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Yom Ha'atzmaut

Pollies celebrate Israel

"We learn from Israel … not just technology, health … but we share a relationship with Israel that I think is very, very special."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews toasts Israel at the Yom Ha'atzmaut cocktail reception. Photo: Peter Haskin
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews toasts Israel at the Yom Ha'atzmaut cocktail reception. Photo: Peter Haskin

PREMIER Daniel Andrews drew acclaim at the annual Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) cocktail reception when he made three key announcements on the fight against antisemitism.

Addressing the May 11 gathering which celebrated Israel’s 74th birthday, the Premier told some 200 guests, including Jewish leaders, politicians, jurists and friends of the Jewish community, his government has introduced legislation banning public displays of Nazi swastikas, to be enacted next year.

He also announced Victoria has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) antisemitism definition, and a further state government investment of $2 million has been made into Courage to Care’s Holocaust education project for schools.

On the swastika ban, Andrews said, “We know that the use of these symbols, and the horrifying nature and context in which they’re used. It is pure evil, and we need to do more and we need to do better in terms of stamping this out.”

Adopting the IHRA definition is “a way forward” to stand up against antisemitism, he said. The additional grant for Courage to Care’s youth Holocaust education program will help those “who are younger … who don’t have much of an understanding of that period”.

Proposing a toast, he described Israel as “a proud nation, one born of struggle … but now the centre of creativity, the centre of innovation, the centre of investment”.

Andrews, who has visited Israel twice, reflected, “You cannot on Friday afternoon stand in the Kotel and hear church bells, the [Muslim] call to prayer, and that amazing scene of religious observance from the Wall … and not be moved.”

Recounting his own visit to Israel, Liberal leader Matthew Guy observed, “Here in Victoria, we learn from Israel … not just technology, health … but we share a relationship with Israel that I think is very, very special.”

Noting bipartisan support for the swastika ban, he said that in Melbourne, with its high number of Shoah survivors, the fight against antisemitism is critical. “It is immensely important that we stamp out antisemitism wherever we see it.”

Israel’s ambassador Amir Maimon noted, “The bipartisan support for Israel in Australia proves the enduring strength of the Israel-Australia friendship. It’s heartwarming to see Victorians from all sectors of the community gather to celebrate 74 strong years of Israeli independence.”

Hosts Zionism Victoria and the Zionist Federation of Australia, which have been campaigning for the IHRA definition’s adoption, jointly lauded the announcement on IHRA, as did the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the Anti-Defamation Commission.

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