HATE CAMPAIGN DIRECTED AT MUSLIM LEADER JAMAL RIFI OVER CHARITY WITH JEWISH HELPERS
Dr Jamal Rifi says: “People in Sydney are scared about this behaviour.”
Picture: Tim Hunter.
Exclusive by Natalie O’Brien, News Corp Australia Network
A hate campaign inciting violence and potentially endangering the life of one of Sydney’s most prominent and respected Muslim community leaders is being investigated by NSW police.
Belmore GP Jamal Rifi has been advised to vary his routine and change his place of worship after it was revealed Muslim community members in Sydney have been inciting hatred and violence against him for supporting a charity, which includes Jewish volunteers, helping sick Palestinian kids.
But the threats have also included Muslims who attended Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Iftar dinner last week and were seen fraternising with Jewish leaders.
Dr Rifi said he was forced to call in the authorities after being threatened, verbally attacked on social media and labelled a Zionist collaborator and spy.
“People in Sydney are scared about this behaviour. It is threatening to tear apart the social cohesion of our religious and ethnic communities,” said Dr Rifi.
The doctor, who has Lebanese heritage, said information sent from Sydney has resulted in a referral to the Military Court in Lebanon calling for his prosecution and possible imprisonment should he return to that country to visit his family.
Police have taken statements and have been given information about who is behind the campaign and responsible for sending information to the media and military police in Lebanon.
A NSW Police spokesman said officers from Campsie Police Area Command were investigating the allegations.
“While the investigation remains with local police, appropriate referrals have been made to the Engagement and Intervention Unit and Bias Crime Unit within the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command,” said the spokesman.
“Police have zero tolerance towards all bias-related crime and treat all matters seriously. “Anyone who believes they have been a victim is urged to report the matter to police.”
A spokesman for the NSW Government added: “The NSW Liberals and Nationals Government is committed to promoting and maintaining social cohesion and community harmony.
Tim Soutphommasane (pictured above, credit: Hollie Adams) says we should be celebrating friendships across religious groups.
“The NSW Government does not tolerate behaviour that puts community safety and harmony at risk. Everyone in NSW should be able to go about their daily life without fearing for their safety. It is the diversity in our community that makes us stronger.
“Publicly inciting or threatening violence against a person on the grounds of their religious belief or affiliation is appalling conduct now punishable by up to three years imprisonment and a $11,000 fine.”
Former Racial Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said “if there is criminal conduct involved, the police should investigate and take action”.
“This is deeply disturbing. Dr Rifi is a respected leader who has worked tirelessly for community harmony and multiculturalism,” said Mr Soutphommasane.
“Members of our community should not be subjected to campaigns of intimidation, persecution or violence. We should be celebrating friendships across cultural and religious groups, not condemning them.”
Guests who attended the dinner by Premier Gladys Berejiklian Iftar (pictured above, credit: John Feder) have been targeted.
The hate campaign has targeted prominent and high-profile people who supported a fundraising dinner last week for the charity known as Project Rozana, which had David Gonski AC and Lakemba MP Jihad Dib as its patrons.
But it is understood to be also targeting Muslim community members attending the Premier’s Iftar dinner last week, particularly those who sat with or talked to Jewish leaders who were also invited.
True Crime Australia has been told there has been a call for photographs from the Premier’s dinner to be collected and sent to police/military authorities overseas.
Project Rozana helps sick Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, particularly children, get to hospitals in Jerusalem that they would not otherwise be able to access.
The Project, which was started by Jewish businessman Ron Finkel, arranges both Palestinian and Israeli drivers to get the patients across the checkpoints into hospital. It also helps Palestinian doctors to get training at some of the best hospitals in Jerusalem.
Critics have also attacked Dr Rifi and others for their support of the project claiming it “normalises” the situation between Palestine and Israel.
Palestinian Ambassador in Australia, Dr Izzat Abdulhadi, put out a statement which said Project Rozana provides critical financial support for children who have rare or complicated illnesses or injuries and who need to be transferred to one of these hospitals and for various reasons, the Palestinian Authority is unable to support them financially.
Dr Abdulhadi said that World Vision, an Australian civil society organisation, is a partner of the Project and has provided more than $400,000 in contributions to strengthen the health sector in Palestine.
“There is absolutely no relationship between the Israeli government and the Project. There is no reason, therefore, to fabricate a connection between a genuine Australian development project and the Israeli occupation or Israeli hegemony,” said Dr Abdulhadi.
NSW was the first state or territory in Australia to make it unlawful for a person, by a public act, to incite hatred on the grounds of race by threatening physical harm or inciting others to threaten such harm. The maximum penalty is a $10,000 fine or six months imprisonment for an individual – $100,000 for a corporation.
New legislation known as 93Z which toughed up the laws around inciting violence was passed last year and is yet to be tested.