A response from SBS to the ECAJ’s complaint about “The Promise”

Jan 18, 2012

Consider this conversation* between Sally Begbie, SBS Ombudsman and Peter Wertheim, ECAJ Executive Director regarding the ECAJ complaint about the screening of “The Promise”, a situation that has even made the mainstream media.

SALLY BEGBIE:  Hi Peter.  It’s Sally Begbie from SBS calling.  It’s about the letter we’ve received from you regarding The Promise.

PETER WERTHEIM:  Hi Sally.  Thanks for calling.  How may I help you?

SALLY:  I’ve read the complaint, all 31 pages.  It took me a while to get through the document.  Very thorough and comprehensively researched I’ll have to admit.

PETER:  Indeed.

SALLY:  It’s about stereotyping, and discrimination of Jewish people.  Those are the main concerns?

PETER:  Yes, that’s correct.  Stereotyping, discrimination, negative attitudes of Jews.

SALLY:  I see.  Yes.  That’s a concern we take seriously at SBS.

PETER:  That’s good to hear.

SALLY:  And no doubt, it’s something your organisation takes just as seriously, stereotyping and discrimination.

PETER:  Absolutely.  We pride ourselves on our efforts to prevent and reverse such attitudes.  If you take a moment to review our web site you’ll see we give those issues priority amongst the many issues we care about.

SALLY:  That’s excellent to hear.  In reviewing the complaint that we’ve received I have been doing some research into issues and attitudes amongst the community you represent, to gain a more complete understanding of the situation.  I’ve had some interesting findings.

PETER:  Oh, yes?

SALLY:  Well, it seems that there appears to be an area of concern into discrimination that the ECAJ has remained silent on, that some in your community are demanding a more vocal response.

PETER:  Please explain.

SALLY:  In particular, it seems that the ECAJ values equality and egalitarianism, yet has no comment to make on the issue of marriage equality.  That would seem to me to be a strange position to take, considering your organisation does not stand for discrimination in any way whatsoever.

PETER:  That’s a difficult area Sally.

SALLY:  Discrimination?  It really doesn’t seem that difficult to me.

PETER:  No, not discrimination.  Marriage.  It’s a complex issue for some in the Jewish community.

SALLY:  But your organisation does not stand for discrimination.

PETER:  Correct.

SALLY:  And yet you’re prepared to remain tolerant of some discrimination?

PETER:  No, we don’t stand for discrimination of any type.

SALLY:  So you’re supportive of efforts to remove discrimination facing Jews in same-sex relationships?

PETER:  It’s not so simple Sally.

SALLY:  It is to me.  Discrimination is discrimination.

PETER:  Of course, but not all discrimination is the same.

SALLY:  However you look at it, it’s still discrimination.  There’s another issue that has come to my attention.  If I may.

PETER:  Certainly.

SALLY:  I’ve read that some in your community are concerned about attitudes that are upheld amongst certain religious leaders and members of the community whereby homosexuality is considered a condition that can be overcome with reparative therapy.  The concerned parties seem to be calling on your organisation to speak out against these attitudes, claiming they’re proven to be harmful to members of the community who are being asked to overcome their orientation.  They’ve provided you with evidence from leading professional bodies claiming these are harmful and ineffective therapies.

PETER:  I’ve heard these concerns.

SALLY:  Do you take them seriously?  The claims that they are harmful to members of the Jewish community who are being forced to undertake them?

PETER:  Absolutely.  The ECAJ does not for one minute want a single member of the Jewish community to undergo an iota of suffering or come to any harm.  We would extend that concern to the wider community as well.

SALLY:  And you would then want to ensure that your community had a clear and unambiguous understanding that it is inappropriate to refer people to practitioners of these untoward therapies?

PETER:  It would be our desire to ensure no member of our community came to any harm.

SALLY:  So what I am hearing is that your organisation takes the issues of discrimination and harm seriously and wants to ensure the ongoing and increasing welfare of the members of your community, the Jewish people of Australia.

PETER:  Effectively.  Yes.

SALLY:  Then it would seem to me, Peter, that it would be to your organisation’s advantage to show the rest of us that it does take these issues seriously and take a stand on them.  You are asking SBS to take a stand against discrimination and stereotyping affecting the Jewish people, but what I see is that there are members of your community who are lacking the necessary protection from your organisation and who are at the mercy of harmful attitudes that have not been reined in.

PETER:  Of course, we want a positive outcome for all parties.

SALLY:  That’s good to hear.  So do we.  I appreciate your time today.  We’ll be in touch.

* This is one of many possible conversations that could potentially occur.  I am not aware of it actually having occurred, yet.


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