Australia joins the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

June 5, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Australia has been admitted as the thirty-third member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) following a unanimous vote of the plenary in Luxembourg.

Dr Steven Cooke, Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland, Dr Avril Alba, Dr Donna-Lee Frieze, Amb. Lynette Wood (Head of Australian delegation), Lord Eric Pickles (Head of UK delegation), Pauline Rockman, Ciaran Chestnutt, DFAT, Sue Hampel and Dr Andre Oboler.

This has been a four-year process supported by the United Kingdom, as Australia’s mentor, led by Lord Eric Pickles.

IHRA is the international and intergovernmental body promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research and countering antisemitism, racism and anti-Roma and Sinti prejudice.  IHRA grew out of the Stockholm Declaration, an initiative of the Swedish government to ensure that countries remember and educate their citizens about the Holocaust and its universal messages.

Over the period of Australia’s involvement, we have seen the adoption of the working definition of antisemitism by IHRA, the European Union, and a range of national governments and organisations around the world, including the National Union of Students in Australia.

Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute and a Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University, has served an expert member of Australia’s delegation over these four years. He said, “It was a proud moment as the other 32 countries welcomed Australia, our head of delegation was moved from the observers’ table to a seat at the main table and our flag was added to the row of flags of IHRA member countries. Lord Pickles commented on Australia’s contributions to IHRA, including our efforts to monitor online hate, work I’ve led using OHPI’s online reporting tools. The support and interest from the experts and diplomats at IHRA for the new ideas Australia brings to the table are inspiring.”

Now that Australia is a full member, with a seat at the table, it is able to fully participate in IHRA’s efforts to formulate policies, plans and programs advancing Holocaust education, commemoration and research. This is particularly important given the large number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Australia. Membership also provides a mandate to further enhance Australia’s efforts in Holocaust education and commemoration with the support through IHRA of leading experts from around the world.

The Australian government’s commitment to IHRA enjoys bi-partisan support and is facilitated through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Head of the Australian delegation is Lynette Wood,
Ambassador to Germany.  After the acceptance at the plenary, she read a statement from Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne conveying the Australian government’s appreciation of the support of the UK delegation, led by Lord Pickles, and the passion and dedication of the Australian expert delegation.

She also noted that Australia was the first Indo-Pacific nation to join IHRA.

The IHRA chair, Georges Santer, welcomed Australia bringing the fifth continent into the organisation and commended Australia on its participation.

Richard Balkin, president of the ZCNSW said: “The Zionist Council of New South Wales is delighted to hear that Australia has been accepted as a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) following a vote of the IHRA Plenary in Luxembourg this week.
IHRA is the peak international body consisting of representatives of over 40 countries, as well as NGOs, civil society and leading experts, committed to strengthening, advancing and promoting Holocaust education and remembrance.
Importantly, IHRA’s exhaustive definition of Antisemitism (which includes the delegitimization of Israel and rejection of Zionism), is the most internationally widely accepted definition of Antisemitism.
We are proud that Australia has always played a leading role on the world stage in speaking out and taking action against Antisemitism in all its forms. Importantly, Australia also has the highest per capita Holocaust survivor population outside of Israel, having opened our shores after the horrors of World War 2. We are certain given Australia’s unique history and demonstrated commitment, it will make a significant contribution in the advancement of Holocaust education and remembrance, and in the fight against global Antisemitism.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has congratulated the Australian Government following Australia’s admission as a full member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“This is the final, momentous step in a long and drawn out process which involved a number of individuals making significant efforts towards achieving a result which will benefit both Australia and IHRA” Jeremy Jones, AIJAC’s Director of International and Community Affairs, said today.

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein added, “We are grateful for the ongoing efforts over decades of several different Australian governments in pursuing and finally achieving this highly valuable outcome – placing Australia among the world leaders in Holocaust education. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne deserve special recognition for seeing this process through to a positive conclusion.”

“As Senator Payne noted in her media release on the move, Australia can bring a  ‘unique perspective on Holocaust education and remembrance’ to the alliance, given the ‘large number of Holocaust survivors’ who were invited to come to Australia ‘in the aftermath of World War II,'” Rubenstein went on to say.

Australia was actively involved in the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in January 2000, which brought together high ranking political leaders and officials as well as a range of representatives of  civil society, including Holocaust survivors and Jewish leaders, from over 40 countries. That forum produced the Declaration which is the basis of the IHRA’s commitment to Holocaust education, remembrance and research.

Australia’s delegation in Stockholm was led by then-Ambassador to Sweden, His Excellency Stephen Brady and included then-President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Nina Bassat, and Jeremy Jones from AIJAC.

The first formal participation by an Australian Government at a working meeting of the IHRA was in Jerusalem in 2010, when Australia was a guest of the pro tem Conference Chair, Israel. Australia’s delegation at that meeting was led by Ambassador Andrea Faulkner and again included Jeremy Jones.

In recent years Australia has gone through the stages of Observer and then Liaison status and is now the 33rd state to achieve full IHRA membership. Most IHRA members are European, but Australia will be joining Argentina, Canada, Israel and the United States as members from outside that continent.

Over the past four years, the Australian effort has been accelerated with strong delegations of academics and experts, participating together with foreign affairs officials.

“Achieving full membership of the IHRA required diligence and devotion by the Australian Government and recognition of the skills of the expert team which Australia has sent to recent meetings,” Jones concluded.

Peter Wertheim co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry said: “It is gratifying to see so many years of advocacy and submissions by the ECAJ and Jewish academics and other experts come to fruition.  We thank all of those from our community who have contributed to this effort and the diplomats from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Human Rights Branch who were involved. We also thank Lord Eric Pickles of the United Kingdom who acted a mentor.

The achievement is especially timely in light of the resurgence of antisemitism in different parts of the world. The IHRA’s Working Definition of Antisemitism is a clear statement of what constitutes antisemitism both in its traditional and contemporary forms.  Australia’s membership of the IHRA is an implied endorsement of that definition, and sends an important message from the top that all of these forms of antisemitism are completely unacceptable.”


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