Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Consulate of the Kingdom of Morocco
Jabbour Holding Group
Chairman and Founder
Australian Arabic Council
Ambassador for Peace
Universal Peace Federation Australia
Roland is a distinguished leader in public service and business entrepreneurship with extensive experience of commerce and international trade relations. He is the Chairman of Jabbour Holding Group of companies, with its corporate headquarters based in Melbourne-Australia and offices across the Middle East region and globally. He oversees major projects between Australia and the Arab region, representing Australian universities, as well as private sector and government institutions. Roland’s business network extends over a number of sectors, including international education and training, property development and investments, migration services, Media, hospitality, travel and tourism.
For many years, Roland’s vision and leadership has achieved wide-ranging successful partnerships between Australia and the Arab region, facilitating business and trade relations that work to promote stronger ties between Australia and the Arab world. Roland is well-known and respected within governmental and semi-governmental circles. He is widely consulted for and invited by the media to provide commentary on issues of international affairs and multiculturalism.
He has developed a high profile as a community leader through longstanding commitment to public service and community initiatives. A firm believer in actively contributing to society, he has held numerous community positions and government appointments. Former president and national chairman, he is currently Director on the National Board of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AACCI) as well as the Honorary consul of the Kingdom of Morocco in the state of Victoria and recently member of the Advisory Board - ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies.
He is the founding and current Chairman of the Australian Arabic Council (AAC); founding director of the Australia Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ALCCI); founding and current director of the Australia Oman Business Council (AOBC).
He served as former vice president and board member of the Council for Australian Arab Relations (CAAR) under the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (a federal government appointment); appointed Justice of the Peace for the State of Victoria; admitted to the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices; a Founding Chairman of the Darebin Ethnic Communities Council.. He also served as a member of the Victorian Police Community Multicultural Advisory Council (PACMAC), the La Trobe University Centre for Dialogue, and the Deakin University Languages Advisory Board.
Roland has been a recipient of many awards from Australian and overseas governments in recognition of his service to the Australian community. These include the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) and the Medal for the Centenary of Federation of Australia, awarded by the Governor General & the Commonwealth of Australia for service to the Australian Community and a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of voluntary service to the community awarded by the Premier of the State of Victoria, honoured with the prestigious award of “Ambassador For Peace” in recognition for his distinguished leadership and longstanding service in peacebuilding, public service and international trade relations.
He has also been Finalist for the Australian Ethnic Business Awards (2009) and nominated for the Australian of the Year award (2004).
JABBOUR HOLDING GROUP
Roland Jabbour's most recent media appearances and mentions.
Why Australia's multicultural communities are calling for tailored coronavirus vaccine information
SBS News Article
February 2, 2021
From stopping misinformation spreading to the potential to save lives, multicultural community leaders in Australia say there are a number of reasons why it's paramount COVID-19 vaccine information is communicated clearly in-language and through multiple avenues.
'All it took was a trigger': the racism of the Cronulla riots, 15 years on
TV Interview, SBS
December 12, 2020
This week marks 15 years since the Cronulla riots, with some community leaders saying Australia has not learned the lessons of one of its darkest days.
Australian Arabic Council’s message to the nation in wake of Qatar incident
28 October, 2020
The Australian Arabic Council is urging Australians not to target Qatar as investigations are underway after an invasive strip-search on a group of Australian women.
An archive of Roland Jabbour's media mentions, quotes and contributions
We are not extremists, local Arab leaders say
June 19 1996, The Age, Tim Pegler, Jason Koutsoukis
Melbourne’s Arabic community fears the arrest of a man linked to international terrorism may “cast a shadow” over law-abiding people from Middle Eastern backgrounds.
The chairman of the Australian Arabic Council, Mr Roland Jabbour, urged people not to make connections between the suspected terrorist and locals. “Any suggestions of extremism in Australia are ill founded” Mr Jabbour said. “At times like this, it is popular to project the negative images associated with extremist elements in the Middle East, but it is important we do not draw links with the law-abiding community here.”
The Australian Federal Police Associations said The Age had acted in a responsible fashion by agreeing not to publish details of the arrest of the terrorist suspect, Mohamed Hassanien, until he had been deported. “Their actions are appleciated by this association in safe-guarding the personal security of my members” the Victorian secretary, Mr Dave Boston, said. “The Age contacted the AFP and informed my members of their information. As a result, discussions ensued and senior editorial staff of The Age. “As a result of those discussions The Age agreed not to release their story until the potential threat to members of the various agencies was minimised”...
Article offended Australian Values
November 18, 1995, Herald Sun, Roland Jabbour
The article titled “Back to rule by the gun” by “visiting British historian” David Pryce-Jones (Herald Sun, November 7) is horrifying. His extreme hatred and verbal violence against Arabs oozes from every pore. His raw racism is the antithesis of Australia’s core values of tolerance and multiculturalism. Pryce-Jones describes Palestinians in particular and Arabs in general as lawless and violent. He attributes all things evil exclusively to Arabs and suggests that they have a monopoly over terrorism, assassinations and violence. He attributes “rule of law” to Jews. Do we need to remind Price-Jones about who initiated terrorism in the Middle East? Does he also blame Arabs for assassinations in other parts of the world? Does he seriously believe that Arabs are a ‘closed circle’ to everyone except himself? The Australian Government recently banned the visit by another British historian David Irving, for fear of spreading anti-semitic messages and dividing the community. Yet Pryce-Jones, on a par with Irving has been allowed to unleash his poison with absolute impunity. If one substituted the word blacks or jews where he uses the word Arabs, the Australian government would deport him immediately. Racists have no place in Australia.
Howard calls for tolerance after Australian beach riot
December 12, 2005, NY Times, AP
SYDNEY — Prime MinisterJohn Howardcalled for ethnic and religious tolerance on Monday after racial violence, spurred on by white supremacists, according to the police, erupted in parts of Sydney over the weekend.
Howard condemned a day and night of race riots in the beachside suburbs of Sydney but said he did not believe Australian society had an undercurrent of racism. He also denied that government warnings of home-grown Islamic militants had fueled the riots, which targeted Middle Easterners.
Howard spoke as the police formed a strike force to track down the instigators of the running battles, which involved drunken mobs of white men yelling racial slurs, young men of Arab descent and hundreds of police officers.
Young men of Arab descent retaliated in several Sydney suburbs, fighting with officers and smashing 40 cars with sticks and bats, the police said.
The fighting left 31 people wounded, including police officers and paramedics. One white manwas hospitalized after being stabbed in the back, allegedly by an Arab man who was being sought.There were 16 arrests.
Racial tension sparked violence on Cronulla Beach on Sunday when about 5,000 people attacked youths of Mideast background, saying they were defending their beach after lifeguards were attacked there last week. Violence then spread to a second beach, Maroubra.
Some of those involved were draped in Australian flags; others shouted, "No more Lebs," referring to Lebanese, among other slogans.
"Attacking people on the basis of race and ethnicity," Howard told a news conference on Monday, "is totally unacceptable and should be repudiated by all Australians, irrespective of background and politics."
The New South Wales police said that a group of neo-Nazis and white supremacists had stirred up a drunken crowd at Cronulla Beach.
"There appears to be an element of white supremacists," Police Minister Carl Scully told reporters, "and they really have no place in mainstream Australian society. Those sort of characters are best placed in Berlin 1930s, not in Cronulla 2005."
Arabic and Muslim leaders said violence was expected since Muslims had been subjected to racist taunts, especially since the Iraq war and bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali, where many Australians were among the dead.
"Arab Australians have had to cope with vilification, racism, abuse and fear of a racial backlash for a number of years, but these riots will take that fear to a new level," said Roland Jabbour, chairman of the Australian Arabic Council.
Muslim leaders also accused politicians and media commentators of heightening racial tensions here.
"Fear and scare-mongering have long been targeted toward the Arab and Muslim communities, as politicians, fueled by media sensationalism, justify support for draconian agendas and simplistic policies," Jabbour said.
About 300,000 Muslims live in Australia, the majority in large cities.
The state premier in New South Wales, Morris Iemma, said community leaders would convene this week to discuss ways to prevent further violence.
Rise of the xenophobe could see Australia miss the boat on Middle Eastern trade
July 25, 2002, Sydney Morning Herald, Roland Jabbour
The threat by Iraq to halve wheat exports from Australia as a result of its unmitigated support for a United States war on Iraq should surprise no-one. The Australian Arabic Council has been warning for years of the possible effects of Australia's "America first" foreign policy.
For some time now, Australia's stance towards the Arab world has not reflected its strategic interests. Rather it alienates those in the Arab world who see Australia as blindly following the US in the absence of its own independent policies.
And what does it get for its support of the US? More subsidies for American farmers, damaging Australian trade. Possible cuts to Iraqi imports of Australian wheat, damaging Australian trade.
The Government's handling of refugees, Iraqi sanctions, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the war on terrorism is creating an extremely negative perception in international trade circles.
Policies on crime, terrorism and asylum seekers have legitimised the stereotyping of local Arabic and Muslim communities, fuelling the increase in racial vilification, which if not condemned and tackled strongly by government, will further erode trade relations between our regions.
Many businesses in the region have already expressed their concern directly to their Australian colleagues at the rise in racism and xenophobia in this country. Australia's perceived intolerance is threatening current contracts and its chances of increasing trade share in one of the world's fastest-growing and significant markets.
About 30 per cent of Australia's wheat, flour, grains, dairy products and meat exports are sent to the Middle East, which is the fourth-largest trading bloc among Australia's trading partners.
The total value of Australia's trade with the Middle East has more than doubled in the past decade. Over the past five years, Victorian exports to Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have more than doubled to more than $1.6 billion.
We must support this growth. It is encouraging that Australia's trade with the region has expanded from primary goods to service industries such as health, education, technology and infrastructure. Further regional trade opportunities, particularly development needs, are there for Australia's taking.
The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry has experienced a rapid expansion of membership since the Asian economic downturn, and submissions to the 2001 federal Inquiry into Australia's Relations with the Middle East showed that in trade terms the Middle East is more important to Australia than we are to it.
However, the Government's lack of commitment to trade with the Arab region is manifested both in the way in which Government policy continues to reflect traditional ties, and the lack of enthusiasm and investment in the region.
Our strict visa controls mean people from the Arab region are finding it increasingly difficult to travel between the two regions. Wealthy tourists from the Arab world - who add much to our economy - are no longer sure if it is safe to come to Australia, given the wave of anti-Arab sentiment that has swept through much of the country.
Business must use its lobbying power to halt the Government's dangerous rhetoric on people of Arabic and Muslim backgrounds.
We must teach more about Arabic culture in our schools to eliminate simplistic stereotypes and recognise the importance of the Arabic language, which links 22 countries.
We must capitalise on the 600,000 Arabic-speaking people in Australia and use their knowledge and contacts in the region to further relations. Ties with countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Egypt are close, and these countries have enormous potential for Australian exports and services.
Our Government must confirm its commitment in resources, policies, programs and initiatives that will enhance existing growth and establish a strategic map and long-term plan for future relations with the Arab world.
We must also develop and maintain independent foreign policy towards the Arab world. Central to this is the implementation of recommendations of last year's inquiry, including the establishment of more diplomatic posts in the region and support for those who are seeking to trade with the Arab world.
Our Government appears not to have realised the seriousness of the current "race debate" in Australia.
In a country that was once known for its proud diversity, multi-
culturalism and human rights record, we are now being perceived internationally as a divisive nation that has used minority groups as scapegoats.
The impact of this on our relationship with the Arab world is similar to the effect of the uproar which surrounded the comments of Pauline Hanson some years ago on trade with Asia.
We must address and mend this perception and capitalise on trade opportunities before other countries do. Indeed, it is in our national interest.
Roland Jabbour is chairman of the Australian Arabic Council.
The vulnerable win a heroically inclined crusader
May 31, 1989, Melbourne Times, Sonia Harford
Roland Jabbour, a Lebanese businessman and community leader defies the image of the choirboy who sang at the St Georges Antiochian Orthodox church 15 years ago.
He sits comfortably in a leather chair in a vast office. Dress jewellery adorns his wrists and fingers. A serious man, he allows himself a smile when explaining the origins of his very un-Lebanese christian name. “My father loves books. He was reading a story called The Lovers Of Venice and he named me after the hero of the story, Roland.” Since his early choirboy days in the Thornbury church, Jabbour has been seen as a bit of a latter day hero by the Lebanese community. Fluent in English and ARabic, with a touch of French thrown in, Jabbour spends much of his time explaining and translating legal forms for his compatriots.
A friend once called Jabbour’s clothing factory the Lebanese Embassy and Jabbour says his modern office in, Normanby Avenue is always open to his “vulnerable” non English speaking friends. Jabbour has succeeded in the manufacturing and wholesale business after a thorough apprenticeship in the rag trade.
Leaving school at the age of 12, he worked his way through making hosiery and learning sewing machine mechanics, before returning to school to study commercial law. These studies hold him in good stead as president of the Northcote Ethnic Communities Council and chairperson of the Northcote schools community development network. A position close to his heart is that of secretary of the Atiochian church in Thornbury.
The role of a devout church goer sits easily beside Jabbour’s sophisticated image as a successful businessman. The mobile car telephone is never far from his side and a luxury car is parked outside, but it is Jabbour’s involvement with the church that has increased his standing in Northcote. As the choirboy metamorphosed in to church secretary, Jabbour became involved in the purchasee of the Church building from the Anglican church. Jabbour speaks often of the “richness” of ethnic cultures. In the Antiochian church services are conducted in English, Greek and Arabic - allowing worshippers of old and new generations to participate. “I think it is appropriate for people to maintain their culture. I won’t teach my son to be Lebanese but i will maintain our culture because its valuable. Eventually our children will be Australian.”
Jabbour is the first to acknowledge that “ethnicity” despite its richness can hinder immigrants. He sees the Ethnic Communities Council as a very positive way of linking people with council, government and other services. As president of the group he oversees its efforts to secure government funding in the areas of education, health and services for the elderly. The Northcote school community developments network is another means of drawing non English speaking residents back into the system. Interpreters provide a link between parents and schools to give families a better understanding of the school system. Jabbour says Joan Kirner, Education Minister has approved money for the program which may become a model for others in the state. First and foremost a family man, Jabbour also clearly sees himself taking part in wider range of activities. Politics has crossed his mind. Despite helping the ethnic community in many ways he says “I’m not sure that I’m the type to put a meal on a trolley and wheel it to an old lady” “I’d like to do more administrative, organisational work and see the overall picture” he said. “I set goals that i think are realistic and i get satisfactions out of reaching them”
Confident and successful, Jabbour nevertheless misses what he calls the “innocence” of his homeland. “the old country is always in your blood”
Long-term tensions behind Sydney riots
December 13, 2005, BBC News, Kim Camberg
Residents, police and politicians are all asking what has fuelled the violence which has swept Sydney's suburbs in the last few days.
Was it racism, revenge or simply alcohol-induced aggression?
The first large-scale outbreak of violence, on Sunday in Cronulla, had been a widely publicised event.
Everyone was drunk and anyone of Middle Eastern appearance got bashed. It went on all day into the night
It came a week to the day after two surf life savers had been assaulted in what was believed to be an unprovoked attack by a large group of men of Middle Eastern appearance.
The following week, texts started circulating around Sydney calling for a revenge fight.
By Sunday, the media and a crowd of about 5,000 had gathered in anticipation in Cronulla. Right wing pamphlets were seen circulating in the crowd.
Seventeen-year-old Wade Kereopa and his friend Kurt Sholes were at the beach.
"At about 12 o'clock everyone started gathering at Cronulla and then some guy yelled out 'There's Lebs on the next train!" so thousands of people went up to the station, but there was only about two on the train and about 50 people ran on and bashed them," said Kurt.
His friend Wade, who admits to have been drinking all afternoon, found himself on the train as well.
"I saw a crowd of people running to the train station. I went to have a look and ended up getting pushed onto the train by all the Aussies behind me. All these Aussies were smashing these Middle Eastern people. Then another guy of Middle Eastern origin got chased and beaten by the crowd. Everyone was drunk and anyone of Middle Eastern appearance got bashed. It went on all day into the night," he said.
Apparently in retaliation, a Caucasian man was stabbed after an altercation outside a golf club with "a group of males of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance", according to police reports. Fifty car-loads of youths - again of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance - later smashed 100 vehicles with baseball bats and other weapons. Police received reports of firearms being "flashed" but not discharged.
The hostility escalated and spread across eight suburbs in Sydney's south and west. Sixteen people were arrested and charged with 41 offences.
On Monday, tensions remained high. More retaliatory attacks were carried out and police later made 11 more arrests during a second night of violence.
Car-loads of people were stopped and searched, there was violence at a mosque in the western suburb of Lakemba, assaults were carried out and a group of men armed with iron bars and guns were dispersed by police outside a convenience store in Cronulla.
Despite the fact that right-wing pamphlets have been circulated, the violence does not appear to have been co-ordinated from the wings by extremist groups, but to be the result of large groups of youths fuelled by mass hysteria.
It does, however, come against the backdrop of long-term racial tensions in Cronulla - a predominantly white community with a beach easily accessible on the train from Sydney's western suburbs, which are home to a large Muslim population.
[The violence is] not going to stop one day. It's going to keep going, which is what it's been doing since my father's time
Jason Lalor, Cronulla
Jason Lalor lives minutes from the beach and is pessimistic that there is a quick fix to the deeply rooted antagonism on both sides.
He says he has been harassed by groups of Lebanese youths on more than one occasion and says he is tired of being hassled in his own neighbourhood.
"It's not going to stop one day. It's going to keep going, which is what it's been doing since my father's time."
The Australian Arabic Council (AAC) agrees that tensions have been building.
"These events typify an ugly and fringe element of Australian society," said AAC chairman Roland Jabbour.
"Arab Australians have had to cope with vilification, racism, abuse and fear of a racial backlash for a number of years, but these riots will take that fear to a new level," he said.
On Tuesday morning the New South Wales premier announced he was recalling parliament to push through tough new police powers to allow them to tackle the unrest.
In addition to having new powers of arrest, police will also be allowed to close down pubs and off licenses to prevent inebriated crowds accessing more alcohol.
There are new fears that the violence could spread nationally, with a high volume of mobile phone text messages inciting racial hatred.
One reads: " We'll show them! It's on again sunday... send this to everyone in your phone book... this is a straight up WAR! We must continue to come together to help the innocet an family's so every one can enjoy our beach's!"
The country is watching and waiting to see what happens next.
Arab-Australian business leaders call for balance
October 25, 2014, AFR, Tony Walker
Arab Australian business leaders all agree on the high stakes here of conflict caused by extreme ideologies far away. Some are more willing than others to say what Australia’s leaders should be doing.Talal Yassine assumes the accoutrements of a successful Australian businessman, dressed in a stylish grey suit, matching tie and white shirt. An Australian flag and an Aboriginal dot painting decorate his office in Sydney’s Circular Quay.
But given the upheaval in the Middle East and heightened security concerns at home, his background means he finds himself, as chairman of the Council for Australia-Arab Relations, caught between an advocacy role for his own community and wider concerns about terrorist threats.
The son of a poor tobacco farmer, Yassine, who arrived in Australia from Lebanon at age five in 1977 – on the day, as it happens, the Granville Bridge collapsed – does not downplay threats posed by home-grown Islamic extremists and the need for heightened surveillance.
Talal Yassin, chairman of the Council for Australia-Arab relations, says more should be done to reach out to young Muslims to counter a sense of alienation. Photo: Louie Douvis
But he believes in the need to get the balance right between heavy-handed policing of suspected militants and an allocation of resources required to counter extreme ideologies in the Australian community.
More can and should be done to reach out to young Muslims to counter a sense of alienation, he says.
“We’re not shying away from the problem,’’ he tells the AFR Weekend.
“After all, Australian Muslims have the biggest interest in trying to ensure that conflict in the Middle East does not cause problems here."
Yassine shares the frustrations – and concerns – of many fellow Australian Muslims that perceptions in the wider community have chilled, driven partly by sections of the media which have depicted Muslims negatively.
He mentions that his wife, who wears a hijab, or headscarf, has been made to feel awkward in public recently. He describes prejudice as “low level stuff" that has become more intrusive in recent months.
Joseph Tomane at his baptism.
Joe Tomane reborn for Brumbies in Super Rugby
“They’re trying to entrap people in a narrative," he says.
That narrative can be intimidating.
AFR Weekend encountered significant difficulties persuading successful business leaders with an Arab background to speak on the record about the situation. This included both Muslim and Christian Arabs.
The wealthy Shahin family of Palestinian Muslim origin declined to talk, as did the Abedians, Iranian Shias who have made a fortune in property development via their Sunland group.
Head of Australia Post Ahmed Fahour , who is of Lebanese origin, did not return phone calls. Jac Nasser , chairman of BHP, was unavailable.
A rapidly growing population
What the focus on Muslims in Australia and events in the Middle East have done in recent weeks is to highlight the fact that a significant – and rapidly growing – component of the Australian community is of Middle Eastern origin.
This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims, Kurds, Druze and the Alawites, Christians and a smattering of minorities such as the Yazidis.
A 2011 census found Muslims in Australia numbered 476,291 people, or 2.2 per cent of the population. That number now exceeds half a million. About half are of Turkish and Lebanese origin.
In the 30 years between 1981 (at the height of Lebanon’s civil war) and 2011, the country’s Muslim population grew by 438 per cent. Politically, Muslims are becoming increasingly important, concentrated as they are in the western suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney.
Labor’s heartland lies in those suburbs. Its MPs are sensitised to Middle Eastern issues, including those relating to the Arab-Israel dispute. This is adding to pressures on the Labor leadership to return to a Gough Whitlam -era, even-handed approach to the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
Yasser el-Ansary, a Muslim of Egyptian origin who is chief executive of a major financial services industry body (he did not want it to be named), sees the focus on religious extremism as a “test for how strong we are as a society".
“Most informed people out there know that sideline issues like banning the burqa are just distractions," el-Ansary says. “But the problem is the more oxygen you give to these issues, the more they become a dominant theme. It’s a bit like a fire: the best thing we can do is starve it of oxygen and it will put itself out fairly quickly.
“Most of us want to see a national conversation about things that really matter. I’d like to see more column inches devoted to that."
This means, as far as people such as el-Ansary and Yassine are concerned, more emphasis on trade and commerce to take advantage of vast opportunities across the Middle East.
Focus on trade
Yassine is behind efforts to establish an Australian-Arab dialogue, the inaugural meeting of which will most likely be held in the Gulf next year, drawing representatives from both business communities.
Among those interviewed for this story, Lebanese-born Roland Jabbour , head of the Jabbour Holding Group, which has interests in property, education and travel, proved to be the most outspoken critic of Australian government policy on issues such as the foreign fighters bill, which seeks to make some areas in the Middle East off limits to Australians.
“The whole issue of dealing with the threat of terrorism would have a lot more acceptance among sections of the community if it was more balanced and if it did not single out individuals or areas of conflict overseas," Jabbour says.
He questioned Australia’s decision to involve itself in another Middle East conflict, arguing it risks causing more problems than it’s worth.
“If the government wants to reduce the risk of terrorism it should not be taking part in wars, especially in areas where our national interests are not served,’’ he says.
On the issue of beheadings he says: “We should be horrified. It should be a wake-up call for us to contribute to humanity on a global scale rather than invest in wars and more despair."
Jabbour is a strong advocate of multiculturalism, warning that “if communities don’t effectively integrate within the mainstream of Australian values, we run the risk of being a nation of tribes in which certain groups will remain isolated".
He regards the federal government’s contribution to outreach programs to the Muslim community as miserly.
However, on the subject of the burqa, his views would be closer to PUP Senator Jacqui Lambie ’s than many of his fellow Arabs.
“We came to this country because we aspired to the values we stand for as Australians," he says.
“What we say to the broader Arab community is that if their views and beliefs are so contradictory to our values and beliefs, they are living in the wrong environment."
Jam 'terror TV' broadcasts, says group
August 22, The Age, SMH, Barney Zwartz
AUSTRALIA should investigate jamming an anti-Semitic, pro-terrorism television station being broadcast into Australia from Indonesia, a Jewish advocacy group says.
Anti-Defamation Commission chairman John Searle said yesterday he was disappointed that Australia's Arabic community was supporting the station, al-Manar.
The Australian Communication and Media Authority has twice stopped the channel from being broadcast in Australia, in 2004 and in January this year, because of its support for terrorism. Now it is being transmitted by an Indonesian satellite company part-owned by the Indonesian Government, which has declined American requests to halt the broadcasts.
Al-Manar is operated by Hezbollah, a militant Lebanese Muslim party banned in the United States as a terrorist organisation. In Australia only its armed wing is proscribed.
The fiercely anti-Israel and anti-US station endorses suicide bombing and often broadcasts the final messages of suicide bombers.
Mr Searle said al-Manar went beyond acceptable limits of free speech and was renowned for inciting violence and hatred.
He said he was disturbed at statements by Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour in The Age yesterday that the channel was popular and should not be restricted.
"I would have hoped that a station broadcasting programs which describe Jews as the offspring of apes and pigs and which advocates their annihilation would not receive the support of Australia's Arabic community," he said.
Mr Jabbour responded yesterday by saying that anti-Semitism was wrong and that Judaism should be respected, but that Hezbollah was not anti-Semitic.
"We need to make a clear distinction between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, and between a terrorist organisation and a resistance group," he said.
He said he would not call Jews the offspring of apes and pigs, but that in the context of "the crimes of the state of Israel" it was reasonable for al-Manar to do so and to portray Israeli rabbis as killing Christian children to use their blood in Passover meals.
He said The Age yesterday referred to Hezbollah kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. "That resulted in the release of 500 prisoners rotting in Israeli jails. Israel understands only the language of force. An occupier cannot claim self-defence," he said.
Communication specialist Paul Budde said jamming broadcasts into Australia from a satellite was relatively simple with military equipment, but would require a political decision by the Government rather than a regulatory decision by the media authority.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the authority was analysing al-Manar broadcasts to see whether they offended the counter-terrorism standards.
Move to Block ‘Terror TV’
August 21, 2008 The Age, SMH, Barney Zwartz
AUTHORITIES are trying to stop an anti-Semitic satellite TV station broadcasting into Australia from Indonesia - which has already rejected US efforts to take the channel off the air.
It is the third time Australia has acted against al-Manar, a channel owned by Hezbollah, the militant Shiite Muslim Lebanese political party. The United States lists it as a banned terrorist organisation. Australia lists only its armed wing, the External Security Organisation.
Al-Manar promotes and raises money for terrorism, particularly against Israel. It has just started broadcasting again into Asia and the Pacific from Indonesia, using a company part-owned by the Indonesian Government, and is available to people with satellite dishes.
The station is viciously anti-Semitic - perpetuating the medieval "blood libel" that Jews use the blood of Christian children in their Passover meals - as well as anti-Israel and anti-US. Hezbollah triggered a war with Israel in 2006 after kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.
Al-Manar's political talk shows feature guests from terrorist organisations. It has shown the decomposing bodies of Israeli soldiers. It also screens mundane programming, such as educational children's shows.
Australian Arabic Council chairman Roland Jabbour said it was hypocritical for a government that believed in freedom of speech to ban al-Manar. He said the channel was very popular and widely watched by Arabic speakers in Australia.
"Hezbollah's political wing represents many people in the Lebanese Parliament, and there's nothing military about the television station," he said. He added that "nearly every television channel from the Middle East" can be viewed in Australia, and that others were more likely to advocate violence.
Australia-Israel Review editor Tzvi Fleischer said al-Manar's reappearance was of deep concern.
"It's not only a fund-raising and recruiting tool for a terrorist organisation but is very anti-Semitic, with some very nasty stuff. We hope the authorities look hard at whether they can stop it."
Alerted by The Age this week to al-Manar's presence, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) yesterday confirmed it had begun inquiries.
Al-Manar is banned in the US. A US embassy spokesman in Jakarta last week confirmed it had made representations to Indonesia about the station.
"The US Government has expressed, and will continue to express, its concerns about Hezbollah and al-Manar television worldwide, and remains firmly opposed to their exploitation of the media to promote terrorist acts," he said.
Indonesian Communications Minister Muhammed Nuh said: "We can't stop anyone here as long as they aren't violating our regulations.
"The US Government has no right to intervene in Indosat's affairs" a reference to the satellite broadcaster.
The Indonesian Government owns 14% of the satellite company and has the right to veto strategic decisions, according to a media report.
In 2004 ACMA stopped a Sydney-based provider transmitting al-Manar as part of a package of Arab stations. In January this year ACMA alerted a Thai company that was broadcasting al-Manar into Australia. The company dropped the station.
Yesterday ACMA spokesman Donald Robertson said the authority imposed program standards on terror-related content after investigating al-Manar in 2004.
Mr Robertson could not say exactly what ACMA proposed to do about the Indosat broadcasts. He said the authority's legal power to enforce anti-terrorism standards was not confined to Australia. "ACMA may still issue a notice to an overseas service provider directing it to comply with the act," he said.
A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the minister was aware of ACMA's inquiry and he would work with the authority as the matter developed.
According to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, al-Manar, launched in 1991, transmits 24 hours a day worldwide and is bankrolled by the Iranian Government. The station regularly broadcasts speeches by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and fatwas (Muslim legal rulings) endorsing suicide bombing as legitimate.
Greg Barton, Monash University professor for the study of Indonesia, said the West had little prospect of getting Indonesian co-operation. "It highlights the diminution of soft power for the West in general and America in particular as a direct result of Iraq," he said.
Professor Barton, an adviser to Abdurrahman Wahid when he was Indonesian president, said: "I can't see President Yudhoyono listening to the Americans on this one."
With SARAH SMILES and AFP