House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023



6:09 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Moreton has three mosques in it and several others close by. There are people living in my electorate right now who are attending one of those mosques because the country they were born in no longer exists. It no longer exists because, overnight, politicians—acting in their own self-interest—decided that people of different faiths could no longer live together peacefully in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavian politicians decided that, despite those faiths having lived together for 45 generations.

Race, like ethnicity, is a social construct. Children don't understand it until adults teach it to them. I saw that in my own kids when they were growing up in my home suburb of Moorooka, where there's a large African diaspora. My children were completely colourblind to race and hopefully still are. Instilling hatred in people does nothing except undermine their ability to connect with other people as human beings, and it undermines their ability to be empathetic. Once you go down that path, it's a path to nowhere. All Palestinians and Israelis are entitled to a life free of violence and free of fear. All Israelis and Palestinians have a right to a future where they see their children thrive and prosper and to live in a world at peace with their neighbours where they are all equal, and hopefully where they are colourblind.

People in my community and across Australia are distraught at the stories they're hearing, the images they're seeing, the terms that are being repeated over and over again in parliament. They are shocked by the destruction and brutality that is happening, on both sides, particularly at Hamas's hands on 7 October and around that date and by the Israeli government response since.

Now, I don't claim to have an answer to any of this, but I do know that we cannot measure atrocities by a standard that we think is acceptable or think that the Hamas atrocities should somehow permit the suspension of international humanitarian law. These are the rules that were developed after World War II and the extreme horror of the Holocaust—something so significant in the creation of Israel and all those other extremes associated with World War II. It was the war that saw 15 million military personnel die. But, most significantly, 38 million civilians died. Thus international humanitarian law said that there are some moral absolutes: orders that can't be obeyed, that you cannot lawfully obey, even if coming from your superior officer—fog-of-war actions that can result in courtroom convictions in later times of peace. The world is watching and judging—literally judging.

I know that there are too many innocent people in Gaza who are now paying the price for those horrific actions of Hamas that I condemn outright. It is right that all of Australia condemns the actions of Hamas and their attacks on innocent civilians. I especially acknowledge that Hamas does not have the best interests of Palestinians in mind, even those in Gaza, the most densely populated place on Earth. So let's be clear about these actions and whose interests Hamas has acted in. As I've said, these actions were not in the interests of any Palestinians. They were designed to be brutal, to instil fear and create division, not just in the Middle East but across the world—even in multicultural communities like Australia. Like any form of terrorism, these actions were designed to make people in multicultural communities, like mine in Moreton, feel unsafe and fearful. They were designed to pit groups of people against each other and generate violent outrage, maybe in the hope that politicians would overnight decide that faith and races that have lived together peacefully for generations cannot now do so.

To suggest that Hamas's actions represent the Palestinian struggles demeans the Palestinians, their struggle for freedom and their human rights. Australia has unequivocally condemned the attacks by Hamas, including the indiscriminate rocket attacks fired on cities and civilians, and that horrific taking of hostages, as well as all that footage that the internet is now able to amplify through those horrible algorithms, and people are prepared to echo the terms surrounding it. Australia has consistently said—and legally said—that Israel must act within the rules of law, that every country must do so, and that Israel and others must ensure that they act to protect civilian lives. The collective punishment of the innocent civilian population of Gaza via cutting off power, water, food and medical supplies not only is cruel and against humanitarian law but also could inadvertently—I really fear this—become a recruitment drive for Hamas. The Geneva convention very specifically says, 'Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.' I'll go back to what I said before: we should not start to measure atrocities and accept that behaviour by what we think is worse or better than the other. We should remember that they are all atrocities, and all should be condemned as such. Peace does not get closer by killing more children.

The Palestinians and Jewish communities and their allies in Australia want to see an end to this conflict. All sensible politicians want to see an end to this conflict. They want to see an end to the death and destruction, and they want to see peace in a place that should not be so filled with violence and tragedy. Like Minister Wong and so many other Australian politicians, I call on Hamas to release all 199 hostages immediately as a gesture towards peace. I also call on the Israeli government to stop the blockade of water, food, power and medical supplies to Gaza. I'm reminded of this quote from Anne Lamott:

You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.

I know that the God that the Palestinians and the Jewish people in my community believe in is a peaceful God, and, God willing, peace will prevail in this situation.


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