Greens face backlash over genocide claim

Greens face backlash over genocide claim

Elias Visontay — The Australian — 2 April 2019


Jewish groups are furious over “hatred-inciting” comments ­accusing Israel of “genocide” made by the lead ­organiser of the Greens’ campaign in Melbourne’s most Jewish electorate.

David Jeffery, a staffer for Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May in the seat of Macnamara, said deaths in the Gaza Strip were “genocide”, and used the hashtags “#F..kFacism” and “#NoPrideInGenocide” in Facebook posts.

Alex Ryvchin, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told The Australian Mr Jeffery’s “appalling comments represent the lowest form of activism”. “The comments betray a complete contempt for the sovereign rights of the Jewish people and an ignorance of fact and history … which can serve to incite hatred,” he said.

Mr Ryvchin urged Ms Hodgins-May “to consider whether she wishes to be associated with a person of Mr Jeffery’s temperament and intellectual capacity”.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said the sentiment from Mr Jeffrey’s comments was not unique in the Greens.

He said Ms Hodgins-May withdrew from a Jewish community debate in 2016 because it was co-hosted by a pro-Israel ­organisation, and pointed to ­Julian Burnside, the Greens candidate in Kooyong, who has previously supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The comments from last year, which have been seen by The Australian, have since been deleted.

Ms Hodgins-May told The Australian she would make ­arrangements for Mr Jeffery to spend time with the Jewish community in the seat “to better learn why the language was harmful”, but did not agree to calls for him to be dropped from her campaign.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the ill-considered and harmful comment,” she said.

Mr Jeffery told The Australian he was “wrong to use a word like genocide … to describe the actions of the Israeli government, ­although I strongly oppose its conduct”.

About 10 per cent of the seat of Macnamara — formerly Melbourne Ports — is Jewish. It has been held by retiring Labor MP Michael Danby since 1998. It is held by a margin of 1.4 per cent. Liberals and Greens are vying for the seat at the election.

This week, Labor began courting the Jewish vote with an announcement of $5 million to investigate moving Melbourne’s largest Jewish school closer to the community’s centre in Caulfield.

Liberal senator James Paterson said “we already knew the Greens have a deep-seated problem with anti-Semitism”, and urged candidates in the electorate to preference the Greens last.

Josh Burns, the Labor candidate in Macnamara who is also Jewish, said Mr Jeffery’s comments were “offensive to many in our community”.

This article was originally published in The Australian.

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