By Jonathan Spyer
The Weekend Australian
May 11, 2019
The latest short, intense flare-up of violence between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza appears to have concluded. Four Israelis and 29 Palestinians were killed.
The four Israelis were civilians; at least 11 of the Palestinians killed were members of the organisations engaged in combat against Israel (Hamas and Islamic Jihad). Two Palestinians were killed by a stray rocket fired by Islamic Jihad.
The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that took hold in the early hours of Monday in all essence reimposes the “status quo ante bellum” (if such a ringing phrase may be applied to a round of conflict that lasted 41 hours).
Few if any on either side believe this episode will be the last of its kind. The swiftness with which normal life returns after intermittent eruptions of violence is a notable feature of life here. The clashes came during the approach to Israel’s Remembrance Day commemoration, and to the Independence Day celebrations that follow it, and on the eve of the month-long Muslim festival of Ramadan. This created an odd and undeclared common interest between the government of Israel and the rulers of Gaza for an early conclusion to the hostilities.
So should the latest confrontation simply be filed away as a passing episode in a seemingly endless if mostly contained conflict? Not quite. Israel’s central dilemma regarding Hamas-controlled Gaza can be discerned behind Israeli decision-making in recent days.
Observe: the latest events mark the clear arrival of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation to a primary role in the ongoing conflict. The fighting was triggered by the targeting by Islamic Jihad snipers of Israel Defence Forces personnel on the border area on May 3. Two IDF soldiers — a man and a woman — were wounded. The attack took place against the background of a Hamas-organised border demonstration. Israel’s response then led to further Hamas missile and rocket attacks.
The ability of Islamic Jihad to heat up the situation on the border is the subject of concern in Israel. Islamic Jihad, unlike Hamas, is not a largely independent actor with deep roots in Palestinian society. Rather, it is a military organisation closely aligned with Iran. Its leader, Ziad Nahleh, is based in Syria and is a frequent visitor to Tehran. The movement takes its direction from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Israeli officials consider the recent uptick in PIJ activity out of Gaza to be part of an Iranian desire to draw Israel into a prolonged operation in Gaza. This would be intended to divert attention from the more crucial front to Israel’s north, in Syria and Lebanon. In that arena, an undeclared conflict between Israel and Iran is under way.
Iran is seeking to build an infrastructure for future attacks on Israel. Israel is trying to prevent this. Gaza is a mere irritant by comparison. For Tehran, however, it is a useful irritant.
Control and direction of Islamic Jihad is intended to enable Iran to turn the flames in Gaza up or down according to its immediate needs. Israel’s reluctance to be drawn into a long and open-ended campaign in the area should be seen against this larger regional backdrop.
But herein lies the dilemma. The desire to avoid allowing Iran to precipitate a conflagration in Gaza cannot extend to allowing all acts of provocation to pass unanswered. To do so would be to cast away deterrence. If PIJ or Hamas get the impression attacks on Israel are cost-free, it may be assumed with certainty they will become routine. Hence, Israeli planners are faced with the difficult task of responding with sufficient ferocity to deter further acts of aggression while avoiding a descent into all-out war between Israel and Gaza.
The increasing tempo of attacks in recent months indicates this difficult balance has not yet been achieved.
A second reality underlined by the events of recent days is the absence of support in any part of mainstream Israeli opinion for a major ground operation to destroy the Hamas-led authority there and reoccupy the area.
Criticism of the ceasefire that concluded this latest round of fighting from within Israel — from within the ruling Likud and the main opposition Blue and White list — focused on what was seen by critics as the failure to extract a sufficient price from the rulers of Gaza before agreeing to a cessation of fire.
But no major call was heard for an all-out assault on Gaza. This may be explained partly by the great sensitivity in Israel towards military losses. But more important, the question of what would replace Hamas as the ruler of Gaza remains without an answer.
Israelis do not want to reoccupy the area. Meanwhile, under no circumstances would the Ramallah Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas agree to receive the keys to the area from a victorious IDF, which would have just completed a bloody victory over Palestinian forces. On the contrary; the PA without doubt would support any Palestinian resistance to such an IDF campaign.
In recent days voices from the Left in Israel have argued that only the resumption of a negotiating process between Israel and the PA can prevent further rounds of violence between Israel and Gaza.
But the desirability of negotiations notwithstanding, it is difficult to see how this logic would apply given Hamas’s open opposition to any peace process with Israel, the 12-year inability of Palestinian factions to unite and the PA’s opposition to any IDF armed campaign into Gaza.
Indeed, given the apparent irreconcilability of the positions of Israel and even the Ramallah PA on core issues of the conflict — the Palestinian “right of return”, the future of Jerusalem, the borders of a future Palestinian state — from a certain point of view, the current fragmentation of the Palestinian national movement could be seen as a tacit advantage for Israel. That is, if the conflict is insolvable anyway and is a zero-sum game, then a fractured, disunited opposing camp is preferable to a unified one.
This logic, however, holds only if the hostile Hamas entity in Gaza can be deterred, and prevented from carrying out its stated desire to do harm to Israelis.
The notion that Hamas could be incentivised by the injection of funds from Qatar has proven erroneous or deeply problematic. It was a temporary delay in the transfer of a tranche of these funds that caused the Gaza rulers to stand alongside Islamic Jihad in the recent escalation.
In this regard, the only partial success of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system in this round of fighting also should be noted. Hamas fired 690 projectiles at Israel from Gaza between Saturday and Monday. Of these, 35 struck populated areas in Israel. While in strictly military terms this is an indication of relative effectiveness, the deaths of three Israeli civilians as a result of the missiles, and the widespread disruption of life, means that it falls far short of what Israelis expect of their defence structures. On a tactical level, one way Israel conceivably could seek to raise the price for engaging in violence would be a return to a policy of targeted killings of Islamic Jihad and Hamas fighters.
The killing by the IDF of Hamas operative Hamed al-Hudri during the last round of hostilities is thus significant. Hudri was responsible for the distribution of Iranian funds in Gaza to organisations receiving support from Tehran. In killing Hudri, Israel clearly sought to demonstrate to the rulers of Gaza that it was not willing to continue to act within the tacit rules that had held in recent years.
It will be important now to see if Israel continues with this practice regarding the Hamas rulers of Gaza — precisely as a means of raising the price for violence against Israel, while avoiding a descent into a wider conflict.
So the ongoing contest with Iran, the absence of a coherent replacement for the existing authority in Gaza, the lack of a desire to reoccupy the area, and the absence of a Palestinian partner make an Israeli campaign to remove the Hamas regime in Gaza unlikely in the immediate future.
At the same time, the events of recent days demonstrate the difficulty of deterring an Islamist movement that, while weak, is engaged in what it regards as a long, unending war of attrition intended to eventually wear down and destroy its enemy (as far-fetched as this may sound).
Israel looks set to continue for now to manoeuvre between the twin undesired outcomes of being drawn into a large, costly and open-ended campaign in Gaza, and absorbing an ongoing campaign of violence emanating from the Strip. Tactical responses — increased targeting of Hamas and Jihad leaders and infrastructure, more Iron Dome batteries — are likely to be the order of the day. It’s a far from perfect answer for the frustrated population of Israel’s south, and for the people of Gaza suffering under the yoke of their Islamist rulers. Some dilemmas have no easy solution.
Jonathan Spyer is a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and at the Middle East Forum. He is the author of Days of the Fall: A Reporter’s Journey in the Syria and Iraq Wars.
By Danielle Le Messurier
The Daily Telegraph
May 8, 2019
The decision to elevate a controversial Labor MP to a senior position in NSW parliament has drawn fire from a Jewish leader who says the community is “appalled”.
Shaoquett Moselmane was yesterday elected Assistant President in the Legislative Council after narrowly defeating upper house Christian Democrat Fred Nile 20 votes to 19.
Mr Moselmane, the first Muslim MP in the NSW parliament, which resumed yesterday, said he planned on using his position to promote parliament among multicultural and indigenous communities “to ensure there is an active engagement plan”.
MEMORIES AND MEMORIALS
Yom Hashoah Commemoration
Address to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
Dr Brendan Nelson AO
Director, the Australian War Memorial
28 and 29 April 2019
A desire for knowledge for its own sake,
a love of justice that borders on fanaticism,
and a striving for personal independence.
These are the Jewish tradition that allows me to regard
belonging to it, as a gift of great fortune……
History has imposed on us a difficult struggle;
but so long as we remain devoted servants of truth; justice and freedom,
we will not only persist as the oldest living peoples,
but will also as before to achieve through our productive labour,
works that contribute to the ennoblement of humanity.
It is a humbling privilege for me to address you here, especially in the presence of survivors of the Holocaust or ‘Shoah’.
You have lived, endured and forgotten more about what brings us here than I will ever know. Yet you invite me to speak.
We pause here 80 years after the outbreak of the Second World War.
A cataclysm spanning six years, it remains the most destructive conflict in human history.
A life was extinguished every three seconds.
It claimed 60 million lives including 6 million Jews, murdered in the Holocaust along with political dissidents, Roma, Gypsies and homosexuals. Among them 1.5 million Jewish children
Humankind moved from one age to another.
The world would never be the same again.
We gather 74th years after the arrival at Auschwitz of the Soviet forces from the 60th army of the First Ukrainian Front.
The liberators would find some 7,650 barely living survivors, hundreds of thousands of personal effects and 700 tonnes of human hair.
As many as 1.5 million people – mainly Jews, had been murdered here.
With awkward humility and abiding reverence, we gather here to reflect upon, remember and honour them all.
We do so in renewed commitment to one another, our nation and the ideals of mankind.
In commemorating the dead, we are inspired by the triumph of the human spirit given us by those who survived.
We are also challenged – Jews and members of the human race, to make this history live in ways that evoke and embed memory, leading always to our best inner selves.
You don’t realise what you’re learning when you’re learning it.
The most significant thoughts that have challenged, shaped and transformed my own perspective, have come in random moments of quiet revelation – often when I least expected.
The power is in the story.
Hearing of my appointment as Director of the Australian War Memorial, a close friend said:
“You’re going to do what – run the Australian War Memorial? I can’t believe it. You’re wasting your life. You have much more important things to do for Australia than rearrange its history”.
I replied in part that this had much more to do with Australia’s future than its past.
The past holds lessons vital to our future.
History is the guiding discipline. It informs choices before us. It can also demolish prejudice and leads us to new horizons.
In a world that is just not changing, but where human kind crosses the threshold to a new age as it did in the late 15th century, we must be clear about who we are, in what we believe and the truths by which we live.
The most important year in Australia’s history is 1788.
Millennia of rich indigenous history, culture and custodianship was devastated by the arrival of the British First Fleet carrying 1420 people, half convicts – including Jews.
But from that event and all that would follow, are the origins of the Australia we now are and the people we have become.
The next most important year was 1942.
Australia’s vital interests were at stake, from Singapore to the Coral Sea Kokoda and Guadacanal.
But also in January 1942, a world away in the outer lakeside Berlin suburb of Wannsee was a meeting convened by Reinhard Heydrich.
Heydrich was the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, appointed by Reich Marshal Goring as the plenipotentiary for the ‘Preparation of the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe’.
The ‘final solution’ would apply to 11 million Jews. This was new.
Heydrich said that the meeting sought to obtain ‘clarity of principle’ and coordination of central agencies.
Responsibility for handling the final solution would lie with him and Himmler.
In total, 11 million Jews would be targeted for extermination.
Without a whimper, the thirteen officials signed off on the ‘Final Solution’. The minutes would record their decision to ‘cleanse the German living space of Jews in a legal manner’.
As Heydrich convened the meeting deportations from the Lodz ghetto to the Chelmno death camp progressed. They reveal much of the unfolding horror.
Shlomo Frank recorded it in his diary.
Deportees were….poor, broken, naked and starved….all cried mournfully, mothers embraced little children….
From the basement of a derelict building in Chelmno, stripped of belongings, naked and showered, they were herded up a ramp through a hole in the wall into the back of gas vans.
The vans used bottled carbon monoxide and later piped exhaust fumes into the van packed with victims. Jewish prisoners pulled the corpses from the vans and dragged the bodies to pits dug by Polish workers.
At day’s end the Jewish prisoners were forced into the pits themselves to be shot by the SS.
Only four Jews escaped from Chelmno. One was Szlama Wiener assigned to ancillary tasks who made it to the Warsaw ghetto in January 1942.
His deposition reads:
The corpses were thrown out of the vans like garbage onto a heap. They were dragged by the feet and the hair. Two people stood at the edge of the ditch and threw the bodies into the grave. Two others placed them face down so that the head of one was placed next to the feet of another…..If there was an empty space, the corpse of a child was stuffed in there……the eight workers were ordered into the pit and shot.
Weiner recounted two German civilians searching corpses for valuables:
They tore off necklaces, pulled rings off fingers, pulled out gold teeth. They even looked in anuses and, with the women, genitalia.
Several of the Jewish forced labour prisoners helped one another suicide.
On 13 January, the unloading crew discovered a live baby in one of the vans, hidden in a pillow case:
The SS men laughed. They shot the child with a machine gun and threw it into the grave (Montague, ‘Chlemno and the Holocaust, 96-113)
With brutal efficiency at Chelmno, less than a hundred SS guards exterminated some 97,000 thousand Jews from the Lodz ghetto.
Ghetto management claimed fuel for 900 trucks to transport clothing and valuables looted from the dead.
It was also in 1942 that British poet, TS Eliot wrote these prophetic words:
A people without history is not redeemed from time
for history is a pattern of endless moments.
A nation that does not know – nor understand its history, is dangerous.
The events that bring us here tonight and upon which we reflect, have everything to do with us, our future and the people we strive to be.
Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free.
The first line of our national anthem.
We sing it often. We hear it sung often. But less often do we pause to reflect on what it means.
Life’s paradox is that often it is those things most important to us that we have a tendency to take for granted.
The magic vitality of youth, unknown to us until it is gone forever.
Families that love us and give meaning and context to our lives.
To be an Australian citizen – whether by birth or by choice, conferring us with political, economic and religious freedoms.
To live in a nation in which faith coexists with reason; free academic inquiry; a free press and independent judiciary.
We are Australians not only or so much because we have a constitution and the machinery of democracy given us by the British.
We are defined most by our values and our beliefs, the way we relate to one another and see our place in the world.
We are shaped by our heroes and villains; our triumphs and failures; the way as a people we have faced adversity and how we will face the inevitable adversities that are coming and respond to new, emerging unseen horizons.
Nations like people, face ‘moments of truth’.
Moments in history to challenge our very survival and values. Well led, we emerge stronger, more resilient. But if not, we may be done lasting damage.
Those who survived, fled and found their way to Australia in the aftermath of the Second World War and Holocaust, made our nation.
More than simply help our economic and social reconstruction, they nourished our better instincts, gave us a greater belief in ourselves and, in the longer term a deeper understanding of what it means to be an Australian.
I have visited Washington on some thirty occasions over two decades.
Irrespective of time constraints, there are two places I always visit.
One speaks to evil darkness into which we are capable of descending in certain circumstances, the other to the ideals of mankind.
The first is the Holocaust Museum.
The thousands of shoes – including those of children.
Video footage of Nazi doctors experimenting on the insane and physically disabled, believing some people’s lives of so little value they could be ended with state sanction.
Then there are the photographs. Hundreds and hundreds of black and white photographs of men, women and children looking out from lives never fully lived.
High up on the second floor is a photograph of Rosa Goldenzeil.
A Hungarian woman of advancing years, Rosa arrived with her daughters at Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. As selection commenced on the rail platform, she quickly grasped the situation. Rosa turned to her daughter holding her baby – “they are saving any women with children, give me the baby”.
Rosa knew by her own age that she was already dead as was the baby.
What moral courage did she draw upon to make the decision to save her own daughter and in doing so her give up her own life and that of her cherished grandchild?
From the Holocaust Museum I go to the Jefferson Memorial.
Thomas Jefferson was first Secretary of State and third president of the United States – a giant of man.
Enshrined in marble, I look up to the words he crafted for the American Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.
When asked toward the end of his life his greatest achievement, Jefferson nominated three things.
The first was co-authoring the American Declaration of Independence.
The second was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
But the third, he said was his single most important legacy – cofounding of the University of Virginia.
When asked why, after all he had achieved he would nominate that, he replied, “Because education is the defense of the nation”.
It is education more than anything else that is likely to protect us from ideas and attitudes deeply rooted in ignorance and forged on an anvil of prejudice.
A year after I took up this role I had one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, let alone my tenure as Director of the Australian War Memorial.
Memorial staff proposed a temporary exhibition of artworks by one of the Memorial’s Second World War Official War artists. Alan Moore was a name that meant nothing to me.
Alan Moore had been commissioned as an official Australian War artist during the Second World War, deployed in 1944.
I scanned images of his work and asked, “When did he die?” Unsure and following enquiries, I was subsequently told he was living in a Victorian nursing home.
At the age of 99, Alan was able to come to the Memorial to view works that had never been exhibited together and he had not seen for sixty years.
He arrived in a jacket and cravat wearing the beret he had worn through his war service.
Before an enormous media pack, I slowly pushed him in his wheel chair along his works. Through the South West Pacific, northern Africa and a V2 Rocket attack he witnessed and drew in London, we paused as he spoke with emotion of the subject matter depicted.
We then stopped at three confronting works at which point he physically trembled. Alan Moore was with the British when they liberated the Bergen Belsen death camp in April 1945.
He gestured to a charcoal drawing of the SS guards removing dead women and children from a railway carriage to a burial pit.
“The Welsh guard, the Welsh guard”, he whispered. “I was drawing this and the Welsh guard told me no one will believe it. He was right, so I went and got my camera and took photos”.
The second work portrayed non-descript buildings and a perimeter fence. There were multiple objects of some sort on the ground and a stooped figure standing in their midst. Alan said, “The blind man….the blind man with the stick. He was walking amongst the dead and didn’t know”.
That day was the first time since he had done these Holocaust works that they had been hung at the Australian War Memorial.
When I asked why, I learned that he had been told repeatedly by my predecessors, “people are not interested in the holocaust”.
When Alan died in September 2015, I had his Holocaust works sent to the funeral service in Ballarat.
I looked more closely at what was told of the Holocaust in the galleries of the Australian War Memorial – seven small images.
I told our staff we would appropriate an area adjacent to the Second World War and construct a permanent Holocaust exhibition.
Not everyone was happy with this.
One critic said emphatically, “This has nothing to do with Australia and the Australian War Memorial. You are breeching your charter. I will never walk through it”.
“Why”, I asked, “do you think we were fighting the Second World War at all if not against Nazism and fascism?
This has everything to do with us, for we are part of human kind”.
In a world grappling with the mass movement of people; the persecution of political, ethnic and religious minorities; the push for state sanctioned euthanasia; and a generational struggle against resurgent totalitarianism principally in the form of Islamic extremism, we must remind ourselves not only of why we fought wars but that of which human kind is capable and the circumstances that lead to it.
The Holocaust: Witnesses and Survivors opened late in 2016.
This permanent exhibition presents the Holocaust through the stories of survivors who made their new lives in post-war Australia.
The rise of Nazism, the Wannsee Conference, transportation, the horrors of the gas chambers, ghettos and persecution.
The raw, powerful drawings of Bernard Slawik when he was interned at Janowska, depict death. They present a harrowing and deeply personal account of the callous, bureaucratic killing of the Jews of Lvov. He would escape and make his way to Australia in 1948.
Of the Bunk Beds he drew in the Janowska concentration camp where lay those who would be executed in the Belzec gas chambers, Bernard Slawik wrote:
Three-high, the bunks. Two to a mattress – 400 souls in one barrack.
Like logs they lie, exhausted. To sleep, sleep, sleep….rest, forgetfulness.
400 broken people. Not father, not wife, not child, not brother, not sister; just 400 broken beings……some screaming wrench themselves from sleep.
Nightmares? Memories? Surely it is all one fantastic nightmare.
His drawing of the naked women before their murder by camp guards hangs next to another of begging children brutally forced into cattle cars for the journey to the Belzec gas chambers.
Artefacts, documents and relics from the Jewish Holocaust Centre here have enabled us to bring individual stories of suffering and survival to life.
Finally, Alan Moore’s works at the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen are now permanently and proudly displayed.
Jewish identity has been shaped by three forces:
- Anti-Semitism which remains a repugnant, ugly force in deep inside far too many people and in many parts of the world
- The Holocaust or ‘Shoah’
- The daily existential struggle of the State of Israel in a region dominated by theocracies and autocracies
Anti-Semitism is far from a feature of modern history.
The Roman Empire embraced Christianity. In doing so, anti-Semitism played a catalytic role in building the foundations of the religion that would supersede Judaism. European and western civilization was largely defined by Christianity which at various times used anti-Semitism to meet its political and theological objectives.
Anti-Semitism at different times has been seemingly ubiquitous, found in major religions, the political left and the political right, educated classes and amongst the illiterate poor.
It was into this context that the 19th century arrived.
The bitter hardships experienced by Germans after the First World War radicalised anti-Semitism. The Weimar Republic then legitimised violence as a form of control that was acceptable to the educated, upper classes.
Hitler was able to take advantage of two key things.
The first was that the majority were indifferent to the plight of the minority.
The second was that in Germany – as in other parts of Europe, anti-Semitism was deeply rooted – religious, secular and racial.
Anti-Semitism did not end with liberation of the death camps, nor with the end of the war, the Nuremberg trials or formation of the United Nations.
Anti-Zionism, Holocaust denial, distortion of truths, glorification of Nazism – all featured at different times in the world since.
Today, troops are deployed across Europe protecting synagogues and Jewish places of congregation. Fire bombings, desecration of cemeteries and other violations of freedom are real, present and escalating dangers.
Crowds have even chanted ‘Gas the Jews’ and ‘Death to the Jews’.
In 340 BC in Plato’s Republic, Socrates concluded:
“The root of evil is ignorance”.
Jefferson in nominating ‘Education as the defense of the nation’ echoed a similar sentiment.
Who am I to argue with either?
Yet when I think back to Wannsee, to the thirteen German Ministers and public servants who signed off on ‘The Final Solution’, nine had the best university education Europe had to offer – masters degrees and PhDs.
Adolf Eichmann – Heydrich’s henchman in charge of implementing all this, said at his trial that Heydrich had expected opposition to the plan from the bureaucrats. Not only did they not resist, they embraced the heinous idea with enthusiasm.
It is more than education. It is character.
Character derives from the Greek word meaning the impression left in wax by a stone seal ring. The Greeks called it ‘the stamp of personality’.
Transcending everything else in life – rank, power, money, influence, looks and intellect, is character. Character is informed by values, worthwhile intrinsic virtues.
In my opinion, ethical and responsible citizenship relies on three things.
First, a minimum level of education and scientific literacy is required for people to understand and be resilient to change in society, including the technologies upon which it increasingly is built.
Second, we all need to be imbued with what Professor Graeme Davison described in The Uses and Abuses of Australian History as, the imaginative capacity to see the world through the eyes of others.
Almost all of life’s pain, suffering and misery in my experience stems from people and nations making themselves the centre of their own world.
Third, people need to be imbued with a deep value system that informs character. As both Benjamin Franklin and Edmund Burke observed, ‘Men must be virtuous and have strength of character to enjoy freedom’.
The stories of survivors, the qualities embodied in their humanity and spirit are surely one powerful values guide to the future.
Among those values: courage – both physical and moral; endurance, devotion, independence, loyalty, honesty, love of others and never forgetting from where you come, who gave you what you have and made you who you are.
And that is why museums and memorials are vital to our common future.
The responsibility we all share in this common endeavour is to make these stories live – engaging to and engaged by a new generation.
It is tempting, human beings that we are, to settle for the broad brushstrokes of history, headlines, popular imagery and mythology.
Our comfortable lives breed easy indifference to individual acts of moral and physical courage, lives given in the name of all that is good and triumph of the human spirit in death.
The key is to invite people to look beyond the narrow prism of their own lives to that of others.
These stories – your stories, are ones of individual persecution, survival in the face of unimaginable adversity and yet also the liberating power of hope and of love.
Often just one image or one story can captivate the imagination of others, educating and inspiring them to be better people.
The paradox of the Australian War Memorial is that it is not actually about war.
Instead from the horror and bloodshed emerge stories of love and friendship; love for friends and between friends; love of family and of country; of honouring men and women whose lives have been devoted not to themselves, but to us – and their last moments to one another.
The most engaging and popular story depicted in a magnificent bronze by Peter Corlette is that of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey carrying a wounded man on its back.
Disobeying orders to retrieve only the most seriously wounded, Simpson used a donkey to rescue forty wounded men from the gullies and ravines over twenty one days.
He was shot and killed by a sniper.
His mother penned the epitaph for the grave she would never see above Anzac Cove:
HE GAVE HIS LIFE SO THAT OTHERS MIGHT LIVE
Military purists and historians struggle to understand the appeal of the story to the wider public.
My response to them is that there is nobility in a man that loves animals and a man and animal risking life to save others. The ideal and the lesson is that a life of value is one spent in the service of others, irrespective of the cost to yourself.
The second is also a Corlette sculpture of ‘Weary’ Dunlop.
A surgeon who wore humility more comfortably than a stethoscope, Dunlop tended to the men suffering and dying under Japanese brutality on the Burma -Thai Railway during the Second Wold War.
Gazing down, hat in hand, he evokes care and compassion for others in the most extreme circumstances. Doing so, he engages a story of inspiring humanity rather than the heinous events in which it was given.
People cannot comprehend war unless they have been in one. But they do engage and relate to the human emotions and motives evoked by these two images and the stories they tell.
Two simple but powerful offerings for memory that we have also done.
Every night from dusk to dawn, onto the front of the Australian War Memorial, the name of each of the 102,800 Australian men and women who have given their lives for us in war and peacekeeping over 120 years is projected.
Just beneath the Dome above the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, each name appears for 30 seconds four times a year. With the dates and time of projection available on the website, people quietly stand in front of the Memorial in the early hours of the morning just waiting for a name to appear.
Some have driven across the country to do so.
Early in my tenure I proposed that we arrange for year six students the length and breadth of Australia to record the name and age of death of each on out our nation’s 62,000 First World War dead.
On a single day, students went into the ABC’s regional studios to so record the names. Google built an app for us entitled Remember Me that allowed schools to log in. Students download the names and ages, record and upload them to the Memorial.
Teachers had their students research the story on the men and women whose names they were recording.
Visitors who walk along the First World War Roll of Honour hear these young voices reciting names and ages of death.
At the launch, I publicly asked one of the students what it meant to him? He replied, “I now know they were real people just like me and weren’t made up”.
Therein lays the key challenge and response to Holocaust memorials.
We need to personalise in a public and engaging way the stories of individuals so the next generation doesn’t simply think they were ‘made up’.
People engage not so much with the horror, but the inspiring human qualities that emerge from it.
Memorials to the Holocaust need to be ‘mainstreamed’. Too often they are confined to Jewish institutions, sacred Jewish places and congregational communities.
They should be visible reminders to us all not so much of what was done but the human spirit and qualities informing character that inspire us to be better people – repositories of love and ennobled memory.
In the end, we honour them best by the way we live our lives, shape our nation and contribute to a better world.
The most powerful yet fragile of human emotions is – hope.
We all have to believe that tomorrow will be better than today, next year better than this. Not only or so much for ourselves, but those whom we love and our country.
Hope is most sustained by men and women reaching out in support of one another.
It seems we live in a world of fundamentalist intolerance and moral relativism.
We now face a resurgent totalitarianism, principally but not only in the form Islamic extremism. Disparate groups have hijacked the good name of Islam to build a violent political utopia.
We live in vast ignorance of the decisions we make and that are made for us, facing extraordinary global uncertainty and immense technological change.
What we need most is one another.
No human being, no Australian who believes in the dignity of man, of freedom and democratic principles, should ever allow through neglectful indifference these events, these people, their lives and stories, to become a distant stranger.
The Shoa and those who survived it teach us many things.
It includes a commitment to one another; of conscience and knowing the right thing to do and when to do it; feeling the pain of others and seeing the world through their eyes.
Most importantly they inspire us to have the moral courage irrespective of personal consequences, to act on what in our hearts we know to be right.
In the words of the great 18th century Prussian philosopher, Immanuel Kant:
“Every human being is an end unto to himself and not a means to be used by others. Respect for one’s own humanity will be found in respect for the humanity of others – and morality is freedom”.
Failure in this will render us blind to injustice, deaf to despair and indifferent to the future.
With respects to John Donne, I ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for me.
….for we young and we are free.
By Vic Alhadeff
The Weekend Australian
April 27, 2019
Who knew that when Israel won the right to host Eurovision 2019 it would ignite controversy in Australia? Tel Aviv will host this year’s pop music extravaganza after Netta Barzilai won last year’s contest with Toy, a quirky salute to the #MeToo movement.
To be held on May 14, the contest will attract thousands of tourists, with Tel Aviv establishing a 2000-person tent city to accommodate those who stay on for its celebrated LGBT Pride Parade.
It will be the third such protest in recent weeks, some elements of the campaign bordering on harassment of Australia’s entrant, Kate Miller-Heidke — tagging her in Facebook posts, creating garish memes featuring her image, publicising her Facebook and Twitter URLs and promoting online petitions.
Another protest occurred on the Gold Coast when Miller-Heidke won the right to represent this country from 700 entrants at a Eurovision: Australia Decides festival.
BDS Australia has a “fundamental problem with Eurovision going ahead in the midst of the catastrophe in Gaza”, it said, issuing a leaflet with an unauthorised SBS logo.
SBS responded unambiguously. “SBS respects the right for people to express their views and we acknowledge the concerns raised by those opposed to the contest being held in Israel,” it stated.
“SBS has been proudly broadcasting Eurovision for 35 years and we will continue to do so because of the spirit of the event in bringing people and cultures together in a celebration of diversity and inclusion through music.”
The heat and dust will doubtless escalate as the contest draws near.
Protesting voices abroad include 23,000 Icelanders petitioning their country’s broadcaster to boycott the event; Irish members of the European Parliament, Portuguese artists and Sweden’s Left Party urging a boycott; and London’s Guardian publishing a letter carrying 141 signatures. English protesters picketed a concert by Barzilai while French protesters disrupted her appearance on French TV by jumping on stage, but they were quickly removed by security.
Addressing a rally at Circular Quay in Sydney, BDS Australia speaker Nadia Zeaiter said Eurovision would be held in Tel Aviv “on occupied Palestinian land” — a view held by terrorist groups and other extremists.
Then there are the principled voices, most notably Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has deplored BDS as “the new form of anti-Semitism in the world”. Anti-Semitism has manifested itself not just in targeting individuals but in targeting Israel, he says, citing students who “feel unwelcome in some of our campuses because of BDS-related intimidation … I condemn the BDS movement. Holocaust deniers still exist. Anti-Semitism is still far too present. Of the entire community of nations, it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely and wrongly questioned.”
Madonna has announced that she will perform at Eurovision in Tel Aviv, and Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave, who recently performed there, emphasises that while he supports the Palestinian cause, a cultural boycott of Israel is “cowardly and shameful” — a position underscored by the ranking of 162 nations by the Washington, DC-based Cato Institute’s 2018 Human Freedom Index.
The index placed Israel 49th and Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Azerbaijan, which have all hosted Eurovision, 107th, 118th, 119th and 130th, respectively, taking into account 79 indicators of personal and economic freedoms such as security, movement, religion, identity, relationships, assembly and civil society.
Eurovision was first held in 1956 to unite war-ravaged Europe, and Australia and Israel are the only non-European nations to compete in it today.
This year’s theme is Dare to Dream. Is it unrealistic to dream that the unity aspired to in 1956 will extend to all nations one day? That the rank hypocrisy in singling out the only Jewish state for boycott while ignoring some of the most egregious human rights abusers — which also participate in Eurovision — will one day be rendered obsolete?
In the meantime, SBS and Miller-Heidke are to be applauded for their principled stand. Eurovision is about music and inclusivity; keep politics out of it.
Anton Rose, Wentworth Courier
April 23, 2019 10:42am
The coalition has committed to $143,000 worth of funding for more CCTV cameras along the Bondi Beach promenade if elected on May 18 after a spate of racist graffiti that has drawn outrage from prominent members of the eastern suburbs community.
The news comes less than a week after disturbing remarks “white power”, “we hate n—–” and swastikas painted on the iconic sea wall were removed by Waverley Council.
Last week, both Wentworth Liberal candidate Dave Sharma and his independent rival Kerryn Phelps called for more surveillance in the area after the murals were defaced for a second time this year.
The funding will allow Waverley Council to install more cameras under the federal government’s community development grants program and it is understood council will install more cameras as soon as it receives the funds.
Liberal Waverley councillor Leon Goltsman was alerted to the find by a jogger early last Wednesday morning and plans to bring a motion to council to increase CCTV in the area.
Cr Goltsman claimed it would take about “$100,000 to $250,000” to address the issue but said the government’s announcement was “a good start”.
Waverley mayor John Wakefield did not wish to be drawn on whether more cameras were needed when asked by The Wentworth Courier last week.
The graffiti was removed within an hour by council workers.
The vandalism comes after a similar incident in February where the same murals were defaced with swastikas.
Chief executive of the NSW Board of Deputies Vic Alhadeff said the graffiti was “alarming”.
“There has been an alarming spike in anti-semitic incidents across Sydney in recent weeks, including a despicable spate of Nazi swastikas on Bondi beachfront,” he said.
“This funding commitment will help ensure the security and wellbeing of the Bondi community and is greatly appreciated.
Mr Sharma says the announcement would beef up security on the promenade.
“What has happened here recently is part of growing anti-semitism worldwide and the coalition has acted fast in committing to improve security on the Bondi promenade with enhanced CCTV,” Mr Sharma said.
“Recent acts of anti-Semitic vandalism have no place in our country. Their hatred and intolerance is intended to divide us. These enhanced security measures should act as a deterrent and allow law enforcement agencies to prosecute fully these crimes of hateful bigotry.”
His comments come after political sparring partner Kerryn Phelps also claimed more surveillance was needed last week.
“I am calling for CCTV to be installed so that we can monitor what happens on the foreshore to try to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Dr Phelps said.
Dr Phelps’ office has been contacted for further comment on the announcement.