Statement on ZFA Biennial: Penny Wong; Abdulla al-Subousi; new appointments

News, Official Statements

The Zionist Federation of Australia welcomes Labor’s commitment to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. On Sunday 22 November, at the ZFA’s Biennial conference, the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Penny Wong told delegates that Labor wholeheartedly supports the full working definition.

ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “It was extremely important for the Jewish community to hear Senator Wong’s unqualified endorsement of the full working definition. Senator Wong made clear that this includes all the definition’s constituent examples, including the ones that deal with delegitimisation of Israel. This endorsement follows assurances provided in writing to the Zionist Federation from the leader of the opposition”.

Mr Leibler continued, “The Australian Jewish community has watched events unfold in the United Kingdom, when the Labor party was led by Jeremy Corbyn with a sense of horror. It was very reassuring to hear Senator Wong reaffirm the ALP’s commitment to Israel’s security and the fight against antisemitism, which includes delegitimisation of Israel”.

Senator Wong was keynote speaker at the Biennial. During her remarks, she said, “It is precisely because we value our friendship with Israel and our ability to engage on complex matters that the IHRA definition is just so important – because it ensures respectful debate, where disagreements are aired without descending to hateful and antisemitic slurs.”

Senator Wong’s remarks focused on social identity and social cohesion, and its role in limiting racial and religious discrimination. She also touched on Labor’s support for Israel’s security, the state of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process and the recent normalisation agreements that Israel has signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Also speaking at the Biennial was Emirati Ambassador to Australia Abdulla al-Subousi. Mr al-Subousi continued the very warm relations established by his country to Israel and Jewish communities across the world. He spoke enthusiastically of the benefits of peace.

Mr Leibler said of Mr al-Subousi’s comments, “The Ambassador demonstrated a genuine commitment, not just to furthering peace with Israel, but to establishing a warm friendship with the Australian Jewish community.”

Mr al-Subousi told the Biennial, “The UAE believes that the Abraham Accords is a significant step towards an era of peace and stability through our relationship with Israel and deeper cooperation with the United States and other key allies such as Australia. Our countries can work together to address some of the region’s most pressing issues.”

The ambassador also spoke of wider moves to peace in the Middle East, and the troubling role played by Turkey and Iran.

The ZFA’s Biennial is the organisation’s flagship event. Usually held as a large conference with many speakers and discussion panels, this year’s conference was online due to the ongoing restrictions on physical gatherings. Delegates heard of the successful year – despite the many challenges – that 2020 represented, and heard plans for the coming year.

The program included a cross-generational panel discussion looking ten years into the future of the Zionist movement in Australia. Insightful and sometimes provocative, the panel provided much material for analysis as the ZFA plans for 2021 and beyond, with a focus on engagement and of challenging our traditional ways of doing things and becoming more innovative.

The Biennial conference saw the re-election of President Jeremy Leibler and most of the current lay leadership. New office holders elected are:

  • Michael Borsky QC – who will serve as Chair of Public Affairs. Michael’s combination of insight and intellect, combined with his commitment to Israel and experience in the community will enable the organisation to further develop in this area.
  • Adir Shiffman – as Chair of Commerce. A new position that will focus on developing the ZFA’s strategic and policy framework in the field of commercial and business relationships between Australia and Israel.
  • Chaya Herszberg – former AZYC Chair, Chaya will join as Chair of Youth and Young Adults – bringing her experience and insight to the role and representing her generation in this increasingly important space.

The ZFA also welcomed Karen Winter, who will assume the role of Chair of the Arava Australia Partnership from 1 January. Tamara Bruce, who has fulfilled that position for five years, was farewelled and tribute paid to her 17 years of volunteer leadership.

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