People should not let sympathy for the Palestinians’ legitimate aspiration for statehood, which is a very legitimate aspiration and one that I share—I share the aspiration for a state of Israel and a state of Palestine that are free and secure, alongside each other—blind them to the fact that Hamas remains dedicated to a world where Israel does not exist.
Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (16:33): I rise in support of the motion. The last 10 days have been a terrible, dark time not only for the people of Israel but for millions of people around the world who are in mourning and in shock. The terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israeli citizens and civilians is the worst and most brutal atrocity experienced by Jewish people since the Shoa. More than 1,300 Israelis have died, and 3½ thousand have been wounded. Every single family in Israel has been touched by this tragedy. Scores of people are still hostages: children, women and grandparents.
In the words of a Holocaust prayer:
May the memories of all who faced these horrors
Be sanctified with joy and love.
May their souls be bound up in the bond of life,
A living blessing in our midst.
I wish I had time to read all the names of the dead, to properly pay my respects and pray for them and their families. Instead, I will share the names of some of those who perished. Shani Louk, who was 30 years old, was one of the over 260 people at the Nova music festival who were mercilessly murdered. Tamar and Yonatan Kedem and their twin daughters, Shahar and Arbel, who were six, and their son, Ohmer, who was four, fled to their safe room when the attacks began but were murdered by Hamas militants. Hannah Ben-Artzi, who was 69, was killed in Kfar Aviv by a rocket when she was trying to open a public shelter for people without access to shelters in their homes. Arab Israeli paramedic Awad Darwesh, a Muslim who courageously stayed to treat the injured, was murdered at the music festival. Sydney-born 66-year-old Australian Galit Carbone was found dead outside her home in a kibbutz in southern Israel. Our hearts go out to them and especially to the families and friends of those who are still missing and those who are in captivity.
As I put my children to bed at night, I think of the parents who did this without knowing what the morning would bring and those who don’t know if they children are still alive.
This conflict is far from over. There has already been a tragic loss of civilians on both sides. I urge everyone to reach out to their friends and loved ones who may be struggling during these times, and offer support and comfort.
This conflict may be far away, but it touches the country very deeply and particularly my community of Wentworth. Every member of the Jewish community in Wentworth, which is the largest Jewish community in the country, and many members of the broader community have been shaken and personally affected. They are traumatised. Many have returned or are trying to return from Israel now. They have lost friends and family members. They have family members who were taken hostage and they are agonisingly waiting for news.
I am deeply concerned that we are also seeing acts of hate and antisemitism in our own community. Since last weekend, nearly 200 people have emailed me and my team, feeling unsafe and shaken, especially after the disturbing antisemitic incident that occurred at the Sydney Opera House. One woman told me about how she was in one of the buildings in the CBD as people were marching down to the opera house and saying slogans, some of which have been repeated today in the parliament. She was scared, and so many of my Jewish community in Wentworth are scared.
Condoning violence and celebrating attacks on innocent civilians is unacceptable. It is not part of this country. In the words of a very good friend of mine, ‘Australia is scary, which is awful, as it’s possibly one of the best places in the world to be Jewish.’ All of us in this place must speak with one voice in saying that this is unacceptable, and we must ensure that those who are at risk of harm here are reminded through our words and deeds that they are safe, they are welcome and they are part of our community.
On Wednesday evening I was honoured to stand alongside thousands of my community in Dover Heights, in solidarity with Israel. It was a solemn and moving evening but also a reminder that, despite the horrors that have occurred, this community stands strong and is proud to be Jewish.
At Edgecliff station last week, I met a young Jewish woman who was wearing a Star of David necklace. She told me that she felt scared—scared to be so openly Jewish at a time when the consequences of hate have become so abundantly clear. But she also felt determined—determined not to stay inside; determined not to let fear dictate how she lived; determined not to hide her identity, her courage and her strength. The courage of a community that has suffered so much for so long is inspiring, and it needs to inspire us as Australians to action: local action to support members of our community who are suffering, and international action to support an ally that has been mercilessly attacked—a country who shares our commitment to democracy and a society that shares our values.
Israel has an inherent and fundamental right to defend itself and safeguard its citizens against those horrifying acts of terror.
Do not be mistaken. These are not acts of resistance. Australia must stand with Israel at this difficult time, alongside so many other countries around the world.
People should not let sympathy for the Palestinians’ legitimate aspiration for statehood, which is a very legitimate aspiration and one that I share—I share the aspiration for a state of Israel and a state of Palestine that are free and secure, alongside each other—blind them to the fact that Hamas remains dedicated to a world where Israel does not exist. Many of my Jewish community, while mourning their own, have expressed their deep concern about the impact of this horrific attack on Palestinian civilians. I share those concerns very deeply. This has created a tragedy for all of those living in Israel and Gaza.
Hamas and its backers are recklessly pursuing their interests rather than those of the Palestinian people. It is Hamas and its backers—and I will call out Iran in this, because it is part of what has happened here—that are using civilians as shields. Hamas cannot be a partner for peace in the Middle East.
We continue to pray for the welfare of those who are currently being held in captivity and to wish a complete recovery to those who have been wounded. Um Yis-ra-elle hai.