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Press Release – 7 November 2011

Supporting our friends in all the right places

The Zionist Council of Victoria (ZCV), together with the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) will proudly support the launch of the grassroots group Australian Friends of Israel (AFI) this month with an inaugural event on November 16 at the Beth Weizmann Community Centre.

Luke Martin, a Melbourne-based part time teacher completing his law degree, initiated AFI on the social media networking site Facebook in December 2010 and the group has grown to 300 members around Australia.

Martin, a former Monash University Lecturer and Liberal candidate for Cranbourne in 2006, is genuine and forthright about the significant role Israel holds for him and by extension, AFI, and his desire to help enhance the historical relationship between Australia and Israel well into the future.

“This is about Israel, and the Australian relationship with Israel. I want Australian Friends of Israel to assist in educating people. I want to remind my fellow Australians of our heritage – a heritage steeped in a love for Israel. Because moderate and respectable Australian patriotism has always been pro-Israel, we are entitled to enshrine our national friendship with Israel in the untouchable mystery and tradition of iconic Australian imagery such as ANZAC Day, Beersheba and the Australian founding fathers. If our founding fathers believed in Israel, so should we. I am doing this for my grandparents” he says.

The AFI facebook page boldly makes its support of Israel known: “The Jews have as much right as any other people to live in freedom and without fear of harassment or persecution. Israel, the only truly free democracy of the Middle East is a beacon of light to the entire world. Since 1948, it has been transformed into a productive modern industrialized nation. Often provoked with suicide bombings and even invasions from hostile regimes, Israel shows incredible patience and grace towards its neighbours.For such reasons and many more; we stand side-by-side with our ally Israel. Like everybody else, Israelis have a right to live in a secure homeland.”

The group is troubled by “…the increasing rise of anti-Semitic violence and hatred in various sections of the world and even to some degree in the Lucky Country.”

Luke Martin has seen firsthand the extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic vitriol at BDS rallies and says “We desperately need to reinvigorate a national consciousness and conversation in support of Israel. Whilst I do not want to over play the Max Brenner protests, they are an illustration of the fragility of the fabric that holds our society together. Without direct police intervention and opposition from the Coalition, Labor and the Jewish community, the prospect of how those ugly BDS protests might have developed is deeply concerning.”

The November 16 event will commence with wine, cheese and mingling at 7.30pm. Musical inspiration will be provided by cantor Gidi Lavin.

“Unmasking Anti-Zionism” will be the focus of a panel discussion by guest speakers David Southwick MP, Member for Caulfield and Co-Convenor of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel; ZCV president Sam Tatarka and JCCV president John Searle. The floor will be open to questions from the audience.

Sam Tatarka, ZCV president says our community should embrace such positive collaboration with the wider community. “The ZCV is proud to be developing our relationship with Australian Friends of Israel and the pro-Zionist community beyond the Jewish community. At a time when there is a lot of misinformation and misplaced hostility directed towards Israel, we thank Luke and the Australian Friends of Israel for standing up and speaking out for Israel. We hope to see AFI go from strength to strength both in Victoria and around Australia. The ZCV will do all we can to support them in their endeavours” he said.

Australian Friends for Israel has local administrators in Sydney and Brisbane and are hoping to launch inaugural events in other state capitals in 2012.

Australian Friends of Israel (AFI) will hold its launch event on Wednesday November 16, 7.30 for 8pm start
Beth Weizmann Community Centre – 306 Hawthorn Road Caulfield South
Guest speakers: David Southwick MP, ZCV president Sam Tatarka and JCCV president John Searle
Pre-event wine and cheese at 7.30 pm, Panel discussion at 8pm. Entry $10.
Enquiries / RSVP: Luke Martin, Australian Friends of Israel or the ZCV office 9272 5544,

Facebook page for Australian Friends of Israel (AFI)!/groups/MelbourneFriendsOfIsrael/
Join the Inaugural event on Facebook!/event.php?eid=145856158838119

For more information contact:
Jane Rapke – Executive Director, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5544
Elly Shalev – Director Public Affairs, Zionist Council of Victoria 9272 5519
The Zionist Council of Vitoria leads and encourages Jewish and Zionist activity and expression within Victoria, to represent the Jewish community, to promote and communicate Israel’s interests within the broader Victorian community and to promote Victoria’s relationship with Israel. For more information, visit the Zionist Council of Victoria website