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Aboriginal leader honored in Israel

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – An Australian Aboriginal leader who staged a remarkable protest against the Nazis was honored in Israel.

On Dec. 6, 1938 — just weeks after the Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany — William Cooper led a delegation of members of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to hand over a petition which protested the “cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany.”

Cooper, who was 77 at the time, died in 1941. Last December, on the 70th anniversary of his little-known protest, his grandson, Alfred “Boydie” Turner, and dozens of other members of the Yorta Yorta tribe gathered in State Parliament in Melbourne. In front of Victorian Premier John Brumby, Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, lawmakers, diplomats and Jewish leaders, Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem presented a certificate to Turner stating that 70 Australian trees were to be planted in Israel in honor of William Cooper.

On Tuesday, five trees were planted at the Martyrs’ Forest near Jerusalem; the remaining 65 trees will be planted in the Australia-Israel Friendship Forest. Turner and about 12 members of William Cooper’s extended family flew to Israel for the ceremony.

Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony, organized by the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish National Fund of Australia, were Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, KKL-JNF world chairman Efi Stenzler, Australian Ambassador to Israel James Larsen and Rotem.

Members of the Aboriginal community staged a ceremony at the Aborigines Advancement League in Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon to honor Cooper’s "brave stance against the oppression of the Jews."

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