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Australian interfaith relations break down as Muslims, Christians fail to condemn murder of Jews

Deborah Stone
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Australian interfaith relations break down as Muslims, Christians fail to condemn murder of Jews

Published: 17 October 2023

Last updated: 19 March 2024

Two rabbis have resigned from the Jewish Muslim Christian Association and the JCCV is considering putting interfaith contacts on hold.

The failure of other faith communities to condemn Hamas’s murder of 1300 Israelis has devastated members of the Jewish community who have worked closely with their Muslim and Christian counterparts for years.

No Muslim organisation or cleric has spoken out against the massacre of Israeli civilians on October 7. Christian organisations have also been largely silent.

“We are learning very quickly who our friends are at this difficult time,” said JCCV president Daniel Aghion. “We have had messages of support from the Hindu community, the Buddhists, the Assyrians, and the Iranian Australians. The Ethnic Community Council of Victoria has also been supportive. Unfortunately, with a few other exceptions, that is the total amount of faith and ethnic support we have received.

“As a result, the JCCV is considering its position in respect to a number of bodies and whether to continue our involvement with them.”

The Jewish Christian Muslim Association and Faith Community Council of Victoria have both failed to condemn the massacres.

The president of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association, Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann and past president Rabbi Ralph Genende have both resigned.

“I’m so disillusioned with all the years that I have put into interfaith work since 2011,” he said. “If they can’t see the difference between Hamas and Islamic ideology, then who are we dealing with?” Rabbi Genende said.

 “I wish they could find the moral clarity to differentiate between the genuine desire of Palestinians for recognition and the deep seated and twisted desire to rid Israel of all Jews from the river to the sea.”


A minority of Muslims have blatantly celebrated the murders, notably at Lakemba mosque last week.

Thousands of Muslims, and other Australians, have used the attacks as a reason to demonstrate for Palestine and the Muslim community has consistently characterised Hamas as liberation fighters justified in their murder of Israeli civilians.

Last week, the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) urged all imams, khateebs (speakers) and community leaders to dedicate their Friday khutbah (sermon) to the topic “In support of Palestine”.

Their recommendations for sermons contained no mention of the atrocities of October 7 and instead urged Muslims to pray for “the innocent Palestinian victims and souls lost in recent attacks”.

The Jewish Independent

The imams asked Muslims to distinguish between political Zionism and Judaism and the Jewish people and urged their community “not to condone any activity that spreads hatred and division among the people of Australia”.

A coalition of 41 Australian Islamic organisations put out a four-page statement in support of Palestine which did not mention the murder or kidnapping of Israeli civilians and claimed that the statement “Israel has a right to defend itself” is “an egregious denial of justice and fairness to Palestinians”.

The Islamic Council of Victoria President Adel Salman spoke at a rally for Palestine on Sunday which drew more than 10,000 people. "There is one side who are wrong and who are criminal and who commit war crimes and genocide and that is Israel," he said, a week after Hamas fighters slaughtered 1300 Israeli civilians and kidnapped at least 150. "Everything that has happened is a legitimate response to occupation and siege."

Members of other faith communities, including Christian, Buddhist and Hindu, have reached out to support the Jewish community.

The lack of support for the Jewish community, many of whom have friends and relatives affected by the attacks, has fed into the fear which is pervading the Jewish community.

To the rabbis and other Jewish leaders who have worked on interfaith relations for many years, the failure of their colleagues to speak out against atrocities committed on Jews has been devastating.

“If we can’t condemn acts of terrorism then what are we doing sitting around the table and pretending to sing Kumbaya,” one senior figure, who has been deeply involved in interfaith work, told The Jewish Independent.

Muslim NSW MP Jihad Dib has been a rare exception to the silence from Australian Muslims. He made a statement to the NSW Parliament condemning the antisemitic chants at last week's rally in Sydney.

"Whatever the situation, there is never any justification for the taking of innocent lives...There are people who cannot sleep tonight for fear. Innocent people in Israel, innocent people in Gaza and their loved ones around the world — every single innocent life matters," he said.

‘Hateful and cowardly’: Melbourne train protest probed after Nazi salutes, antisemitic threats (SMH)
Police are investigating an early morning demonstration in Melbourne’s CBD after witness reports of a group of people dressed in black marching and giving Nazi salutes.

Police officers attended Parliament House and Flinders Street Station in the early hours of Saturday after becoming aware of an “unplanned demonstration”.

Victorian school apologises for Arab dress-up stunt (Guardian)
Several Year 12 students from Brighton Secondary College are believed to have dressed in white robes and scarves linked to Palestine.

Three men charged over alleged Nazi salute outside Sydney Jewish Museum (Guardian)
Police were called to the museum in the inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst shortly before midday after alleged antisemitic display.

Australians who fled Israel say they fear being targeted by antisemitism at home (SMH)
Australians evacuated from Israel say they were horrified by scenes in Australia of Palestinian supporters celebrating Hamas’s terrorist attacks and will remain wary at home even though they are relieved to have left the Middle East.

Victorian Jewish community urged not to hide identity in the wake of Israel-Gaza conflict (ABC)
Some in the Australian Jewish community are fearful of antisemitic sentiment at home. Community leaders are calling on people of all backgrounds to support each other and not to hide who they are.

Photo: A woman at the pro-Palestine rally in Melbourne on Sunday (oculumenary, Islamic Council of Victoria)

About the author

Deborah Stone

Deborah Stone is Editor-in-Chief of TJI. She has more than 30 years experience as a journalist and editor, including as a reporter and feature writer on The Age and The Sunday Age, as Editor of the Australian Jewish News and as Editor of ArtsHub.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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