The Australian Jewish News publishes the following editorial this week:
A vocal critic of Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian houses is currently on a tour of Australia.
Professor Jeff Halper, an American-born retired Israeli academic, coordinates the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD), which attacks the practice of demolishing Palestinian homes.
There is an important distinction between houses that Israel demolishes as a deterrent to terrorists -– a policy that has proved somewhat effective -– and houses that are demolished after they have been illegally built in contravention of Israel’s municipal planning laws.
House demolitions are traumatic, we admit. But when they are the homes of terrorists, and the practice proves to be an effective deterrent, the lives saved are more important than the walls demolished.
And when they are furtively built in defiance of Israel’s planning laws, they become part of the politics that beset the West Bank and will need to be ironed out in a final settlement.
As to Prof Halper, he is more than just an opponent of house demolitions. He is a hardline detractor of Israel and has described it as a place that attracts “nefarious ideologies” and a country that courts “apartheid”.
So it was with dismay that we discovered Sydney Progressive congregation, Emanuel Synagogue, was on a list of his speaking engagements.
The synagogue is meeting on Thursday to decide if it will withdraw his ill-advised invitation to a small Torah class.
A meeting between Prof Halper and the class, organised by Emanuel’s Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, may have been well intended as an informal exchange of views in the context of a weekly parshah and the ethical issues it raises.
But the event has since been publicised well beyond Emanuel’s congregational membership and has become a cause celebre for Jews Against the Occupation, which is one of several organisations supporting Prof Halper’s visit to Australia.
We hope the Emanuel executive will cancel the professor’s visit to their synagogue.