By Alex Fein
We’ve already established a couple of things: that the JCCV Plenum on Monday, July 2 was a shitshow of epic proportions, and that Jennifer Huppert has presided over the – perhaps fatal – degradation of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV).
She has presided over the destruction of critical infrastructure and the JCCV is unlikely to recover. This may ultimately be a good thing. But if the best you can say about a Presidency is that it destroyed a shit institution, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
In the latest round of assaults on the JCCV, we see Huppert once again cowering in the face of Australian Jewry’s rabid far right fringe, in encouraging her Vice President, Anton Herman, to censure The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS)
And at the July 2 plenum, I got to see what ‘generational change’ at the JCCV actually looks like. Basically, it looks like a 40-something, white male, hard right Zionist called, Anton Herman.
At the plenum, Herman, got up and made what would have been one of the funniest powerpoint presentations I’ve ever seen – had the implications not been so sickening.
I really can’t do the ahistoricity and intense hysteria of Herman’s censure motion of The AJDS justice here. It was a serious topic at a serious meeting, but there were times during Herman’s presentation that I actually guffawed.
He presented Bibi’s talking points as unassailable historical facts and suggested that anyone who didn’t get behind his adolescent, far right conception of the Middle Eastern political landscape, should fuck right off from the organised community.
He constructed numerous straw men, each more bizarre than the last.
He posited a facile, embarrassing binary, that support for Palestinians necessitates hatred for Israel, and he conflated opposition to creeping Israeli fascism with support for Hamas.
It was so breathtakingly stupid.
That someone with such a poor grasp of the most basic elements of Israeli and diaspora politics had been able to rise to the esteemed position of Vice President of Victorian Jewry’s *supposedly* peak representative body was quite mortifying.
And it should serve as a wake-up call for all of us: very few people want to waste precious hours of their lives being bored shitless at JCCV meetings.
And because most decent people (with a couple of exceptions) generally avoid communal politics like the plague, we’re left with bully-boy ignoramuses like Herman to take up the reins.
Now, the JCCV’s claim to be a voice for ‘all’ Victorian Jews has always been a lie.
They are nothing more than a roof body for a handful of Jewish organisations with aging populations. Ordinary Jews have no way of participating in JCCV decision making or elections. There is some performative ‘democracy’ as affiliates are allowed to vote on office bearers – and that’s it.
The one thing the JCCV does have, is access to politicians. It has sold the lie of its representative nature so well, that gormless pollies just assume it must be true.
That’s why Huppert’s and Herman’s latest stunt, using The AJDS as a scapegoat and convenient distraction from their many other failings, is such a worry.
The AJDS’s crime was to condemn the Israeli government’s shooting of unarmed Palestinians – something many *Israeli* groups have done.
Should Huppert and Herman take this further and try to expel AJDS, all politicians to the left of Corey Bernardi need to make them personae non gratae.
For the record, I am not – and never have been – a member of the AJDS. This is not in any way personal.
But to tell an enormous swathe of Jews – because the combined population of religious and secular non-Zionist Jews, anti-Zionist Jews, and left wing Zionist Jews may in fact constitute a majority of the community – that they are not welcome in the organised communal space is unconscionable.
You don’t need to agree with every word of the AJDS condemnation of Israel – or even any of it – to see that curating ‘who is a Jew’ on the basis of one’s willingness to accept *EVERY* act of the Israeli government, is as dangerous as it is disgusting.
And think of the implications of Australian Jewry being synonymous with unquestioning support for Israel: what a gift for the anti-Semites!
We are legitimising their foul ‘Zio-Weltanschauung’ by saying, yes: we ordinary Jewish Australian civilians are indistinguishable from the government and military in Israel.
If we say that we are indistinguishable, then we cannot ever distance ourselves morally from any violence perpetrated by Israel, and as a consequence render ourselves legitimate targets for retaliatory violence.
This worldview is obviously obscene, but it’s precisely what Huppert and Herman are pushing.
To disenfranchise a possible majority of Jews should horrify all right thinking people. And after we’ve all recovered from the initial shock, we really need to ask, why: why would they be so intent on performing such a vile act?
There are a few possible reasons Huppert and Herman might behave this way, but there’s one that sticks out to me.
Leaders tend to look for scapegoats when their leadership is failing, and when people are beginning to wonder about those leaders’ fitness for office.
– destroying decades of interfaith work with the Muslim community
– failing to stand up to the homophobes of the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) when they issued a statement that *literally* robbed a number of LGBTQI Jews their will to live,
– losing the JCCV’s one major organisational asset (David Marlow),
– pissing off key affiliates with Huppert’s imperious leadership style and tin ear,
– failing to implement the necessary strategic planning that would fundraise enough money to enable the JCCV to survive…
…it’s quite possible that Huppert and Herman are looking to distract the Jewish community from these and other failures.
But add to all of these debacles their greatest misstep of all: Huppert’s and Herman’s complete cowardice in the face of the rise of neo-Nazis in Victoria and Australia more widely.
Herman’s one tough fucker when it comes to lambasting fellow Jews for not loving Israel enough.
But I have yet to see him put on his big-boy pants when it’s time to confront the alarming escalation on the far right.
I guess a bunch of lefty, peacenik Jews are a more attractive target for a guy like Herman. Nazis might actually hurt him!
When it first became obvious that there was a problem with the far right in this country, I wrote to Jennifer Huppert asking her to condemn the uptick in ultra-nationalism.
In true Huppert style, she handballed the problem and said that was the purview of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ).
That was back in 2015.
Since then, we have seen the florescence of fascist groups – particularly in Victoria, with Avi Yemini posing a particular suite of problems for the Jewish community.
The JCCV managed to issue one mealy mouthed semi-denunciation of him and that was it.
Meanwhile, Avi continues with his blood libels and incitement.
The *only* group in the organised community to do *any* meaningful work in exposing Avi and his Nazi links was… wait for it… The Australian Jewish Democratic Society.
The AJDS – in concert with Jews Against Fascism (of which I am also not a member) – was doing the work that Huppert and Herman *should* have been doing all along.
But for some unknown reason, Huppert and Herman seem incapable of facing up to this threat.
Now, I’ve never been a President or Vice President of a dying communal organisation, so I can’t know with certainty what the psychology of such august office holders might be.
But it’s not unthinkable that were I such a representative, I would be deeply embarrassed by my own failures and cowardice, and equally resentful of a small-ish organisation that had shown me up so spectacularly.
And maybe my embarrassment would be so acute that I would do anything to distract others from its source.
Huppert and Herman did not seek to expel AJDS at Monday night’s Plenum – though one elderly arsehole got up and ruminated at length about his fantasies of a leftenrein JCCV.
But you can see this one coming.
Huppert and Herman are laying the groundwork.
And the most appalling part of it is, the aging, decrepit JCCV affiliates are right behind their leaders. Only two people did not vote in favour of Herman’s censure motion. Everyone else there that night was thrilled to sink the boot in.
The JCCV’s collapse cannot come quickly enough.
At least we know they will not be missed.