Tuesday, 17 October 2023
I rise to support this motion and, in doing so, express my deep condolences to the Jewish community of Australia and the people of Israel, who have suffered perhaps the most barbaric attacks that we have seen this century. So many innocent lives have been lost and a deep wound for our Jewish community has been opened by pure evil over the past couple of weeks.
I recognise that for the Jewish community these are very painful times. This has shocked people around the world, but it has most impacted those who have a long history of suffering as a people and have striven so hard to find themselves and create a peaceful and democratic homeland. It is a homeland that was created in response to the evil pogroms of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it has now not provided the peace that they have so long striven for into the 21st century.
I want to associate myself with the condemnation of the unfortunate minority in this country who have sought to salt those wounds of the Jewish people by gravest bigotry and prejudice. That has no place in this country. People who want to treat others and other countries like that should not be in this nation, fundamentally. Certainly anyone who is acting this way and who is not an Australian citizen should, in my view, be deported immediately and charged with crimes for their incitement of violence and hateful conduct.
I also want to support, as others have done, the fundamental right of Israel—and any nation—to defend itself after such attacks. I want to support the contribution that Senator Scarr has just made. I would hope that the Greens reconsider their amendment to the motion, especially the deletion of the paragraph on the right of Israel to defend itself. If Israel does not have a right to defend itself, do we have a right to defend ourselves? The Greens and others in this place sometimes express the view that we're a colonial construct and in some way invaders of this land. Is it their position that any nation has the right to defend itself from these kinds of attacks? What happens if something like this happens in this country one day? Do we have the right to respond? I think we fundamentally do and therefore should support any other nation that seeks to defend itself from such barbarity.
I have also been deeply affected by the loss of civilian life in Gaza. This is a terrible consequence of these actions. The principal guilty party for these deaths of civilians, of Palestinian deaths, is Hamas. They deserve the world's condemnation for not just the direct actions they have caused but now the indirect suffering they are causing for the people of the Gaza Strip and the broader Palestinian community.
We should keep in mind that there are millions of people in the Gaza Strip—all members of our broad human race that should be protected and defended. The innocent lives there should be protected and defended, as this motion expresses. I've heard some say, 'Well, people in Gaza voted for Hamas,' but that election occurred 2006, and, in fact, while Hamas received 44 per cent of the vote, that leaves more than half the people of Gaza, and of other places in Israel that voted at those elections, who didn't support Hamas, and, of course, there are millions of children that have been born since those elections that are completely innocent and are now suffering because of the actions of this evil and barbaric organisation called Hamas. We should seek to protect those lives as much as possible—although, of course, given the way that Hamas has waged war against Israel, it is impossible, or almost impossible, to protect all innocent lives now, in the justifiable pursuit and destruction of the Hamas organisation.
I support Israel. I'm a friend of Israel, because it is, I believe, a civilised, democratic country. The burden of civilisation always is, of course, to seek to not descend to the evil of your opponents. Part of that burden of civilisation is to seek to protect innocent lives, even when you are seeking to destroy those that have done so much damage to you.
So I support the sentiments in this motion and the efforts in recent days to provide humanitarian aid to the people of the Gaza Strip, and also to seek the safe passage of civilians away—including, may I add, the Australians who are stuck in the Gaza Strip. So I hope and pray that those Australians remain safe and can find an exit from this terrible enclave right now.
I want to stress also my support for the part of this motion which seeks to have Australia contribute to efforts for the containment of this conflict. We seem to have been passing through months and months of more and more depravity and barbarity over the past couple of years, and I hope I am wrong but I have this dulling sensation that, in years to come, we may see these years as simply the preface to another world war. That's something I very much hope we can avoid and will seek to do everything we can to minimise the risk of.
There obviously has to be a military response to these barbaric attacks. There are now two carrier battle groups from the US Navy in the eastern Mediterranean. There are of course the states surrounding Israel that would like to, and probably want to, encourage a broader conflict. We must, I think, encourage our friends in Israel and our allies around the world to act now in cool-hearted prudence in response to these attacks.
I have noticed, in speaking to members of the Jewish community—and I completely understand it—the anger that has sprung in response to these attacks. But I do think we should keep in mind the old saying about how much the consequences of anger are worse than the causes of it. We shouldn't seek to let that anger dictate our response, because then we may simply fall into a trap that has been set by Hamas to overreact.
As Australians, we should reflect on our own experience in fighting terror over the past couple of decades. In the light of hindsight, I believe that we, with our allies, at times overreacted to the September 11 attacks and ultimately cost more lives than were necessary and caused more disruption around the world than was justified. And we still live with the consequences of that overreaction today.
So I want to finish by fully supporting the efforts of Israel to bring Hamas to justice and ultimately destroy this evil organisation, but I'd also like us to play our part, as peaceful actors in the world, to minimise the risk of a broader conflict and war such that we do not see this week's barbarity repeated on a much greater scale over a much greater region.