The Community Relations Commission Chairman Mr Vic Alhadeff submitted his resignation last Sunday that has been subsequently accepted by Victor Dominello, the NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities.
The Premier of NSW Mike Baird said that his government would take its time to select Mr Alhadeff’s replacement using the criteria that the person is “passionate about this great state, passionate with working with every community and passionate about bringing harmony.
The furore erupted earlier this month when Mr Alhadeff sent an email accusing Palestinian militants of war crimes and justifying Israeli attacks on Gaza. Mr Alhadeff is also the CEO of the Jewish Board of Deputies and a former editor of Australian Jewish News.
Muslim and Arabic community leaders found the statement biased and one sided specially from his sensitive position of CRC Chairman. It was argued that he should not have been appointed in the first place to the CRC position while he was concurrently CEO of the Jewish Board of deputies due to the conflict of interest between the two roles.
The dual roles of CRC Chairman and CEO were previously occupied by highly respected Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian who had a very successful track record in bringing about community harmony in NSW during his tenure of 24 years. On his retirement in December last year the two roles were split for the first time by the O’Farell government where Mr Alhadeff was appointed as Chairman and Mr Hakan Harman as the CEO.
The Muslim Community unhappiness was displayed when Muslim community invitees boycotted the Premier’s Iftar Dinner on 24 July with photos of empty tables published in newspaper. There were calls from many in the community for Mr Alhadeff to be removed from the sensitive position at CRC. The Sydney Morning Herald in its editorial on 25 July concluded that Mr Alhadeff’s position as CRC Chairman was untenable.
NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, a Muslim Australian said that “Mr Alhadeff’s comments regarding the war in Gaza were insensitive and unacceptable,” adding that the chairperson should “perform the role in the spirit of inclusiveness and peace”.
Shas called on the government to appoint a Community Relations Commission chair who was committed to the spirit of the role and did not face a conflict of interest.