Why is John Searle fearful of Michael Barnett?

On April 22 2010 Southern Star published a correction to a previous story on Aleph Melbourne from the week prior:

Southern Star reported (15/04) Jewish gay group Aleph was “excluded” from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s GLBT reference group. There are currently three members of Aleph on the reference group. Aleph convenor Michael Barnett was excluded.

What lead to this correction was correspondence between Southern Star and the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) Geoffrey Zygier.  Some of this correspondence was electronic:

Dear Scott

The JCCV has had the following article http://www.sstar.net.au/news/2010/04/15/jewish-gay-group-splintering/9644 brought to its attention.

FYI I think it is a fair summary of the situation, but it is important to note for the record that Aleph was not excluded from the Jewish GLBT reference group which includes a number of members of Aleph.  Also FYI, there is an article on progress on this matter in today’s Australian Jewish News (Melbourne, though it may be in the Sydney edition as well).


Geoffrey Zygier I Executive Director I Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV)
306 Hawthorn Road South
Caulfield VIC AUST 3162
03 9272 5579 I 0413 731545


Some of this correspondence was by phone.  The upshot of the communications between the JCCV and Southern Star was an admission that I, Michael Barnett, was excluded by the JCCV from participating in the JCCV GLBT Reference Group.

That doesn’t come as a surprise to me, given I was told in writing by the President of the JCCV, John Searle, that he was unable to work with me:

You have shown by your conduct since the meeting that you do not wish to work in this manner; rather you continue to criticise, undermine and discredit the JCCV and me to a wide distribution list.

I have now formed the view that I cannot work in partnership with you.

People need to start asking questions.  This situation is ludicrous.  The people at the helm of the JCCV engage with government officials, politicians, leaders of cultural communities, heads of state etc.  They are used to dealing with some pretty high powered people.  Yet they have stated officially that they are unable to work with me.  Why?  What threat do I pose them?  What is it about me that they are scared of?  Why does John Searle push me away and try to make me invisible, rather than engage me in a transparent fashion.   He’s a big boy.  Barrister.  President of the JCCV.  He’s got the credentials to take on pretty much anyone one might think.

But John Searle is hiding something big.  He’s really scared and he doesn’t have the courage to take a stance against homophobic intolerance in the orthodox Jewish world.  He is fearful of the damage to his political career in the Jewish community if he speaks out against the intolerance of homosexuality by orthodox Judaism.

John Searle’s GLBT Reference Group to look into mental health issues of GLBT people in the Jewish community is a smoke-screen that is aimed to appease the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) so they believe the JCCV are being good citizens and not excluding GLBT people in the Jewish community.  Why?  Simply to secure government grants.  It’s a smoke-screen because it’s designed to deflect the interest away from the real issue of intolerance of homosexuality in the orthodox Jewish community.

While John Searle is president of the JCCV he won’t say a bad word about the devastating harm caused by orthodox Jewish intolerance of homosexuality.  He knows how bad it is because many people have told him, including myself.  He won’t acknowledge that Progressive Judaism is a legitimate expression of Jewish identity and that the Progressive community’s overwhelming acceptance of homosexuality is a positive situation in the Jewish community.  He won’t do this because he is partisan to the orthodox and their intolerant, out-dated attitudes.

John Searle won’t talk to me because he doesn’t like what I stand for.  He is not acting as a leader and he is not looking after the best interests of the people in the community he claims to represent.

Maybe you’ll get further than me if you ask him directly.  Send an email to president@jccv.org.au or call him directly on (03) 92257753 or 0412251344 and ask him why he is so troubled by me.  I’d like to know.