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Controversy over pro-Palestinian advocate judging multicultural award

Senator Dave Sharma says Randa Abdel-Fattah’s doxing Jewish creatives make her unfit to sit on the judging panel for the literary award.
Michael Visontay
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Randa Abdel-Fattah

Published: 11 April 2024

Last updated: 11 April 2024

The State Library of NSW will not review whether pro-Palestinian advocate Randa Abdel-Fattah is suitable to judge this year’s Multicultural NSW Award, after questions as to whether she would be biased if faced with Jewish authors.

Last week Senator Dave Sharma called for Abdel-Fattah, a writer and Macquarie University academic to be removed from the panel of judges for the award, after she shared with with her 30,000 Instagram followers a link to a website that had doxed the some 600 Jewish creatives from a private WhatsApp group.

“Not only must serious doubts exist about the impartiality of Dr Abdel-Fattah as a judge,” Senator Sharma wrote to NSW Premier Chris Minns on March 28. “How would she fairly assess the literary merit of a work by a ­Jewish Australian author?”

The Jewish Council of Australia defended Abdel-Fattah, arguing she had made a clear distinction between Zionism and Jews.

This week a spokesperson for the State Library of NSW, which administers the award, told The Jewish Independent that the 32 judges were appointed last August and judging had already occurred.

“The judging for this year’s awards has concluded,” the spokesperson said.

The library did not address whether Abdel-Fattah would be appointed again in future years following the criticism.

“Judges are appointed on a single year basis, and every year the panels are reviewed. Some judges serve a single year term, and some return to judge numerous rounds of the awards. The composition of panels changes regularly to ensure fresh voices are represented,” the spokesperson told TJI.

The Multicultural NSW Awards are part of the annual NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. ““Each Award category is judged by a panel of three to five independent judges and assessed in line with the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Guidelines and the formal judging procedures in place to ensure impartiality,” the spokesperson said.

Abdel-Fattah, who is a research fellow in the Department of Sociology at Macquarie University, described those who did the doxxing as “heroes”, and said Zionists had “no claim or right to cultural safety” and people who supported Israel should be “shamed into discomfort and ­silence,” the Australian reported.

“Her presence on the panel entirely undermines, almost to the point of parody, the worthy purposes of Multicultural NSW,” Senator Sharma said in the letter to Premier Minns.

When asked for a response to Sharma’s comments, Abdel-Fattah told TJI: “I see no reason to comment on the baseless smearing McCarthystic campaign of a failed right-wing politician”. 

Abdel-Fattah has been an outspoken pro-Palestinian advocate since October 7, and for many years beforehand. Her public statements and social media posts since the start of the Israel-Hamas war have sparked intense criticism from leading pro-Israel community groups and politicians.

But the recently formed Jewish Council of Australia, along with left-wing Jewish academics, have come out in defence of Abdel-Fattah activities. The JCA said it “condemned the actions of Liberal Senator Dave Sharma and Israel lobby groups who have asked Multicultural NSW to remove Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah as a judge because of her outspoken criticism of Israel and the political ideology of Zionism”.   

Dr Elizabeth Strakosch, an Executive Officer at the JCA, said: “Dr Abdel-Fattah has clearly and consistently made a distinction between the political ideology of Zionism and Jewish people. Attempts to discredit her, smear her as antisemitic and have her removed from professional appointments should be deeply concerning to all who value a plural and open society.”

A group of Jewish academics this week published a public letter in support of Dr Abdel-Fattah.

About the author

Michael Visontay

Michael Visontay is the Commissioning Editor of TJI. He has worked as a journalist and editor for more than 30 years. Michael is the author of several books, including Who Gave You Permission?, co-authored with child sexual abuse advocate Manny Waks, and Welcome to Wanderland: Western Sydney Wanderers and the Pride of the West.


  • Avatar of David D. Knoll AM

    David D. Knoll AM12 April at 12:01 am

    Michael Visontay’s piece:
    • does not disclose who the ”Jewish Council of Australia” is and is not;
    • incorrectly states that: “Abdel-Fattah has been an outspoken pro-Palestinian advocate since October 7,“ when her track record of disparagement if lengthy; and
    • ignores the Jewish community leadership’s statements condemning Ms Abdel-Fatah’s indefensible online comments that “if you are a Zionist [most Jews according to Gen-17] you have no claim or right to cultural safety.”

  • Avatar of Jack Morris

    Jack Morris11 April at 08:03 am

    Given credence to this fraudulent, presumptuous Jewish Council of Australian is not appropriate. They represent a handful of antiZionists and don’t deserve a voice, especially when they make excuses for Abdel-Fattah who is a contemptuous Jew hater.

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