Protesters targeting mining magnate Joseph Gutnick have abandoned plans to rally outside a Melbourne synagogue on the Sabbath, after an eleventh-hour realisation that their action could be viewed as anti-Semitic.
Students for Palestine, a group associated with the Socialist Alternative, had planned to protest later this month at the Adass Gutnick Hall against Mr Gutnick’s business presence in the West Bank, where there is a shopping centre bearing his name. The Gutnick hall in Ripponlea, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, was built by Mr Gutnick in memory of his mother and is used for religious and teaching purposes.
Students for Palestine was still advertising the hall as the venue for its protest yesterday morning, but after being contacted by The Weekend Australian, organiser Vashti Kenway said the group had decided to move the protest to outside Mr Gutnick’s company office.
Ms Kenway said someone from within the Ripponlea congregation had contacted her to say there were “anti-Zionist Jews” among those attending Sabbath services there.
She declined to give the person’s name.
“We’re not anti-Semitic,” she said. “We don’t want that association to be the case, so we have moved the protest.
”We certainly want to make the point that the problem here is Gutnick and his sponsoring of (West Bank) settlements.“
Mr Gutnick is director of North Australian Diamonds, involved with other local and international mining companies and also an ordained rabbi.
Students for Palestine supporters last night marched through Melbourne’s CBD to the Max Brenner chocolate store, renewing calls for it and other brands linked to Israel to be boycotted. Executive Council of Australian Jewry director Peter Wertheim said the protest was ”repugnant“.
”The fact that they were initially advertising a protest at a synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath is indicative of the thinking of the protest organisers,“ he said.
”It is disgraceful that they were even thinking about harassing and intimidating elderly people, families and children who were doing no more than attending their place of worship.
“If these people have an issue with Israel, they should take it up directly with Israel and leave private individuals out of it.”