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ZFA President responds to Tony Walker

The following is a letter sent to Tony Walker in response to his column in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald 18/04/2019, headed, “Melissa Parke incident raises difficult questions about Israel”

Dear Tony,

I read your column this morning and wanted to respond to several of the points you raise. While you say in the piece that you approached me for comment, I didn’t receive any message from you and would be grateful if you could let me know which contact details you used.

If I’d had the opportunity to answer your question about the boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable criticism of Israel, I would have said that I hoped at least part of it was contained in the opinion article I wrote from which you drew just one line.

Criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism where, for example, it draws on old school characterisation of Jews as “the Benjamins” and/or collectively blames all Jewish people for the decisions of the Israeli Government.

My article makes it clear that I don’t view criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism per se – I too am sometimes critical of actions and decisions taken in Israel.

Most concerning, however, is your selective quoting from an interview I gave to the Jerusalem Post, which would have left your readers with the clear impression that I, or people I am associated with, was responsible for “working behind the scenes” at the ALP national conference to manipulate the resolution on recognising Palestine.

Not only is it widely and publicly known that the backroom negotiations were spearheaded by senior members of the ALP including Bill Shorten, Penny Wong and Richard Marles but the article in the Jerusalem explicitly said so. Like any group of citizens, Jewish Australians have a democratic right/responsibility to communicate our views and concerns to our elected representatives. Where this is portrayed as some kind of sinister conspiracy, it also crosses the line into age old, seriously concerning stereotyping.

I understand that you are based in Melbourne and would be pleased to meet with you in person to discuss in more detail. It is important to me that the record be corrected so I propose to make this e-mail public to ensure that my position is clear.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jeremy Leibler
PRESIDENT                                                                 
JLeibler@abl.com.au
0417 382 387

Reference Material:
Tony Walker’s column can be read here:
Jeremy Leibler’s article in the Daily Telegraph can be read here:
Interview with Jeremy Leibler in the Jerusalem Post can be read here: