AN ironclad reassertion of federal Labor’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, and a pledge by Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) president Jeremy Leibler to continue to lead on a platform of “assertive centrism”, were key outcomes from the ZFA’s 2020 Biennial Conference.
Delivering the keynote speech at the virtual event on November 22, shadow minister for foreign affairs Senator Penny Wong spoke passionately about the importance of being proactive in tackling extremism in all its forms.
“If we leave actions that threaten our social cohesion unchallenged, we know from history how dangerous the consequences can be,” Wong said.
“Labor fully supports the IHRA definition of antisemitism – a position reaffirmed in 2016, 2019, and I again reaffirm today.
“It is precisely because we value our friendship with Israel, and our ability to engage on complex matters, that the IHRA’s definition is so important, because it ensures respectful debate, where disagreements are aired without descending into hateful and antisemitic slurs.”
Thanking the ZFA for its work in deepening the relationship between Australia and Israel, and the Australian Jewish community for consistently being a “clear and articulate voice” for an open society that’s respectful of human rights, Wong emphasised “what leaders say, and what leaders do, matters”.
“Hate speech is inimical to democracy, it must never be normalised, and it cannot be defended on the grounds of freedom of speech.
“As your community knows, the central way in which prejudice works is by dehumanising … this is what makes hate speech so dangerous.
“It is why, for me as an Asian-Australian, this is not merely a rhetorical flourish to say: we are all in this together.”
We held our AGM on the weekend, which was a great opportunity to think about all we've accomplished since last year's. Check out this 'year in review' ???? https://t.co/1ZqCSfsDdI
— Zionist Federation of Australia (@ZionistFedAus) November 25, 2020
Wong said Labor’s position remains that peace between Israelis and Palestinians will only be realised through a two-state solution, but added, “ultimately though, that means the parties do have to negotiate”.
Leibler said, “It was very reassuring to hear Senator Wong reaffirm Labor’s commitment to Israel’s security and the fight against antisemitism, which includes delegitimisation of Israel.”
He added that he was proud to deliver on ensuring that “each of the tribes that make up our rich community would have a seat at the [ZFA] table, because diversity and perspective makes for better decisions”.
“None of this has weakened our resolve to make strong and principled decisions to reflect consensus views within our community – on the contrary, it has actually enhanced our capacities.”
And special guest Abdulla Al Subousi, the UAE ambassador to Australia, described the recent Israel-UAE peace agreement as “one of the major turning points in the history of the Middle East”, adding, “It is our sincere hope that other Muslim-majority countries follow suit in establishing relations with Israel.”