Australian Jewish orgs. protest Effi Eitam’s appointment to Yad Vashem

Two of Australia’s major Jewish organizations have joined other Jewish organizations from around the world in opposing the appointment of former government minister Effi Eitam to the position of chairman of Yad Vashem. Given the extent of global opposition, Eitam could save himself further humiliation by simply stepping out of the picture, but at this stage of the game, neither he nor Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who has nominated him at the bidding of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appear willing to back down.  If there were previous fears for diminishing Diaspora support for Israel, it will be ironic if the Yad Vashem appointment turns out to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. President of the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) Jeremy Leibler voiced deep concern about Eitam’s nomination. “No act that politicizes or compromises the mission of Yad Vashem should be taken,” he insisted. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, headed by Jillian Segal, likewise objects to Eitam, and issued a statement declaring: “Yad Vashem is a shining light of memory, scholarship and commemoration, honoring the victims of the Shoah. Its purpose, through the uniqueness of the Shoah, is to affirm the innate dignity, humanity and equal rights of all people, and to serve as a universal warning of the calamities that may follow when there is any departure from this principle.”The Zionist Federation joined forces with the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce to welcome Australian Ambassador Paul Griffiths on a webinar hosted by Paul Israel, executive director of the Chamber, and Moriah Ben David, director of the ZFA’s Israel Office.There were some 500 participants watching in Israel, Australia, the UAE and Bahrain.The event began with a recording of the modern Australian folk song “I am Australian” which was written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers. They wrote the lyrics together and Woodley composed the music.

A number of Australian expatriates, native Israelis and people whose accents betrayed other origins, but were all players in driving the bilateral relationship, had been asked to send videos of themselves, with a few welcoming sentences. These were all fused into a single video that included the names of all the speakers. In the final analysis, Griffiths “met” more people than he might have done at a live reception – in addition to which, he can receive a copy of the video to help him recognize everyone when he does eventually meet them face to face. Among the many participants were lone soldiers in uniform who had brought with them from Australia, a large Australian flag, an Australian rules football, and most important, a huge jar of vegemite. Another group of young Aussies actually comprised an Australian Rules football team. Griffiths said he was overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome, not just on the Zoom reception but also ever since his recent arrival in Israel. He has always wanted to come to Israel, he said. Noting Australia’s long involvement in the country since way before statehood, and its establishment of diplomatic relations in 1949, he was also conscious of the anniversary that will be this coming Sunday. Griffiths mentioned that Australia had cast the first “yes” vote to help bring about the 1947 United Nations resolution on the partition of Palestine.

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