I have returned this evening from the launch of the Friends of Israel which was hosted at the Victory Life Centre, and am in awe of the accomplishments of the organisers.
In particular, I was greatly enthused by the public level of support and understanding, with a strong Christian Zionist support base, that is so prevalent in the Perth community. Too often the despondency of the media and the outright hostility of misguided Palestinian advocates can leave Jewish supporters of Israel feeling victimised and isolated. Today’s event was a definate boost to the strength of the nation of Israel.
I think that the context of this moment in time adds even greater importance to what the new Friends of Israel committee have accomplished in just a matter of weeks. We are in the middle of an election campaign, yet senior Parliamentarians made the time to be present today. Moreover, you would struggle to find such bipartisan support for any issue, let alone one concerning foreign representation, in many places. The resolute strength of Australian political support for the modern democracy of Israel as was clearly on show at this event.
Estimates of the crowd ranged from around 1,300 to 1,500 people. This was a strong display of solidarity. Several hundred members of the local Jewish community were present, my only criticism being directed toward the apathy of those local Jewish community members who once again did not extend the effort to be present and counted when it counted the most.
The launch of this movement could not have been more successful, or better constructed than it was. The presentations preceeding the launch were very relevant, and worthy of postings in their own right. For the main event, there were a number of very poignant addresses. Being an apolitical event it was not the time for electioneering, or for discussing policies and views relating to Israel with the aid of technical detail. This was respected and diplomatically upheld across the entire program.
I commend Foreign Minister Stephen Smith for being present and addressing this event. Mr Smith knows that the local Jewish community has been very supportive of his political career, as much as he knows that the sentiment within Australian Jewry generally has been very negative towards several key decisions regarding Israel under his Ministry in the former Rudd Goverment. Mr Smith in his address tonight was unequivocally supportive of Israel as a democracy with the right to defend itself. Whilst I personally continue to feel that actions speak louder than words, and there was much that could have been said and wasn’t said by Mr Smith, it was still a very appropriate and commendable speech that he delivered, and one that from the perspective of the Jewish voter, was very necessary.
Local Member Michael Keenan provided a masterful address that reiterated Israel’s security predicament. His focus remained positive, noting that it is when you need friends the most that freindship counts. Sure, they were big lines to read between, but I was delighted to hear the clarity and assertiveness by which Mr Keenan spoke of Israel’s freedoms. I don’t wish to portray the undertones as being too political. That Mr Keenan was flanked by his challenger candidate Louise Durak, and other Labor candidates such as Alannah MacTiernan and Peter Tinley, demonstrated that this was not a partisan political occasion. The full list of dignitaries can be viewed here.
State Parliamentarians Michael Sutherland and Kate Doust both delivered stirring speeches, forceful in tone and drawing on their first hand experience of being in Israel. Mr Sutherland spoke of the growing campaign against western liberal freedoms, and the importance of Australia’s moral position being clearly articulated on the global stage.
Both the Ambassador of Israel and by video link the Israel Deputy Foreign Minister expressed their thanks to the WA Community for their support. Above all, Mr Bob Kucera again provided very touching and emotive support for Israel as the host, and is a very distinguised choice of leader for this new organisation.
Friends of Israel has made a spectacular start, and deserves full credit for their accomplishment. If nothing else, today demonstrated the potential of broad Western Australian support, understanding, and education of all that Israel represents. This event drew a crowd that was predominently linked to the Jewish community and host church. My only suggestion to the organisers is to arrange a bigger venue, and potentially a civic facility as opposed to a religious institution, if nothing else to provide more of a diplomatic and less of an evangelical tone to the event (if any prayers are to be cited into future events, perhaps a non-demoninational focus should also be maintained). However the broad support base for Israel, being Jewish, Christian, and secular Zionist adherents should be extended the opportunity to come together more often, and the Friends of Israel organisation has suddenly emerged as the right medium to acheive this. The Friends of Israel concept has garnered global momentum, and now within Western Australia, we should all be proud to show that we too are a community that stands in solidarity with the religious and political freedoms of Israel, and against the outrageous campaign of delegitimisation that threatens us all.