House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Constituency Statements

Middle East

9:58 am

Photo of Michelle Ananda-RajahMichelle Ananda-Rajah (Higgins, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I pay tribute to the Jewish community, who are teaching us what grace under fire looks like. In the aftermath of 7 October, an epochal event seared into their collective consciousness, I've witnessed a textbook example of solidarity and kinship. At the many gatherings I have attended in parks, at shuls, in community centres or on the street corner, I have never heard anything but empathy from Jewish Australians towards their Israeli brethren, and distress at the plight of the Palestinian people. Rather than march in the street, they choose to sing songs, say prayers, light candles or hold flags and photos of hostages like family, calling for their return and praying for security and peace.

They, like me, are horrified at the terrible human cost of this war. They, like me, feel that a political solution has never been more urgent. They, like me, struggle to reconcile that innocent Palestinians pay the heaviest price while the terrorists are ensconced in safety. It should be the other way around. They, like me, know that any residual terrorist threat will only emerge stronger to repeat this cycle of horror—raining poverty and bloodshed, and stealing the futures of future generations. Mutual security is the fertile ground for the green shoots of peace and prosperity to take root, but mutual security is also hard-won. I have seen a community emerge from crushing grief more resolved and focused on helping each other. But Jewish Australians, many born here, contributing and giving back, feel a profound hurt as the veneer of their own belonging in this country is laid bare. Facing the full brunt of antisemitism, a collective trauma is exacerbated by what now feels like a collective rejection. So the community has turned inwards, circling the wagons. For a forward-facing nation like Australia, this is retrograde; it is a slippage.

If we are serious about protecting our social cohesion, then we must walk the talk. It is un-Australian to walk past suffering, noting that this is not the first time the Jewish people have felt abandoned. When once we failed them, we will never do so again.

Words matter. They can harm or heal, divide or unite, inflame or soothe—choose them carefully. We now have a community marooned within a community. The drawbridges have been pulled up, and we have pulled up ours. So what is the remedy? I strongly believe—in fact, I know—that the silent majority of Australians are watching aghast. It is also my firm belief that they will be the bridge that connects and heals our nation. It is up to us, as a parliament, to erect the pillars upon which this bridge will stand. Civil society will then take over, breathing life into the structures that we as a parliament create. A collective trauma can only be healed— (Time expired)


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