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Over the past two decades, Australian Jews have been at the center of significant Australian political and ideological debates, including: the War Crimes legislation and the associated Helen Demidenko controversy; anti-vilification legislation and broader concerns over multiculturalism and racial tolerance; and the on-going Israeli-Arab conflict, and its local manifestations such as the recent Hanan Ashrawi and Sydney Peace Prize affair. There is a strong public perception that Jews are an influential group in terms of their social and economic resources, and access to key political groups and players. In particular, popular literature portrays Australian Jews monolithically, as speaking with a single voice rather than as a diverse community with many different factions and perspectives. There has been little informed, research-based analysis of the political activity and allegiances of Australian Jewry. Scant attention has been paid hitherto to the particular factors and forces that determine Jewish political activities and agendas: the impact of socio-economic and organizational structures of the Jewish community, and the controversial question of â who speaks for Australian Jewry?â ; the local and global influence of universalistic values and ideologies such as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, Zionism and anti-Semitism; and the influence of specific Australian political issues and debates, ranging from positions on the Middle East conflict to the pursuit of Nazi war criminals and concerns over immigration, multiculturalism, and race relations. This book â an edited collection of new contributions from distinguished Australian academics â contextualizes, illuminates, and explains the contemporary politics of Australian Jewry. It critically analyzes the broad themes above through relevant case studies and source material, and situates the politics of Australian Jews through comparisons with general patterns in Australian politics, the politics of other minorities in Australia, and the politics of other Western Jewish communities. The book contains a detailed appendix of Jewish Parliamentarians, from 1849 to the present.
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Geoffrey Brahm Levey is Senior Lecturer in Politics & International Relations, and Coordinator of the Program in Jewish Studies, University of New South Wales, Sydney. Philip Mendes is Senior Lecturer in Social Policy & Community Development, Department of Social Work, Monash University, Melbourne.Review:
“Only a little more than 100,000 Jews live in Australia (about 5 percent of the population), mostly in the huge cities of Melbourne and Sydney. They have made distinguished contributions to Australian life, but they get lost in random samples of the whole population so there is no significant quantitative research on them. Levey (Univ. of New South Wales) and Mendes (Monash Univ.) consider three themes: demographics of the Jewish community and the bodies that speak for it; ideologies and Jews; and Jews’ relationships with specific political issues. The authors include chapters on demography, political parties, left and right, anti-Semitism, pro-Israelism, and the Jewish response to issues including feminism, aborigines, multiculturalism, and globalism. The authors find that Jews who fled Nazism were on the political left and socially and economically assimilated. Few issues in Australia arouse Jews per se, as they now approximate the Australian political spectrum as a whole. Jews have higher incomes and educational levels than the average population, but recent immigrants from Russia are disadvantaged ... Recommended.” —Choice
“While Australian Jewry may well be ‘on the edge of the Diaspora’ in the geographical sense, this roundbreaking volume of studies offers welcome proof that it merits recognition close to the centre in respect of academic self-inquiry. This is itself is a noteworthy achievement, compounded by the fact that the book admirably lives up to its blurb’s claim to illuminate and explain Jewish political behaviour within the context not only of Australian society, but also of some other Jewish communities. ... Overall this book makes an admirable contribution not only to knowledge of Australian Jewry in the context of contemporary Jewish life, but also to the study of ethnicity in democratic societies such as Australia.” —The Australian Journal of Jewish Studies
“This ambitious volume promises to be authoritative for anyone interested in Australian Jews, and is bound to be of great value to anyone curious about the persisting importance of ethnicity and religion in democratic societies.” —Stephen J. Whitfield, Brandeis University, Boston
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