Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Fair Dinkum Philosemites

In 1938 William Cooper, of Victoria, Australia, was 77 years of age.  He was an indigenous Australian, a member of the Yorta Yorta people, and as secretary of the Australian Aborigines' League he was a veteran of the protracted struggle to win justice for his people, a goal that would not be achieved in his lifetime - nor for decades afterwards.   Stirred by reports of Kristallnacht in November 1938, Mr Cooper organised a petition of protest against "the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany", and on 6 December 1938 he led a delegation of his members on foot to the German Consulate in order to present it. There, these oppressed Australians who took time out from their own priorities to remember a tormented people on the other side of the world were rebuffed.

Seventy years later it was announced that 70 trees would be planted in Israel in honour of William Cooper.  Ceremonies have been held in Melbourne to mark his noble deed, and it has just been decided that he will be further honoured in December this year with a memorial garden at the entrance to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.

His story is a touching one, and has naturally elicited a great deal of interest in Australia and in the Jewish world.  Yet I can't help thinking that more should be known of one of his contemporaries, an Australian of a very different milieu, who also strove on behalf of persecuted German Jewry.

Critchley Parker, a young Melbourne man of solid middle class background, advocated a flourishing Jewish refugee settlement in Tasmania, the island south of the Australian mainland across the Bass Strait.  He envisaged the involvement of the settlement's members in mining, fishing, fruit-growing, wine-making, perfume production, and the manufacture of cotton goods and woollens, and had all sorts of grandiose expectations for it.  While scouting bushland near the proposed location, situated in Tasmania's remote and rugged south-west, he became ill and perished.  As he lay in his sleeping bag, with death approaching, he wrote "To die in the service of so noble a cause is to me a great satisfaction."

His story was told in an issue of the Australian Jewish Historical Society's Journal in 1990, and is known to Jewish history buffs in Australia.  It deserves to be more familiar to the public at large, and Parker's philosemitic act honoured as William Cooper's has been, if only by a plaque at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in his home city.

2 comments:

  1. There is a huge place in my heart for the Righteous Amongst the Nations. Martin Gilbert's book is a tribute to the bravery and humanity of so many.

    William Cooper deserves his place at Yad Vashem.

    There is something strangely moving for me when I read how much non-Jews have been prepared to risk their life or reputation to help Jews.
    The reason is that we Jews almost expect to be hated and vilified like no other people or nation. Our history is testament to this irrational bigotry which plagued us and plagues us still.

    So when we find friends amongst the other nations of the world who speak up for us and bear witness to the truth,oppose bigotry and defy hatred, they have a special place in our hearts.

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  2. Thanks, Ray - very movingly expressed.

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