The Australian Jewish community united on Sunday afternoon, with rallies in Australia’s three biggest cities to show solidarity with Israel.
Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler, who attended the Melbourne rally, said, “The Australian Jewish community with support from representatives of the Government and Opposition came together today”, he said. “We came from the left and right, from religious and secular backgrounds – to declare one simple message: Israel has a right to live in peace and a right to defend itself when attacked.”
Mr Leibler continued, “The people of Israel and, indeed, the members of the Australian Jewish community desire peace between Israel and its neighbours.”
Mr Leibler welcomed the cessation of violence. “We mourn the loss of innocent life”, he said, “and we were deeply relieved when the ceasefire began. The people of Israel and, indeed, the members of the Australian Jewish community desire peace between Israel and its neighbours. We call on the international community to ensure that Hamas is not able to rebuild its capacity to attack Israel.”
State and federal politicians from both sides of politics attended the rallies.
In Melbourne, shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said, “The recent violence has caused much suffering in Israel and Gaza. Australia should continue to support Israelis and Palestinians in reaching a just and durable peace.”
He was joined by this parliamentary colleague, Labor MP Josh Burns, who told the crowd, “If those rockets were flying over Melbourne or Canberra or Sydney, the Australian Defence Force would be doing the same thing as Israel. Australia would defend its people, and Israel was defending its people… Israel is a leader, it is a friend, and we gather here today standing with Israel.”
Local state member David Southwick also took to the stage with a powerful message, “Israel stands for peace, and Israel should be able to defend itself”. He welcomed state Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien, who said, “Israel has not only a right but a responsibility to defend itself and her people. We wish for long lasting peace in the Middle East and an end to the violence. Lasting peace will only be possible with the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist within secure borders.”
Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino wasn’t able to attend, but sent a message, which was read to the crowd by ZFA CEO Ginette Searle. “I have visited Israel”, read Mr Merlino’s statement, “and I know of its people, its culture, its pride and its history. In a complex and crowded Middle East, Israel has been, and will always be, a safe haven to the Jewish people… I condemn the actions of Hamas, conducting terrorist activities which put the lives of millions across the entire region at risk. It’s despicable – there is no justification.”
Dr Katie Allen, federal Liberal MP, Paul Hamer, state Labor MP and Tim Smith, state Liberal MP also took the stage.
The Sydney rally was attended by federal Liberal MP Dave Sharma and state member for Coogee Margaret O’Neill. Mr Sharma said, “No country would tolerate rockets, no government would tolerate that. No Australian citizen would tolerate rockets and terrorism being brought into their living rooms night after night, and day after day.”
The time and location of these rallies had to be kept secret until the last minute, for security reasons. A large police presence protected those present. This came after credible threats were made against the rallies.
“It is a sad indictment that too many of those who say they support the Palestinian cause wish to show that support by threatening the safety of Jewish Australians”, said Mr Leibler. “We have long said that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism, and the threats made against today’s rallies is further proof.”