Thursday, 25 April 2013

Prime Minister Gillard signs London Declaration

In 2009, Parliamentarians from around the globe signed the London Declaration, a document which strongly condemned anti-Semitism. The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard added her signature to the document effectively linking Australia with the existing signatories.

Although she did not speak at the Sydney signing attended by community leaders, Prime Minister Gillard did prepare remarks which J-Wire publishes below…

“I am here to sign the London Declaration on Combating Anti- Semitism.  And this is why:

A synagogue vandalised in Brussels.

An explosive device detonated at a Jewish community building in Sweden.

A rabbi attacked in Berlin.

Jewish graves desecrated in Prague.

Four Jews shot and killed at a Jewish school in France.

And even in my home city of Melbourne, graffiti was sprayed painted in a shopping centre saying:
-     “The best Jew is a dead Jew”.

All these events – and hundreds more like them – occurred in just one year:  2012. Friends,

Anti-Semitism did not end with the conclusion of the Second World War and the fall of Nazism.
It did not end with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It did not end with the foundation of the State of Israel.
It pollutes our world right now.
In the face of Anti-Semitism, there can be no bystanders.
As citizens, as leaders and as nations, we must act.
History and justice demand it.
Do not ask who else should act.
It is us.
Do not ask when we should act.
It is now.

That is why since 2009, leading parliamentarians from around the world have signed the London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism.

I am honoured today to be the first Australian parliamentarian to sign this historic document.
I am pleased to sign it in the presence of so many leaders of our Jewish community …
… so many of whose families came to this land seeking shelter after the event that cries out to us decades after its horror.

The Holocaust did not begin during the dark days of war.

It began decades and centuries earlier – with the hatred, the blood libels, the pogroms and expulsions…
… and, perhaps most significantly, the casual insults and violence that became part of everyday life and society.

The Holocaust began with words.
It culminated in the gas chambers.
It ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the liberation of the camps.

That is why through the London Declaration, we say with clear and loud voices:
-     Never Again.

Seven decades on from the war, combatting anti-Semitism is not just a matter of ensuring that we do not forget.

It is about comprehending its full and insidious horrors in the first instance.

And then keeping that knowledge alive.
That’s why education is so crucial.
The content of the history we teach in our schools.
The tenor of our public discourse.
The laws by which we regulate our civil interactions.
The tenacity with which, as nations, we stand for what is right.
I am proud to lead a nation which has done so much to fight discrimination in its laws and in its practices.

Our Parliament debated and passed motions condemning
anti-Semitism almost a decade ago.
Our anti-discrimination laws are robust.
Our courts have found that Holocaust denial and vilification of the Jewish people are illegal.

We co-sponsored the UN General Assembly Resolution 60/7, and the creation of the International Day of Commemoration
in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust.
And we sponsor regular interfaith dialogue within our own region.
So our record is a good one.

But this Declaration reminds us that combatting anti-Semitism is an active process, not a passive one.
It demands vigilance.

It means remaining alert to new vehicles by which hatred and social poison can be spread, especially through the use of emerging media platforms.

It means exerting ourselves so that future generations understand the importance of civic values like respect and tolerance.

The London Declaration is, above all, a warning and a witness to those who hold offices of public trust.
In the 1930s, another generation of leaders failed the test.

We face the same test – and we must not fail it.
Every generation is tested – and they must not fail either.
So this statement is a solemn reminder of our responsibilities, and the role Parliaments can play.
A means of reminding ourselves that we too are writing history – in our own hands.
I am therefore very proud to be the first Member of the Parliament of Australia to sign the London Declaration.

I do so with great deliberation and profound personal commitment.
And I trust that before long, the names of every Australian parliamentarian will appear alongside my own.

Jeremy Jones is Director of International and Community Affairs at The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council and was present as a member of an international panel of experts on anti-Semitisma t the initial signing in 2009. He told J-Wire: “The U.K. held an all-party enquiry into anti-Semitism during the mid-part of the 2000s. It was an all-party committee who decided this was an issue that had to be addressed internationally involving parliamentarians of all countries and was not a right-wing or a left-wing issue. I was the only member from our region on the experts’ panel. There were no parliamentarians from Australia so obviously at that time we were not a signatory. A subsequent conference was attended by Michael Danby, Peter Wertheim and Senator Scott Ryan. So there was an international understanding of one of the evils which exists…that of anti-Semitism. Today’s signing does not mean that Australia is one of the last countries to sign. It’s not about’s about individual parliamentarians and that’s what happened today.”
Dr Danny Lamm president of the The Executive Council of Australian Jewry added: “Australia, as a respected nation around the world, in joining this  London Declaration, can only help in our battle against anti-Semitism. We are very grateful to the Prime Minister for making the declaration.”

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