House statement – Israel

I rise to speak on this bipartisan motion, and I rise also to condemn Hamas and its militant terrorist attacks on Israel and its ongoing barbarity. I stand in support of Israel and the people of Jewish faith wherever they are living, whether it’s in Israel, here in Australia or around the world. Like them, we mourn for the lives lost and pray for those still missing or those who have been taken hostage. There is endless
trauma, worry and despair for the family and friends of the nearly 200 babies, children and adults who are still missing or being held hostage.

Make no mistake, this attack and killing of at least 1,300 people in one day was Israel’s worst day since the Holocaust. I want to express my deepest sympathy and offer sincere condolences to the people and State of Israel; the Jewish members of parliament here in Australia, in particular my colleague the member for Berowra; as well as the Jewish community here in Australia, many of whom have family and friends who have been or are directly affected in Israel. None of us will forget where we were when we first heard of the horrendous attacks and saw the images as the attacks and atrocities unfolded. It was horror for us all and horror for the people in Israel. It was disgustingly savage, abhorrent brutality and a disgusting attack on Israeli citizens and civilians by Hamas. Hamas is a listed, prescribed terror organisation. Make no mistake, they are terrorists.

Many of us were thinking just how on earth we would have felt and what we would have done in our
communities or homes when the 2,200 missiles started hitting. How would we have felt if it were our children, our grandchildren, our family, our friends or our own community members? We thought about the heartbreak we would have felt if our young family members were at the Nova music festival and among the 260 who were driven into the desert and indiscriminately gunned down. We thought about how we would be constantly reliving the terror that these young people felt as they tried to escape. We thought about how we would have felt if it were our family, friends or neighbours who were shot as they tried to flee or get to safety and were shot in their vehicles.

But we could never understand the extraordinary and dreadful brutality of babies being beheaded or killed in their cots. How on earth would we live with the sheer terror of the brutality on women—women who we know or knew or loved, naked, abused and openly paraded through our streets? How would we feel? I grieve for those who used their bodies to cover their children as the jihadists cheered and jeered and took hostage the elderly and kidnapped and abducted babies and children—the sheer heartache of that. I will never forget the father crying in relief because his daughter was found dead and was not being held hostage and subjected to the most vile and unimaginable torture and abuse at the hands of Hamas.

If this were to happen in Australia, Australians would not only be outraged; they would demand that the
government respond with whatever force necessary to rescue our people and respond to any and every ongoing threat. Knowing what the expectations of Australians would rightly be, I’ve always been proud to be an Australian. But, for the first time, I was profoundly ashamed and angry when I saw the lack of response to the rally held at the Sydney Opera House as it happened. It’s something that I never thought I’d see or that I thought would be condoned in Australia. We saw the pain and suffering of the Jewish Australians compounded by a lack of action and profoundly disgusting comments coming from the group saying, ‘Gas the Jews,’ and much worse.

The fact that the Australian Jewish community could not safely gather to see the opera house lit up in their country’s blue and white as a sign of support and comfort was beyond belief for me as a proud Australian citizen. I never ever thought I would see the day when Jewish people in Sydney would be told that they weren’t safe at the opera house. I was even more outraged to see that the only person who was arrested was a man carrying an Israeli flag. Again, that is totally un-Australian. I want to see those offenders charged. It was an illegal protest, and there was antisemitic hate speech. We’ve not seen this level of antisemitism in Australia ever before. I understand how vulnerable Jewish people are feeling. Jewish children should feel safe wearing their school uniforms and going to their schools, and Jewish people should feel safe in Australia.

But I have been really concerned, as I heard discussed by the shadow minister Sarah Henderson, about
antisemitism in our universities. The fact that two-thirds of Jewish students on Australian university campuses have experienced antisemitism and the lack of action from our academics in this regard, in my view, are reprehensible. At Sydney University, we saw dreadful signs, which the academics and the administration ignored. They took no action. This is not Australia or Australian. I understand there were academics who attended the protests, and I find that appalling as well, given what was said and done at that protest. This is Australia. I hope the perpetrators have been identified, continue to be identified and, if they’re on a visa, like the Leader of the Opposition has called for, have their visas cancelled and are deported from our country. The government needs to report these numbers to the parliament so that we all know exactly what action has been taken. These are just some of what has been perpetrated against the Israeli people, deliberate acts of violence in Israel directly intended to inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians by Hamas.

There is global support for Israel, its right to exist and its right to self-defence. The resistance to antisemitism in all its forms is crucial. But I do want to just raise a quiet issue. The House knows the amount of work that I’ve done in the cyber and online space. I want to encourage every Australian parent to take particularly great care of their children in their online activities, given that there are the most horrendous videos. What’s out there to be seen and the impact it has on young minds really concern me. So I’m encouraging every Australian parent to take a particularly careful approach with what your young people are viewing online.

All of this has been appalling, both for Israelis and now for Palestinians. In Australia, we have been and are one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world, which is why what happened at the Opera House was so appalling and so confronting for us. This has been achieved through hard work over many decades, with broad political support and genuine goodwill and efforts from so many Australians. We see the welcoming of each new group of migrants who come to this country and the broad community celebrations at each citizenship ceremony. I’m sure every member of parliament has that same experience. There are Australians, new Australians, supporters —everyone is so happy and so delighted to be part of our country and chooses to become an Australian citizen. I want them to be able to live and be safe in and enjoy our country in the way that we always have so we don’t need to see any of this divide us.

We saw the evil extended to the people in Israel at the hands of Hamas, and, from what the Palestinians are now facing as well, we do know that Hamas is using Palestinian people as human shields. There is no value on those civilian lives. (Time expired)