SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A senior Jewish leader in Sydney who also holds a government post is under fire for an email on the Gaza conflict deemed “biased.”
The email sent last week by Vic Alhadeff, chief executive of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies and chair of the Community Relations Commission there, accused Hamas of “war crimes” but did not make reference to Palestinian deaths from Israel’s operation in Gaza to end rocket fire.
Mike Baird, the premier of New South Wales, called the email “inappropriate” for someone in a government-appointed position, according to Baird’s spokesman, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday. Alhadeff’s email had provoked outrage from Arab leaders.
Titled “Israel Under Fire,” Alhadeff wrote that Hamas was guilty of “war crimes” while Israel “is operating with care to avoid civilian casualties.”
Israel had made it clear it would “do whatever is needed to defend its citizens,” he wrote. “All options are on the table.”
Joseph Wakim, a founder of the Australian Arabic Council, slammed Alhadeff’s email as “biased and provocative,” according to the Morning Herald.
“Do such statements build bridges and community relations, or wedge a wall between us and them?” Wakim asked.
The Baird spokesman also said, according to the newspaper, “Few people have done more to promote interfaith engagement and understanding between the Jewish and Muslim communities in New South Wales than Mr. Alhadeff,” the spokesman also said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Asked whether his Jewish and multicultural posts were mutually exclusive, Alhadeff told JTA, “Definitely not. We can agree to disagree on issues, but we live in Australia as Australians and should all be committed to our shared values … in a democratic multicultural society.”
Alhadeff added that “within minutes” of the news of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s murder last week, allegedly by Jewish extremists, he tweeted that it was “despicable.”
“The role of the CRC chair is to fight racism, promote multiculturalism and ensure community harmony,” Alhadeff told the Herald. “This is what I have done passionately and will continue to do.”