Rafah statement

Rafah

The innocent civilian casualties resulting from the offensive in Rafah especially this week’s airstrikes are horrifying.

Aid workers have described Gaza as ‘hell on earth’ and airstrikes on tented camps of displaced people who were told by the Israeli government to evacuate to Rafah should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

Just as the Australian government exerts pressure on Hamas for Israeli hostages to be released, to end this terrible war, the same pressure must be brought to bear on the Netanyahu government to end its Rafah offensive and to abide by the rules of war and international humanitarian law.

In seeking to dismantle Hamas in response to the October 7 terrorist attacks, the government of Israel must not risk dismantling its standing in the world.

The Israeli government should have heeded appeals from the international community, notably the United States and Australia not to proceed with its Rafah offensive.

I have repeatedly called on the Netanyahu government not to move into Rafah and to abide by the rules of war. It is self-evident that the fundamental rule, to protect civilians, is not being followed.

Australia is a signatory to the International Criminal Court whose role is to hold states to account for their actions and to insist that they act within the law.

I have heard this week directly from aid workers who have described the carnage, particularly affecting children in Gaza, who have been hit by munitions from advanced warplanes.

As one said, the impact of such munitions on small children is indescribable.

Australia has little direct influence on events in Gaza, but our government has made its position clear on this.

As Foreign Minister Penny Wong said:

“The death and destruction in Rafah is horrific. This human suffering is unacceptable.”

I agree.

The Israeli government is now saying that the war will continue until at least the end of this calendar year, another 7 months. This is untenable. The two parties must enter mediated negotiations for ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages who have been in captivity since the October 7 terrorist attacks which triggered this crisis.

Another 7 months, or more, of the kind of action that we are currently seeing in Rafah is patently intolerable in Gaza and is neither in the interests of Israel nor innocent Jewish people across the world who are experiencing a deeply disturbing rise in antisemitism as a result of the war.

I continue to have real concerns about fraying social cohesion and division in Australia being driven both by the conflict and, I believe, by the weaponisation of it for political gain from the Left and the Right.

This is not the time for political grandstanding.

This week, the Australian Greens moved a motion that Australia recognise a State of Palestine.

This was not the first opportunistic resolution proposed to the parliament that collectively have the effect of undermining social cohesion at a time where the nation is more deeply divided than at any other time in recent memory.

I support Palestinian statehood under a peace process to reach a two-state solution, but recognition of a new state is the role of the Australian government of the day, not via divisive Motions in the House of Representatives.

Such a declaration would not end the war. Nor is there a functional government in the Palestinian Territories to take on that mantle.

A recent UN resolution which I supported offered an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to politically neutralise Hamas by undertaking the reforms necessary to give the international community the confidence that it can resume its responsibilities for peacemaking. This is a careful step in the right direction.

Such times are deserving of reasoned, careful words and actions.

We must all definitively oppose rampant antisemitism and islamophobia and do nothing to inflame either.

Life and death must not be weaponised for political gain either within the People’s House, or outside it.

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