Speech to House of Representatives
Firstly, I want to acknowledge the deep distress and anxiety among those in the large Jewish community in Goldstein. Everyone I’ve spoken to from within our Jewish community has a connection to family or friends directly affected by the Hamas terror attacks on Israel the week before last. There are a range of views in the community about what Israel’s response should be, but the sense of distress is uniform, about what happened, and what happens next.
Hamas is a terrorist organisation. The terrorist atrocities it committed in Israel are war crimes, including the horrific and indiscriminate slaughter of entire Jewish communities. The taking of hostages – elderly civilians, as well as children and infants – is a clear breach of international law. Hamas should release them without conditions immediately.
I have also communicated to Palestinian advocates in Australia that applauding the deaths of innocent people is abhorrent, will derail any hope for a return to peace and I condemn it.
The Israeli people have a right to live in safety and security. And Israel has a right to self-defence. However, the response must be carefully calibrated with the safety of civilians front of mind and within the dictates of international law, the laws of war and in line with international conventions on human rights.
I have already appealed for Israel to reconsider its decision to block humanitarian supplies to Gaza, a form of collective punishment, which appears to be in breach of international law. Calls for a humanitarian corridor are backed by both the UN and the United States. I am pleased that, in a sign of humanitarian concern, Israel has decided to restore some water supplies to southern Gaza. I’m aware that for many Jewish people these acts of humanitarianism will require unprecedented empathy considering the horrors that Hamas has committed.
I will also say again, Palestinian civilians are not Hamas. I am appalled at reports that Hamas has encouraged Palestinian civilians in Gaza to stay put in the north. This is tantamount to Hamas turning the people of Gaza into human shields. It is medieval in its contempt for human life, as is the holding of Israeli hostages including small children and the elderly, also being used as human shields.
As a foreign correspondent I reported from trouble spots around the world, wherever possible drawing attention to human rights. I have continued to do so as an MP. The reality is that actions in times of war disproportionately affect civilians, and in this case if not carefully executed will cause untold death and destruction, potentially not only in Gaza and again inIsrael, but across a region that is always on a knife edge. This is a clear and present danger.
I have seen the results of conflict. The destruction. People missing limbs. Bodies wrapped in shrouds. The grief of those left behind. The squalid camps full of the displaced and traumatised. I speak with sincerity from the dark places where I hide these memories with genuine concern for all people, and I grieve deeply for those affected in my own community touched by the terror that has reached from Israel to Goldstein. My want is for that to end here.
I appreciate the efforts of the Foreign Minister in trying to assure those who want to leave have a way of getting out of Israel and of her staff in addressing my representations on behalf of those in my community who have loved ones stranded. Many in the Jewish community in Goldstein feel anxious and have concerns for their safety at the best of times. And these are far from the best of times.
Now, students are being advised not to wear their uniforms and police have stepped up visibility and patrols around Jewish institutions. I thank Victoria Police for that and for the engagement with me and my office.
We must keep our communities safe. There is no room for either anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia. I welcome the government’s announcement that security grants will be fast tracked.
I note that Australia was instrumental in Israel’s foundation – with then Foreign Minister Doc Evatt taking the lead as chair of the relevant United Nations committee leading to its international acknowledgement. Doc Evatt was President of the General Assembly when Resolution 273 was adopted, admitting Israel to the UN. Australia was the first nation to vote in favour. He was also President when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, and the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide was passed. This international order stands and must be adhered to by all sides today.
I recently had the honour of visiting Israel and the Palestinian Territories as a member of a cross party official parliamentary delegation funded by the Australian government. My visit reinforced my view that only genuine dialogue can create progress and peace. I remain a supporter of a two-state solution as the best way to ensure Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security. How we get there from here though, is a question with no obvious answer.
As I said, every member of the 15,000-strong Jewish community in Goldstein has been touched by the tragic events of the last week. I say to those in my community, I know you have differing views, I know some of you will disagree with my positions, in one way, or the other. But know this, as someone who has borne witness to the consequences of conflict and terrorism, I speak from a position of deeply sincere care. And I will represent you, particularly to ensure you get what you need from the government in these shocking circumstances, with absolute diligence and sincerity.