Polar opposites of the Israeli-Palestinian spectrum

Australian Jewish News
Vic Alhadeff
25 October 2018

HERE is Dalal Mughrabi and there is Oded Revivi. At one end of the spectrum, admiration and veneration of terrorists and suicide bombers; at the other, islands of peace and inspirational leadership in fostering Jewish–Arab relations.
In between, confusion and chaos, political impasse and violence.

These polar opposites were but two aspects of the morass of information with which participants on the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Journalists Mission returned to Australia from Israel this week. Mughrabi led the most lethal terrorist attack in Israel’s history – the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, in which she and other Fatah terrorists hijacked a bus and murdered 37 people, 12 of them children.

Grotesquely, she is honoured across Palestinian society as a hero to be emulated, with public squares, girls’ schools and other public facilities named for her. “Every one of us wishes to be like… Dalal Mughrabi,” exhorts a 2017 Palestinian Authority fifth-grade schoolbook, her smiling face beaming beatifically from its pages and the Palestinian national colours flowing beneath. “Heroes have an important position in every nation … We are proud of them, sing their praises, learn the history of their lives, name our children after them and name streets, squares and prominent cultural sites after them. Every one of us wishes to be like them.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Revivi, the Mayor of Efrat, one of the
“consensus settlements” that will remain part of Israel in the event that a two-state solution eventuates. Articulate, confident and a champion of Jewish–Arab relations, he notes defiantly that Efrat was the first place where Jews and Arabs united against the security barrier.

“Fences create a sense of security, they don’t actually create security,” he told the Australian journalists; as a result, there is no barrier between Efrat and three neighbouring Palestinian villages. Two years ago, the area was rocked by two terrorist attacks. Revivi paid his condolences to both bereaved families, after which – reeling from the inconsolable grief he had encountered – he was scheduled to make one of his regular courtesy visits to a neighbouring Palestinian village. “There are usually 10 people there to welcome me,” he recounted. “This time there were 60.” They understood and they wanted to reach out.

Soon afterwards it was Succot, so Revivi reciprocated by inviting 10 representatives from that Palestinian village to his succah; 30 arrived. He also invited 20 residents of Efrat; 80 arrived. As did an Israel Defence Force general and 30 Israeli army and police commanders.

Some of the Palestinian guests posed with the general, the photograph was posted on Facebook and four of them were arrested by the Palestinian Authority, accused of conspiring with the enemy. They were incarcerated for four days, with Revivi advocating for their release and paying the $US15,000 bail.
At Succot 2017, a year later, Revivi again invited the Palestinian village leaders to his succah, although uncertain whether they would attend, given the arrests of the previous year; the response – tradition! They came.

“The challenge is against human nature,” he said – “which is to run away when an attack happens. But we shop together in our supermarket, Jews and Arabs; we mustn’t let the 99 per cent of positive days be dominated by the one per cent of bad days, which get reported. We have 1100 Arabs working alongside Jews in Efrat. We do something different here, it’s a bottom-up approach. We’re an island of peace. Let’s duplicate and multiply this and make it policy. It’s harder to build a bridge than a fence.”

The general told Revivi that the more that such gatherings occur, the less the IDF would need to spend on security. Unrealistic? Not necessarily. Indeed, the Journalists Mission encountered several encouraging programs, such as Roots – which sees settlers and Palestinians working together to change the discourse from competing ownership of the land to mutual recognition that both peoples belong to the land; and Save A Child’s Heart – an Israeli initiative which has given cardiac treatment to 4800 infants from 57 nations, 50 per cent of them from Gaza and the West Bank. On the other hand, the frustrating political impasse endures. Yet as strategic analyst Dr Eran Lerman observed, “conflict management is not
such a bad solution”.

Alhadeff is the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of

Deputies, and accompanied the
Journalists Mission.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Greek City Times
by Kosta Nikas

Greek City Times caught up with Vic Alhadeff, the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in Australia, to talk about his Greek heritage, his work on human rights issues and about an act of extraordinary courage on the island of Zakynthos that saved its entire Jewish community from the Nazi terror machine during WWII.

In May this year, a human chain was formed in the Jewish Cemetery in Athens to shield it in silent protest against the vandalization and desecration of graves. The human chain was comprised of members of the Jewish community of Athens, the vice mayor of the city, other Greek citizens and prominent community members.

*The Athens Jewish community and other Greek citizens protesting against the desecration of the Jewish Cemetery in Athens

Increasingly around the world, we are noticing a politically fragile landscape littered with extreme and disruptive voices that do little for social cohesion. Building bridges between communities and fighting racism in all its forms has been a lifelong endeavour for Vic Alhadeff, CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies in Australia.

An outspoken champion of human rights issues, Alhadeff notably led the Keep NSW Safe campaign with the support of Greek and other community leaders which lobbied the State Government to legislate against incitement to violence on the basis of race, religion, and gender.  During the campaign, the Federal Attorney General at the time George Brandis said that people “have the right to be bigots”.

“That was a problematic comment” reflects Alhadeff, noting that political leaders should set an inspirational tone that strengthens social cohesion not disrupt it.

The legislation was passed. A victory for the community at large.

The Greek Connection

Alhadeff’s passion to defend and fight for human rights no doubt was also informed by his own family history. His parents were born on the Greek island of Rhodes but were forced to flee after the Nazi occupation of Greece and settled in Zimbabwe where he was born.

But his grandparents never made it out. They were murdered by the Germans, along with more than 2,000 Greek Jews on the island that were sent to concentration camps.

“My family had been in Rhodes for 500 years! They were part of the Jewish diaspora that was expelled from Spain by the Moors and made Greece their home,” he proudly says.

Vic Alhadeff is proud of his Hellenic connection and has visited Greece several times, noting he ‘connects’ with the country and its people. He also made the pilgrimage back to his father’s island of Rhodes last year as part of a poignant reunion of 97 family members.

*Vic Alhadeff and  family members in Rhodes reuniting in Rhodes and reconnecting with their Hellenic homeland

Members of his family from all over the world, the USA, Europe, Australia, and Africa descended on this Mediterranean jewel in the summer of 2017, on the same date, July 21, where their ancestors and compatriots in 1944 were taken by the German troops to the Auschwitz extermination camp.

Alhadeff and his relatives joined the mayor of Rhodes, members of the Greek and Jewish communities, the Israeli Ambassador and other senior civil and religious officials in a special ceremony in remembrance of their Jewish compatriots who were ripped away from their beloved homes and island.

*The once thriving Jewish Quarter on the island of Rhodes

Greece once had a thriving Jewish community that had been around since antiquity.
Thessaloniki once had a 50,000 plus strong Jewish community and Rhodes perhaps close to 5,000 but World War II and the rise of anti-Semitism changed all that.

Today Greece’s Jewish community is numbered at about 6,000 members.

But not all was tragic. Alhadeff reminds us that on the other side of Greece, on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, took place an act of courage that saved the island’s entire Jewish population from extermination.

The Zakynthos Act

During the Nazi Occupation of Greece, 11 percent of its population had been killed by either bullet or famine, more than 2,000 villages destroyed along with 90% of its ports, roads, railways, and bridges.

At the time, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Greece Damaskinos called on Greeks to hide their Jewish compatriots and instructed priests to issue them false baptismal certificates to protect them from Nazi persecution.

On Zakynthos, a small miracle of its own was taking place.

On September 9, 1943, the German SS Commander on the island ordered Greek Orthodox Bishop Chrysostomos and the mayor, Loukas Karrer, to provide him a list with the names of all their Jewish compatriots or face death.

The next day, September 10, 1943, Bishop Chrysostomos and the mayor Loukas Karrer turned up to the office of the SS Commander and gave him a piece of paper with two names on it: their own.

This act of courage saved the lives of all 275 of their Jewish compatriots.

*The memorial in Zakynthos in honour of the Bishop and Mayor for saving their Jewish compatriots

“It’s what happens when good people take a stand against evil,” says Alhadeff who visited the island to meet with its people.

Israel never forgot their act of humanity and through its Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, honoured both men with the title of Righteous Amongst Nations.

Vic Alhadeff personally met with the daughter of mayor Loukas Karrer and discussed the history of the island and her father’s act of courage.

*Vic Alhadeff and Lena Karrer in her home in Zakynthos, daughter of heroic mayor Loukas Karrer

He asked her what she thought of her father’s heroic actions, but she brushed off any idea that he was a hero, since she saw it as “the right thing to do” and expected no less from him.

Greek Israeli Relations

Besides Rhodes and Zakynthos, Vic Alhadeff also visited Thessaloniki where he met with popular mayor Ioannis Boutaris, another fierce advocate of human rights who famously marched through the streets wearing the “yellow star” to protest the entry of Golden Dawn into Greek Parliament. He visited the Jewish Museum and connected with the members of the Jewish community.

Tragedy has shown us what humanity is capable of when working together, and Alhadeff is optimistic about the future of our ancestral homes and of Greek – Israeli relations. He referenced the leaps and bounds that both countries have made recently which includes pledging deeper military ties, joint energy exploration in the Mediterranean and tourism.

*Vic Alhadeff in Thessaloniki visiting the Jewish Museum

According to provisional data from Ben Gurion airport and Greek airports, air arrivals to Greece from Israel increased by 15 per cent to over half a million visitors this year.

Tourism in particular is an excellent “bridge building” exercise and if statistics are anything to go by, the future is indeed looking optimistic.

Earlier this year Israeli President Reuven Rivlin joined Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and lay the foundation stone for a new Holocaust Museum in the city of Thessaloniki which lost more than 90 per cent of its Jewish community during the Nazi Occupation.

*President Reuven Rivlin in Thessaloniki to lay the foundation stone for a new Holocaust museum

During the ceremony, both leaders planted two olive trees on the site of the future museum from where the city’s 54,000 Jews transported from to the death camps.

“The Holocaust is not only a Jewish issue, it is an international issue that touches every nation and people. Here too, in Greece, it is a national issue,” said at the time the Israeli President.

The Immigrant

Back in Australia where he migrated to in 1986 from South Africa, few years before the Apartheid regime unravelled, Alhadeff assumed many important roles, including chairperson of the NSW Community Relations Commission.

The role gave him an opportunity to contribute to race relations and enhance our multicultural society and avoid some of the tragedies of the Old World.

But the Old World, as he discovered, can be imported into the New World by the very ethnic communities that fled from it.

A number of religious leaders called on him to resign from the position because they felt he had compromised his role by asserting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

“They boycotted a dinner that was organised in State Parliament and called for my resignation. It became very disillusioning that they were not prepared to accept that the conflict was overseas and that we needed to get on with it here as Australians in Australia.”

Even though he had the backing of then NSW Premier Mike Baird, Alhadeff resigned for the sake of the organisation’s future, adding that he was thankful that at least one prominent religious leader “spoke up in my defence and had the courage to support me because of the work I had done in that space.”

Hopefully in the case of Australia, when it finally cuts the umbilical cord with Britain and becomes a mature republic, perhaps then, all ethnic communities will identify more with the country and all feel Australian. Australian enough not to use ancestral conflicts as political leverage in the new country, but more as topics for civil debate in the pursuit of peace and a better understanding of each other.

But what is it about the nature of ‘immigrants’ that makes them stand out? Take our communities:  starved, hunted, occupied, oppressed and extremely small in numbers, yet have contributed successfully to every field of human endeavour in the new worlds and societies they entered.

The final word goes to Vic Alhadeff to that question:

“Many immigrant communities are profoundly aware that they are inherently transient. In other words, they arrive in the new country with little more than what they can carry, but with the knowledge that in order to integrate, they need to make a meaningful contribution to the society that has generously opened its doors to them. This certainly applies to the Greek and Jewish communities in Australia – notwithstanding the fact that Jews have been here since the First Fleet – and we can both reflect with gratification on the positive contributions we have made to this, the greatest country in the world.”


-Born in Zimbabwe.
-Studies at the University of Cape Town and at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.
-Was Chief Sub-Editor of The Cape Times in Cape Town.
-Wrote two books on South African history.
-Lived in Israel for two years, where he edited two magazines.
-Immigrated to Australia in 1986.
-Was appointed Editor of the Australian Jewish News. Was sent to Moscow three times to report on the persecution of Soviet Jews and reported from Israel during the Gulf war and on the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
-Became an outspoken champion on human rights issues.
Was appointed Chairman of Multicultural NSW and a judge of the NSW Human Rights Award.
-Was appointed Chief Executive of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which represents the NSW Jewish community to government, media and other communities.
-Led the Keep NSW Safe campaign which lobbied State Government to legislate against incitement to violence on the basis of race, religion and gender. The law was passed in June 2018 after a three-year campaign, of which the Hellenic community was part.

By Kosta Nikas 

$2.2 million for security funding

Liberal Candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma (centre) with (from left) Peter Wise, Lesli Berger, Peter Wertheim and CSG head of security David Rothman. Photo Noel Kessel


THE NSW Jewish community’s vital security infrastructure will get a much-needed upgrade with a $2.2 million grant from the federal government.

The funding, which has been committed regardless of the result of the October 20 Wentworth by-election, was announced by Liberal candidate Dave Sharma during a visit to the Community Security Group (CSG) earlier this week.

Around $1.685 million will fund backbone security infrastructure such as command and control and nerve centres at CSG, while more than $500,000 will go to individual institutions, including schools and synagogues, to upgrade their own facilities like CCTV cameras and other security infrastructure.

The funding, which is predominantly for sites in Wentworth, is in addition to money already provided through the government’s Safer Communities Fund.

“What this will allow us to do is better protect the community and its institutions and people. It’s in response of course to identified community needs,” Sharma said.

“From a higher level, what it represents is the government’s commitment to keeping Australians safe, keeping communities strong, keeping the country together.”

The AJN understand the community has been seeking more than $3 million for much-needed security upgrades.

“It’s not the entirety that the Council [for Jewish Community Security] is seeking but we will certainly be looking at the whole, the entire body of requests over time. But we wanted to get this announcement done quickly in recognition of the quite acute needs.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger warmly welcomed the announcement.
“The federal government’s grant will help ensure that the security risks faced by the Jewish community are reduced,” he said.

“We thank Dave Sharma for his advocacy in securing this grant and we thank the federal government for understanding the fundamental needs of our community, which will go a significant way to ensuring that Jews can live their lives in safety and continue to contribute ­productively to Australia.”

ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said, “This is a much-needed initiative to assist the Jewish community to meet its ever-increasing security costs, which the ECAJ has been advocating for some time.

“Ensuring the safety and security of all citizens is the first duty of any government,” he continued.

“Dave Sharma is to be congratulated for pursuing this matter so energetically. We thank him and the federal government for recognising the importance and urgency of this issue for our community.”

CJCS chairman Peter Wise said, “Over the years we’ve built the community’s security infrastructure and professionalism. The benefit we have in NSW is that we have a unified security infrastructure with oversight by CJCS and operations by CSG.

“This funding further enhances our unified capacity by enabling us to upgrade our infrastructure. Over the years so much more security considerations have come down to technology and we’ve become more dependent on it.

“Technology moves at a rapid pace and the cost therefore increases at a rapid pace, so this enables us to keep up with that and at the same time deliver to the Jewish community of NSW enhanced capabilities for their welfare and safety, and we’re very very grateful for it.”


Labor MP accused of excluding key figures of Australia’s Jewish media from multiple events

17 August 2018
, EXCLUSIVE, The Daily Telegraph

LABOR MP Shaoquett Moselmane has been accused of excluding key figures of Australia’s Jewish media from multiple events that were billed as celebrations of multiculturalism.

It is the second serious allegation this week against Mr Moselmane of excluding the Jewish community from multicultural events.

It comes as the government targeted Mr Moselmane in parliament with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet dramatically accusing Labor of holding “anti-Semitic views”.

“(The media have been) accurately representing anti-Semitic views they have on that side,” he said.

Both J-Wire and the Australian Jewish News told The Daily Telegraph they could not recall being ­invited to the Multicultural and indigenous Media awards which Mr ­Moselmane established in 2012 and ran until 2016.

Shaoquett Moselmane has come under fire for excluding the Jewish community from multicultural events.

The events were held at NSW Parliament House. Australian Jewish News CEO Joshua Levi accused Mr Moselmane of not sharing values of multiculturalism.

“We didn’t even receive an invitation from Moselmane … seemingly he has a problem with the Jewish community. Luke Foley is a friend of the Jewish community, but if he ­really cares about that relationship it’s about time he take real action against someone that doesn’t seem to share his values of multiculturalism.”

Labor leader Luke Foley declined to address the latest allegation with a spokesman saying the media awards were not an official Labor event and were started by Mr Moselmane as a “private individual”. The complaints about the media awards come days after Mr Mosel­mane was accused of “excluding” Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff from a Labor event.

New South Wales state opposition leader Luke Foley declined to address the latest allegation (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

“Mr Moselmane’s hostility to Jewish Australians is pretty clear now.

“It’s a pattern of behaviour that should rule him out of leading a Labor multicultural organisation,” Mr Alhadeff said.

Mr Perrottet raised the Jewish community’s concerns in parliament, saying Labor held “anti-Semitic views”. The issue erupted in parliament with Labor’s only Jewish MP Ron Hoenig saying Mr Perrottet’s comment was “deeply offensive”.

“I am the only Jewish member of the Labor Party, most of whose family was exterminated in the final solution. I take exception to suggestion that I would join an anti-Semitic party in any circumstance … neither I nor the Jewish community regard the Labor Party as anti-Semitic. And I find the Treasurer’s comments to be deeply offensive,” Mr Hoenig said.

Mr Moselmane did not respond to request for comment.

Nelson Mandela: propelled from a village to a place in history

The Australian
July 19, 2018
Vic Alhadeff

Nelson Mandela congratulates Springbok skipper Francois Pienaar. Picture: AFP

I returned to South Africa a week before the 1994 elections — the first time in that country’s troubled history every adult would have the right to vote. Irrespective of race.

I was driven from what was still called Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg to The Sowetan — a newspaper for black readers — where a Zulu tradition called Ukweshwama, designed to symbolically drain away the evils of the past, was about to take place.

A bull was tethered to a pole in a courtyard, a fiercesome dagger resting nearby. Black and white management and staff jostled in anticipation. Then, after chants and prayers, a dignitary lifted the animal’s head and with a flourish, ceremoniously slit its throat. Men positioned a large bowl to capture the outpouring blood and the rapt crowd burst into Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica — the Xhosa-Zulu hymn which now comprises the first half of South Africa’s national anthem.

One of Nelson Mandela’s signature characteristics was an ability to combine and respect traditional and modern cultures and values. As evidenced by the Ukweshwama ritual, which marked the culmination of the hated Apartheid system while heralding a democratic election.

And as Mandela brilliantly personified when, in an act which was in equal measure symbolic, strategic, political and essential, he donned the No 6 jersey of Springbok captain Francois Pienaar at the 1995 World Cup final against the All Blacks at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium and presented him with the Webb Ellis Cup. Through that ingenious master-stroke, he sent a powerful message to the country’s 35 million blacks — who detested the Springboks because of the regime they represented — that rugby was an intrinsic facet of the Afrikaans tradition and therefore needed to be accepted and respected. Equally, he sent a powerful message to the country’s 5 million whites that he, their newly elected black president, was willing to embrace their hallowed sport. The crowd of 63,000 erupted, enraptured, understanding the power of what they had witnessed.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela would have turned 100 yesterday. I served as chief sub-editor of The Cape Times. Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island at the time — but he was the unspoken presence in the editorial room.

A key instrument in the government’s strategy of subjugating the black population while keeping the ruling white sector uninformed about the revolutionary movement fermenting beneath the surface was a draconian system of censorship. Mandela and other anti-Apartheid activists were not merely imprisoned, they were also banned, which meant it was forbidden for media to quote them or report anti-Apartheid activities. The deeper issue was that South Africans never heard from Mandela or his colleagues, could not read — legitimately, at least — of their grievances and aspirations, and never saw their photographs.

Generations of South Africans therefore had no idea what the leaders of the majority looked like, sounded like, thought, felt or dreamed — whether that related to the right to vote or live with their families. Unless one of the handful of progressive politicians spoke out under the protection of parliamentary privilege, those who were banned were effectively confined to a non-existence. Furthermore, if their names were mentioned, it was invariably by a government politician in a pejorative context in which they would be condemned.

Yet Mandela was there. ­Silenced. Casting a giant shadow. And as one of the nation’s anti-Apartheid newspapers, we were acutely aware that in our midst was a colossus whose time had to come. And when it did, it would change South Africa forever. Mandela exemplified the African notion of Ubuntu, which in Xhosa culture means “I am because we are”, one’s humanity is determined by how one interacts with others, a person is a person through other people.

His four-hour closing address at the Rivonia Trial in 1963-64 — which saw him receive a life sentence — is one of the great speeches of all time. After recounting tales he heard as a child from tribal elders and recalling the deals of the African National Congress and the indignities suffered by his people, he discarded his notes and turned to Justice Quartus de Wet. “During my lifetime,” he said, “I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic, free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The same qualities of leadership, character and conviction which propelled him from a timeless riverside village to a place in history for all time.


NSW anti-hate legislation passed in to law

June 22 2018
By Vic Alhadeff

The Crimes Amendment (Publicly Threatening and Inciting Violence) Bill 2018  is now law.

Vic Alhadeff
Chief Executive Officer
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

Individuals who incite or threaten violence against people based on their race, religion or sexuality will risk a three-year jail sentence under the new laws.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff – spokesperson for the Keep NSW Safe campaign – said “This is a great day for NSW, a great day for Australia.
No one should ever have to live in fear because of who they are or what they believe.
The NSW government has made a powerful statement and said that incitement to violence will not be tolerated. Full credit to Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Attorney General Mark Speakman for identifying this gap in the law and full credit to the Labor Opposition and the minor parties for unanimously supporting this bill.”
Keep New South Wales Safe Alliance encompasses 31 community organisations and leaders.
With Alhadeff at its spokesman it has lobbied for the changes for three years.
The previous legislation had not produced a single prosecution.
The bill passed unanimously through both Houses of Parliament.

CSU students who wore Nazi, KKK costumes either ignorant or arrogant

By Vic Alhadeff
June 20, 2018
The Sydney Morning Herald

The celebration marked the end of semester. A number of students arrived at Wagga Wagga’s Black Swan Hotel wearing Ku Klux Klan gowns and hoods. They duly posted a photograph of themselves in that deeply offensive attire, together with a man in blackface holding a bowl of
cotton – symbolic of the inhumane slave labour which black prisoners were forced to undertake after being abducted from Africa.

A photo depicting students in Nazi-era costume was posted online.
A photo depicting students in Nazi-era costume was posted online.  Photo: Supplied

Then there was a photograph, also posted online, of students wearing striped uniforms – reminiscent of the garb Jewish prisoners wore in the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust and emblazoned with the German word for Jew (Jude), while an individual posed behind them in Nazi uniform with a swastika visible on his arm.

In 2005 Prince Harry – third in line to the throne – caused widespread outrage when he arrived at a private fancy-dress party wearing a crude imitation of a German Army uniform, complete with swastika on his left sleeve, flashes on his collar and eagle insignia on his chest. The
incident created headlines around the world, as well as appropriate criticism.

The students at the Black Swan took Prince Harry’s offensive idea to another level. While they are private citizens, by publicising their grotesque charades on social media, they turned them into a public spectacle and made them a public issue. They identified three of the darkest

chapters of recorded history, each causing the persecution and death of vast
numbers of innocents in the name of bigotry and vicious race hatred, and made fun of the victims, the survivors, and the current generation, whose forbears were directly harmed by those atrocities.

A screenshot of an Instagram post showing party-goers dressed in KKK and blackface costumes.
A screenshot of an Instagram post showing party-goers dressed in KKK and blackface costumes. Photo: Supplied

They crossed the line between being provocative and humorous – a readily acceptable facet of a functioning democracy – to being deliberately offensive, and in so doing diminished the enormity of the crimes of the KKK, the Nazis and the slave-owners.

The university has said it is rightly ashamed of the profoundly insensitive and hurtful conduct of its students and has committed itself to ensuring they make appropriate amends. But have the students expressed contrition or regret? Either they were remarkably
unaware of the magnitude of the crimes against humanity which they were
mocking, or they were aware but, again remarkably, simply didn’t care. At best
their ignorance was shameful, at worst their arrogance was appalling.

University students are a demographic which should produce some of our country’s future leaders. If they believe it is acceptable to mock those who suffered at the hands of the KKK, the Nazis and the slave owners, then we have a problem. Worse, when we lose sight of fundamental
principles of decency and the lessons of history and memory, we risk losing our
moral centre and slipping into dangerous territory in which prejudice and
bigotry are permitted to flourish.

 The invitation to turn up at that Wagga Wagga pub in politically

incorrect attire was just an entry ticket; it’s the line that the students
subsequently crossed that gives cause for concern.

Vic Alhadeff is chief executive of the NSW Jewish Board of