Jerusalem Prize for Premier Barry O’Farrell

December 11, 2012 by Henry Benjamin
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The Jerusalem Prize is a prestigious award given by the World Zionist Organisation to select individuals internationally…last night NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell became the latest recipient.

During his address, Premier O’Farrell hinted that the bipartisanship within the Australian political scene towards Israel was “fractured”.

Zionist Council of New South Wales president Richard Balkin told the gathering at the new JewishCare centre in Bondi that previous Australian honorees were former Prime Minister John Howard, the late Sir Zelman Cowen who had been Governor-General of Australia and former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and honorary Life President of the ZCNSW Dr Ron Weiser.

He called Barry O’Farrell “a great friend of Israel”.  He said that the Premier’s support for Israel and the community “goes back decades”.

Richard Balkin, Gabriell Upton, Avraham Duvdenani, Premier Barry O’Farrell, ZFA president Philip Chester and Malcolm Turnbull

Avraham Duvdenani chairman of the World Zionist Organisation said before presenting the prize: “Not every day can you find a personality with courage who is doing what he thinks is the right thing to do even when in other countries it is not so popular. To understand what the State of Israel is all about. To understand the history of the Jewish people.” He said the new anti-Semitism is to follow the trend to speak against Israel. He remarked on how he felt  “to come to a place and see a very high personality who supports Israel when it’s popular to do it and when it’s not popular to do it.” He added: “I thank you Mr Premier for your courage, for your support and for all that you are doing for the State of Israel and the Jewish community. Toda raba”.

In response Premier Barry O’Farrell said: “I am genuinely humbled to be the recipient of this prestigious award. Over the years I have enjoyed participating in the activities and admiring and supporting the efforts of Zionist Council of New South Wales and the councils across the country.

He said: “You will always know far more about Israel than I’ll ever know but what I do know in my heart is that Israel stands out like a beacon of light in its region. If I take the individual letters of the word Israel – the “I” for me indicates the innovation and the initiative that I have to say for me will always characterise Israel – Israel that has managed to turn its economy from essentially an agrarian economy into a hi-tech economy, Israel that is responsible for so many of the technological innovations that today we take for granted, whether those mobile phones, whether computer chips and solar panels or as I’m always reminded when I watched that last London marathon, the bionic suit that enabled a woman who was a paraplegic to actually walk the course. That’s the inventiveness that Israel offers.”

He quoted Theodore Herzl who said “if you will it, it is no dream”. He continued by saying: “And it seems to me whether we we are talking about the State of Israel or the people of Israel and the way in which they apply themselves, there is no dream that they can’t realise.”

He continued:  “The “S” in Israel regrettably stands for security which for as long as Israel has existed has preoccupied the minds of its citizens in a way that we Australians who enjoy the opportunity to plan short-term and long-term have no real understanding of.”

Premier O’Farrell pats Yuval Rotem on the back

Premier O’Farrell reiterated his support to Israel’s right to survive within fixed borders and the only was forward is for a two State solution which can only happen “if Israel’s right to exist is respected and recognised”.

He said the ‘R” is for Ruach – Israel’s “vibrant spirit” saying that he believed that Australians will continue to be close to Israel because of a “shared spirit…the verve for life, the can do attitude and the determination to succeed are traits that we have in common”.

“The A is Israel reflects the close relationship Israel has with Australia” he said citing the battle in Beersheba 95 years ago which saw the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the State of Israel adding “the close bonds between Israel and Australia will hopefully continue”.

He said “E” represents the extraordinary. He said it is the only word which can describe the State of Israel despite the unresolved challenged that it has faced in its history. At this point on a day which he said marked the 70th anniversary of the first revelation of what was happening to the Jews in Europe, he was wildly applauded when announcing that Holocaust studies have become mandatory in NSW schools.

Zionist youth light the Menorah

Finally he came to the letter “L” and he said that the Israelis had made so much out of a land about a third the size of Tasmania. He said “I have actually seen blooming deserts – Israel 60 years on is strong and I thank you for honour you have bestowed and Israel go from strength to strength.”

Premier Barry O’Farrell requested to make one political point. “In all the years that I have been attending community events I’ve always with pride made the point that support for the Jewish community, support for Israel, support for Israel’s right to exist have been a matter of bipartisanship here in New South Wales.

When Bob Carr was Premier for all those years I was happy to acknowledge that support. At a time when it was not fashionable, Bob stood beside you outside the Russian consulate seeking the release of Russian Jews. And that’s how it to be. What disturbs me and I regret that it involves the same man, that a week ago we saw at the Federal level what I think is the first fracturing of that bipartisanship that I can remember…and that’s bad. Not just because of the vote and the message it sends to those who were engaging in the most horrific missile attacks on Israel, not just for five days but for months. It;s bad because the Greens start to get succor when they argue the case for BDS if they haven’t got it already from a Centre for Peace Studies which apparently supports it. It really does concern me because for the first time we no longer seem to have that bipartisanship that I think that has been such comfort to this community and to the State of Israel in difficult times.”

Israel’s ambassador to Australia Yuval Rotem said: “The very basis of our legacy and tradition in the spirituality of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Prize is unique.It selectively acknowledges men and women who deviate from the ordinary path of life to take a higher road. Premier Barry O’Farrell has walked this road He has risen above the comfort of inaction and he has embraced the pursuit of fairness.

We have seen throughout this last year in this State of New South Wales in the City of Sydney that there were voices that provoked incitement. There was a coalition of forces aiming to delegitimise and demonise Jewish businesses, shops and academics. But in this State, in this city there other voices…voices that will not tolerate extremism nor accept harassment of the Jewish people. Voices  that will stand up to those who attempt to denigrate our heritage, undermine our culture and belittle our legacy. Premier O’Farrell called upon commonsense, courage and confidence. He prevented BDS a platform to take root in New South Wales. He saw a charge that saw the movement utterly rejected. He exposed the campaign for what it was…a path that stood not just against Israel but against the Jewish people. He understands the unique challenges we face and is mindful of the long, sometimes tragic history we have endures. As a friend of Israel he has stood by us through thick and thin through good times and bad ” He said that it is easy to call yourself a friend of Israel but quite a different matter to act like one. He added “You Premier have acted like a true friend. His recognition by this community is well-deserved. This award could not have been more courageously earned.”

The meeting concluded with the lighting of the Chanukeah by Zionist youth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

4 Responses to “Jerusalem Prize for Premier Barry O’Farrell”
  1. Ferdinand says:

    Why do we hear so much pro-Islamic propaganda and supporting Palestinian “refugees” in our media and even in Parliament? Why those Palestinians are still called “refugees” after sixty odd years of being supposedly displaced? Why do we hear daily only about Palestinian refugees when there are virtually millions of refugees in Asia and Africa who are REAL victims of tyrants? We do not hear about them at all, why? Because they do not play victims. They settle down and live best they can and many of them are integrated into their new countries where they contribute to the growth of their new country. Thailand is not the richest country in Asia but they accepted Cambodian tribal refugees, gave them land to live on and even money to start their businesses. Why Palestinians were never accepted by their “Brother” countries, resettled and contribute to their economies instead playing victims so the gullible countries contribute to their keeping by feeling guilty for so many decades? People in the west should be told that actually we are the victims of their manipulations through any kind of media they can muster. Why we are not told the truth that their aim is to destroy the State of Israel by committing mass genocide? Israeli enemies are not making it secret on the contrary they proudly talk about it in every occasion they have. Why aren`t we told about this in mainstream media? Why we do not hear in our media the daily bombing of southern Israel cities, the stress its citizens go through when rockets are falling on children’s playgrounds and the bomb shelters Israel had to build to protect everyone from the terror of Islamic militants? We never hear that Israel have to spend 60 % of their budget just to defend themselves from very people who the west supports financially so instead buying food for their “refugees” they purchase bombs and rockets from Iran.
    Where is integrity, honesty and truthfulness of media and their responsibility to report the happenings fairly and without bias?
    Israel does not cry and ply to be the victims. Media loves “victims” it sells papers! We have ben betrayed by our own people who put profit and lies before truth, morality and integrity. Actually WE are the victims of our own media who report only the things which suit them. Israel is the victim because by our trust in these perverted media reports whom we believe we judge Israel unfairly and this way we actually support the corrupt anti Israeli machinery unwittingly. This is why we in supposedly “Christian” countries hate the Jews and actively promote anti-Semitism.
    Wake up “Christians” , demand the TRUTH!
    Wake up Israel – make yourself heard!
    God bless Israel, the Jews and everyone who supports them!
    Chazak! Chazak! Ve`nit chazek!

  2. Paulette says:

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  3. Robert says:

    You report Mr Duvdenani as saying “… the new anti-Semitism is to follow the trend to speak against Israel.”

    I do not speak out against Israel, but against a misguided interpretation of Zionism which deals injustices to Palestinians. This is not anti-Semitism, any more than the Freedom Summer civil rights movement, of the 1960’s was anti-American. That movement included economic boycotts and direct action against traders who supported and practised racial segregation, but it was not anti-American.

    Israelis also are concerned about injustices against Palestinians: for example the members and supporters of B’Tselem , an Israeli human rights organisation, one of several which condemn the wrongdoings of both Israelis and Palestinians toward each other. A count of BT’selem’s reports tallies the far more frequent wrongs of settlers, IDF and IOF troops against Palestinians.

    What is a person like me to think, a person who was in the American South in the summer of 1964, and who saw and felt the injustices that were being confronted?

    I was fortunate to have the experience. There was no internet then. Progress in communications technology has radically changed matters over the past 50 years or so. It is the difference between having to walk to the well to get a bucket of water, and having hot and cold water on tap in several rooms of my home.

    I can now pick and choose from the internet’s many and multifaceted reports of events in Israel, a place I have never visited. I can receive pictures and share comments with friends and acquaintances who are travelling in Israel. I can read current events as reported not only by B’Tselem, but also up-to-the-minute news from the Jewish Post and Ha’aretz, not to mention a wide spectrum of reflective and historical sources who are, in my opinion, clearly not anti-Semitic.

    Going back to the mid-1960s, it was then that I found and purchased a book by Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, and another by Jakow Trachtenberg, “The Trachtenberg System of Basic Mathematics”. Long before awareness of the Holocaust was prescribed for school students, I was aware of aspects of the lives of slave labourers under the rule of Germany’s National Socialist government of the 1930’s and 40’s. These men survived to tell a tale which impressed me deeply, as does Erich Fried’s poem “The Measures Taken”, written by a man who saw his father kicked to death on the street by Nazis.

    Not everyone can respond to injustice, terror and oppression with brilliant poetry, with a system of mental arithmetic, or by developing a school of mental therapy. Such people stand as beacons for the rest of us. I doubt that would have been my response. I cannot right the wrongs of the past, but I can do something to address ongoing injustices.

    For example, current injustices such as reported by Ha’aretz:

    http://bit.ly/XcyOtF

    “Drying out the Palestinians”
    Haaretz Editorial | Dec.10, 2012 | 3:17 AM | 19

    “Basic moral principles require that Israel cease destroying cisterns that are essential for the existence of dozens of Palestinian communities.

    Injustices reported by The Guardian, for example:
    http://bit.ly/XcAkvR

    Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
    The Guardian,
    Tuesday 11 December 2012 16.42 GMT

    “Israeli separation wall threatens world heritage site of Battir’s ancient terraces”

    These injustices are easily argued as part of a historical pattern, as discussed, for example, by Dr Avi Raz, of Oxford, in his book “The Bride and the Dowry”, on the aftermath of the June 1967 war.
    http://bit.ly/XcBN5s

    A chapter available on the internet notes in its introduction that

    “Following its swift military victory over Egypt, Jordan and Syria, world sympathy toward Israel soared. The victory seemed the triumph of the just. But the international support Israel enjoyed quickly started to dwindle, as television screens and front pages of newspapers around the globe became increasingly dominated by heartbreaking scenes of the mass exodus of West Bank Palestinians crossing over into the East Bank, and the harsh conditions of the new refugees in makeshift tent-camps in Jordan.”

    The author says of the refugee crisis:
    “None of this was ordered by the government. These acts were initiated by senior army officers. But the cabinet welcomed the Palestinian exodus.”

    The chapter continues with a story of bureaucratic manipulation of conditions of return for refugees. The end result of Israeli aggression on the West Bank, since 1967, resembles what was achieved far more swiftly and brutally by Serbs in Bosnia, in the 1990’s.

    I ask you to consider how all this looks from the point of view of a person whose indirect knowledge of the Holocaust is nuanced by a lifetime of exposure to people and events: some directly experienced, some accurately reported, some accurately fictionalised (as in, say, “Schindler’s Ark”) and some propagandised.

    Editor, I pray that you are a reasonable and fair-minded person who checks my references if need be, and who gives careful thought and feeling to the issue of posting this response to the article above.

    Under the circumstances, I cannot ask for more.

  4. Rita says:

    Premier O’Farrell,

    I salute you for not being a “fashion victim” as our federal government seems to have become. Unfortunately these days it seems that Israel and the Jewish people do not have many friends among the left-populists.

    And yes, I shall vote for you. 🙂

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