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Transcript 2036

ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE OF ISRAEL - FESTIVAL HALL MELBOURNE - SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR. JOHN GORTON

Photo of Gorton, John

Gorton, John

Period of Service: 10/01/1968 to 10/03/1971

More information about Gorton, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 22/04/1969

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2036

ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE OF ISRAEL
Festival Hall, Melbourne 22 APRIL 1969
Speech by the Prime Minister, Mr. John Gorton
Mr. President, Mr. Ambassador and Fellow Australians of Jewish
Faith or Jewish Descent:-
We stand here to give greetings to you all on a stage
from which those bright banners have just been carried banners
which symbolically bore the stars of the Southern Cross and the Star
of David. And how proper that is, for this association is not a recent
one. Back in the 1914-18 War, Australian soldiers, many of
Jewish descent, rode and fought with Jews in Israel. In the last Great
World War, two of the best-known Jewish soldiers today served with
Australians in the Syrian campaign. I am told, and I believe it is true,
that General Moshe Dayan lost his eye while with an Australian patrol
in the Syrian campaign. He was using a pair of binoculars to help
his-Australian comrades, and was hit by an enemy bullet.
And I know that Brigadier General Allon served in a
little-known but gallant action where he guided and led an Australian
patrol behind the enemy lines to hold and seize a bridge and prevent
its destruction so that Australian and other troops coming along from
behind could cross that bridge. They were to hold it for eighteen
hours. They held it for four days.
This is the sort of association in fighting, in war, that
has gone on between Australians and Jews in Israel, so how right it
was that today the flags should bear the stars of both our nations.
And what a special cheer there was, of course, for the
reference to the Six-Day War, a war which, I suspect, must have
benefited the Israeli Treasury immensely because I know that a third
of the budget of Israel is spent on defence but I imagine that at least
another third of its defence material has been made available from
other sources: But that was some years ago, and while it did what wars
can do, and that is settle immediate problems and fighting and wars
can do that, no matter what anyone may say it has not settled the
continuing problem. And since that time I think there have been
one-quarter as many casualties as occurred in that Six-Day War,
many of them children blown to pieces or maimed by button mines,
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many of them peasants working in their fields suddenly the target of
mortar or machine gun attack, for Israel is still a beleaguered nation.
That nation still must work, wherever it may be working, with the
tool of its trade in one hand and the sword and the rifle within grasp
for the other. It still must seek to hear all the time above the noises
of the market place the possible call of the tocsin to defend what has
been won, because that must be defended.
War is horrible. Fighting is horrible. But they are
not the worst things that can happen, and who could possibly know this
better than the people now in Israel, with the thousands of years of
persecution in all the lands in which they sought to make their home,
having been driven out from their own. With all those years of
persecution culminating in Nazi aggression who could know it better?
And who could know better that if the choice eventually
has to be made between a battlefield and a Belsen, then free men and
women must choose a battlefield every time.
What we all want is for it to be recognised throughout
the world that Israel is there to stay, and that Israel is a free and
sovereign and independent nation as of right. And we want Israel to
be allowed to divert that money that now must be put into defence to
be used for the further increase of the miracles it has wrought in the
arid land to which it has gone.
Sometimes, it almost makes one despair when one thinks
of what has been wrung from the desert, when one thinks of the forests
which have grown and are growing, where previously erosion held sway,
where one sees the factories and industries springing up where
previously was nothing but nomadic wandering, where one sees not two
but ten blades of grass where only one grew before. It almost makes
one despair to think that that example can be the subject of such threat
and such attacks rather than be followed for the benefit of all those
who live in that region of the Middle East.
What all Australians want, I believe, is that it should
be possible for an enduring peace to be made; that the Arab nations
should sit down and talk and discuss and reach agreement. What that
decision or result will be, I do not know or seek here to indicate, as
long as it brings to all those people living there the chance to progress,
the chance to live in peace, the chance to take care of refugees, the
chance to give human beings in that part of the world happiness,
confidence in the future and a knowledge which you have and which I
have which is quite ineradicable. That is that though the State of
Israel may be 21 today and has attained its majority, it will go on
forever. / 3
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What I have outlined could be achieved if the two great
powers not four great powers but two great powers in the world
the United States of America and the U. S. S. were to say, " Enough
of this. Turn your swords into ploughshares. We are strong enough
to see that one will not be attacked by the other and we in concert will
help to hold the peace." This could be done.
For ourselves for myself, for my Government, for
Australians, we are small and therefore perhaps sympathetic
particularly to Israel which also is small. But that which we can do
we will do to support it. That which we can say we will say. That
influence we can bring to bear, such as it is, will be brought to bear
for this end. And I cannot better express that approach than by
reading to you part of a message sent by us to the Executive Council
of Australian Jewry in the Sydney Town Hall some time ago. And this
is our belief as a Government and my belief as a Prime Minister:-
" We believe that all parties to the dispute should
without delay sit down around the conference table
and begin discussions aimed at restoring peace and
stability to the Middle East. Any such settlement
must be formally based on the acceptance of Israel
as a sovereign nation, existing as of right, entitled
to live and develop in security, free of constant
threat, posing no threat to its neighbouring countries
and using for the good of all, rights and opportunities
so dearly bought."
I thank you.

Transcript 2036