Former Prime Minister John Howard conveyed his affinity with Australia’s Jewish community, telling congregants at Central Synagogue last week that the community has “enriched our lives and our nation”.
“You are an indelible part of the story of our nation and don’t let any bigotry from a narrow-minded minority of Australians make you think otherwise,” Howard said in a powerful address.
The former Liberal statesman said he understood the concerns of the community since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel and expressed his anger at the antisemitism that has since been on the rise.
Just days after the horrific attacks, pro-Palestinian supporters marched to the steps of the Sydney Opera House, where a group was heard chanting antisemitic slogans and an Israeli flag was burned. Since then Israeli restaurants Shaffa and Shuk have been targeted, while university students have reported instances of antisemitism on campus.
“As an Australian, I am ashamed at what your community has been subjected to over the past few weeks, and could I tell you that all decent Australians, that is the great majority of Australians, are equally ashamed of what has happened,” he said.
“When I read stories of discrimination against Jewish people, where I hear stories of schools telling their students not to wear their uniforms outside the school grounds, I think to myself this cannot be the Australia that I grew up in, it cannot be the Australia that was so magnificently led on the battlefields of World War I by arguably Australia’s greatest Jewish son, General John Monash.”
Howard moved to reassure the community that any discriminatory reactions are not representative of the vast majority of Australians. “The great majority of your fellow Australians … are as appalled as you are at these manifestations of bigotry and they believe in the unity of this country and they believe in the contribution that the Jewish people have made, not only to Australia but to mankind through all the ages.”