Liberals lose yet another high-profile woman, yet still no action on gender


Mark Kenny, Australian National University

Liberal women must surely be asking why their party is so clear-eyed when facilitating the departure of competent women, and yet so mealy-mouthed about recruiting and promoting them.

Prominent among Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments on Kelly O’Dwyer’s retirement to pursue family life, was to say he supported his minister’s decision, and indeed supported all such choices by women.

Such clarity has been conspicuously absent from the Liberal Party’s leadership since its now widely accepted “women” problem came to the fore in 2018 amid claims of bullying, implied career threats, ingrained gender bias, and other generally oafish behaviour.

Even more opaque has been the Liberal Party’s puzzling refusal to broach any corrective action to address a powerful internal preference for men, when selecting candidates in winnable seats. This, despite a miserable return of just 13 female MPs of its 76 in the lower house after the 2016 election.

It is even worse now, and voters are on to it.

Not the first such departure

O’Dwyer is the second female Liberal from Victoria to call it quits in six months after her friend, the talented rookie backbencher Julia Banks, spectacularly called time on the party in the wake of Malcolm Turnbull’s brutal ouster.

Banks went to the cross bench to form a quartet of competent female moderates with past ties or sympathies to the centre-right – Banks, Kerryn Phelps, Rebekha Sharkie, and Cathy McGowan.

There have been other high-profile departures this term also on family grounds with two frontbenchers on the Labor side – former minister Kate Ellis, and rising star Tim Hammond – both bowing out.

That federal politics is hard on families and relationships is hardly news, but the slew of resignations / defections underscores how little has been done to change things.

And poignant, given her portfolio

In any event, O’Dwyer’s retreat is arguably the most pointed given the current debate, her particular government portfolio, her hard-won ministerial seniority, and her party’s woes.

It makes Liberal retention of her previously safe Melbourne seat of Higgins somewhere between problematic and unlikely.

On the social media platform Twitter where cynicism and vitriol flows freely from people hiding behind false identities, her departure has been met with some appallingly personal abuse, exaggerated outrage, and claims she was merely a rat leaving a sinking ship.

It is true that retaining the seat would have been no certainty even with O’Dwyer still as the candidate, especially given Victoria’s recent anti-conservative tendencies in state election races, but with a new candidate, the Liberal jewel is undoubtedly more vulnerable.

Feminists will be aggrieved to see another senior woman go but they might also be quietly disappointed in her stated reasons.

In contradistinction to some of her predecessors, O’Dwyer, did substantive work as minister for women, and unlike some, gave the impression of actually believing in the mission.

She also garnered respect from across the aisle and within the press gallery as a person of warmth and humility – stand-out qualities on Capital Hill.

It is a portfolio she believed in

O’Dwyer created enemies however on her party’s increasingly reactionary right flank by outlining the challenges for women – especially in politics – acknowledging the Liberal Party’s poor image in some quarters.

She was even reputed to have told colleagues they were seen as a bunch of “homophobic, anti-women, climate change deniers”.

Her introduction of a women’s economic security statement last year was another material achievement resisted by some as political correctness.

But in declaring her job’s incompatibility with family life, there was an unmistakable note of resignation, even defeat in O’Dwyer’s “choice”. And coming from the minister most directly involved in remediating that problem for women, her resignation cannot help but reinforce the message that politics may well be no place for women.

Morrison’s superficially virtuous support for the choices for women, was no help either – typical of much conservative sophistry around this whole issue.

Morrison isn’t helping

Masquerading as a pro-choice feminist while endorsing a senior colleague’s decision to give up her career for child-rearing and home duties takes some chutzpah.

An alternative approach might have been to lament her departure as symptomatic of a flawed representational system, acknowledge the failure of politics to renovate its male paradigm, and vow to change the culture in material ways.

It might even be called leadership.

For a government laced with longstanding (if undeclared) quotas for ministerial selection – think ratios in the ministry applied to the number of Libs to Nats, House to Senate, moderates to conservatives, and even between states – the blind spot over women’s under-representation and the philosophical objection to corrective action (quotas) is all the more bizarre.

It is a mark of how far conservative Liberals have drifted from contemporary public attitudes and even their own philosophy that some would countenance re-nationalising of energy assets and building new coal-fired power stations before correcting a clear market imperfection within their own organisation.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Julie Bishop will be open to post-politics offers


And with speculation that Julie Bishop could also withdraw from the 2019 field, the situation facing Morrison’s Liberals threatens to deepen.

Through all of this, voters’ views come second.

Not so long ago, Bishop was easily the most popular alternative to Malcolm Turnbull in voter land but such unrivalled public support was good for just 11 votes in the party room.The Conversation

Mark Kenny, Senior Fellow, Australian Studies Institute, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Messianic Jews in Israel Seek Public Apology for Attack


Christians await court decision on assaults on services by ultra-orthodox Jews.

ISTANBUL, April 23 (CDN) — After a final court hearing in Israel last week, a church of Messianic Jews awaits a judge’s decision that could force an ultra-orthodox Jewish  organization to publicly apologize to them for starting a riot and ransacking a baptismal service.

A ruling in favor of the Christian group would mark the first time an organization opposing Messianic Jews in Israel has had to apologize to its victims for religious persecution.

In 2006 Howard Bass, pastor of Yeshua’s Inheritance church, filed suit against Yehuda Deri, chief Sephardic rabbi in the city of Beer Sheva, and Yad L’Achim, an organization that fights against Messianic Jews, for allegedly inciting a riot at a December 2005 service that Bass was leading.

Bass has demanded either a public apology for the attack or 1.5 million shekels (US$401,040) from the rabbi and Yad L’Achim.

The case, Bass said, was ultimately about “defending the name of Yeshua [Jesus]” and making sure that Deri, the leadership of Yad L’Achim and those that support them know they have to obey the law and respect the right of people to worship.

“They are trying to get away from having any responsibility,” Bass said.

On Dec. 24, 2005, during a baptismal service in Beer Sheva, a group of about 200 men pushed their way into a small, covered structure being used to baptize two believers and tried to stop the service. Police were called to the scene but could not control the crowd.

Once inside the building, the assailants tossed patio chairs, damaged audiovisual equipment, threw a grill and other items into a baptismal pool, and then pushed Bass into the pool and broke his glasses.

“Their actions were violent actions without regard [for injury],” Bass said.

In the days before the riot, Yad L’Achim had issued notices to people about a “mass baptism” scheduled to take place at the facility in the sprawling city of 531,000 people 51 miles (83 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem. In the days after the riot, Deri bragged about the incident on a radio talk show, including a boast that Bass had been “baptized” at the gathering.

The 2005 incident wasn’t the first time the church had to deal with a riotous attack after Yad L’Achim disseminated false information about their activities. On Nov. 28, 1998, a crowd of roughly 1,000 protestors broke up a Yeshua’s Inheritance service after the anti-Christian group spread a rumor that three busloads of kidnapped Jewish minors were being brought in for baptism. The assailants threw rocks, spit on parishioners and attempted to seize some of their children, Bass said.

In response to the 1998 attack and to what Bass described as a public, cavalier attitude about the 2005 attack, Bass and others in the Messianic community agreed that he needed to take legal action.

“What is happening here has happened to Jews throughout the centuries,” Bass said about persecution of Messianic Jews in Israel, adding that many in movements opposed to Messianic Jews in Israel are “arrogant.” He compared their attitudes to the attitudes that those in Hamas, a Palestinian group dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel, have toward Israelis in general.

“They say, ‘Recognize us, but we will never recognize you,’” Bass said.

Long Battle

Bass has fought against the leadership of Yad L’Achim and Deri for four years through his attorneys, Marvin Kramer and Kevork Nalbandian. But throughout the process, Kramer said, the two defendants have refused to offer a genuine apology for the misinformation that led to the 2005 riot or for the riot itself.

Kramer said Bass’s legal team would offer language for an acceptable public apology, and attorneys for the defendants in turn would offer language that amounted to no real apology at all.

“We made several attempts to make a compromise, but we couldn’t do it,” Kramer said.  “What we were really looking for was a public apology, and they weren’t ready to give a public apology. If we would have gotten the public apology, we would have dropped the lawsuit at any point.”

Despite several attempts to reach Yad L’Achim officials at both their U.S. and Israeli offices, no one would comment.

The hearing on April 15 was the final chance the parties had to come to an agreement; the judge has 30 days to give a ruling. His decision will be issued by mail.

Kramer declined to speculate on what the outcome of the case will be, but he said he had “proved what we needed to prove to be successful.”

Belief in Israel

Bass said he is a strong supporter of Israel but is critical of the way Messianic Jews are treated in the country.

“Israel opposes the gospel, and these events show this to be true,” he said. Referring to Israel, Bass paraphrased Stephen, one of Christianity’s early martyrs, “‘You always resist the Spirit of God.’ What Stephen said was true.”

Kramer said that the lawsuit is not against the State of Israel or the Jewish people, but rather for freedom of religion.

“It has to do with a violation of rights of individuals to worship in accordance with the basic tenants of their faith and to practice their faith in accordance with their beliefs in accordance with law,” he said.

Terrorist Organization?

Bass’ lawsuit is just one of many legal troubles Yad L’Achim is facing. In February, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), a civil rights advocacy group, filed a petition asking Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to declare Yad L’Achim a terrorist organization and order that it be dismantled.

In the 24-page document Caleb Myers, an attorney for JIJ, outlined numerous incidences in which Yad L’Achim or those linked with it had “incited hatred, racism, violence and terror.” The document cited instances of persecution against Christians, as well as kidnappings of Jewish women from their Arab partners.

“Israel is a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state, while the actions of Yad L’Achim are not consistent with either the noble values of Judaism or the values of democracy,” the petition read. “Not to mention the fact that it is a country that arose on the ashes of a people that was persecuted for its religion, and has resolved since its establishment to bear the standard of full equality, without discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion or nationality.”

According to the document, Yad L’Achim went after people it viewed as enemies of ultra-orthodox Judaism. The group particularly targeted Messianic Jews and other Christians.

“Yad L’Achim refers to ‘missionary activity’ as if it was the worst of criminal offenses and often arouses fear of this activity,” the document read. “It should be noted that in the State of Israel there is no prohibition against ‘missionary activity’ as the dissemination of religion and/or faith among members of other religions/faiths, unless such activity solicits religious conversion, as stated in various sections of the Penal Code, which bans the solicitation of religious conversion among minors, or among adults by offering bribes. Furthermore, the organization often presents anyone belonging to the Christian religion, in all its forms, as a ‘missionary,’ even if he does not work to spread his religion.”

Particularly damning in the document was reported testimony gleaned from Jack Teitel. Teitel, accused of planting a bomb on March 20, 2008 that almost killed the teenage son of a Messianic Jewish pastor, told authorities that he worked with Yad L’Achim.

“He was asked to talk about his activity in Yad L’Achim and related that for some five years he was active in the organization, and on average he helped to rescue about five women each year,” the document read, using the Yad L’Achim term “rescue” to refer to kidnapping.

The 2008 bombing severely injured Ami Ortiz, then 15, but after 20 months he had largely recovered.

Teitel, who said Ortiz family members were “missionaries trying to capture weak Jews,” has been indicted on two cases of pre-meditated murder, three cases of attempted murder, carrying a weapon, manufacturing a weapon, possession of illegal weapons and incitement to commit violence.

In interviews with the Israeli media, Yad L’Achim Chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifshitz said his organization wasn’t connected with the attacks of the Ortiz family or with Teitel.

Report from Compass Direct News

LEFT-LEANING EVANGELICALS MISLEADING YOUNG CHRISTIANS


Some prominent evangelicals who are backing the “hate crimes” bill awaiting a vote in the Senate are making a concerted effort to get evangelicals to abandon their traditionally conservative voting habits, report Jim Brown and Jody Brown, OneNewsNow.

The homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign held a “Clergy Call” rally last week on Capitol Hill to urge passage of legislation that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law. HRC distributed statements from some influential evangelicals who support the bill, including Mercer University Christian ethicist David Gushee and Florida mega-church pastor Joel Hunter.

Pastor Hunter says he “strongly endorse[s]” S. 909* because it “protects both the rights of conservative religious people to voice passionately their interpretations of their scriptures and protects their fellow citizens from physical attack.”

Mark Tooley, president of the Washington-based Institute on Religion & Democracy (IRD), says such statements from figures like Hunter and Gushee are finding fertile ground — particularly among a new, younger generation of evangelicals.

“Clearly [these clergy] are a part of an evangelical left crowd who are strategically attempting to shift evangelicals away from conservative social issues to liberal economic and foreign policy [issues] — and in this case, in the case of hate crimes legislation, social issues as well,” he states.

In a statement released on Monday, Tooley argues that increasingly, the evangelical left is “indistinguishable from the secular left.”

“Christians of all traditions are called to transform the culture — not conform to it,” he says in reference to Romans 12:2. “But the evangelical left repeats arguments from The New York Times’ editorial page and seems to think such cultural conformity will win applause. History shows that accommodationist Christians are ultimately irrelevant Christians.”

The IRD president believes it is the responsibility of conservative evangelicals to reach out to young evangelicals who are identifying with the religious left, and point out to them that certain Christian traditions merit their support because they contain “intellectual and spiritual substance.”

Also participating in the HRC “Clergy Call” were liberal evangelist Tony Campolo and United Methodist trans-gendered pastor Drew Phoenix.

Report from the Christian Telegraph