The Jewish people have suffered unimaginable trauma. From pogroms to blood libels; from antisemitic tropes to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust – a genocide without parallel – the Jewish people have endured extraordinary suffering.
Indeed, it is the lessons we have learned from the Holocaust that inform my determination never to tolerate bigotry or hate speech in any form – to ensure that there is a strong legislative framework that protects the Jewish community and other groups.
18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is therefore fundamental to protecting our community from Holocaust denial, hate speech, and incitement. If elected, I will be a strong advocate for maintaining this legislation and strengthening it to stamp out online hate as well
Fighting hate, however, must go beyond legislation. We must all work to change the culture that allows hate and intolerance to flourish.
We must call out antisemitic tropes whenever they arise. Mischaracterisations of Jewish people, including myths such as their enjoying outsize wealth or power, must be identified immediately as the starting point for much worse. There must be zero tolerance for such stereotypes and we must educate ourselves regarding the risks that they present.
When the Holocaust is misused and weaponised to score points in an argument, we devalue this horrific event and cause great pain to Holocaust survivors and their descendants. When we are witness to this tactic, we must call it out. We must centre the experience of survivors of this great crime against humanity and honour the memory of the victims who perished.
I have had the enormous privilege throughout my life – and during this campaign – to forge profound and enduring friendships with members of the Jewish community. They have helped me understand the centrality of the Holocaust, and also the State of Israel as a bulwark against a similar genocide ever happening again.
As I have said elsewhere, Israel is the practical realisation of that crucial statement, ‘Never Again.’ It is for this reason that I will always be a strong supporter of Israel as a Jewish State, existing within safe and secure borders.
The people of Israel have a right to live free from terror – free from attacks that target innocent civillians. There can never be any justification for such crimes and I condemn them unequivocally.
The word, ‘Apartheid’, should not be used to describe the situation in Israel. Having reported from South Africa, I believe that appropriation of this term devalues it as well. Similarly, I do not support the BDS movement: one which seeks to delegitimise the Jewish State, denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination.
Together with my Jewish friends, I hope for the day that peace will come to the region: when both Israelis and Palestinians can prosper side by side with peace and security for all; beneficiaries of the Two State Solution that is supported by both major parties and which I support as well.
Some time ago I signed a letter, ‘Do Better on Palestine’. I did not write the letter, and if I had, I would have framed it very differently. The letter makes several assumptions and did not take into account the complexity of the situation at the time, in which Israel’s security was under threat.
My signing of the letter was narrowly framed to express my profound and abiding concern for the safety and welfare of journalists, regardless of the conflict. As a journalist who has worked amid conflict myself, my strong view is that journalists should be able to go about their work without ever being the target. This is fundamental to ensuring open coverage of any conflict, from all sides. At that time I knew several foreign journalists who were reporting in the affected area and were at direct risk. My concern, as a journalist, was for them and others and their safety at work.
I could remove my name from the letter, but that seems to me to be insincere, or a cheat’s way out, given that I did sign it. Far better, I think, to learn from that moment and to better understand the issues from the perspective of the Jewish people.
Unfortunately, the discourse around Israel is too often polarised and simplistic. Many Jewish Goldstein residents have expressed their dismay to me regarding the media’s emphasis on Israel, while it fails to take into account the complexity of the situation.
As a community-backed representative, I deeply empathise with these concerns, especially as we witness a rise in antisemitism across the world. This is something that I witnessed and reported on firsthand in the United States and is a situation that I find deeply upsetting. I always strive to listen and engage to learn, and I will continue to strive to do so with our Jewish community.
At my launch yesterday, I made a commitment to the Jewish community of Goldstein – a community that has contributed so much.
In my speech, I said, ‘As your community-backed, independent candidate, I make you this promise: I will always stand with you. I will always fight to keep you safe. Hate speech has no place in Australia. Holocaust denial has no place in Australia.
‘Nor does the co-opting of the trauma of the Jewish community for political gain.
I will fight to ensure that crucial legislation, like 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act is never repealed or watered down to enable hate speech. Indeed, I will fight to strengthen it.
‘Where others may seek to wedge and divide, this campaign has shown the power of unity. The cynical politics of division, hate, fear and disinformation must come to an end. I firmly believe in the right of the Jewish people to a safe and secure homeland in the State of Israel. The Jewish people have suffered unimaginable persecution and the Jewish homeland is the practical realisation of that crucial phrase, ‘Never Again.’’
If elected, I will also be a strong advocate for Federal laws in line with the proposed Victorian legislation that will ban the public display of Nazi insignia and other hate symbols. I would also propose that ‘public display’ be extended to online spaces. While such legislation must be carefully framed to avoid unintended consequences and to allow for the use of such materials in carefully managed educational settings, it is imperative that we implement national laws that combat the rising tide of hate.