NSW Parliamentarian makes personal Genocide Study Tour

February 18, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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NSW  Labor Upper House MP and NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair,  Walt Secord has made a self-funded genocide study tour to Israel, Armenia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Auschwitz-Birkeneau.

Walt Secord visits Auschwitz

Walt Secord in Jerusalem

Secord has addressed the NSW State Parliament detailing the toru which he made over December and January during the recent parliamentary recess.

He said visiting Auschwitz on an icy, Polish-winter day was one that he would never forget. “It was one of many difficult, but ultimately inspiring days,” Mr Secord adding that he patterned his trip to Auschwitz and Israel on the March of Living journeys.

“In the early 1990s, as a young journalist, I reported on a program for young Jewish people known as the March of the Living. They marched three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkeneau and retraced the actual route that countless Jewish men, women and children undertook to the gas chambers. I pledged that one day I would undertake a similar pilgrimage,” Mr Secord told Parliament.

“Auschwitz is a place of planned, clinical, mechanised death.”

Walt Secord’s study tour started in Armenia, with a visit to its national genocide memorial and museum in Yerevan where he had the honour and privilege of laying a wreath at the national memorial marking the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians.

Secord said: “The Armenians were the subject of one of the first modern genocides citing the famous Adolf Hitler quote in August 1939, where he said: ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’.”

After Poland, he visited Israel and Yad Vashem, spending 10 days there. His visit stretched from the Yitzhak Rabin Crossing Point into Jordan in the south to the Gadot Observation Point in the north. He also visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Gush Etzion, Sderot, which is less than 1000 metres from Gaza, Eilat, the Dead Sea, Masada and numerous Jewish and Christian holy sites.

“I saw the survival of the Jewish people; the nation that Auschwitz was intended to “finish”.

Mr Secord also visited the Palestinian Territories including Jericho and Ramallah. “For the record, I still believe that a two-State solution is possible in the Middle East.”

He concluded the trip with a visit to Iraqi Kurdistan, to see Halabja where Saddam Hussein in March 1988 unleashed chemical gas attacks on the Kurds – killing 5,000. Between 1987 and 1989, Saddam Hussein destroyed 4,500 villages and murdered 200,000 Kurds, visiting the national monument and museum  and meeting the survivors of Saddam Hussein’s atrocities.

“I also had the opportunity to visit the infamous Red Security facility so named after the red wall that surrounded it. This was the headquarters where Saddam Hussein’s secret police tortured and imprisoned thousands. There was even a room set aside especially to torture children,” Mr Secord added.

“I am neither a sheltered nor a squeamish man …  but this was perhaps one of the most horrific places I have seen. At one point, a young Kurdish boy tried to enter one of the rooms of the museum. The guide stopped him, saying that there things in the museum that children should never see. There were things that no one should see, let alone experience, but they are real. That is the true horror. That is the reason why, as painful as the memories are, they must be remembered.”

Secord said he paid for all of his flights and there had been no cost to the Australian or NSW taxpayer.

Secord also thanked the Australia-Israel Jewish Affairs Council’s Dr Colin Rubenstein and Mr Peter Adler describing them as “fantastic advocates” for Israel and for their assistance.

He also thanked Australia-Israel-UK Leadership Dialogue Group’s Albert Dadon who arranged unprecedented access to Israel’s key decision makers and arranged a meeting for the dialogue group with the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah.

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