INDEPENDENT candidate for Goldstein Zoe Daniel has pledged support for the Jewish community after controversial remarks by her and her campaign staff surfaced.
The Australian last week reported Jobst Schmalenbach, her campaign’s operations manager in Goldstein, attacked a Jewish organisation for criticising anti-Israel comments by former Labor MP Melissa Parke. Schmalenbach had stated, “The Jewish right-wing lobby group should simply shut up.”
In 2021, after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s specific observation that antisemitism and Holocaust denial were rising in Australia, Schmalenbach appeared to question his assertion, retorting that “any racism is on the rise in Australia!”
Daniel’s campaign manager Sue Barrett, who is married to Schmalenbach, used social media in 2020 to trivialise Adolf Hitler, posting that “Hitler altered reality with drugs & [PM Scott] Morrison uses religion”.
Daniel herself, when she was an ABC journalist, wrote in 2017 that then US president Donald Trump declared Jerusalem Israel’s capital as a way of “satisfying his wealthy Jewish donors”.
The revelations appeared after Daniel rejected a plea by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria to disassociate from an open letter she signed last year calling for the right of journalists “to publicly and openly express personal solidarity with the Palestinian cause”.
After meeting on Monday with Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) chair Dvir Abramovich, Daniel told The AJN she sees Israel as “the practical realisation of that crucial statement, ‘Never Again.’ It is for this reason that I will always be a strong supporter of Israel as a Jewish state existing within safe and secure borders”.
She added, “Mischaracterisations of Jewish people, including myths such as their enjoying outsize wealth or power, must be identified immediately as the starting point for much worse.”
And on political jibes invoking the Shoah, she reflected, “When the Holocaust is misused and weaponised to score points in an argument, we devalue this horrific event and cause great pain to Holocaust survivors and their descendants.”
Daniel also noted her support for the current 18C protections in the Racial Discrimination Act – which her opponent, Goldstein Liberal MP Tim Wilson, is critical of – noting she witnessed the consequences of hate speech when covering the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in the US.
Stating Daniel “addressed each of the serious concerns that I raised with her”, Abramovich said her “regrets were sincere and heartfelt”.
Zionism Victoria president Yossi Goldfarb told The AJN, “While Israel won’t be a major issue in the forthcoming election, it is for our community, and we urge community members to think about who they’re going to vote for in that context.”
*The print version of this story said that Schmalenbach is Daniel’s husband. This is incorrect and The AJN apologises for the error.
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