Activist’s invite revoked

Tamika Mallory. Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Hulu

AUSTRALIAN Jewish leaders have welcomed a decision to axe US activist Tamika Mallory as the key speaker at a Melbourne conference, after she made virulently anti-Israel statements.

At the Good Life Summit on June 13, Mallory was to have delivered her speech in the company of Premier Daniel Andrews and Liberal leader Matthew Guy, but her address to a New York conference proved a turning point for the summit’s organisers, the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS).

Addressing the US Centre for Constitutional Rights last week, Mallory condemned the very idea of a Jewish State. “It’s clear you [Israelis] needed a place to go – cool, we got that. I hear that. But you don’t show up to somebody’s home, needing a place to stay, and decide that you’re going to throw them out and hurt the people who are on that land. And to kill, steal, and do whatever it is you’re going to do to take that land. That to me is unfair. It’s a human rights crime,” the African-American rights advocate and Women’s March co-chair said.

Mallory’s closeness to US preacher Louis Farrakhan – founder of black advocacy group Nation of Islam, who has praised Adolf Hitler, called Jews “satanic” and blamed them for 9/11 – had already caused concern among Jewish leaders.

Farrakhan acknowledged Mallory, a long-time supporter, from the podium when she attended his Saviour’s Day rally in Chicago this year, as she has done regularly. “Thank God this man is still alive and doing well,” she posted on Instagram last year.

After Mallory’s tweet this year accusing the US Anti-Defamation League of “constantly attacking black and brown people”, Starbucks removed the human rights organisation from consultancies it used for an anti-bias training day following the arrest of two African-Americans at a Starbucks.

When it was announced Mallory would be speaking at VCOSS, concern was expressed by Australian Jewish leaders over her support for Farrakhan. Contacted by The AJN at the time, VCOSS emphasised she spoke only for herself and not for the organisation.

But explaining its decision now to pull Mallory’s invitation, a VCOSS spokesperson expressed concern over her comments and their potential to overshadow the summit, which the spokesperson said “is about setting a positive vision for a fair and just Victoria … We don’t want anything to detract from that.”

Lamenting Mallory’s “massive overreach in her hateful comments on Israel”, Jewish Community Council of Victoria acting president Anton Hermann said, “It would have been inconsistent to have such a divisive personality” as the summit’s keynote speaker.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Anton Block said Mallory’s “enthusiastic public praise for Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite, and an anti-gay, transphobic and anti-white bigot, makes her a dubious choice to speak about inclusion and social justice.”

Zionism Victoria president Sharene Hambur said Mallory “would not have been an appropriate person to address a summit aimed at developing a vision for Victoria, a state that prides itself on its welcoming and multicultural identity”.

Describing her views on Israel as “just appalling”, Zionist Federation of Australia president Danny Lamm said, “It’s the total antithesis of what multiculturalism is meant to be about, and that is the recognition of the other.”

Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said, “Although we did not call on them to revoke the invitation, we are pleased that VCOSS did the right thing in realising that hosting a speaker who has publicly supported an unapologetic bigot … would have been inconsistent with their organisation’s values.”

PETER KOHN