Excerpt of Shattered Lives Broken Dreams: William Cooper and Australian Aborigines Protest Holocaust


ANZAC Light Horse Tour of Israel

Since we had handed over the Certificate of Apology from Australian Christians to Solly Kaplinski in 2004, it had been on our heart to present a plaque expressing that apology in the hope that it would sit beside Australia’s previous record of shame. As we were leading a group of Australians and New Zealanders on an ANZAC Light horse tour of Israel in October-November 2010, Norman and I decided to put a copy of the previous apology made to Yad Vashem, which had been on paper, on to a beautiful plaque engraved in gold and with a new date. We did so in time to take it on our trip.

However, there were a couple of issues. Solly was no longer working there. Also, although the initial response to the plaque was positive, we were then told that Yad Vashem now had a policy of not accepting apologies, at least while Holocaust survivors were still alive. We are not sure of the basis of this policy, but we understand the following difficulties that can be a consideration in this type of situation:

  • Accepting an apology as an institution representing victims when many are no longer alive to authorise it or as an individual who may or may not be a Holocaust survivor or relative of a Holocaust survivor and who believes he or she cannot speak for the others
  • Accepting an apology from someone who was not directly a perpetrator but who is of the same nationality and/or religion as the perpetrator and wants to take spiritual responsibility on their behalf
  • Concern that the person saying sorry only wants to remove the guilt from them or their people but the damage can’t be undone, and the pain is too much to be relieved by such an apology

Also, three people in our group of twenty-one did not understand the issue of Evian as it was not the main purpose of our trip. One of them had been to Yad Vashem before and did not want to go again, but we felt we needed to stay together as a group, especially as we were heading out of Jerusalem after our visit. We were not able to set up an appointment to hand over the plaque (which we planned to do quietly and not in any special handover) to an appropriate person. So, we left disappointed.

Before we left for Israel, we saw an article in The Australian newspaper, talking about William Cooper being honoured at Yad Vashem in Israel, the first Indigenous Australian to be so honoured. We wanted to go but thought it was too close to our ANZAC tour to do so, and we couldn’t afford to stay in Israel between our October-November tour and the mid-December event. 

17 Australian MPs to Visit Yad Vashem re William Cooper

We had contacted Peter Wertheim of the ECAJ and others from the Jewish community in Australia before going to Israel on the ANZAC tour, letting them know what we were doing. Peter told us to email him from Be’er-Sheva with details of the commemoration event, and he would get it out to Jewish media, which he did. We really appreciated this.

While still in Israel, Peter contacted us with a news story of a bipartisan group of seventeen Australian parliamentarians going to Israel in December for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum organised by Jewish Australian Albert Dadon. It looked as if it had been purposely timed for them to be able to attend the honouring of William Cooper. We were to find out after doing some research back in Australia that this was the case. Albert Dadon was the donor that made the honouring of William possible. The media reported the visit as the largest Australian parliamentary delegation to visit Israel with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd leading the delegation 

The other Labor MPs expected to attend were Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, Industry Minister Kim Carr, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Mike Kelly, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles and MPs Michael Danby, Anthony Byrne and Bill Shorten, the Assistant Treasurer.

The Liberal Party planned to send nine members and senators — deputy leader Julie Bishop (who was unable to attend), Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, George Brandis, Kevin Andrews, Brett Mason, Mitch Fifield, Steven Ciobo and Guy Barnett.

When we returned to Australia, we weren’t sure of the exact dates and times of the events to honour William in Israel or the nature of the events to honour him and we wanted to make sure that if we could get there, we had the permission of William’s family and of Yad Vashem to attend. 

We had been trying for some years to make contact with William’s relatives and had only been able to find Wayne Atkinson from Melbourne University. However, he was out of the country when we had our special event in Melbourne in July 2007 to honour William. On the few occasions, we were in Melbourne, he was not available.

On 26 November, we contacted Peter Wertheim by email and let him know that we were interested in William Cooper and had been promoting his story for some years. He had mentioned William Cooper to us before leaving for Israel, but we’d not had time to go into it then. We thanked him for sending the information about the 17 MPs. Then Peter contacted us with the notice of an event in Melbourne where Kevin Russell and Uncle Boydie (Alf Turner), descendants of William Cooper, were holding an anniversary walk on December 5 from William’s old home in Footscray to Federation Square retracing the steps William and the others took to the German Consulate on December 6, 1938. We were very excited about this. 

We contacted Kevin and honoured him for walking in the steps of his great grandfather. We said we’d love to come to Melbourne but couldn’t make it, but we would like to go to Israel instead for the honouring of William at Yad Vashem in December (a couple of weeks). Kevin was also excited to hear about us and our long-term interest in his great grandfather. He was fine with us attending the event in Israel. He was attending along with other family members.

Kevin wrote to Norman, saying, “Your work for reconciliation and peace are certainly mirrors of William’s hopes and dreams, if only they would have listened.”

Kevin’s general email out gave us Sunday 12 December as the date that the dinner honouring William would be held at Yad Vashem and he mentioned another dinner at King David Hotel of the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum which the family had been invited to attend. It was expected that the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Netanyahu would attend this. In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister attended instead.

Representations to 17 MPs re Evian Apology

We realised that there was an opportunity that could not be missed. Seventeen parliamentarians from Australia would be visiting Yad Vashem and they would no doubt give them a tour. It would be highly likely that they would see the statement by T.W. White of Australia, most of them for the first time. After consultation, I decided to contact all of them on behalf of our Centre and urge them to view the plaque and support an apology from the Australian government to the Israel government. 

After all, Kevin Rudd, at the opening of Parliament after he became Prime Minister, made an apology on behalf of the nation to the stolen generation of Aboriginal people and their descendants. This had been done on 13 February 2008. The Jewish community in Australia did not have to wait any longer and nor did we. I let Hilary Moroney know what we were doing, and she said she would write to Kevin Rudd as well. She also contacted current Prime Minister the Hon Julia Gillard’s office.

I wrote to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on 1 December 2010 and then to all the other MPs. To Kevin Rudd, I acknowledged that we knew that he was aware of what had happened at Evian as he mentioned it two years in a row while speaking to the Christian electorate at meet the candidate events organised by Australian Christian Lobby.

The letter to Rudd signed by Norman, and I read:

 “However, we are hoping that the parliamentarians will find the time to have a tour of Yad Vashem and particularly that they will see the exhibit on the wall about Australia’s stand re taking Jewish refugees at the Evian conference in France in 1938. The nations had come together to discuss what they would do about the growing Jewish refugee problem with the rise of Hitler. Most nations closed the door, but it is considered that Mr T. W. White, the Minister for Trade and Customs from Australia, was stating what other nations were thinking. He said, “as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one …”

“Of course, this decision in 1938 had disastrous consequences for Jews who could not get out of Europe… It would be good to get some response, even an acknowledgement of what occurred, on a government-to-government level. However, if our parliamentarians don’t get to see the exhibit with his remarks while they are there, they would not see the need for a comment.”

Kevin Rudd is a Christian, and his hero is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who resisted the Holocaust and who was killed by the Nazis for it.

In our letters to the MPs, we acknowledged that Australia was one of the leading nations in the world to take Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors after the war. 

Kevin Rudd’s office gave us a late reply on 24 January 2011 stating:

“Thank you for your letter dated 1 December 2010 about the Australian delegation visiting Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial…During their visit to Israel as part of the third Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, members of the Australian delegation, which included a number of MPs, toured Yad Vashem and also attended a ceremony on 12 December establishing the Chair for the Study of Resistance during the Holocaust in tribute to William Cooper. At the ceremony, Mr Rudd, who was also on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, gave a speech in honour of William Cooper.

In that speech, Mr Rudd acknowledged that Australia attended the Evian Conference in 1938 and that we, like many other countries, ignored the persecution that was occurring. Mr Rudd said that “what we did then as a nation was wrong; just plain wrong.”

It was in this context that Australia played such an active role in supporting the creation of the state of Israel, including through then-Foreign Minister Evatt’s chairmanship of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine Question in 1947…”

We emailed Albert Dadon as well, having been told he was already in Israel, with a request that our MPs get to see T.W. White’s statement. We are not sure if he received it.

Back in Israel

On 3 December, we wrote to David Metzler, Director of the English-Speaking Desk, International Relations Division, Yad Vashem, who we had had email contact with before but not met as he was out of town during our earlier Israel visit. We asked if it was possible to have an invitation to the dinner that would honour William Cooper and asked for confirmation of the date and time of the dinner. He was gracious enough to immediately provide us with one, saying that he would be out of town again, so not able to meet us. We were grateful for his hospitality.

We were getting one step closer to being at what we felt would be a momentous opportunity to have an Australian Aboriginal honoured at Yad Vashem in Israel. It would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Pastor Tom and Kate Hess offered us accommodation in their prayer house on the Mt of Olives. A friend made a part contribution to our airfares. It was now possible to go, and we excitedly started to make arrangements. 

Within a week, we were in Israel. It was a particularly windy and cold time. Staying in the very large old prayer house on the Mt of Olives, we experienced nights of loud, whistling winds, shaking the windows and rattling the room. Coming from the tropics, I was unprepared for the weather and had to buy something warm to wear. We are usually in Israel in September, not December and we had left in a hurry, not to miss out on a historic moment, honouring a man of vision and principle like William Cooper.

Yad Vashem Dinner

I discuss the honouring of William elsewhere. Here, I am discussing Evian. Senator Guy Barnett was happy to see us and commented on the letter we had sent him and other MPs. He was very supportive and wanted to sit with us and have a photo taken with us as we had known him since 2004 when he signed out the Parliamentary Theatrette for us to hold a Christian conference in Parliament House Canberra. 

We were careful not to let our concern over Evian, however, take attention away from William and his family’s moment. It was so wonderful to meet William’s family for the first time, in Israel of all places.

Hall of Remembrance

After the dinner, we all went to the Hall of Remembrance, where Kevin Rudd lighted the flame of remembrance and laid a wreath. It was a moving moment. The group, consisting of many dignitaries as well as the Australian parliamentarians and the Cooper family went to the Lecture Hall of the International School of Holocaust Studies for the unveiling of the donor’s plaque and moving speeches by the Minister for Education, Albert Dadon, the donor, representatives of Yad Vashem and Kevin Russell. I was surprised that while speeches were honouring William Cooper, the Israeli speakers brought up the Evian issue again and again. I thought, Evian may not be an issue for Australian Jewry, but it is an issue here in Israel. They were not letting Australia off the hook.

Kevin Rudd’s Speech

Kevin Rudd made an excellent speech where he unreservedly acknowledged that Australia had made the wrong decision at Evian. I am still moved to tears as I read Kevin Rudd’s speech just as I was moved when I heard it in person for the first time. Here is an extract of his long and stirring speech:

“Here in Jerusalem, I acknowledge the first Australians, whose culture we honour this evening as among the oldest continuing cultures in human history…

When we visit the halls of Yad Vashem, we are reminded afresh of the enormity of the evil that was visited on the Jewish people. We cry for the millions of the lives lost. We cry for the one and a half million children that were lost. Families uprooted, scattered, torn apart. We cry particularly for the children. This truly was the death of the innocents.

So, in this sacred place, we come to cherish the memory, and with the rest of human kind to remind ourselves afresh never, ever, ever again, in any place, for any people, at any time …

It has been mentioned tonight that we, as Australia, among the other nations of the world, attended the conference at Evian in 1938, and we, in Australia, like so many other countries around the world, closed our hearts. And what we did then as a nation was wrong; just plain wrong.

And we know what happened, when others did the same, the Jewish people under such extraordinary persecution then in Europe, and yes Albert, it was well known, the Nazis had come to power some five years before; what we did then in closing our hearts to the needs of the Jewish people was unspeakably wrong.

And when it was all said and done, and six million people lay murdered, the world thought again. One of the things the world did was gather together to support in international law, the establishment of the modern state of Israel.

We in Australia then sought to play our part.

My predecessor, Foreign Minister Evatt, chaired that Palestine Committee, which recommended to the Councils of the World, of the United Nations, that there be a modern state of Israel, and a homeland for the Palestinian people as well. And when we gathered as the United Nations to agree on whether that should be the case, as history records, we in Australia, were the first to put our hand up and say “yes”.

And the international community reflected again, and said “what can we do to make sure that this does not happen again?” And one of the other things we did as a community of nations was agree on the Convention on Refugees so that this would never happen again to any people anywhere at any time …”

No doubt many hearts were touched that night and will continue to be touched as they read Kevin Rudd’s words, said sincerely and with feeling. It may be the closest we will get to a government-to-government apology as members of the Israel government were in the room. I think this was mission accomplished and it may well have happened whether we had contacted Kevin Rudd and the other MPs or not as he was well aware of the issue and would have been aware of Israel’s sensibilities regarding the issue. 

It was an appropriate time and an appropriate place for the acknowledgement that what Australia did at Evian was wrong. An appropriate time because William Cooper stood up against representatives of the Nazi machine to tell them their treatment of Jews was wrong. An appropriate place because it is a memorial to those who so cruelly lost their lives.

Shaya Ben Yehuda Receives Plaque

At the end of the evening, Shaya Ben Yehuda, Managing Director of International Relations, Yad Vashem made sure we were able to get a taxi back to where we were staying and gave us his card. We had met him in the morning in the cafeteria as I was doing some research in the library on Evian. 

Dr Susanna Kokkonen, Shaya Ben Yehuda and Barbara and Norman Miller with the Plaque the Millers Presented to Shaya

Dr Susanna Kokkonen, Shaya Ben Yehuda and Barbara and Norman Miller with the Plaque the Millers Presented to Shaya

We contacted him on Tuesday morning 14 December and arranged to meet at 5 pm. He was busy till then, and it suited us as we were spending the day with the Cooper family visiting the South Australia-Israel Friendship Forest in the Yatir Forest 20km from Be’er-Sheva. Uncle Boydie unveiled a plaque here commemorating William Cooper. We saw the sixty-five trees previously planted in William’s honour in 2009.

We took to Yad Vashem the plaque we had brought with us from Australia with the apology re Evian engraved on it. We told Shaya our story briefly. Shaya was gracious and said that, while he could not extend forgiveness on behalf of Holocaust survivors, he saw the need for repairing relations between our nations and accepted the plaque. We said we understood and were not expecting forgiveness but wanted to acknowledge what happened was wrong and have it recorded on the plaque. 

We said we were still working on a government-to-government response and he said he was pleased with Kevin Rudd’s strong stand on Evian when he spoke at the dinner. Shaya said that Australia had been a good friend of Israel and that Israel had given much technological and other support to Australia. He had himself spent time in Australia. 

Shaya called in Dr Susanna Kokkonen, then Director, Christian Friends of Yad Vashem who had a key role worldwide liaising with Christians who support Yad Vashem and we had a good talk.

King David Hotel

The day before, Kevin Rudd addressed the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. This was an intergovernmental meeting. Rudd remarked on the sense of history the King David Hotel held, even the room in which they were meeting. He said:

“Shimon Peres, Israel‘s President, who we met earlier today, said some years ago that when you come to the King David, you come not just as a guest, but you come also to a place which has seen almost the complete cast of players across the history of the modern state of Israel, often in this room in which we gather here tonight.

From the 1930s, this hotel became the British field headquarters for what was then British Palestine, until Menachem Begin undertook some interior redesign. When the modern state of Israel was formed in 1948, it was here that Ben Gurion afterwards began receiving foreign heads of state and foreign heads of government.

It was here that Henry Kissinger, together with Golda Meir, and Moshe Dayan concluded his shuttle diplomacy that brought to an end the days of the Yom Kippur war. It was here Menachem Begin hosted Anwar al-Sadat’s historic visit of 1977.”

Rudd spoke of a number of issues, but in a government-to- government context, he reiterated his regret about Evian, a view expressed in his office as Australia’s Foreign Minister and a previous Prime Minister. As they said to us in Israel where Kevin Rudd is warmly welcomed, “once a Prime Minister, always a Prime Minister.”

“Of course,” continued Rudd “in the years following the war, Australia also received tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors and other Jewish refugees from Europe as they came to Australia to make their home.

Regrettably, history records that we were not always so generous. As I acknowledged last night at Yad Vashem, when Australia met with thirty-one other nations at the Evian Conference in 1938, we refused to open our hearts, and we refused to open our doors to the Jewish people of Europe despite the unfolding persecution against them.

Disgracefully, our representative at the time said we could not help, that Australia had no racial problems at the time, nor did we wish to import any.

The ancient scriptures have long enjoined us all never to harden our hearts, and yet still we and the other Christian nations of the world did just that. There were, however, people of conscience around the world at that time; people who through conscience railed against injustice wherever they saw it.

As our Australian friends would know, I have long been an admirer of German Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a man who railed against the Nazis from the very beginning; who railed against the Aryan laws from the very beginning; a man who helped Jews escape from Nazi Germany, and a man who ultimately paid the price of his life for his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

There were other courageous acts around the world. There were other noble acts of conscience around the world at that time, including in our country Australia. Again, at Yad Vashem, we honoured one such act of conscience by William Cooper. For our Israeli friends tonight, who were not with us last night at Yad Vashem, let me briefly recall what William Cooper did …”

Norman and I were not present to hear this speech but the Cooper family were, and William Cooper should be honoured in this context. It was good that Rudd reiterated that Australia’s stance at Evian was wrong in this intergovernmental context and that he spoke of the close bipartisan relationship Australia has with Israel.

Guy Barnett’s Speech to Australian Senate

Following on from his December visit to Israel and years of lobbying by Hilary and ourselves, Senator Guy Barnett made an important speech in the Senate while we were there for the National Prayer Breakfast in February 2011. Hilary, Kelvin Crombie and Jill Curry provided the Senator with some information for his speech. Kelvin lived for about 20 years in Israel, led many tours to Be’er-Sheva while working for Christchurch and has written a number of books on the ANZACS in Israel and the Middle East. 

A number of us who had travelled to Canberra for the National Prayer Breakfast stayed up late to listen to his speech in the Senate and give Senator Barnett support. He said:

“Tonight, I acknowledge Australia’s important relationship with the nation of Israel. In particular, I would like to speak about Australia’s involvement at the Evian Conference in 1938 and call on the Australian government to apologise for the hurt that was caused. I will also call on the Australian government to support efforts to commemorate the battle of Be’er-Sheva through the establishment of a museum. I will acknowledge the outstanding Indigenous Australian William Cooper and make further comments about the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum in which I had the privilege to participate in 2009 and 2010 …

It is a matter of national shame that White’s statement on behalf of the government of Australia is still visible at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem as the single representative response for all other nations’ responses of indifference at the Evian Conference and is viewed by thousands of tourists annually.

I note that the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, expressed regret for Australia’s initial refusal to open our doors to those fleeing Nazi persecution at an address to the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum event that I attended with others last December in Jerusalem. This was indeed a dark spot in Australia’s history. I say ‘initial refusal’ as weeks after the infamous Kristallnacht in November 1938, just a few months after the Evian Conference, Australia decided to reassess its alien immigration policy and decided to then admit 15,000 refugees over three years, compared to the previous quota of 1,800 in that year. Perhaps, on reflection, this was still not enough, but progress was made.

But the hurt remains, and I do not believe that Australia has gone far enough to formally and deliberately apologise for those offensive and insensitive comments. Tonight, I call on the Australian government to make a further and unequivocal apology …The formal apology should also be acknowledged on a plaque and presented to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem for public display.

I would also like to highlight the incredible work of Aboriginal leader William Cooper … I also want to acknowledge Norman and Barbara Miller, who were at that presentation in Jerusalem last year, for the work they have done to highlight William Cooper’s efforts and to ensure his story is told. I believe William Cooper should also be recognised in Australia today. I recognise the Millers here tonight, together with Pastor Paul Moroney and Hilary Moroney, Graham McLennan and many others …”

We cheered Guy Barnett from the gallery of the Senate and met with him in his office for refreshments afterwards, which was where we took this picture. He retired as Liberal Senator for Tasmania not long after making this speech which was made on 28 February 2011.

L-R Norman Miller, John Miller, Paul Moroney, Pam McLennan, Barbara Miller, Hilary Moroney, Guy Barnett and Graham McLennan in the Senator’s Office (photo Senator’s staff)

William’s Family Celebrate

On the same night we were in Canberra listening to the Hon Senator Guy Barnett’s speech, it is an interesting coincidence that a celebration was held in Melbourne. The Cooper family and those who had travelled with them to Israel met with their sponsors including Albert Dadon, and Philip Zajac of Erdi Group to look at DVD footage and photos of the trip. It was an opportunity to thank sponsors and report on the trip. They met at the Western Bulldogs Football Ground which is very close to William Cooper’s old home in Footscray. 

Visit to Shaya Ben Yehuda

In September 2011, Norman and I returned to Israel for the All Nations Convocation Jerusalem and thought we would like to give Shaya Ben Yehuda a plaque that had his name on as the recipient and the right date, so we prepared it and quietly gave it to him. Because the trip to honour William Cooper had happened so quickly, the plaque we had given Shaya in December had the date of 27 October on it and mention of the ANZAC delegation from the previous visit where we had hoped to give it. Shaya called Susanna Kokkonen in again to greet us, and she told us about a scheme they have where some people living in different countries become ambassadors for Yad Vashem. We said we were interested.

In early 2011 Norman and I had lunch with a prominent leader of the Jewish community in Sydney, and I raised the Evian issue. He believes Rudd has dealt with it and commented that Australia has the highest number of Holocaust survivors of any nation in the world except for Israel. He also reminded us that even though Australia closed its doors to Jewish refugees at Evian, we did quietly take some shortly afterwards. 

80th Anniversary of Evian

There was another move for the Australian Parliament to apologise to Jewish people for the position of Australia at Evian on the 70th anniversary of the formation of the modern state of Israel which was also the 80th anniversary of the Evian decision. There had been a visit of the Christian Allies Caucus of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to Australia, which may have stirred the hearts of Australian MPs, particularly of those who were Christians. Stuart Robert, the Liberal Member for Fadden, successfully moved the following:

“I move: That this House:

(1) notes that 14 May 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the creation of the modern state of Israel, a seminal event that occurred in 1948, and congratulates Israel on an amazing seventy years of democracy, growth and prosperity;

(2) recognises that 15 July 2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the end of the fateful Évian Conference, convened by President Roosevelt in 1938 in Évian-les-Bains, France, with 31 countries, to discuss the issue of the plight of Jewish refugees fleeing the horror of Nazi persecution;

(3) further notes that:

(a) the Australian Minister for Trade and Customs in 1938, Lieutenant Colonel T.W. White, declined to further assist the Jewish people, stating ‘Australia has her own particular difficulties…migration has naturally been predominantly British, and it (is not) desired that this be largely departed from while British settlers are forthcoming. Under the circumstances Australia cannot do more, for it will be appreciated that in a young country manpower from the source from which most of its citizens have sprung is preferred, while undue privileges cannot be given to one particular class of non-British subjects without injustices to others. It will no doubt be appreciated also that as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration…I hope that the conference will find a solution of this tragic world problem’;

(b) post Kristallnacht, when the Nazis burned Jewish synagogues, businesses and books, Australia did reassess its policy to admit 15,000 refugees over three years, compared to the previous quota of 1,800 per year;

(c) an estimated 6 million Jews and millions of others died during the Holocaust, exacerbated by the failure of Australia and other nations of the world to more fully protect the Jewish people; and

(d) Lieutenant-Colonel White’s statement on behalf of the Government of Australia is still visible at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem as a representative response for all other nations’ responses of indifference at the Évian Conference;

(4) states that this Parliament, as representative of all political parties and the people of Australia, issues a profound apology and says ‘sorry’ to the Jewish people for the indifference shown by the Parliament in 1938 that worsened the impact of the Holocaust; and

(5) notes that:

(a) in doing so, we seek to honour the memory of all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and make right, a great wrong, perpetuated by Australia on the Jewish people;

(b) a request will be made for this motion to be presented to Yad Vashem this 70th year asking that the parliamentary apology be displayed beside Lieutenant-Colonel White’s statement of 1938 that he issued on behalf of the Government of Australia; and

(c) this motion will be provided to the Knesset this 70th year, one parliament to another.”

He then made a speech which he concluded saying:

“As we do this, I request that this motion be presented to Yad Vashem in this 70th year, asking that the apology be displayed beside Lieutenant Colonel White’s statement of 1938 that he issued on behalf of the government of Australia. I formally passed this request along to the secretary of Israel’s foreign minister, and sought his assistance. I also request that this motion be provided to the Knesset in this 70th year, one parliament to another. Again, I formally passed this request along to the convenor of the Israel Allies Caucus Knesset member Robert Ilatov.

I’ll be in Israel in September this year, during Sukkot, as one of the chairs of the Israel Allies Caucus, made up of over 30 parliaments of the world. I look forward to bringing our guilt offering, this motion and its speeches, personally both to the Knesset and to Yad Vashem.

Let me conclude this morning with the words of Psalm 122:

“May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends I will say peace be with you. For the sake of your Lord our G-d I will seek your prosperity.” Amen.”

The Times of Israel reported the story from the Australian Jewish News (AJN) noting a high-level objection from the Jewish community:

“But the bill has been opposed by Peter Wertheim, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, who said that ‘this apparently well-intentioned motion is misconceived,’ AJN reported.

He noted that Australia had taken in more Jews per capita than the United States, Canada or South Africa, and claimed that the country had agreed to admit 15,000 Jewish refugees at the Evian conference, while the motion contends it did so only after Kristallnacht.”

In other words, Peter Wertheim is saying that Australia’s position is a more positive one than generally portrayed. The motion did pass the Australian Parliament as a bipartisan move, and I am informed as of 31 October 2019, that the Hon Stuart Roberts will be delivering it to Israel when a decision is made as to who is Prime Minister of Israel -Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz. 


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