The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has condemned Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery for comments he made to a pro-Palestine rally on Saturday, October 21, however the mayor has stood by his comments, saying he sought to explain, not justify, the actions of Hamas.
In a statement posted to LinkedIn, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies labelled Mr Bradbery's remarks as "reprehensible and irresponsible", saying Wollongong's Jewish community are "disturbed and appalled".
Mr Bradbery spoke at the rally and told the hundreds in attendance that Hamas's actions on October 7 were the result of the isolation and repression of the population of Gaza, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2005 and was previously militarily occupied by Israel since it seized the strip of land from Egypt in the 1967 war.
On October 7, Hamas launched an attack on Israel, killing 1400 Israelis, many of whom were civilians, including children.
In response, Israel has bombarded Gaza for the past three weeks, killing more than 8000 Palestinians, many of whom are also civilians and children.
On Saturday, October 28, Mr Bradbery told the Mercury he respected the Jewish Board of deputies, but stood by his comments.
"I didn't say what I did as a means of justifying any form of violence, what I did offer is an explanation as to why we're in this situation," he said.
Mr Bradbery has long supported the Palestinian cause, both as mayor and during his time as a Uniting Church minister. The Mayor, who was noted for his outspoken views in his time as a minister, said he would stand up against injustice, wherever he saw it occurring.
"It's in my DNA to stand up for those who are marginalised, dispossessed," he said.
"I can't sit on my hands while there's an injustice."
Mr Bradbery said the dispossession of the Palestinian people went back to before the creation of Israel, to the turn of the 20th century, when increased Jewish migration to Palestine began to push out the existing Palestinian population.
Since September, Wollongong Art Gallery has hosted the Courage to Care exhibition, the result of collaboration between Wollongong City Council and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, following revelations that Bob Sredersas, who donated the founding art collection to the city, was linked to Nazi atrocities.
The exhibition highlights those who stood up against the persecution of Jewish people during the Holocaust of WWII.
Mr Bradbery confirmed he had spoken with the CEO of Courage to Care NSW Ed St John after his remarks last Saturday and that the exhibition would continue as planned.
"We need people with the courage to care for anyone who's being marginalised, dispossessed or poorly treated," Mr Bradbery said.
"That goes for Israelis as well as Palestinians."
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