Australian citizen admits to spying for Hamas

An Australian citizen pleaded guilty to charges of spying for Hamas.

Eyad Rashid Abu Arja, who is Palestinian-born and holds dual Jordanian citizenship, was detained in Tel Aviv in March on charges of “activities on behalf of an illegal organization”.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist group under Israeli law.

Under the terms of a plea bargain submitted to an Israeli court, Arja admitted to espionage for the Gaza-based group while on a visit to Israel.

He had been coerced into the mission by Hamas operatives in Saudi Arabia, his attorney, Leah Tsemel, said. “He’s a person who bumped into activists of the Hamas and attempted, or rendered some very, very shallow services to them. He’s in no way a terrorist,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday.

Arja, a computer scientist, is expected to be sentenced on Jan. 5 to 30 months in prison.

The indictment cites photographing commercial centers, collecting maps and making contact with businesses in Israel, according to an Agence France Press report.

Australian lawmaker’s call against Israel criticized

The head of Australian Jewry scolded a left-wing parliamentarian who demanded that an Australian member of a Gaza-bound flotilla be immediately released.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Dr. Danny Lamm chastized Greens Sen. Lee Rhiannon Monday after she called on the Israeli government to release Sydney resident Michael Coleman, one of 27 pro-Palestinian activists arrested Nov. 4 by the Israeli Navy as they trief to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

“It is the Israeli Defense Forces that have acted illegally as the boat Mr. Coleman and other Freedom Waves participants were on was in international waters when intercepted,” said Rhiannon, a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

But Lamm retorted: “Senator Rhiannon’s characterization of the blockade of Gaza and the boarding of vessels that are used to break the blockade as ‘illegal’ is mendacious nonsense.

“The people who want to break the blockade are not interested in providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians,” Lamm added. “If that was their fundamental aim, they could send their supplies in by land via Israel.  Their main purpose is to harm Israel and her people.”

Australian man arrested in Israel for spying for Hamas

An Australian citizen was arrested by Israel and charged with spying for Hamas.

Iaad Rashid Abu Arja, 46, a computer expert, was indicted in Petah Tikvah District Court last week, accused of being recruited by the banned Islamic organization.

Israeli prosecutors allege Abu Arja, who holds dual Australian and Saudi citizenship, was asked to provide intelligence and surveillance information on key technology companies in Israel. He also holds a Jordanian passport.

Hamas believes the Israeli companies are developing technology to intercept missiles fired from Gaza.

The indictment, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, says: “The main purpose of the visit to Israel was to see how easily he gets in and out. He was asked as a computer man to meet local companies (involved in developing Israel’s anti-missile technology), to photograph them and to get maps with directions to these companies.”

It also alleges he contacted Hamas while living in Australia in 2007 and went to Syria in 2008 for military training. Last year he allegedly went to Saudi Arabia where he met a senior Hamas official who asked him to test whether he could easily enter Israel.

Abu Arja was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport when he tried to enter the country last month. He is due to appear in court in June.

Hamas’s military wing is proscribed in Australia.

Aussie Jews play key role in apology to aborigines

In what could be described as Australia’s Yom Kippur, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week expressed the one word his predecessors refused to utter to indigenous Australians: Sorry.

Rudd’s Labor Party wrested power from John Howard’s Liberals last November on a platform that included apologizing to the “Stolen Generations” — up to 100,000 mostly mixed-blood aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families between 1910 and 1970.

The text of the motion on the Stolen Generations, which won bipartisan support, acknowledged the “profound grief, suffering and loss” inflicted on Aborigines.

Australian Jews, some of who have been at the forefront of the decades-long reconciliation effort, applauded the apology.

“To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry,” Rudd said. “And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”

In a historic speech that drew cheers and tears, Rudd said he hoped the apology would remove “a great stain from the nation’s soul.”

Mark Leibler, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, a national organization that promotes reconciliation, said Rudd’s apology marked a “watershed” in Australian history, but that this should be just the beginning of the reconciliation process.

“The shame as far as this country is concerned will not be cleared up until we bridge the 17-year gap in the life expectancy between indigenous and nonindigenous Australians,” said Leibler, who attended the apology ceremony in Canberra on Feb. 13.

Leibler is also the chairman of the world board of trustees of Keren Hayesod/United Israel Appeal and national chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

“We’ve suffered 2,000 years of persecution, and we understand what it is to be the underdog and to suffer from disadvantage,” he said.

Jews have been at the forefront of pushing for civil rights in Australia.

In 1965, Jim Spigelman, a cousin of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman and now chief justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, led 30 students on the first Australian Freedom Ride — a journey into outback Australia to protest racial discrimination against Aborigines, who were not entitled to vote and were prohibited from swimming pools, pubs and other public places.

In the country town of Moree, a racist mob attacked the students and, according to newspaper reports at the time, Spigelman was smacked to the ground.

The man most Jews and Aborigines hail as having made the greatest contribution to the cause of aboriginal rights is Ron Castan, a Jewish Australian dubbed by aboriginal leaders as the “great white warrior.”

Castan, who died in 1999, was the lead counsel in the landmark 1992 Australian Supreme Court “Mabo judgment” — named for plaintiff Eddie Mabo — which overturned the legal fiction that Australia was “terra nullius,” or an uninhabited land, when white settlers first arrived in 1788. Aborigines now own more than 10 percent of Australia’s land mass.

In a 1998 speech, Castan implored the government to say it was sorry, citing Holocaust denial in his argument.

“The refusal to apologize for dispossession, for massacres and for the theft of children is the Australian equivalent of the Holocaust deniers — those who say it never really happened,” Castan charged.

In 1999, Howard proposed a motion expressing “deep and sincere regret” for the injustices suffered by Aborigines, but the then-prime minister said Australians “should not be required to accept guilt and blame” for the policies of previous governments.

Aborigines number about 450,000 in an Australian population of 21 million. They are the most disadvantaged group in Australia, suffering high rates of infant mortality, unemployment, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

More than 100 members of the Stolen Generations were present at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on national television and on giant screens across the country.

“Our faith teaches and emphasizes the universal principles of coexistence and respect for human dignity and rights,” Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australia, said in a statement. “It teaches the need to recognize and rectify any failings we may display in our interaction between our fellow man. To say ‘sorry’ in a meaningful manner goes a long way in ensuring that mistakes and discrimination will not be repeated.”

In addition to their activism on aboriginal issues, Jews were instrumental in leading the crusade against the White Australia Policy, a series of laws from 1901 to 1973 that restricted nonwhite immigration to Australia.

The president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, said he is proud of the Jewish community’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation.

Rudd’s apology marked “the beginning in a new chapter in the quest by indigenous Australians for complete equality with their fellow Australians,” Goot observed.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of the Great Synagogue in Sydney said in a speech on reconciliation this month that Jews must not “deny nor stand by nor stand silent in the face of the pain of the Stolen Generations. It is incumbent on us to acknowledge the wrong, to apologize for the damage caused.”

Noting the importance to Jews of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the British-born rabbi said Australia should have a similar institution for Aborigines.

“There ought to be a national place where people who have suffered can come and identify with their past and understand that the incursion of their culture and heritage has been recognized and an apology has been made,” he said.

Rudd’s apology comes more than a decade after a 1997 inquiry in Australia’s Parliament, called the “Bringing Them Home” report, concluded that the Aborigines suffered “an act of genocide aimed at wiping out indigenous families, communities and cultures.” The report urged the government to apologize and offer compensation to the victims and their families.

The apology offers no recourse to compensation, although the issue is now being hotly debated. It also re-ignited the so-called “history wars” between those who believe the Stolen Generations were kidnapped in a sinister attempt to breed out their aboriginality and others who say it was a benevolent attempt to save half-caste children from the ills of aboriginal society.

7 Days In Arts


They’re breakin’ out the fine china for two big Jewish entertainers today. As if seven Emmy’s and five Golden Globes weren’t enough, Ed Asner racks up another award “for his tireless contributions” to FirstStage Theatre, an organization dedicated to helping writers refine and develop their work for theater and film. You can attend their 20th anniversary gala honoring Asner for the bargain price of $75, proceeds from which will benefit FirstStage. Those with more to spend may consider dropping a cool $300 (or as much as $1,000) for the chance to see another legend. Burt Bacharach gets the “Mr. Wonderful” award and sings for his dinner at the 48th annual Thalians Ball tonight, too. Proceeds from this one benefit the Thalians Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai.

FirstStage Theatre Gala: 8 p.m., United Methodist Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-6271.Thalians Ball: 6 p.m. (cocktails and silent auction), 8 p.m. (event). Century Plaza Hotel, 2025 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles. (310) 423-1040.


You might’ve missed the celebrity elbow-rubbing Thursday night, but for those whose budgets don’t afford $150 cocktail receptions, there’s still time to check out the main event this weekend. Eighteen bucks gets you into Barker Hangar for the run of the ninth annual L.A. Art Show. Promising 60 vendors and dealers from the United States and Europe — and more than $50 million worth of works by “Old Masters to cutting edge contemporary, including photography” — it’s a veritable flea market of fine art. Israel Hershberg’s works will be among those displayed at the show. Those taking a liking to it should consider Forum Gallery’s “Special Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Israel Hershberg,” which remains on view through Oct. 18.

L.A. Art Show: Oct. 10, noon-8 p.m.; Oct. 11, noon-7 p.m.; Oct. 12, noon-6 p.m. Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. (800) 656-9278.Forum Gallery: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (Tuesday-Saturday). 8069 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 655-1550.


Seven Days’ wacky event of the week award goes to the Australian aboriginal art auction taking place today. Milking the Aussie thing for all it’s worth, the event planners have booked a kangaroo — to do what, we’re not sure; Outback Restaurants will provide the catering; and John Olsen, consul general of Australia, is scheduled to attend. With the restrictions the Australian government places on the exportation of native treasures, it’s rare that pieces like these are up for sale. Holocaust survivor Simonne Levi-Jameson, whose life story is being made into a movie, is the owner of this collection, from which 18 paintings will be auctioned off. Proceeds partially benefit UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders.Fax invitation requests to: (310) 657-1761.


Tuesday brings you more very fine art. Painter Kamran Khavarani’s big and vibrant “Color of Love: My Dreams and Visions” exhibit at the Gallery on Lindbrook is a blending of impressionism, expressionism and abstraction inspired by the poetry of 13th-century Persian mystic philosopher Rumi. See the pretty pictures alongside works by fellow celebrated Iranian expat artist Jalal Sousan-Abadi through Nov. 1.Noon-6 p.m. (Tuesday-Thursday), noon-8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday). 10852 Lindbrook Ave., Westwood. (323) 656-2000.


Shimon Peres is back in town this week, stepping up to the podium to help kick off the new season of the Distinguished Speaker Series of Pasadena. The speaker has distinguished himself in various ways, including being a former Israeli prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Hear what he’s got to say for himself tonight.8 p.m. $38-$50. Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. (626) 449-7360. Peres will also be speaking on Nov. 12 at Stephen S. Wise Temple, Nov. 13 in Thousand Oaks and Nov. 14 in Redondo Beach.


Had your fill of Down Under? Head downtown to the Central Library today to see some treasures from our side of the globe. Currently on view is “American Originals: Treasures From the National Archives,” an exhibition of 25 historically significant documents. Included in the show are Germany’s surrender in World War II, a complaint by Levi Strauss for infringement of his patent and the Louisiana Purchase Treaty. Head back Dec. 5-8 to see the Emancipation Proclamation, which will be displayed only briefly due to its fragile condition.10 a.m.-8 p.m. (Monday-Thursday), 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 1-5 p.m. (Sunday). Getty Gallery, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles. (213) 228-7506.


Richard Kline of “Three’s Company” fame proves he’s not just a gigolo in his performance as a very different Larry in “Boychik.” The acclaimed one-man show, written by Richard W. Krevolin, tells the story of a secular son who must come to terms with the death of his Orthodox father. It plays through Nov. 16.8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (Sunday). $15-$18. The Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Ave., North Hollywood. (818) 787-0300.

Casual Sex

When Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky lived in London in the early 1990s, he befriended a circle of artsy Aussie women who let him sit in on their frank chats about sex.

One of their favorite topics was how a one-night stand could unexpectedly evolve into a relationship. Commercial and music video director Teplitzky turned the concept into his debut feature film, "better than sex," which opens today in Los Angeles.

In the charming romantic comedy, Cin (Susie Porter) and Josh (David Wenham of "Moulin Rouge") meet at a party and ponder the pros and cons of spending the night together. Cin, a costumer form Sydney, privately rejoices that Josh is returning to London in three days, so she won’t have to risk messy emotional involvement. Filmmaker Josh notes that "as soon as you’re about to leave the country, you suddenly become more desirable" — a phenomenon Teplitzky noticed while backpacking around Europe in the ’90s.

The 42-year-old director, who was raised in a culturally Jewish home in bushland outside Sydney, believes his characters’ point of view is uniquely Australian. Through his Jewish eyes, the Aussies have a strangely casual attitude toward sex — coupled with a "distinctly Anglo-Sexon emotional reticence," he jokes. "It’s not two drunken people ending up in bed; it’s more like two middle-class people making a calculated decision."

One impetus for the film came from Teplitzky’s own experience during a business trip Down Under around 1991. Three days before he was to return to London, he got together with a platonic friend, Amanda, ostensibly on a casual basis. Three years later, he moved in with her in Sydney and they had a son, Miro, now 6.

Sadly, Amanda was diagnosed with breast cancer during the "better than sex" shoot in 2000; she died Oct. 14. "The film has been a healthy distraction that helped me get through this difficult time," Teplitzky says.