Research Activities
Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue in Melbourne, Australia: The Role of Maher Mughrabi and the AJDS (the Australian Jewish Democratic Society)
1st Meeting (Group 1)
■Speaker :Prof. Michael Furmanovsky (Faculty of Intercultural Communication, Ryukoku University)
■Place :Chikokan B102 Common Research Room, Seta Campus, Ryukoku University
■Date :Jun. 25, 2006
■Number :060101
Prof. Furmanovsky presented on efforts to facilitate dialogue between Palestinian and the Jewish residents in Melbourne, Australia. On issue related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While the mainstream of the Jewish community in Melbourne (a population of about 45,000) is conservative and orthodox, there are also some “progressive” groups such as Australian Jewish Democratic Society (AJDS) there. The AJDS and its supporters claim that, firstly, not all of the Jews in Australia support the Israeli government’s policies vis a vis the Palestinians. They have protested at the labelling of those who criticise Israeli policies as anti-Semitic. Secondly, they aim at collaboration with individuals or groups in the Australian Muslim community who are also working for conflict resolution between “two states”, namely, Israel and Palestine.
The majority of the Muslims in Melbourne (a population of about 80,000) are non-Arabs, and especially after the Iraq war, many Muslims tend to distance themselves from political issues because of the fear of being equated as defenders of terrorists. Though the Arabs and the academics working in middle-east field support the Palestinian movement, their influence is quite limited and the activists often lack an understanding of Jewish history, culture and sensitivities. However, Maher Mughrabi (1973-), a Palestinian journalist/activist (from a Scottish-Palestinian background), who was educated in the UK and came to Australia in 2002, has been working to bridge these gaps. He is a fluent Arabic speaker and also has a profound knowledge of the history and cultures of both Jews and Arabs. He is willing to identify and criticise Arab hypocrisy when he sees it and also shows a genuine empathy for Jewish feelings.
Prof. Furmanovsky praised the stance of the new generation of the Palestine activists such as Maher Mughrabi, and pointed out that dialogue between representatives of this new generation and the “progressive” Jewish activists have begun and he expressed hope that they will develop and expand.
During the discussion, Prof. Furmanovsky made a more detailed explanation of the general situation of the Jewish community outside Israel gave detailed information on the background and values of the Jewish community in Australia. He also pointed out that the Palestinians outside Palestine are in a circumstance of exile, which is ironically, similar to that of the Jews throughout history and he argued that this similarity had the potential to favour a deeper understanding and reconciliation between the two peoples.

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