Tuesday, 17 October 2023
I rise to make just a few brief remarks in support of the motion. I will be brief, having issued a written statement very early after 7 October, along with my colleague Senator O'Neill, as co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel. In doing this, I also want to associate myself with the remarks of Senator Wong, Senator Birmingham and, particularly, Senator Paterson, who made remarks tonight. I think they summarised the majority of issues that are particularly important for Australians and people of goodwill around the world to contemplate.
I do just want to add a few additional remarks. Firstly, to the Palestinian community here in Australia: I understand the distress and hurt and concern that are felt by people in that community, but I don't think that we can shy away from the condemnation of Hamas and their actions. I think it is telling when we look at intent and actions. Reports of wounded people in Israel being dragged from their cars and beaten and shot repeatedly versus wounded Hamas fighters being taken from the battlefield to Israeli hospitals to be treated alongside the Israeli wounded, to my mind, speak volumes about how those two different entities value life.
There has been a lot of narrative about a prison. A prison has walls on all sides, to punish people. Gaza does not have a wall on its southern border, because Israel withdrew unilaterally in 1982, and that border is controlled by Hamas and Egypt. There are barricades and walls on other parts of the border, between Gaza and Israel, as defensive measures, because Israel have sought to defend their people from suicide attacks, terrorist attacks, simple attacks by people with knives, because they value life.
On the narrative of occupation, as I said, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 1982, unilaterally. But the rhetoric of 75 years would imply that the Jewish people had no right to be in that location at all, whereas there have been Jews living continuously in the region for over 3,000 years. The Ottoman Empire was the governing body for that area for many years. After its defeat in World War I, there was a Jewish population there, and more came to join them and legitimately bought land, to become landholders in the area. One of the first really large waves of immigration was Jews from Arab states who were either expelled or, essentially, forced to leave through economic and other measures after the war of 1948, when Arab nations sought to destroy the new state of Israel.
It's a conflicted and complicated history—I understand that—but the narrative that has been put forward by some is simplistic and doesn't recognise the reality that there have been Jews living there for centuries, millennia, that the state of Israel exists and has been recognised by the world community. They have a right to defend their civilians. The fact that Hamas choose to deliberately target civilians and the fact that Israel, in seeking to target Hamas, has caused the death of civilians because of where Hamas have launched their attacks from and how they use civilians as a shield cannot be held as equal ills. The travesty, the trauma, for the Palestinian people I do not deny. It doesn't matter where destruction or death comes from; it is a tragedy. But the intent of Hamas and Israel cannot be compared.
So I join with many others in willing that there will be peace for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, in secure borders, with prosperous communities. I note that many Arabs and Israelis, or Arabs who are Israelis, live peaceably alongside other Jews, as has been the case in that region for many, many centuries. But the Palestinian people are betrayed by the leadership of people like Hamas, with their stated intent to destroy the state of Israel and Jews; by the sponsorship of regimes such as Iran; and by a leadership such as the Palestinian authority, who teach and inculcate in their children hatred and a love of violence as opposed to looking for the opportunities to build peace and relationship and a future for themselves and for their people.
Australia is a country with people from many faiths and backgrounds, and we have found a way to seek the common good. I would seek for all people in Australia to continue that, but part of seeking good is calling out evil, and the actions of Hamas are evil. So tonight I join in supporting this motion. I reject the amendment of the Greens, and I say again that I support Israel's right to exist and their right to defend their nation. I would ask that all Australians recognise that war and violence of any kind are not good, but, as the mayor of Hamburg said 40 years ago, after the Allied bombing of his city which had caused so many civilian deaths, 'If the Allies had not been prepared to meet Nazi violence with violence, Germany would not know democracy, peace and freedom today,' which was a powerful statement for a leader of a city that had seen so much loss of life during the war. I support the motion.
Senate adjourned at 22:22