The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) mourns the passing of Bob Hawke, one of Australia’s greatest statesmen, and a much-beloved friend of both the Australian Jewish community and of Israel.
As Prime Minister, Hawke will always be remembered for his mastery of policy detail and inspiring leadership while maintaining an unwavering authenticity and approachability. These qualities enabled him to steer a government that pushed through transformative reforms that truly changed the face of Australian society and its place in the world.
Earlier, as ACTU leader, Hawke set the scene for these reforms by guiding the Australia labour movement forward with new approaches to the economic problems and challenges of the late 20th century.
The uniquely warm relationship Hawke forged with our Jewish community, and its leaders at the time, both at the ACTU and when he entered politics, will always be cherished. AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler was one of those leaders who worked closely with him in those years in his then capacity as President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, and recalls with gratitude his great warmth and openness.
During Hawke’s eight years in government, his genuine affection for Israel throughout his public career saw Australia-Israel relations reach new heights, including the first ever visit to Australia by an Israeli President and the first-ever visit to Israel by a serving Australian Prime Minister.
He also deserves to be remembered with sincere gratitude for the courageous role he took in the campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry, for his pioneering efforts in government to overturn the odious “Zionism is Racism” resolution at the UN, for his efforts to encourage peace between Israel and its neighbours, and for forging close bonds between the ACTU and the Histradrut, Israel’s equivalent trade union body.
Bob Hawke was a truly great Australian whose positive contributions to this nation were profound. AIJAC offers our sincerest condolences to his family and many friends. May his memory be a blessing.
Mark Leibler, AC
Dr. Colin Rubenstein, AM