Making a Difference
Australian MP lauds PMW after trip to Israel
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Israel wows Coalition lawmakers

by Gareth Narunsky

SIX federal Coalition MPs who recently returned from Israel said they were full of praise for Israel's achievements, more understanding of its challenges and ready to spread the word.

Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher, Tasmanian Senator David Bushby, Paterson MP Bob Baldwin, South Australian Senator David Fawcett, Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro and Cowan MP Luke Simpkins all travelled as part of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council's [AIJAC's) Rambam program.

The MPs shared their experiences and reflections at AIJAC lunch briefings in Sydney and Melbourne last week.

Gambaro said she came away from the Israel experience with a new found understanding.

"The trip was extraordinary from many perspectives," she said.

"[It] had a good element of both political and cultural visits, as well as historical visits.
"But in terms of understanding that wonderful history and being able to talk to some incredible speakers, there were some very gut-wrenching moments."

One of those moments, she said, was talking to Arnold Roth, the father of murdered Australian-Israeli teenager Malki Roth - sentiment shared by Simpkins, who said his unequivocal support had been strengthened as a result of the trip.

Simpkins said hearing Arnold Roth's story made him think of his own daughters and what it must be like for Israelis to live under the constant threat of terrorism.

He said he had already applied knowledge gleaned on the trip in at least three discussions in Parliament.

Baldwin spoke about learning from Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus about Palestinian children being taught to hate Jews, something he later used to challenge the Palestinian governor of Bethlehem.

"I said 'how do you then on one hand prescribe a passion for peace when you educate your children to kill the Jewish people?' And then he went into some lengthy dialogue and just said how terrible it was, what Jewish people were doing to him." Baldwin said.

"And he said, 'Do you know they put me in jail for 20 years?' And I said, 'What for?' He said, 'killing Jews'. These are the questions that people need to ask."

Bushby said he marvelled at Israel's ability to prosper despite living under the constant threat of attack.

"In that adversity, a nation that is comprised of people that have come from all over the world who speak all sorts of different languages have come together and built a nation that is one of the most successful democracies and economies in the world," he said.

"I find it extremely frustrating that the left-wing media which seems to dominate most perspectives on Israel outside Israel, take the approach that they do, where they try and demonise Israel when it is doing so much right."

David Fawcett warned about the risk of a new generation forming views on Israel based on hearing only half the story.

"That is why the program that AIJAC is supporting is so important. Because it is a vehicle and an avenue to try and provide facts and perspective," he said.

AIJAC also recently hosted a briefing by Sydney Morning Herald columnist and Sydney Institute executive director Gerard Henderson, who recently visited Israel with his wife Anne.

While acknowledging the importance of security, Henderson noted how it had been replaced by economics as the major factor in many of his discussions there.