An open letter signed by six former Australian prime ministers condemning Hamas and expressing support for Israel and Australia’s Jewish community has been welcomed by community roof bodies.
In their joint letter, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison said there is no place for “racial or religious hatred” in Australia, while they also called for the “unconditional release of all the hostages taken by Hamas”.
“The Hamas terrorists sought to horrify and intimidate the people of Israel, shaking that nation’s faith in its technology, its military, its government,” they said.
“But they also sought to provoke Israel into a reaction that would kill countless innocent civilians in Gaza. The Hamas terrorists have no more interest in the safety of Palestinians than they do of Israelis.
“They want Israel to invade and bomb Gaza. They want to be able to point to thousands of Palestinian casualties from Israeli military action.”
The letter said, “Our Australian Jewish community, directly affected by the terrible crimes of Hamas, not only has to endure the loss and suffering of their families in Israel, but now sees these events being used by some to spread ancient hatreds which have inflicted so much suffering on the Jewish people for thousands of years.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said the letter is a “powerful rejection of the incitement to hatred and violence directed at Jews in Australia at anti-Israel rallies”.
“The fact that our former prime ministers put aside ideological and political differences to stand united in rejecting terrorism and antisemitism is an example that all Australians should follow. This letter is a sober reminder of how fragile our multiculturalism is and how urgently antisemitism must be confronted,” Ryvchin said.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said Australia should be “grateful for the leadership they have shown”.
“The public letter is a fine example of the role former leaders can play by using their respected positions to engage constructively. I hope other national leaders in like-minded countries follow suit,” Rubenstein said.
“We thank the former prime ministers for their show of unity in calling for tolerance and mutual respect and condemning racial and religious hatred.
“We also appreciate the unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and of its barbaric acts of terrorism carried out on October 7.”
President of the Zionist Federation of Australia Jeremy Leibler said the letter sends a message to the world that “Australians understand what is right and what is wrong”.
“The fact that the former prime ministers are from both major political parties highlights that condemnation of Hamas and its terror campaign, and support for Israel’s right to defend itself transcend politics – it is an issue of basic morality and values,” Leibler said.
“We are humbled and touched by their support.”