SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — More than 1,000 people rallied for Israel in one of the most remote communities of the Jewish world.
The community of Perth, which numbers some 7,000 Jews, was among those who turned out Sunday at a Pentecostal church in that Western Australia city to show its solidarity with the Jewish state.
Most who attended the launch of Friends of Israel Western Australia, however, were non-Jewish, including dozens of church leaders as well as local, state and federal politicians. Notable among the pols was Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who irked Jewish leaders in May when he said there was “no doubt” Israel was behind the forgery of four Australian passports used in the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Dubai in January.
Two overflow rooms catered to the large crowd at the Victory Life Center, said Steve Lieblich, one of the event organizers.
Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem, who traveled from Canberra, received a standing ovation.
In a video message, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon paid tribute to the longstanding bipartisan support from Australia for Israel.
The new group aims to support Israel’s right to exist in peace and ensure accurate and fair reporting on the Middle East.
Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is more than 1,200 miles from its nearest metropolis, Adelaide.
Given Smith’s condemnation of Israel, some viewed his presence at the rally as politically motivated with Australians voting Aug. 21 in a federal election that some polls predict will be a photo finish between the incumbent Labor Party and the opposition Liberal Party. In the assassination incident, the Labor government subsequently dismissed an official from the Israeli Embassy in Canberra.