Office of the Prime Minister
July 21, 2018
Dear Mr. Prime Minister:
We represent more than 20 LGBTQ-Jewish communities from across the world and writing to express our strong support for the Israeli LGBTQ community’s struggle and fight for equality.
The right to become a parent is a universal basic human right that should not be deprived to anyone, especially due to their sexual or gender identity. It is not just a liberal concept, but also a Jewish mandate to “be fruitful and multiply”. Israel’s latest legislation, which discriminates against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Queers by denying their right to parenthood, comes after several years where same-sex couples in Israel are facing inequality in parenthood rights and legal recognition.
We stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Israel and express our concerns over the recent trends happening to individuals and their equal rights.
We call on you to amend this discrimination and to truly promote equality for the LGBTQ community.
Michael Danby MP has let us all know, well before the next election, that he won’t be standing again.
The member for Melbourne Ports has been in the seat since 1998. That’s twenty years.
While Danby may have enjoyed the support of his Jewish constituency, that can’t be said about other demographics within his electorate.
Letters of congratulations and thanks have been pouring in for him.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issued a glowing summary of Danby’s retirement, saying that it is sad news. They talk about him being a ‘fearless champion for the arts and for many human rights causes, most especially those which have not been fashionable or popular, or which have attracted the ire of powerful interests.’
They then give two examples, Danby meeting with the Dalai Lama and his ‘passionate advocacy for Israel’.
Danby’s record isn’t so wonderful when it comes to human rights. Despite his electorate being in the heart of a diverse area with not only a large Jewish population, but also a GLBTIQ cohort, he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into a supportive role for his ‘gay community’.
When the horrid knife attack at the Jewish Pride March of 2015 happened, the best he could do was like a tweet from Aleph Melbourne.
It was a pretty simple ask. However, Danby has always kept his support for all things Jewish separate from his support for the GLBTIQ community.
When it came to the election in 2010 where I stood against him in Melbourne Ports, it soon became apparent that he didn’t want to muddy the waters. He never addressed Jewish concerns or GLBITQ issues in the one media release. He ensured that his advertising was separate and had different messages for different audiences. Which in itself may not be a big issue, except that he failed to represent the views of organisations such as Aleph, barely even acknowledging their existence. His main bragging point to the Jewish voters was how much he and the then-Labor Government had spent in the community; he called it “The golden era of Labor and Jewish Schools”. Never once did he mention anything about gay rights or all the work he purported to do for the GLBTIQ community.
It’s also worth recalling his response to the horrific shooting of two young people in a gay community centre in Tel Aviv in 2009. He didn’t have one.
When he was busy crowing about how he managed to change moderation policies on crickey.com.au and newmatilda.com.au, which he described as the “Dark and Ugly Recesses of the Internet” he simply ignored a local orthodox Jewish blog that was blatantly homophobic. He took issue with Crikey and New Matilda for posting comments regarding the holocaust and talks about the anti-Semitism on their sites. He used his position to persuade them to make the changes. However, he couldn’t bring himself to address that hate blog from his own community that was almost daily pumping out the hate towards the GLBTIQ community.
The whole lack of support can be summed up with his approach to marriage equality. So while he had been busily chasing the ‘gay vote’ for years in his electorate, he didn’t support equality at all in the parliament, despite claiming he was supportive. I asked him during a candidates debate and he said that the Labor party would address the matter in the next parliament. He never did. When it did come to a vote, he abstained, he left the floor of the house. He never attended one marriage equality rally to show support. He barely acknowledged the Pride March that went past his office every year.
So, while everyone is saying how much he’ll be missed and what a great supporter of the community he has been, just remember, the man played politics with the lives of those he was supposed to be representing.
He sought the vote of the gay and the Jewish community, but made sure that he never mention it to either community.
He went out of his way to call out human rights transgressions, but never once publicly supported Aleph in their attempts to raise sexuality and gender identity issues in his electorate.
He really hasn’t been a hero of Melbourne Ports.
Even in departing, he can’t even muster a few gay people to stand with him in front of his Yes window like he did on other occasions.
“The attack in Jerusalem is a despicable act. Bigotry, intolerance and hatred are not acceptable in any community, here, in Israel or anywhere. We join with the ECAJ in condemning this terrible incident, which demonstrates where hate can lead. Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity should feel free and safe in their daily lives.” — Jennifer Huppert JCCV President
MEDIA STATEMENT 31 July 2015 STABBING ATTACK IN JERUSALEM
We are appalled and shocked by the knife attack at the Pride March in Jerusalem where six people were stabbed. We understand that two of them are in a critical condition. The Jewish community in Australia condemns the attack in the strongest possible terms, and we are pleased to see statements from Jewish community and religious leaders across the world expressing outrage at the attack.
A purportedly religious Jewish extremist has been arrested in connection with the attack. That person was released from prison three weeks ago, after serving a ten year sentence for a similar attack. We have confidence that the Israeli Justice system will deal with him appropriately.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent victims and their families. We wish all the injured a speedy recovery. Israel is known for its welcoming acceptance of Jews of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, and for providing asylum to Palestinian gays who are in mortal danger from their own community.
Israel is a beacon to other nations, not just in the Middle East, but throughout the work in its inclusion of the LGBTI community and its embracing of diversity.
This incident hits at the heart of the freedoms and social inclusion that we promote and welcome in the Jewish community in Australia and in Israel. We must all condemn this attack and increase our focus on promoting inclusion, tolerance and acceptance of every member of our community.
Robert Goot AM SC Peter Wertheim AM
President Executive Director
Peter Wertheim AM Executive Director
ph: 02 8353 8500 | m: 0408 160 904
e: email@example.com | www.ecaj.org.au
“The Good Son tells the poignant story of a young Israeli man … who takes the radical step of changing his gender: without telling his family first.” – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, 2013.
This is the incredible story of Or, a 22-year-old Israeli man who plans to secretly have sex reassignment surgery. Or’s own home videos make up the first part of the film – the emotionally gruelling lead-up to the procedure, lying to his family about his acceptance to university abroad and stealing from them to pay for the operation in Thailand. Then he teams up with filmmaker Shirly Berkovitz, who not only documents the remainder of Or’s lonely and guilt-ridden journey through recovery and personal reinvention, but also acts as friend and confidant. Berkovitz captures Or’s first steps in her new life as a woman, talking with fellow transgender people and finally, confronting her family and the price of seeking her true identity. This is an extraordinary tale about overcoming self-doubt, conflicted loyalty and being true to one’s self.
“Rabbi Yosef’s weekly sermons, delivered on Saturday nights after the Sabbath, were broadcast by satellite to wide audiences and, in the last few years, uploaded to YouTube. While dealing with the intricacies of the laws of the Sabbath and festivals, the sermons also became the rabbi’s platform for lashing out against those he despised — rival politicians, gay people and perceived enemies of Israel.”
The Knesset, Israel’s governing body, has introduced a crucial amendment to the existing Student Rights Law. On Sunday, June 26 2013, a coalition led by Knesset member Dov Khenin proposed to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the education system.
The Student Rights Law, originally drafted to ensure the rights of those in the education system, currently stipulates that it is a criminal offense to discriminate against a student on the basis of religion, socio-economic background or political ideology. Dov Khenin’s coalition seeks to add sexual orientation and gender to the list of protected identities, citing figures that show the education system in Israel is rife with instances of heterosexism and transphobia.
The proposed bill addresses an important and difficult problem facing Israel. Queer youth find their identities condemned by a large part of Israeli society. Here, a Knesset Member can openly assert that people are homosexual because they were abused as children. The top rated Israeli reality show “Big Brother” features a violent contestant who recently aimed venomous anti-lesbian comments at another contestant. Currently, the Israeli queer community is mourning the loss of two of its members to a hate crime in Tel Aviv.
The effect of this hatred is immediate and unavoidable. Queer youth are vulnerable to damaging attacks that can lead to anxiety, depression, and suicide, as both Israeli and worldwide research indicates. An Israeli study reveals that half of queer youths are exposed to anti-queer verbal violence, a quarter has been sexually harassed at school, and ten percent has been subjected to physical attacks. Additionally, many youth report that the teachers do not condemn verbal violence and slurs, and a quarter of youths have had homophobic and transphobic remarks hurled at them by teachers themselves.
The proposed amendment is crucial to empowering queer youth. It ensures that schools are legally obligated to disown the warped messages about gender identity and sexual orientation that are imparted to youth via society and the media. It promotes the values of respect, tolerance and human dignity in the realm of education. Significantly, this bill will affect all youth in the education system, including those who are often relegated to the periphery in the queer community.
In recent years, privileged members of the queer community have introduced bills which address their own needs while ignoring and sometimes trampling the interests of disempowered subpopulations within our community.
Powers in the Knesset prevent members from supporting the queer community fully, and members often carefully choose which measures to support. We fear that members of Knesset would be more inclined to vote for heavily promoted bills like same-sex marriage that would mark them as progressive and socially just, while ignoring the more marginal and highly localized bill proposals which would probably not grant them the same kind of glory.
Thus, it is absolutely necessary to support this amendment and to promote it vigorously. This amendment means working towards the safety of queer youth in the education system. It means introducing children to the spirit of respect and human dignity from a younger age. It means progress in the direction of a healthier, more just Israeli society. On Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013, the proposal will be brought for a preliminary vote at the Knesset’s general assembly. We thus call on you to send letters to members of Knesset, asking for their support for this important piece of legislation.