Lebanese, Arabs in Sydney Force Top Official to Resign over pro-Israel Remarksإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The Lebanese expat community in Sydney has played a role in forcing a top state government official to resign after he made controversial public comments in support of Israel's deadly assault on the Gaza Strip.
“The Lebanese and Arab expat communities in Sydney have managed to push Vic Alhadeff, a high-ranking government official, to resign, after he voiced support for Israel,” Lebanon's National News Agency reported.
Alhadeff, the chair of the New South Wales Community Relations Commission (CRC), had sent an email defending Israel's military offensive in Gaza, which has so far killed around 1,065 Palestinians and wounded at least 6,000 others.
The email sparked calls from Muslim and Arab groups that he be sacked, according to Guardian Australia.
Mike Baird, the premier of the New South Wales state, resisted those calls, leaving Alhadeff to decide whether he should step down.
"It is with considerable regret that I have decided to resign from my position as chair of the NSW Community Relations Commission," Alhadeff said in a statement on Sunday.
"I have chosen to do so in the interests of the CRC and its important work in fostering social harmony within our society."
The email, which was sent in Alhadeff's capacity as CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, claimed Israel was operating with "care to avoid civilian casualties."
"Israel has made it clear that it is not interested in further escalation, but will do whatever is needed to defend its citizens," Alhadeff said in the email.
The email also included a "frequently asked questions" fact sheet from Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs about its offensive in Gaza.
Alhadeff now concedes the email "issued under my name inadvertently caused offense to some."
"This is greatly regretted," he said. "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."
Baird's decision to back Alhadeff angered community groups, who pledged to boycott future government events.
That started with a Ramadan event hosted by Baird last week, which was shunned by groups including the Lebanese Muslim Association and the Australian Arabic Council.
In a joint statement to the NSW citizenship minister, Victor Dominello, representatives from a number of Arabic community groups said they had “grave concerns” and did not believe Alhadeff “is capable of exercising sound judgment on community relations.”
“We call on you as the minister responsible for his appointment to ask for Mr. Alhadeff’s resignation and to replace him with someone who is willing to set his or her own views to one side, so far as public statements are concerned, to ensure that the CRC and its role remain acceptable to the whole NSW community,” they said.
Writing in Guardian Australia, the former Victorian multicultural affairs commissioner Joseph Wakim said: "What message does his statement send to half a million Australian citizens of Arab ancestry, many with relatives cowering under beds in Gaza?"
According to its website, the government-affiliated New South Wales Community Relations Commission seeks to promote “multiculturalism, Australian citizenship, cultural diversity, community unity and harmony.”