Deputies gathered at the home of Kirsty and Lesli Berger to strengthen the connections between constituent organisations.
By Vic Alhadeff
March 30 2019
In 1990, US lawyer Mike Godwin embarked on an ambitious project. He had become frustrated at gratuitous Nazi comparisons being tossed around in public debate, trivialising Hitler and the Holocaust and offending survivors of the genocide.
The comparisons had got out of hand, he felt, whether the topic was border control, gun control or some other government measure. “It made you wonder,” he wrote, “how debates had ever occurred without that handy rhetorical hammer.” So he decided to track the analogies by creating a meme that would motivate those indulging in the unwarranted references to understand how inappropriate they were and desist.
The result: Godwin’s law, which states that the longer an online discussion continues, the greater the likelihood someone will draw a comparison with the Nazis or Hitler. And when that happens, the person making the analogy has effectively forfeited the argument.
Two recent instances relate to offshore detention. In a staggering twist of logic, Paul Bauert of the Australian Medical Association suggested asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island were worse off than Jews in Auschwitz because those about to be murdered “found some sense of relief in knowing what was happening”, whereas asylum-seekers were unaware of what their future held. “The main reason for the impairment of mental health — as Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist from Auschwitz, described very well in his book Man’s Search for Meaning — the main problem that these people have is … lack of certainty,” Bauert told Sky News. “Even those who finally knew they were about to be condemned to the gas chamber at least found some sense of relief in knowing what was happening.”
Withdrawing the statement, he acknowledged he had failed to grasp the complexities of Frankl’s writings. Indeed, apart from the appalling lack of empathy for people about to be murdered, his remarks were profoundly ignorant, given the Nazis went to inordinate lengths to conceal their intentions, telling the Jews they needed showers after spending days being transported in cattle cars and assuring them they would be reunited with their families.
Then came Anglican rector Rod Bower, who placed a sign outside his Gosford church on the NSW central coast saying “Manus is how the Holocaust started”. He added online: “What we have done on Manus does not necessarily lead to the Holocaust but it is a necessary step on the path to that particular hell.”
Human rights barrister Julian Burnside (Greens candidate against Josh Frydenberg) has twice linked offshore detention to the Nazis. Last year Burnside retweeted an image of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s face superimposed on an SS officer, and this year he tweeted an extract of a comment by Nazi criminal Hermann Goering and predicted that Scott Morrison would quietly instruct the navy to “let a couple of asylum-seeker boats through before the election” and “terrify the nation that we are under attack”.
His supporting evidence? A 1946 comment by Goering: “… easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
Queensland senator Fraser Anning used the phrase “final solution” in regard to the immigration issue, insisting he was unaware it was Nazi shorthand for their plan to annihilate the Jewish people; Greens MP Tamara Smith drew a parallel between US treatment of asylum-seekers and the Nazis; Hornsby Labor candidate Katie Gompertz compared US President Donald Trump to Hitler; and former prime minister Tony Abbott labelled Opposition Leader Bill Shorten the “Dr Goebbels of economic policy” after accusing Labor of causing “a holocaust of job losses”. (Joseph Goebbels was Hitler’s propaganda minister.) After opposition legal affairs spokesman Mark Dreyfus and other MPs were ejected by the Speaker during the ensuing uproar, Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said Dreyfus used “exactly the same description” to criticise Abbott in a 2011 article in which he said there was a “Goebbellian cynicism” in Abbott describing his carbon tax campaign as a truth campaign.
The list goes on, cheapening public debate, undermining the gravity of what the Nazis were about, doing a disservice to us all.
Although deliberately framed as if it were a law of nature or mathematics, the purpose of Godwin’s law “has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler to think a bit harder about the Holocaust”, Godwin wrote.
His noble aim is sadly faltering.
Vic Alhadeff is chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
Below is an article which will be published in this weekend’s edition of Al Anwar – a major Sydney Arabic newspaper. Similar articles appear in the Wentworth Courier and on the front page of the Australian Jewish News. We have been informed that there will be additional coverage in other Arabic and Muslim newspapers.
Two motions were passed at the Board of Deputies’ March plenum – on the Christchurch massacre and the Sydney Beth Din.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies plenum:
1. Expresses its horror and revulsion at the massacre of 50 innocent people, and the injuring and traumatising of many others, while they were at prayer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March 2019.
2. Condemns utterly this wanton act of terrorism and mass murder and the ideology of racial supremacism associated with it.
3. Sends its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims, their families, all people of the Muslim faith in New Zealand, Australia & elsewhere, and the citizens and government of New Zealand.
4. Joins with other faith communities and people of goodwill in both our countries, in uniting for mutual respect and understanding and peace between us all, whatever our ethnic, religious and political beliefs and differences.
5. Commends the Prime Minister of New Zealand for her exemplary leadership in these terrible circumstances, for her government’s prompt action on gun control, social media and the monitoring of extremists of all ideological or religious backgrounds;
6. Commends the Prime Minister of New Zealand for her ground-breaking initiative for a national leader, of declaring that the perpetrator should not be named by her, her government or by implication by others in future, so that he cannot gain the notoriety and celebrity he craves;
7. Resolves to follow the lead of the Prime Minister of New Zealand in this regard, and to remember and refer only to the victims by name, not the person who took their lives.
SYDNEY BETH DIN
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (the Board) notes the judgments recently delivered by the Supreme Court of NSW and the Court of Appeal of NSW concerning the Sydney Beth Din (SBD)*. These judgments arose as a result of an alleged commercial dispute between two corporations, the principals of which are observant Jews. The findings of misconduct against the SBD are of particular concern to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, whose constitution charges it with the responsibility to “ensure and safeguard the religious, political, economic, civil and cultural rights, status and interests of Jews resident in New South Wales.”
1. Expresses its deep concern about the defects in the ownership structure, governance, mechanisms of accountability and dispute-resolution processes of the SBD which were the subject of detailed findings by Justice Sackar in the Supreme Court proceedings, which findings were not disturbed by the Court of Appeal and included the following:
• The SBD is a private partnership. “As at 1 January 2015, the ASIC records indicate only Rabbi Gutnick and Rabbi Ulman are the partners of the Sydney Beth Din”;
• The SBD “is an organisation that wishes, indeed demands, the respect and reverence from its parishioners and adherents, and yet appears to be a law unto itself”.
• The conduct of the rabbis of the SBD “displays either arrogant disregard of their own procedures and rules of natural justice, substantial ineptitude, or inexperience dealing with commercial disputes”.
• That conduct was “entirely inappropriate for a religious body, or any body, which prides itself on adhering to the principles of natural justice.”
2. Notes further that Justice Sackar refused to accept certain critical aspects of the evidence given by one of the SBD rabbis, and that the majority of judges in the NSW Court of Appeal proceedings, consisting of the Chief Justice of NSW and the President of the NSW Court of Appeal, considered that when that rabbi’s evidence is read in its entirety “it discloses an obstinate refusal to understand the role of the Beth Din and its relationship to the civil law”.
3. Affirms the public statement made by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in relation to these judgments on 30 December 2018 and endorses the public statement and call for reform of the SBD made by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry on 31 December 2018.
4. Notes that Justice Sackar further found that in the context of the alleged commercial dispute:
Three senior rabbis who acted as judges of the SBD and a fourth rabbi who acted as its Registrar had threatened one of the principals with religious sanctions (not being counted in a minyan, not being called to the Torah during services, not being offered any honour in the synagogue) unless the person submitted to the jurisdiction of the Beth Din;
The threat impeded the relevant corporation’s unconstrained access to the civil courts and thus had a real tendency to interfere with the administration of justice generally;
The issuing of the threat therefore amounted to a criminal contempt of court, although the contempt was found not to be “contumacious”.
5. Notes that on appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal, the Chief Justice of NSW and the President of the NSW Court of Appeal largely agreed with the decision at first instance of Justice Sackar, but reduced what they described as the “manifestly excessive” amount of the fines and cost orders imposed on the rabbis by Justice Sackar. The third appeal judge, Justice McColl, delivered a minority dissenting judgment in which Her Honour considered that the conduct was in essence a threat of religious sanctions by a religious body for a religious transgression and therefore did not amount to illegitimate pressure in the circumstances.
6. Notes that the rabbis of the SBD have commenced proceedings seeking special leave to appeal the NSW Court of Appeal decision to the High Court of Australia.
7. Calls on the SBD, and the lay leadership of the Sydney orthodox community, regardless of the outcome of the special leave application or of any appeal to the High Court concerning the issue of criminal contempt, to enact meaningful reform of the SBD as a matter of urgency to remedy its defects as highlighted in the judgments of Justice Sackar and the majority of the Court of Appeal.
8. Resolves to review the matter as soon as the special leave application and any appeal to the High Court has been decided, or if necessary sooner, subject to the agreement of the plenum, set up an ad hoc committee, including members of the
lay leadership and congregational rabbis of the Sydney orthodox community who have accepted in principle.
*Live Group Pty Ltd & Anor v Rabbi Ulman and Ors  NSWSC 393 (29 March 2018) and Live Group Pty Ltd and Anor v Rabbi Ulman and Ors  NSWSC 1759 (14 December 2017), as upheld by the NSW Court of Appeal in Ulman v Live Group Pty Ltd  NSWCA 338 (20 December 2018).
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Muslim community of Christchurch, making an initial donation of $1800. Almost $61,000 has been raised to date, with a target of $108,000.
To make a contribution go to: http://bit.ly/NSWJBDChristchurchGoFund
STATEMENT: “The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies stands in solidarity with the Muslim communities of Christchurch, New Zealand and Sydney in condemning this act of wanton slaughter. The massacre occurred at a time when people were at their most vulnerable – at prayer in a house of worship – and all humanity is profoundly the poorer today. We remember the attacks on the mosque in Quebec, on the synagogue in Pittsburgh, on the church in Charleston. An attack on one faith is an attack on us all. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible massacre, as well as to our Muslim friends and colleagues, and pray for an end to racism, bigotry and terrorism.”
Lesli Berger, President; Vic Alhadeff, Chief Executive Officer
Listen to Vic Alhadeff on ABC News Radio yesterday
Lesli Berger on JWire
One of the riskiest seats for the Liberal Party in the upcoming NSW Election will be in the spotlight at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ March plenum.
Coogee is held by the Liberal Party by a margin of just 2.9% and is among six seats the Coalition is at risk of losing, potentially leading to a minority government according to News Corp NSW Political Editor Andrew Clennell. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told The Australian “It’s going to be really tight. It will come down to a handful of votes in a handful of seats. Anyone telling you otherwise isn’t telling the truth”.
The sitting member for Coogee is Liberal member Bruce Notley-Smith MP, the current Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel. His challenger from the Labor Party is Dr Marjorie O’Neill, who holds a PhD in Management and Economics and sits on Waverley Council.
Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff said, “the Coogee electorate encompasses a number of our major institutions including the Emanuel School, Moriah College and the Montefiore (Randwick) as well as a large percentage of our community generally. The election forum will be an opportunity for the community to hear directly from the candidates”.
The Coogee electorate covers the suburbs: Bronte, Bondi Junction, Clovelly, Coogee, Randwick, Queens Park, South Bondi, South Coogee, Tamarama, Waverley.
Details: Coogee Countdown Election Forum, 7:30pm Tuesday March 19, Sydney Jewish Museum Education Centre.
All welcome. No charge.
Thursday March 7
The NSW Government has today announced $250,000 to support NSW and Israel’s leading medical researchers to develop a new treatment for type 1 diabetes that has the potential to end the need for insulin injections.
Minister for Trade and Industry, Niall Blair said this project could transform the lives of those living with diabetes.
“In NSW alone, there are an estimated 39,000 people with Type 1 diabetes and more than 21 million world-wide, so the potential impact of this treatment is enormous. This could mean another global success for NSW’s medical technology industry,” Mr Blair said.
“People with type 1 diabetes must constantly monitor blood glucose levels, which can be easily impacted by changes to exercise and diet. Getting blood sugar levels wrong can lead to long term damage to major organs.”
“The new technology could remove the need for daily monitoring of blood sugar levels and create skilled jobs in NSW as the technology is rolled out globally.”
The Australian Foundation for Diabetes Research and Sydney Cell Therapy Foundation will work with Israel biotech company Kadimastem on the project.
Australian Foundation for Diabetes Research Director Professor Bernard Tuch said the diabetes project would develop a new implantable cell therapy to replace the need for insulin injections.
“We’ve developed a device which when seeded with insulin-producing cells and implanted in rodents has been shown to reverse diabetes without the need for toxic anti-rejection drugs,” Professor Tuch said.
“Our Israel partner Kadimastem has the ability to create insulin-producing cells from human embryonic stem cells which can sense blood glucose levels and respond by secreting insulin to regulate glucose levels in diabetic recipients.
“We will work together to develop a device containing insulin-producing cells that can be implanted into people with type 1 diabetes and regulate their glucose levels for at least five years, ending the need for insulin injections.”
Diabetes NSW & ACT Chief Operating Officer Trish Egan said the project held great promise. “Although diabetes is complex, this collaboration is particularly exciting as it is well advanced and promises to fundamentally change the way people with type 1 manage the condition,” Ms Egan said.
Type 1 diabetes sufferer, Elana Bowman has been treating her condition for 25 years, which requires her to have up to seven insulin injections a day.
“Generally I have two long-acting and three short-acting insulin injections and any correction doses if needed, so I can have up to seven injections each day,” Ms
Bowman said. “I have had to take on part-time work to give me flexibility to see doctors and pharmacies to help me maintain my health. I welcome any project that could make my life and millions of other lives that little bit easier.”
MEDIA: Evie Madden | Minister Blair | 0409 682 163