70th Anniversary of the Establishment of the State of Israel

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

SPEECH

On Motion by Stuart Robert

70th Anniversary of the Establishment of the State of Israel

26 March 2018

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

I congratulate Israel and its citizens on this momentous milestone.

Australia is not merely an ally of Israel.  We are a friend.

And this is a friendship has stood the test of time, through the upheavals of our political cycles here in Australia, and though the ever-changing diplomatic and political conditions of the world in which we live.

Through all of this change I have been proud to see successive Australian Governments, Labor and Liberal, supporting the State of Israel.  And we will continue to provide this support.

Clearly, we have learned from mistakes in our past.  In the dark months before the outbreak of World War II Australia, like many Western countries, failed Jewish refugees seeking to flee Nazi Germany.  At the Évian Conference in France in 1938, our delegate, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas White, declared on Australia’s behalf that "as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one."

This deplorable sentiment was soon replaced with heartfelt compassion. Having learned of the horror of the Holocaust, in the post-war period Australians overwhelmingly welcomed survivors coming to our shores.

Indeed, while the Australian Jewish community dates back to the beginning of European settlement and the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, by far the largest number of Jewish immigrants arrived after the end of the Second World War. The first boat of post-war Jewish refugees docked in Sydney Harbour in November 1946, with nearly everyone aboard survivors of the Holocaust.

The following year, on 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted by 33 votes to 13 in favour of the establishment of the State of Israel. 

And in 1949 the Chifley Labor Government ensured that Australia was among the first nations to formally recognise the new-born State of Israel. Labor’s own ‘Doc’ Evatt presided over the historic vote in May 1949 that admitted Israel as the 59th member of the United Nations. 

I am always moved when I recall the comments of Abba Eban, who in acknowledging the Australian Government’s contribution to the recognition of Israel declared that ‘the warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations have earned for you the undying gratitude of our people.'

It is important to remember that while the Jewish people’s claim to Palestine was established long before the United Nations was even dreamed of, with the passing of Resolution 181 the community of nations made a clear, unequivocal and irrevocable statement of Israel’s right to exist under international law.

I am deeply proud that Australia has important historic links to the creation of the State of Israel and I am equally proud of the enduring friendship that our nation has built with Israel in the nearly 70 years since its establishment.

Of course, like many friendships that extend back over generations, Israel and Australia do not agree on everything.  But differences of opinion cannot shake the rock-solid foundations of our friendship or of our commitment to each other.

I commend and congratulate Israel on its achievements and successes of the past 70 years and repeat Australia’s commitment to the existence of the State of Israel, as well as Australia’s ongoing support for the peaceful establishment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Despite the enormous challenges Israel has faced since before its founding, it has not only survived but is now a thriving nation of over 8 million people.  It is home to a rich history of cultures and champions many of the freedoms lacking in other parts of the Middle East.

I, like many Australians, will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel on May 14.  The story of Israel is one of success against enormous odds.  It is a story that many Australians can relate to.

I wish the State of Israel the very best for on the 70th anniversary of its modern re-birth.

Looking forward to May, when I say to the people of Israel and those celebrating in Australia, Yom Hatzmaut Sameach – Happy Independence Day!

Thank you.