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Press Release – 13 September 2006

Danny Lamm Statement regarding the Jewish Community’s response to Prime Minister John Howard’s comments on Muslim integration

The Australian Jewish Community experience is strongly marked by the substantial influx of Jewish refugees to Australia post WWII. Those immigrants, starting out with no English and little awareness of the core values that define Australian society, quickly set about fully integrating themselves in to their new homeland.

Today those immigrants, their children and grandchildren are both proudly and actively Australian and Jewish. Integration did not mean assimilation. This is one of Australia’s wonderful attributes, and a true testament to multiculturalism. The multiple ethnic groups are encouraged to make their contribution to the fabric of Australian society. The key issue is one of attitude. The immigrant has the option to engage and integrate or remain isolated and uninvolved. In some cases this can mean a reluctance to understand and appreciate the very basis on which our country is based; its democratic principles, its egalitarian society, its robust, free and independent press; its tolerance for all religions and points of view.

This we understand is the thrust of the remarks of the Prime Minister over the past week. We endorse the call to all citizens of Australia to integrate; to embrace Australian values and to contribute the best of their ability to advancing our society.

Whilst the Prime Minister’s comments on this issue have attracted attention and even criticism from some quarters, I hasten to add that this was not from roof body organisations which have a mandate to represent the Jewish community – despite the AJN’s front page headline last week.

As President of the State Zionist Council of Victoria, representing close to 50 communal organisations in this state, I reiterate our support for the Prime Minister as well as the Treasurer and Foreign Minister who called for immigrants to learn English and accept Australian values in order to better integrate into Australian society, noting that a small group of Muslim immigrants has resisted this. Integration, as we in the Jewish community know well, does not equate to assimilation or to a rejection of one’s cultural traditions.

On the anniversary of September 11, PM John Howard made a principled statement that the Muslim world should accept the right of Israel to exist, and that this would remove one of the arguments used by terrorists. The State Zionist Council of Victoria strongly endorses these comments, and reiterates our strong support for the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and Foreign Minister in their public and ongoing priority to ensure Australia remains a vibrant, safe and multicultural society.

Further information: Danny Lamm – 0408 408 929/ Ginette Searle – 9272 5502