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Thursday, 6 September 1984
Page: 554


Senator PETER BAUME(12.53) —Mr Acting Deputy President, this week is the forty-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. I want to speak briefly on some of the events of that time, but also on some recent events which should take our minds back and about which we should be cognisant. That war was a war one of whose phenomena was the Holocaust. I want to speak for a few moments, and in a way which I do not normally do, as a Jewish member of parliament and as a Jew. I want to remember the Holocaust and the six million people who died. I want to remember that the Holocaust was, in fact, state anti- Semitism put into practice.

It was an event which the world recognised and saw with horror and to which the world responded with sensitivity and with generosity. As a result of events after the end of World War II, we saw the establishment of the state of Israel, in which this country and politicians from this country played an honourable part; we saw the securing of that state through a series of wars; and we saw its development as the only democracy in the Middle East. But now, 45 years later, there have been two recent events which have given me considerable concern, and I want to raise each of them in the Senate. I have mentioned anti-Semitism and I have mentioned the Holocaust. I have done so against the background that unless the Jewish people themselves are behaving with generosity, care and reason, they cannot complain if the world turns against them. But today there is evidence that anti-Semitism is alive and well.

The first of the things to which I wish to refer concerns the decision of the Malaysian Government to forbid the playing in that country of certain music because it had been composed by someone who was Jewish. The composer, Mr Ernest Bloch, had written a Hebrew rhapsody, 'Schelomo', and it had been a decision or an intention of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to play that piece of music on a visit to Malaysia. The Malaysian Government announced, I must say with some candour and honesty, that it had an official state policy of anti-Semitism and that it was not acceptable in that country for music or other works by Jews to be performed, and it indicated that that piece of music should not be played. To the great credit of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, it determined not to go to Malaysia.

I simply say that I am distressed that a country in our region should have that kind of state policy against any religious group. I am reminded that it is not only the Jews around the world who are having trouble. I have many, many representations from the Bahai people about the persecution they are suffering in Iran. But it is only a short step from the forbidding of the playing of certain music to the burning of the books, about which we were all so horrified during the 1930's. Yes-anti-semitism is alive and well.

But the real purpose of my rising in the Senate was to say that we Jews also have to watch what we are doing. I want to say something about Rabbi Meir Kahana . This rabbi, a member of my religion, was elected recently by the people of Israel to the Knesset, the parliament of Israel. He has been elected on the most poisonous, destructive, narrow, intolerant grounds that I can imagine. He has been elected by people spreading a message of hatred. He displays all the evidence of a tortured and unbalanced mind. He is spreading a message about other people which if it were spread about Jews, he would be the first to complain about. It is a message of hatred directed towards people in Israel by a rabbi, by someone who should know better. Unbalanced rantings of this kind by Rabbi Meir Kahana will in the end serve to weaken the moral validity of the case that Jews put for tolerance and acceptance in what is a hostile world.

Of course, it is a measure of the state of Israel that Rabbi Kahana, with his poisoned views, is still able to stand for election and to be elected to the Knesset. Whilst in the name of democracy it will be necessary for him to be allowed to speak and to spread his message, it is also necessary that Jews everywhere and the Jewish communities around the world stand up and repudiate what he says and the message he is trying to spread. I put on record my belief that Israel will prosper whilst it provides places for all its citizens, whether they be Jewish or Arab; that Israel will suffer if the message of the Meir Kahanas is listened to and is given any credence.

Last week, in my own congregation, I heard my own rabbi, a tolerant and fearless community leader, who fled South Africa, urging each one of us to repudiate Rabbi Kahana and what he is doing not only to Israel, not only to tolerance, but to the Jewish people. I am pleased to do my bit to invite honourable senators in this place, whenever they see or hear about that rabbi, to realise that he is not speaking for the Jews of the world and he is not speaking for the Jews of Australia. We believe in tolerance, we believe in acceptance and we believe that the position of Israel will be secured only while the views of this man are rejected and seen for the nonsense that they are.

This is, as I say, the forty-fifth anniversary, this week, of the outbreak of World War II. If we forget the lessons of that war and the horrors that came with that war, and if we forget what it meant for many, many people who were unlucky enough to fall within the nazi yoke, then it will be our own fault. I wanted to place on record, as a Jew-as I say, I do this very seldom in the Senate-my abhorrence of what is going on both in Malaysia, where state anti- Semitism is alive and well and being practiced, and, of course, in Israel itself , where an unbalanced member of the Knesset will do great harm to what has been built up by Jewish people over many, many years.

Sitting suspended from 1.01 to 2 p.m.