Vic Alhadeff’s job as the Chairman of the government-appointed Community Relations Commission was to promote harmony in New South Wales between different ethnic groups.
He sure had a funny way of going about it.
Two weeks ago, Alhadeff, in his other capacity as chief executive of the NSW Board of Jewish Deputies, sent an inflammatory pro-Israel email to Australia’s Jewish community, just as the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza began to gather pace.
At the time, the death toll in Israel’s latest assault on Gaza was nearing 200. All of the dead were Palestinians. None of them were Israelis.
Without a hint of irony, Alhadeff accused Hamas of “violating international law and engaging in war crimes as its militants launch rockets indiscriminately at civilians from civilian areas”.
"Israel has made it clear that it is not interested in further escalation, but will do whatever is needed to defend its citizens. All options are on the table."
That ‘disinterest in further escalation’, and ‘those options’ apparently included wholesale slaughter – Israel has leveled large sections of Gaza, and targeted civilian infrastructure including hospitals and schools.
Today, Vic Alhadeff finally resigned his position as Chair of the Community Relations Commission after NSW Premier Mike Baird refused to stand him down.
It came as the Palestinian death toll climbed to over 1,000 – the majority of them civilians – with the loss of 42 Israeli lives, 40 of them soldiers.
Alhadeff’s resignation also came after, ironically, Israel faced accusations of war crimes – the United Nations Human Rights Council has voted in favour of launching an investigation into Israel over the latest assault.
And it came after a boycott by Muslim leaders of a dinner staged on Thursday night by Premier Baird to mark Ramadan.
In a written statement issued this afternoon, Alhadeff – ever mindful of community harmony – pointed the finger of blame at others by noting that “the reaction from some” to his email “has become a distraction to the work of the CRC and the role of the chair”.
“It is with considerable regret that I have decided to resign from my position as chair of the NSW Community Relations Commission,” Alhadeff wrote.
“I have chosen to do so in the interests of the CRC and its important work in fostering social harmony within our society.”
“It is clear that a briefing paper issued under my name inadvertently caused offence to some, and this is greatly regretted.
“While this was unintended, and despite the backing of numerous community leaders who acknowledged my record of goodwill, the reaction from some has become a distraction to the work of the CRC and the role of the chair.”
Alhadeff said he had long committed himself to “building bridges and to intercultural harmony, and I intend to continue this work as a representative of the Jewish community”.
NSW Greens MLA David Shoebridge welcomed the resignation, but noted Aldaheff should never have been appointed to the position in the first place.
“When I first read his statement (about Israel) I said his position was untenable unless he issued an unreserved withdrawal,” Shoebridge said.
“His position is to heal rifts in our community, not to foster them.
“Given his deeply partisan approach to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, he should never have been considered a viable candidate.”
Michael Brull, a prominent Sydney-based Jewish writer, has been blogging about Alhadeff since 2008. He also pointed to the inappropriateness of Alhadeff’s appointment.
“I’ve been criticising [Alhadeff] for years for supporting Benny Morris (an Israeli historian and writer), who has made openly racist statements about the Arab and Muslim world,” Brull said.
“Morris said that one of the historical mistakes made by Israel was not expelling all Palestinians in 1948.
“There is no way that a Muslim who supported a speaker who said these sorts of things about Jews would have been appointed to this position in the first place.
“So I’m delighted that [Alhadeff’s] finally been forced to resign.”
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