By: Ahmed Kilani
Luckily Premier Mike Baird was himself fasting as he would have found it hard to break fast in solidarity with the Muslim community of NSW when most of them, including major organisations such as the Lebanese Muslim Association and the Australian National Imams Council, decided to boycott a Ramadan Iftar (breaking of the fast) the Premier was hosting in the NSW Parliament this week. Significantly the Muslim community was supported in their boycott by others such as the influential Arab Council of Australia and other ethnic communities.
The boycott was in response to insensitive and, considering the amount of Palestinian civilian casualties, highly offensive comments made by the current Chairman of the NSW Community Relations Commission Vic Alhadeff.
Vic Alhadeff from his highly politicized and inflammatory comments on events in Palestine, it should be noted some of which was copy pasted from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has in turn vindicated the claims by many that he is not a fit and proper person to be Chairing the NSW Community Relations Commission (CRC).
His appointment in late 2013 as the CRC Chairman was from the start a clear conflict of interest as the CRC’s central objective of promoting community harmony in NSW is built on the legislated framework that it operate at all times as an apolitical body. To appoint a part time CRC Chairman on $30,000 that is also the CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) on a reported $180,000 a year, was always going to give rise to the question, which master is Vic Alhadeff going to serve?
It is clear from the public statements and activities of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies over the last few years that its two main roles are to condemn anti-semeitism and support the policies of the Israeli government. Vic Alhadeff has been in the forefront of fulfilling these goals and obviously with his recent controversial comments, still is.
Wearing his other hat as CRC Chairman, it was only a few weeks ago in response to a vandalism attack on a Ukranian church Alhadeff was quoted as saying that it was “deeply disappointing that some have seen fit to import overseas conflicts and hatreds into our country”. But this is exactly what he himself did by making his comments that blatantly supported Israel and showed disregard for Palestinian suffering during the latest conflict.
Premier Baird and the Liberal NSW government he leads in continuing to support Alhadeff is I believe making a sever error of judgement, morally and politically. In continuing to back such a divisive figure that has a clear conflict of interest in breach of the CRC’S own guidelines, the Premier is morally aligning himself with what will be seen by many of his constituents as someone that has no sympathy to the blood of innocent civilians in a conflict on the other side of the world.
Closer to home, from a political perspective he now risks losing all the unprecedented support the Liberal Party received from Arab and Muslim voters in the last state election when it goes to the polls next year. It is now political history that the support of the Arab and Muslim community, particular from the powerful and influential Lebanese Muslim Association, was a significant factor in the marginalising of a number of seats and the winning of some for the Liberal Party from what were for decades traditionally Labor voters from Western Sydney. This support can just as easily evaporate as quickly as it appeared.
The grass roots Muslim community are perceiving this controversy as the Liberal Party supporting a staunch pro Israeli lobbyist whilst Israel is murdering innocent women and children in Palestine. Sitting down for a nice meal whilst a conflict is going on that has killed at the time of writing 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians – many of them children, is throwing their and the Australian Muslim community’s own dignity in the gutter to be stepped on.
It is clear that Vic Alhadeff”s position is now clearly untenable. For the Baird government and CRC to have any moral or political credibility, Alhadeff needs to be forced to decide to step down from one of his roles.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of MuslimVillage.com.