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The Bomber's Veto    

The Bomber's Veto

The unfortunate decision to withhold a building permit from the Jewish community in Sydney imposes a burden on synagogues that other houses of worship do not have to face…


No building permit for Australian synagogue — it might draw ISIS-supporter terrorist attacks and endanger neighbors…


A LOCAL council has banned the construction of a synagogue in the Bondi suburb of Sydney because it could be a terrorist target, in a shocking move that religious leaders say has caved in to Islamic extremism and created a dangerous precedent.


The decision, which has rocked the longstanding Jewish community in the iconic suburb, was upheld in court this week as the nation reeled from the alleged airline terror threat and debate raged over increased security measures at airports and other public places.


The council contended that “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.” Yesterday’s court decision (Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe v. Waverley Council) agreed that there was a sufficient “factual basis” for the council’s position. And once such a threat “to users and the community” was shown, then “the guidelines can be used to justify modification of the development to minimize crime risk, or, refusal of the development on the grounds that crime risk cannot be appropriately minimized.”


Moreover, the developer (here, the synagogue) bears the burden of showing a “specific risk assessment for the site,” and thus justifying why the specific risk reduction measures that the synagogue proposed “respond appropriately to that risk.” (Here, the synagogue suggested “using landscaping to soften building form and minimize impact of security devices.”) The court concluded that the synagogue hadn’t done so. And the court also said that “It is also a valid question to ask whether the raised [crime prevention through environmental design process] is the appropriate means to address a potential terrorist threat. It would seem that a more sophisticated risk assessment process could be required for matters such as a potential terrorist threat.”


So while in theory this might leave open the possibility that a synagogue might be built — with much delay and expense — if measures that “minimise [terrorism] risk” are proposed to the court’s satisfaction, in practice it’s not clear that any such measures would suffice. (Recall that one possibility is “refusal of the development on the grounds that crime risk cannot be appropriately minimized.”) The risk to “nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians” from, say, a truck bomb is hard to eliminate. Perhaps placing a synagogue in a rural area that is far from neighbors would suffice — but that would banish synagogues from the neighborhoods where Jews actually live.


In any event, the unfortunate decision imposes a burden on synagogues that other houses of worship (churches, mosques, Buddhist temples) do not have to face. It imposes the burden precisely because synagogues are already burdened by the threat of terrorist attack, thus piling governmental repression on private repression. By giving a “bomber’s veto” — a version of the heckler’s veto, in which the police shut down a speaker because thugs are threatening violence against him — to the Islamic State and its supporters, it encourages them. (“Look, brother: Already our fight for Islam and against its enemies has led to vile synagogues being blocked even in faraway Australia!”) And it encourages would-be copycats of other ideologies, who learn that they can shut down organization X by sufficiently threatening X that the government signs up to help shut X down.


I will not cry for what happens after the Islamization of Austrlia....and they will deserve whatever they get.

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