Australia Apologizes for Forsaking the Jews 80 Years Ago in a Fabulous Speech Celebrating Israel

by Avi Abelow

Australian MP Stuart Robert gave a heartfelt and sincere speech apologizing to the Jewish people while celebrating Israel on the floor of Australia’s Parliament. It is wonderful having friends around the world who truly understand and appreciate Israel.

Text of the Speech Celebrating Israel

This year celebrates a number of significant milestones for the great State of Israel. In May, it will be the 70th anniversary of the creation of the modern State of Israel. A seminal event that created the only free democracy in the Middle East. This parliament warmly congratulates our sister in democracy, the Israeli Knesset.  And the people of Israel for what they have achieved. An amazing year of democracy, growth and prosperity. Israel remains the light, a beacon of hope for the Middle East. We are so proud to stand with her.

But amidst the 70th anniversary of joy, the 15th of July this year, unfortunate,ly marks the 80th anniversary of sorrow. It is the anniversary of the end of the fateful Evian conference in France, convened by US President Roosevelt in 1938 with 31 countries to discuss the issue of Jewish refugees fleeing the horror of Nazi persecution. It’s an anniversary of the world turning its back on G-d’s holy Jewish people. Its an anniversary that this Parliament will seek to atone for today.


Today this Parliament is representative of all political parties and the people of Australia. We issue an apology for the indifference shown the Jewish people by our Parliament in 1938 that worsened the impact of the Holocaust. We do this because in 1938 Australia sent a representative with a message of indifference. At Evian the Australian representative, on behalf of the Australian Government, declined to assist the Jewish people in their hour of need stating “Australia has her own particular difficulties…it will no doubt be appreciated also that as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration …”

Our nation’s government turned its back on our Jewish friends at the exact time they needed us. Our Parliament said nothing. Understandably, our representative’s statement is still visible at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. It is representative of all other nation’s responses of indifference at the Evian conference. Australia was not alone. The world turned its back. But for Australia’s indifference, this Parliament says sorry.

Five months later, post Kristallnacht, when the Nazis burnt Synagogues, Jewish businesses and books and hauled Jews to concentration camps thankfully Australia did reasses its policy by only taking 1,800 refugees per year. News of the Nazis dreadful pogroms strengthened the position of many organizations arguing for a liberalization of the country’s immigration policies. Support for the admission of Jewish refugees now came from unexpected quarters.

Australian Guilt Offering

On this 80th anniversary of sorrow, I have sought guidance on atonement for wrong from the Jewish law, the Torah. Leviticus 5, verses 14-19 ““When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. They must make restitution for what they have failed to do in regard to the holy things, pay an additional penalty of a fifth of its value and give it all to the priest. The priest will make atonement for them with the ram as a guilt offering, and they will be forgiven.”

“If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible. They are to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way, the priest will make atonement for them for the wrong they have committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; they have been guilty of wrongdoing against the Lord.”

“We are Sorry”

Today this Parliament recognizes that we have been guilty of failing to do something with regards to the Holy things. We failed to protect more of G-d’s holy people, the Jews. Our ram and the additional one-fifth value we present today as our guilt offering is our words of atonement, our apology, our profound sense of sorrow. We do this from both sides of the aisle. Both the Labor and Liberal parties argued against the intake of Jewish refugees 80 years ago. So today both parties stand together to say sorry for the indifference at Evian. Both Labor and Liberal MPs did not do enough in 1943 to support the Jewish community’s joint resolution to more fully embrace Jewish refugee migration. And again we say sorry.

An estimated six million Jews, and millions of others died during the Holocaust. This was exacerbated by the fact that Australia and the world failed to do more to protect the Jewish people. Thus today we seek to honor the memory of all who lost their lives in the Holocaust and make right a great wrong perpetrated by Australia and the rest of the world to the Jewish people. That of indifference.

Never Again

Today we present our Parliament’s guilt offering through our words and we draw a line under this Evian conference and sorrow. We vow never again to turn our backs on Israel or our Jewish brothers and sisters wherever they are in the world. Today we reaffirm our love and commitment to Israel.

As we do this, we request that this motion be presented to Yad Vashem in its 70th year. We ask that this Parliamentary apology be displayed aside the Australian statement of 1938. I have formally passed this request on to the Israeli government.

And request that this motion be provided to the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, on its 70th year, one Parliament to another.

Visiting Jerusalem

I will be in Israel in September this year for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot as one of the chairs of the Israel Allies Caucus. The Caucus made up of over 30 Parliaments from around the world. I look forward to bringing our guilt offering, this motion and its speeches personally to the Knesset and Yad Vashem.

Let me conclude this morning with Psalm 122 by praying for the peace of Jerusalem. “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels. For the sake of my family and friends I will say peace be with you. For the sake of your Lord our G-d I will seek your prosperity.”

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