Friends of Israel WA ( FOIWA )

The Friends of Israel WA was established to enable Western Australians and friends from across Australia to express their support for Israel.

All over the world, people are joining together to take a stand for democratic values and freedoms.

They know that to take such a stand also means to support Israel, her right to defend her citizens, and to live in peace and security, free from threats of terrorism.

They know that Israel is the best ally of the free nations – a champion of democratic values in the Middle East; and a dynamic and open society that has contributed abundantly to culture, science and technology.

They know that Israel is in the front lines of the global battle between those who love life and those who glorify death.

They know that if Israel falls, we all fall.

By joining Friends of Israel WA, you can join with this groundswell of global support for Israel, for democracy and for freedom.

Outpouring of Support from Western Australia

On Sunday 8 August 2010, 1500 West Australians, including over 100 Federal and State Parliamentarians and community leaders converged on the Victory Life Centre in Osborne Park to stand up and support Israel. The Centre’s main auditorium, which seats 800 was quickly filled to capacity, and the second overflow auditorium (linked by video to the proceedings) was also soon overflowing, requiring a third overflow room to be hastily set up in the lobby of the centre.

Clearly there is a quiet but powerful bond between Western Australians and Israel. All that was needed was an opportunity to express that feeling, and Western Australia responded resoundingly.

The event was chaired by inaugural Chairman of the FOIWA, Bob Kucera APM JP (former State Minister) and Vice Chairman, Ray Halligan (former State Upper House Member).

Bob Kucera passionately expressed the importance of support for Israel as a “friend in need” and urged everyone present to join the organisation and look forward to hearing quality speakers and being kept informed.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith reiterated Australia’s support for Israel’s right to live in peace and security, and encouraged everyone from across the political spectrum to do likewise

Michael Sutherland MLA, now Deputy Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly, and Kate Doust MLC, currently Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Council; Shadow Minister for Energy; Science and Innovation, who are co-conveners of the State Parliamentary Friends of Israel both spoke of their recent study tour of Israel and urged all West Australians to join Friends of Israel WA and help it work for peace.

The event was concluded by Israel’s Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency, Yuval Rotem who took the podium to a standing ovation, in a spontaneous, emotional expression of warmth. His thanks to Western Australia was underlined by a video address from Jerusalem by Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel.

CHAIRMAN’S ADDRESS TO THE LAUNCH OF FOIWA

The inaugural Chairman of FOIWA, Bob Kucera (former State Government Minister) gave the following address at the Launch on 8 August 2010:

Why are we here today? Simply put, a friend in need is a friend indeed. The State of Israel and Australia have a deep and enduring friendship that inextricably links the modern history of both nations. Their modern history reads like two brothers, who were born out of troubled beginnings, beginnings of diversity, hope, aspirations and cultural collision, (Voltaire: “True pain comes when two cultures collide”)

In acknowledging the traditional custodians of Australia we acknowledge a pre-history of over 40 thousand years. In acknowledging Israel we acknowledge over 3 thousand years of recorded history, and a pre-history that stretches back into antiquity.

A history that is acknowledged and reflected in virtually all of the great religions of the world, and a kindred history that embraces Australia and Israel. Two nations whose forefathers in modern times were joined in two world wars, fought to re-establish and perpetuate the ideals of freedom and democracy.

Two world wars that saw the emergence of a new world order, birth of countless new nations and the re-emergence and recognition of countries whose historical claim to legitimacy was re-affirmed and mandated by the world community and the United Nations Assembly.

In the last few years I had the great privilege of visiting two such nations. My father’s birthplace, the Czech Republic, and Israel. Both have legitimacy in the eyes of the world community. Both countries are now, thankfully, democracies that embrace all of their citizens.

My father fought the Nazis as a member of the Free Czech Air force, returned to his country only to see the freedoms he fought for swept away by a totalitarian state. Few Czech Jews from his Village returned, most perishing in the Holocaust. After the slaughter of 6 million souls, modern Israel was born out of that time of horror, as those who were left realised the dream of coming home. Home, after 3000 years of persecution, murder and genocide.

Home, to join with those who had never left, remaining to carry on the endless story stretching back into antiquity, home to put in place a bastion of democracy in the new World order.
Home, to those basic freedoms that my father fought for, hoped for and eventually found in this great nation, Australia.

But Home in Israel unlike Australia, has meant almost 65 years of fiercely clinging to the hope, legitimacy and the mandate which the United Nations, with friends such as Australia, gave them.

Now, despite the lessons of history, some seek to sweep them all away. Israel as a democracy is on the front line of a global battle against terrorism that denies them the right to simply exist. It is a battle that challenges the very fabric of all democratic nations. As the former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said recently when launching the European Friends of Israel, “If Israel goes down, we all go down.”

We all know there are issues and arguments that seem to defy logic on both sides, but my father used to tell me, “Never judge another man’s country unless you have walked in his footsteps.” Some two years ago I did just that. And what an amazing experience that was.

The first thing you learn is that there are virtually no secrets in Israel. All is laid bare, and the constant struggle is so evident.

Despite all of that, never have I experienced such national pride. And that from everyone, Arab, Jew, all alike. Despite the struggle, the majority of the population simply wants to be allowed to get on with their lives, work, play, and bring up their children. They are imbued with an air of optimism and enthusiasm that we could all learn from. Above all they yearn for peace and the basic freedoms that we often take for granted.

As Golda Meir was quoted in the “Observer”, 29 Dec. 1974, “Pessimism is a luxury no Jew can allow himself.”

The second thing I learned was Israel’s respect and enduring friendship for the Australian nation. I stood on the hills overlooking Beersheba as the sun set and Kelvin Crombie related the story of the last great cavalry charge. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I could hear the horses!

It was then I realised the enormous part Australia played in the creation and reformation not only of Israel, but the entire Middle East. The ultimate result; to create six major Arab nations and one small enclave that was to return the Jews of the world to their country.

On that same day as those Australians so far from their home formed a lasting link with that land, British Prime Minister Balfour, was reading the declaration that created the basis for a modern Jewish home land.

Some 20 odd years later Australians were again in battle in that same holy land, but this time for the very essence of freedom. In 1948 we were the first to stand up for our friend when, in the UN, we voted YES, yes to the establishment of modern Israel.

Since then the young nation has clung to its very existence supported by their friends against a growing tide of hate that has become a global battle between those that love life and those who glorify death – those who rail against the basic freedoms that our model of democratic government represents.

That tide of hate rolled onto our shores and we watched in horror as those Towers fell. We wept with the families of those Australians innocently murdered along with our other friends in the Bali bombings. A bombing that brought home to us what our friends in Israel endure on a daily basis.

In Jerusalem I met with an Australian, Arnold Roth, a Barrister from Melbourne who had taken his young family to live in Israel. On her 13th birthday his daughter Milka was celebrating with her school friends in a Jerusalem restaurant when two other young people entered and detonated the so called “suicide belts” they were wearing. Thirty one people, mostly children, died in that atrocity.

Arnold, who now runs a Foundation for disabled children, dedicated to his daughter’s memory, still struggles to make any sense of what happened. He explained to me, “Bob, I can understand them killing our children, but I can’t understand them killing their own.”
That tide of hate must be turned and as Victor Hugo said, “All of the Forces and Armies in the World are not as powerful as an idea whose time has come”. That is why we are here, it is time, time to stand up and simply help a friend. Help a friend in need, a friend who like all friends, sometimes we don’t agree with, who makes mistakes, sometimes stumbles along the way, but whose friendship is enduring and is to be endured simply because they believe, as our friend, in the true meaning of freedom and democratic values.

The time has come for us reinforce that friendship and bring a balance of sense and sensibility. Join with us in that spirit of sense and sensibility and stand up for three basic beliefs and tenets

1. AUSTRALIA AS A FRIEND MUST SUPPORT ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO DEFEND ALL OF HER CITIZENS Be they Arab, Jew, Atheist, Christian, Bedouin, whatever.(Suicide Bombers and rockets don’t discriminate, they kill Arab and Jews alike)

2. AS A NATION AND INDIVIDUALLY AS AUSTRALIANS WE NEED TO DEFEND ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO LIVE IN PEACE AND SECURITY (Israel is on the front line of the terrorist war that seeks to destroy our shared democratic beliefs and values)

3. AS A FRIEND WE NEED TO ENSURE THAT THE TRUE SITUATION IS FAIRLY AND ACCURATELY REPORTED IN THE MIDDLE EAST. (The Friends of Israel seeks to do just that. In any conflict the first casualty is truth. As Albert Schweitzer said, “Truth has no special time of its own, its hour is NOW, always”.)

Through a vibrant, ongoing programme of forums, debates, discussions, presentations and balanced information we will seek out opportunities to counter the constant vilification, help build pathways to resolve conflict and bring a lasting peace to the entire Middle East.

In this day and age of immediate mass media, we need to put back the balance. We all need to walk in another’s shoes before we condemn or praise them. Walk with us and maybe, just maybe, we can light a candle that illuminates a way forward to an everlasting peace in the land that nurtured and helped bring forth the truth and freedoms that we in this nation enjoy. Thank You.