UNITED AGAINST VIOLENCE: Father Dave Smith, Sheikh Mansour and Anthony Loewenstein at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre forum last Friday.
THE RECENT Israeli Defense Force (IDF) offensive on the Gaza Strip has polarised people all over the world.
Marrickville’s Citizen of the Year, Anglican priest Father Dave Smith, joined leading figures from Australia’s Islamic and Jewish communities in speaking about the assault at a forum last Friday.
Along with Islamic community leader Sheikh Mansour and Jewish journalist and author Antony Loewenstein, Father Smith spoke at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre.
He said the situation in Gaza had horrified many people across the globe and the forum showed support for the people of Gaza, while also attempting to counteract the anti-Semitic backlash which had arisen as a result of the conflict.
“The purpose of the talk was to express support for the people of Gaza and to help people realise this is not an Islamic issue or a Jewish issue, but a human issue,” he said.
Father Smith condemned the actions of the IDF, but said people of Jewish descent did not deserve to be stigmatised because of recent events.
“There were no apologies when the IDF prevented the Red Cross from tending to kids who had been left with their dead parents for two days,” he said. “But we want to help people realise the actions of the IDF aren’t the actions of the people of Israel.”
To highlight this point, Father Smith pointed to recent rallies in New York, where Jewish citizens voiced their support for the people of Gaza and for Israeli members of the Shministim movement, which had many young citizens imprisoned for refusing to fight for the IDF.
He said the idea for the forum arose after Sheikh Mansour, a longtime friend, expressed concerns to him about how the events were affecting the Jewish community.
Father Smith said he thought it was great that Sheikh Mansour wanted to do something to counteract potentially harmful attitudes in the community.