement, we question Mr Alhadeff’s objectivity in fulfilling his duties as the CRC Chair while playing an active and public role on issues that are extremely sensitive to most Arabs, Muslims and Jews, if not the whole Australian community. His statement is not about defending the rights of the Jewish community in Australia and we draw your attention to the Frequently Asked Questions section of his statement. This clearly indicates that it is about disseminating the justification of violence by the armed forces of another country against an occupied and besieged people – views that have been propagated by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Alhadeff’s recent statement causes us grave concerns and as such we do not believe he is capable of exercising sound judgment on community relations. As a holder of a senior NSW government position, the CRC Chair needs to maintain and improve community relations, not create animosity through a one-sided partisan support for the wars of another country.

We have refrained from making public statements about Mr Alhadeff’s appointment to date, despite our reservations, as we had hoped that he would be unbiased. It is now obvious that this is not possible. Mr Alhadeff’s one sided statement contradicts the ethos of the CRC and its charter and highlights the inherent conflict of interest between the two roles he currently occupies as CRC Chair and CEO of Jewish Board of Deputies.

While there can be no objection to the Chair of the CRC being of a particular ethnic community, any appointee should henceforth be above the fray and cannot possibly continue to hold a position that requires him or her to be partisan. With this statement, Mr Alhadeff has shown himself unwilling to refrain from making partisan interventions in public debate, which disqualifies him from holding this office.

We write this letter with regret and out of serious concern for the future of multiculturalism in NSW and we call on you as the Minister responsible for this appointment to ask for Mr Alhadeff’s resignation and to replace him with someone who is willing to set his or her own views to one side, so far as public statements are concerned, to ensure that the CRC and its role remain acceptable to the whole NSW community.

We seek an urgent meeting with you to discuss our concerns. We will be contacting your office to arrange a mutually convenient time.

Contact details: Ph: 02 9709 4333 or email: [email protected]

Sincerely,

Endorsed by the following organisations and individuals


 














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