“I’M a Zionist – I believe in a Jewish homeland,” British prime minister from 2010-2016 David Cameron proudly declared to rousing applause by an audience of 1500 at UIA NSW’s general division gala at Sydney’s ICC on February 24, and to another large turnout in Melbourne two nights later.
In a razor-sharp speech, Cameron tackled pressing issues from Islamist extremism and Holocaust denial to “virulent antisemitism” rearing its head within Britain’s Labour Party.
Revealing what inspired his path towards becoming one of Britain’s most committed pro-Israel leaders, Cameron said it wasn’t finding out in adulthood that his grandmother’s grandfather was a German Jew, but rather learning about the horrors of the Holocaust as an inquisitive child, and visiting Israel for the first time upon becoming leader of the British Conservative Party, discovering a “miracle country”.
“As a parent, I took my children to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, explaining to them what happened in Europe not that long ago,” Cameron said.
“It’s so important to learn the truth, yet we have a problem – we’re told today that one-third of Europeans know little or nothing about the Holocaust.
“[As British prime minister] I was so concerned that I set up a Holocaust Commission to change that, and I’m pleased to say it came up with a proposal for a memorial and learning centre, which will be right next to our Houses of Parliament.”
Lamenting the rise of post-truth politics, “where feelings beat facts” leading to common ground “being replaced by tribalism, popularisation and fragmentation”, Cameron identified a terrible by-product – “a sustained rise in poisonous antisemitism”.
Citing recent examples including 20 swastikas graffitied onto Bondi Beach’s promenade last month, Cameron said he is most alarmed by how this ancient hatred has seeped into institutions, including “some where you would never have expected to find it … the Labour Party in Britain”.
“It [Labour] has been taken over by part of the far left that has a very particular world view, that blames US imperialism for all the world’s woes, and links this imperialism with Zionism and Israel,” he said.
“Any opponent of this US imperialism is its ally, whether that is the mullahs in Iran, Putin in the Kremlin, or terrorist organisations.
“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defends Iran, and he even called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends. The anti-Zionism is so virulent … how else can you explain the failure to act when Jew-haters attack and vilify members of your own party?
“It culminated in the resignation of a [Jewish Labour] MP, Miss Luciana Berger, just last week.”
Cameron said Islamist extremism is a cancerous ideology founded on division, which has led to the murder of innocents, from cafe-goers in Sydney to children at a pop concert in Manchester.
Many on the left, he said, often try to “explain it away”, while some on the right – wrongly and dangerously – call the religion of Islam the problem.
“It’s not a clash between civilisations – it is a war within Islam, and one in which we must take sides with the moderates, and ensure they win,” Cameron claimed.
“The first response, I believe, should be to speak and act with absolute clarity about extremism.”
Cameron said it was humbling to see so many supporters of UIA in Sydney and Melbourne.
“Israel is surrounded by dictatorships, yet is a beacon of democracy, surviving and thriving despite attacks, wars and boycotts.
“How does this happen? Part of the answer is … because of people like you.”