Saturday, August 22, 2009

Danby is diplomatic Soul of Peace

The good and bad news from "The Australian Jewish News"

Danby v China


MICHAEL Danby is making quite a name for himself doing something that few others dare: speaking loudly and consistently against the Chinese government.

A parliamentarian for 11 years and a backbencher for all that time, Danby has become adept at occupying a niche.

For almost 10 of those 11 years he was the sole Jewish federal MP, and fought for the Jewish community and Israel from the opposition side before the Rudd Government won office.

During those 11 years, he also spoke out on behalf of numerous injustices. He called for recognition for the victims of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century, raised awareness for alleged war crimes in Darfur and everything in between.

But it is the Chinese regime’s oppression of its minority groups that brings out the fighter in Danby.

This week he hit the headlines over his support for the visit of Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer to Australia.

Danby was one of the only government MPs willing to show public support for Kadeer, who has been accused by the Chinese government of inciting last month’s ethnic rioting in Xinjiang.

In a press release prior to Kadeer’s arrival, Danby made a telling ?statement.

“I feel it is necessary for someone from my background to support religious or cultural minorities who pursue their rights in a non-violent manner, whether it is the Vietnamese, Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, the Baha’i or the Uighurs.”

Danby was one of two parliamentarians to speak at Sunday’s controversial film premiere of The 10 Conditions of Love – a documentary on Kadeer’s life – the other was Greens leader Senator Bob Brown.

It was a brave move, considering the amount of pressure the Chinese government applied to have the documentary canned.

In the lead-up to the screening, newspapers reported the Chinese government had asked Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to pull the plug on the film and threatened to cancel Melbourne’s sister-city relationship with the city of Tianjin. Chinese nationals have also been accused of hacking into the website of the Melbourne International Film Festival – which screened the film.

At the premiere, Danby delivered a message to Kadeer supporters from his good friend, the Dalai Lama.

“He asked me to convey to you in Melbourne that she is another one of the national leaders who is a paradigm of non-violence,” Danby told the audience.

“He wanted to make it very clear to people that the claims of this woman being a violent person, or instigating violence, is from his point of view and with all of his authority – wrong.”

Few people can call the Dalai Lama a friend, but Danby might just be one of them.

Last month, the Member for Melbourne Ports returned home from a visit to the Indian home of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

As the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, Danby was a member of the first-ever delegation of MPs to Dharamsala. He travelled with fellow Labor MP Melissa Parke, Liberal MP Peter Slipper, Greens senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Scott Ludlam and independent Senator Nick Xenophon.

Despite having met the Dalai Lama – the leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile – a number of times, Danby said his eyes were opened in Dharamsala.

“The thing that would strike you if you went there is that everything is so well organised,” he said. “Everything is so frugal, everything is so modest, but they have institutions for archives, for medicine, an institute of the arts with Tibetan artists, institutions for refugees, for retraining nuns.

“What strikes you is that here is a people who get no support from the United Nations, not a dollar, who get very little assistance from any government apart from the Indian government, and who have these handwritten signs on buildings, who have everything.”

Danby, who travelled to India straight from Israel, where he attended the Australia Israel Leadership Forum, contrasted the set-up in Dharamsala with the Palestinian government in Ramallah.

“The difference in the mentality and institutions is something,” he said. “Here you have Ramallah, [and] the Palestinians, who are having butter gorged down their throats by the United Nations, by the European Union, and yet they don’t have anything by comparison to the Tibetans.

“It is not something that you can really make a wider point about outside the Jewish community, but inside the Jewish community people would understand. It is so maddening to see this.”

Danby was diplomatic when it came to discussing the way the Chinese treat the Tibetans. The Chinese government considers the Tibetans to be a minority ethnic group living within China’s borders. However, Tibetans consider themselves to be an independent nation.

“It is a very bleak period in their history. Discussions after the Olympics with the Chinese broke down completely,” Danby reported, adding he hoped to raise the plight of the Tibetan people through his position as an MP.

He did not hold back though, when calling on Australians to alter the way they view China, particularly in the wake of the arrest of Rio Tinto businessman Stern Hu.

“Our relationship with them should be businesslike, cordial, but hard-headed. We know who you are,” Danby said of the Chinese.

Danby said the “Rudyard Kipling-Australian National University school of appeasement” favours carrots over sticks. But Kevin Rudd is much mor aware than they are of these kinds of things.”

His recommendation was that Australia should utilise China “to keep us out of recession”, but should avoid “idealising” the country.

“It is interesting, among young people, they have no illusions about China at all,” Danby noted. “They regard it as one of the international bad guys.

“Those born since 1989 have a completely different view. When I was young, with the Chinese Revolution and Chairman Mao, we used to wear Mao T-shirts just like people wear Che Guevara T-shirts now. They don’t do that anymore.”

As an influential government backbencher and chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs sub-committee, Danby is hoping his ongoing David and Goliath battle for justice for minority groups against the Chinese government will ultimately be successful.

Alas, most folks are too dependent on the orthodox trappings of religion. They see religion as the only pathway to a closer relationship with the Creator. But for many it becomes a corrupt and idolatrous insurmountable wall. Because of human nature of lust greed and envy, there is a dark side to all religions, those that adhere to blind faith, and put all their trust in tradition; are doomed to fallow a twisted path. I pray that this will draw you closer to the God of Abraham, and grasp that a closer walk devoid of the nightmare man's profane worldliness is not only possible, it is The Divine Will.

“I am the first and I am the last; there is no G-d beside Me“(Isaiah 44:6); and “Know … that there is none beside Me. I am G-d, no one else. I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I G-d do all these things“(Isaiah 45:6-7).


JEWS around the world have done some soul-searching after being confronted with images of American Orthodox Jews, including a number of rabbis, being led away handcuffed by FBI agents.

Police made 44 arrests last week in New Jersey on corruption-related charges. Among them were three mayors and 15 Orthodox Jews.

Accusations include a money-laundering operation that used methods such as cashing bad cheques through synagogue charities, political bribery and illegal organ brokering.

The president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia, Rabbi Dovid Freilich, said last week that the Orthodox men arrested have potentially brought shame to Orthodox Jews around the world.

“Once one puts on the mantle of righteousness, one is expected to behave accordingly,” said Rabbi Freilich.

The Perth-based rabbi argued that while the rabbis arrested remain innocent until proven guilty, just the sight of them being arrested desecrates the Torah.

“When Orthodox Jews are paraded before the media, accused of having ruthlessly enriched themselves at the expense of others, of conspiring to betray the government of the country in which they live … this is a sorry onslaught on our Jewish sensitivity and a chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s holy name,” he said.

“When we, as Jews, experience this humiliation, it is easy to forget that the vast majority of loyal Torah-observant Jews deal honestly and correctly with their fellow human beings.”

He added that Judaism should not be judged on the behaviour of a small number of Jewish people. Similarly, rabbis should not be judged on the behaviour of “those who are the exception to the rule”.

Since the arrests, rabbis around the world have been working to contain the perceived damage to their reputation.

A number of rabbinic organisations in the United States have organised seminars stressing the importance of obeying the law.

In addition, the director of the Centre for Ethics at America’s Yeshiva University, Adrienne Asch, said the Jewish community must come to grips with the fact that there are wrongdoers among us.

“It is time for Jews to face the fact that there are criminals among them, just as there are criminals everywhere else,” she said.

“We should not be protecting criminals for fear of persecution. We should be speaking out for what is fair and just.”

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.
Carl G Jung

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