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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Short sighted council makes decision to Twin with Bethlehem

O little town of Marrickville what a fuss you've caused.

THE war in the Middle East has come to the inner west. Marrickville Council last night voted to formalise a sister city relationship with the City of Bethlehem Council, drawing fire from a Jewish community group.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies says the Palestinian council is controlled by the Muslim organisation Hamas.
"Their raison d'etre, as clearly expressed in Hamas's charter, is the destruction of Israel and, worse than that, to kill every Jew," the board's chief executive, Vic Alhadeff, said yesterday.
But Haskell Musry, a Jew who attended last night's meeting, said Mr Alhadeff did not speak for the majority. "I think most of the Jewish community would be unconcerned," he said.
There seems to be a certain irony involved when an individual opens their argument that a national body representing a great number of Jews at all levels is accused of not speaking for the majority and that you as an individual might know what the majority of other Jews might think.
Mr Alhadeff said 10 of the 15 seats on Bethlehem Council were controlled by Hamas and allied parties. Bethlehem's Mayor, Victor Batarseh, however, is a practising Catholic from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Yes, and if you knew about the politics you would know that Bethelhem's Council has a large representation of Christians because that is what is in the town's council charter. This charter was set up In an attempt to stave off the rapidly declining Christian population.

If we refer to the Wikipedia article written specifically on Bethlehem it states with a footnoted reference:
"In 1947, Christians accounted for 75 percent of the population of Bethlehem, but by 1998, their share had dropped to 33 percent."

Some of the major reasons for this were:
"The Palestinian Authority, officially promised equality to Christians of the Bethlehem area, but at times corruption in its judiciary enabled theft from them, and tolerated or even favoured the attempts by religious zealots to enforce Sharia on the Christian population...Under Hamas, the Christian population has continued to suffer from a lack of law and order which has left it susceptible to land theft by elements that take advantage of ineffective courts and the reality that the often affluent, but not politically powerful, Christian population is unlikely to stand up for itself."
The Marrickville councilor Sam Iskander, who put forward the idea,(of the Sister City) says he wants to promote peace and understanding.
Sam Iskander is very active in the Arabic community, he teaches Arabic at a school in the councils area and is the original founder of the Arabic Community school. An active member of the Arabic community, It would seem that Sam has kept himself rather busy advocating on Arabic issues since migrating from Lebanon in 1972.

Now none of this is in any way negative, he is an active member of the community, which is praiseworthy in itself but, he busies himself advocating for Arabic issues. Does it not also make the Councils statement that the Sister City relationship has not been done on political grounds a rather shaky construct? Could not Sam Iskander have put forward that a town in the West Indies, Africa Europe or the Americas might make a suitable sister city partner?
A delegation from Bethlehem led by Dr Batarseh will visit Australia for a fortnight in August. Marrickville plans to present the delegates with gifts, host two dinners and hold a reception for the signing of a sister cities agreement.
One wonders if the restaurant will be another certain Lebanese restaurant. Ironically deemed suitable for a previous large delegation from Japan.

Yes it seems Marrickville council has outstretched its hand to both both a Syrian and a Palestinian city. Both of these countries might be thought of being potentially problematic when it comes to establish Sister city relationships.

This poses the question why Marrickville council hasn't established a sister city relationship with an Israeli city?

The multi cultural diversity of the Marrickville council region goes well beyond just Muslims and Christians. There are many other faiths represented in this area with large assemblies of worship. The council area includes a Synagogue which is one of the oldest in the state of New South Wales.
Marrickville's Mayor, Morris Hanna, said no money would end up in the hands of Hamas. "Our sister city relationships do not involve the transfer of funds to another country," he said, adding that Sydney Palestinians were helping pay for the delegation's accommodation.
Bethlehem already has sister city arrangements with 39 cities.
Marrickville's deputy mayor, Peter Olive, said he did not think Hamas controlled Bethlehem. "I have heard concerns there's a dwindling number of Christians but I think that's attributable to things like the whacking great wall the Israelis have built around the city," Cr Olive said. "So one could ultimately say the council is controlled by Israel."
I find it interesting that under the pretense of the Sister city relationship with Bethelhem being for "to promote peace and understanding" Councilor Olive feels the need to peddle his wheel barrow of ill informed rantings and biased pronouncements.
Cr Dimitrios Thanos voted against the sister-city arrangement because it was "just a travel jaunt."
"But at the end of the day, Hamas is an elected group and the City of Bethlehem is entitled to vote for whoever they want."
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, said if members of the delegation belonged to Hamas, they would not necessarily be denied visas.

Any visa applications from delegates would be subject to the usual health and character assessments, she said.
After meeting Mr Alhadeff yesterday, Leichhardt's Mayor, Alice Murphy, said her council would pursue its relationship with the West Bank city of Hebron by raising funds for non-government organisations in the area.
The determination of some members of the Islamic community and especially the Coalition for Justice and Peace in Palestine [ coalitionforpalestine.org ] a Sydney organisation (whose P.O. box is in Dulwich Hill and is in close proximity to both Leichhardt and Marrickville councils) to get local councils to 'Sister' or 'Twin'; with Palestinian cities, is seen as their first step in their clearly stated aims.

They don't feel the same need to hide the real reasons behind the establishment of Sister city relaionships with Palestinian Cities. They loudly proclaim the real reason, and they're quite proud of it..

Funny enough I couldn't find any information on their web site acknowledging the right of Israel to exist?

SMH: O little town of Marrickville what a fuss you've caused.


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