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Dear AJDS members and supporters,

We would like to welcome you back to the AJDS newsletter, now named - Just Voices - after a year-long hiatus. We hope this platform can provide you with an informative space for intelligent writing and art on pertinent issues. 
This edition of Just Voices comes at an important moment in both the Jewish and the Australian calendars. In both of these intertwining spaces, we stand on the edge of something new. In Jewish terms, we are close to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a time when we can reflect on our behaviour and ways of interacting with our friends, communities, families and the broader world. We can renew our commitment to live in a way which is meaningful and that endeavours to bring about ethical change. What precisely this means for each of us is something that we will hopefully ponder over the coming weeks. 
The AJDS decided this newsletter should focus on refugees for a number of reasons. Refugees’ lives are treated by many of those in Australian politics and the Australian public in despicable ways, as though they are a problem, or a waste product, to be dispensed with. Recognising this, and repudiating the racism inherent in such attitudes, the AJDS wants to be part of the movement, which changes that narrative and instead recognises the bravery of refugees who leave their homes to seek a fresh start. As we start a new year, we can embrace these stories of change and renewal, and stand alongside local refugee and asylum seeker organisations such as RISE and the ASRC, and work towards a new beginning.
Just Voices is intended as an open space and if you would like to contribute to future editions, we welcome you to contact us at:
We wish you all a gut yontif and shana tova, and we hope that all our members and readers have a fulfilling, enriching, challenging, and renewing time in the coming days.

The Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS)

Shana Tova from the AJDS

Just Voices - The Refugee Issue - 'New Beginnings'

A Friendship

By Dennis Martin

“Salaam aliekum”.
“Shalom aleichem”.
A hug, a laugh and so we greet each other. Me, a Jew using the Muslim greeting and Najaf Mazari, a Muslim using the Hebrew greeting. And so it has been on most Saturday afternoons for the past 4 years. We sit in Najaf’s rug shop in Prahran, drinking black Afghan tea and chewing the fat; family, health, religion and politics but as yet not sport. I don’t think Najaf knows who Sir Donald Bradman was or who Shane Warne is. We agree on many things, disagree on others, often strongly. But friends can argue and remain friends. And we talk rugs: hand knotted oriental rugs and particularly Afghan rugs. It is our shared interest in rugs that bought us together. Many years ago I also traded in rugs (in a small way).
“I did not know that I could feel this much sorrow without a body to bury”. 
When I read these words, the opening lines of Najaf Mazari’s acclaimed biography “The Rug Maker of Mazar-E-Sharif” (co-written with Robert Hillman), I was moved by this simple statement of despair experienced by a “boat person” being held in the Woomera Detention Centre. How did it come to this? A simple village boy, shepherd and master rug maker behind barbed wire, thousands of kilometres from his home, family, culture and familiar landscape. 

Continue reading here.

Green Lips

By Arnold Zable
The suffering of asylum seekers currently in detention on Nauru and Manus Island is unbearable. Imagine it, to be living in tents, in the heat and rain, on isolated islands, with years of waiting ahead, in limbo, and with the knowledge that for many Australians out of sight means out of mind. How has it come to this? There are reasons, but first, before the politics, a few stories – stories that indicate what our political leaders should be saying; stories that provide inclusive vision of who we are.
In February 1847, a journalist travelling through Ireland noticed that some of the people’s lips were green. Their lips were green because there they were eating grass. And they were eating grass because there was little else to eat. It was a time of mass starvation that became known as the Great Famine.
Out of a population of 8 million, one million died. And out of the remaining seven million, one and a half million took to boats. Some fetched up on the shores of America, and others found their way to distant Australia. In all, over three million people left Ireland between 1845 and 1870.
The largest Diaspora in modern history comprised the 15 million people who forsook the British Isles in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Many left due to ruthless land clearances and an agrarian revolution that saw millions driven from their farmlands. Then, as now, there were some who perished when their boats sank on the high seas. Then, as now, such tragedies did not deter people from risking the voyage. 

Continue reading here.

Profiting From Refugee Pain

By Jemima Light

Since Kevin Rudd’s announcement of the so-called ‘Papua New Guinea solution’ to deter people seeking asylum by boat, I’ve had countless conversations (sometimes heated) with people from a wide range of the political spectrum. I noticed that many of these arguments are mostly committed to dissecting what the morally ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing is to do. It is commonly articulated that refugees should have a safe place to go, but not if it conflicts with Australia’s security needs. What these security concerns actually are remains largely unspecified. Therefore, the debate is framed by a desire to attain a ‘humanitarian’ solution with ‘pragmatic’ limitations.
Rarely in these conversations is there an acknowledgement of the high-up governmental figures and private companies who increasingly profit from the suffering and imprisonment of refugees. In fact, many of the solutions proposed rely on a business model of efficiency and profits. Therefore, though this moralistic rhetoric is consistent with ideas of ‘efficiency’- it fails to challenge mandatory detention or the role of the state in implementing policies that imprison people.

Continue reading here.

Refugees Choosing Life

By Larry Stillman

I'm amazed. I'm amazed because I wrote an article for Galus Australis in October, 2009 looking at the situation in South Africa by way of comparison to what happens to refugees in Australia.  I thought I could update it significantly, in light of the current politics of boat refugees, but I find that it is still current as a way of contextualizing the problem in Australia. So I have rewritten this article relevant to the current situation and I find, more than ever, that the dog-whistle politics of Australia - at least broadcast to the swinging seats - are as powerful as ever. In the original article, I wrote about cutting down the razor wire, but now, we just want to dump people in a dangerous country.

Those in the Jewish community who have fallen for the scare campaign should look at the real figures before engaging in what appears to be a perverse case of moral panic over security, religion and culture. This is particularly reflected in the opinions of the owner of the Australian Jewish News and other organisations who simply get facts wrong and reinforce the worst of prejudices.

Continue reading here.

Off-shoring Our Obligations

By AJDS Executive
As you read this newsletter, we find ourselves days away from a Federal election. For those of us that care deeply about asylum seekers and refugees, this is a very difficult ballot. With both the ALP and the Coalition demonising asylum seekers and refugees through harsh rhetoric and proposed policy changes.  

These policies include the ALP’s pre-election plan, already enacted, to force all asylum seekers that arrive in Australia by boat to offshore detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, and to deny them the possibility of ever being granted asylum in Australia.
From the Coalition we have “Operation Sovereign Borders”, which brings a military response to the forefront with staunch vows of “send[ing] the boats back” to Indonesia. 

Continue reading here.

Israel Readies For Mass Deportation Campaign

By Ilan Lior 

This article appears in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper (online edition) on August 28, 2013.

Israel is preparing to start a large-scale campaign to pressure immigrants from Sudan and Eritrea to voluntarily leave the country after the September holidays, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced on Wednesday.
According to Sa'ar, the measure comes in the wake of a third country’s agreement to take in the immigrants or serve as a transit point on the way back to their countries of origin. Sa’ar said that Hagai Hadas, the prime minister’s special envoy, had obtained the third country’s consent, which was approved recently by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
The minister made the announcement during a meeting of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.
Continue reading here.

genesis 22 - a photo essay by ronch willner 

the traditional story of the new year. in which a father is commanded to sacrifice his son. 
a man with two sons. 
and everyone deeply wounded.


bad boys

stare vi


the darkness and the light

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