Australian council stops synagogue construction due to terror target fears
(Mark Metcalfe/Pool via AP
A local council in Australia has prevented the construction of a new synagogue due to fears that it could be a terror target, news.com.au reported on Thursday. The new place of worship was planned for a site just hundreds of meters from the country's iconic Bondi Beach.
The decision was upheld by the Land and Environment Court, which appeared to use the proposal's own risk assessment to determine that the synagogue could be a target and therefore endanger the lives of worshipers and local residents.
However the council also said that any changes to make the building safer would be unacceptable as they would have too great an environmental and aesthetic impact on the neighborhood.
“The proposed development should be refused as the site is not suitable for the proposed synagogue use as the Preliminary Threat and Risk Analysis relied on by the Applicant raises concerns as to the safety and security of future users of the Synagogue, nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians in Wellington Street and the physical measures proposed to deal with the identified threats will have an unacceptable impact on the streetscape and adjoining properties.”
Local Jewish community leaders were vocal in their disagreement with the ruling.
“The decision is unprecedented,” Rabbi Yehoram Ulman said in a statement, according to Australia's Daily Telegraph.
“Its implications are enormous. It basically implies that no Jewish organisation should be allowed to exist in residential areas. It stands to stifle Jewish existence and activity in Sydney and indeed, by creating a precedent, the whole of Australia, and by extension rewarding terrorism.”
Rabbi Ulman also said the decision “came as surprise and shock to the entire Jewish community” but was even more scathing about the council, warning it had threatened the future of Jewish life in Australia.
“By pulling the terror threat argument they have shown that they are completely out of touch both with the reality and with needs of their constituency,” he said.
“They have effectively placed in jeopardy the future of Jewish life in Australia.”
Community representative Vic Alhadeff of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies expressed sadness and outrage at the decision in an interview with news.com.au.
“It’s a very sad day for Australia if an established community, which needs a house of worship, is refused permission to build it because of fear that others may pose a threat,” he said.
“This simply shows how we’re all losing our freedoms. Those who want us to be afraid are winning, and this ill-conceived judgment represents a dangerous precedent.”
In response a council spokesperson told the news site that Waverley Council's decision was supported by the concerns of local residents as well as the court, reiterating that "the site is unsuitable for a synagogue because of the potential risk to users and other members of the general public."
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this is truly pathetic. if something like this came out of Europe I wouldn't be surprised, but Australia? sad sad sad