The mayor of a Sydney suburb who said he is half-Jewish declined to attend a ceremonial service at the city’s Great Synagogue, citing his opposition to Israel’s actions in Judea and Samaria, JTA reported on Wednesday.
Mayor Peter Abelson of the Mosman municipality thanked Rabbi Benjamin Elton for the invitation to the annual Law Service but said he would not be attending.
"I should express my deep personal concern about the gross and illegal occupation of the West Bank which creates intense international division and bitterness and, unresolved, will cause endless terrorism around the globe, including here,” Abelson wrote, according to JTA.
Abelson told the local SBS radio his uncle was killed by the Nazis for being Jewish and ridiculed those who labeled him anti-Semitic.
“Many people hold very strong views about, in this case the occupation of the West Bank. Many people who are indeed Jewish do so, and I am myself half-Jewish," he said. "To infer from a view about occupation that someone is anti-Jewish ... it's just ridiculous."
New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff, speaking with JTA, responded to Abelson’s actions and asserted he was boycotting Australian Jews because he disagrees with the policies of the Israeli government.
"Why is he wading into foreign policy, and why is he holding Australian Jews responsible for policies of the government of Israel?" Alhadeff asked. "He has a responsibility to represent his Jewish constituents; it is inappropriate for him to shun them by refusing to attend a Jewish community event.”
Elton said that Abelson "is entitled to criticize the State of Israel. He might well not be anti-Semitic, but what is anti-Semitic is when you hold Jews around the world accountable for the actions of the Israeli government. … Boycotting a shul because you object to the current policies of the State of Israel is totally unreasonable.”
Australia’s government recently expressed support for Israel, when its Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her country would not have voted for the recent anti-Israel resolution passed at the UN Security Council if it had been a member of the Security Council.
“In voting at the UN, the Coalition government has consistently not supported one-sided resolutions targeting Israel,” Bishop said.
Bishop’s expressed views come in contrast to the behavior of other countries that took unilateral action against Israel and voted in favor of the resolution, such as Australia’s neighbor, New Zealand.
In addition, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently called on the government to "join any move by the Trump administration to move its embassy to Jerusalem" and suggested Australia move its own embassy to Jerusalem as well.