Senate debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022



5:39 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

As the clouds of war enveloped the world in 1939, a long-forgotten Irish truism was that democracy, freedom and liberty must always be defended and that Southern Ireland, as it was, should support Britain against Nazi Germany. Most of the Irish political class shamefully backed neutrality. James Dillon was an Irish nationalist of the old school. He and his family had for years through democratic means fought the British for Irish independence. Notwithstanding that historical hinterland, James understood that liberal democracies must always back other liberal democracies. While Australia and Israel do not have the historical dislike of Ireland and Britain, Australian support for Israel should be no less surprising, nor less forthright, than the words uttered by Mr Dillon.

Israel is a beacon of liberal democracy in a sea of democratic darkness. Since 1948, Israel has long fought not just to exist as an independent state but to fight for the survival of all her people. Israel exists in a permanent state of war, not because it is an aggressor. But it is a victim: a victim of history, a victim of hatred, a victim of historical anti-Semitism. Yet, Israel is anything but a victim. Its citizens—all her people, Jewish, Christian, Orthodox, Druze, Muslim, nonbeliever—are free. It is the birthplace of innovation and the startup. It is turning its deserts into a food bowl. Most importantly, it is a democracy. It's a vibrant, boisterous, carnival of elections, so much so that, as I speak, Israel is undergoing its fifth election in three years.

None of the enemies of Israel have ever held a free election. None of the enemies of Israel are free liberal democracies. None of the people of the Middle East have the freedom of all the people of Israel. To the north, the terrorist army Hezbollah has turned Lebanon and southern Syria into client states of Iran. Iran is an evil, despicable regime, intent on using nuclear weapons to destroy Israel and all Jewish peoples. While, to the south, the bloodthirsty terrorist group Hamas have turned Gaza into a giant launching pad for rockets into Israel. On the West Bank, the corrupt Palestinian Authority rules with Western donor financial support, yet it is a regime that uses the ugly politics of hate to remain in power. It is a regime that honours suicide bombers with both money and monuments.

The miracle is not just that Israel has survived, but it has thrived. For that we in Australia are grateful, and we can only wish that the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Israelis would be shared by all the peoples across the Middle East. Perhaps the haters of Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas should read the words that you read as you leave the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial:

Remember only that I was innocent and, just like you, mortal on that day. I, too, had had a face marked by rage, by pity and joy, quite simply, a human face.

Freedom conquers all.