Israel, as many have said, has every right to defend itself in response to attacks and to deter future attacks and other acts of aggression, coercion and interference. We stand with Israel to remove the ability of Hamas to repeat such atrocities. I think it’s fair to say that Hamas has shown little if any interest in achieving peace in the region given their stated objectives of wiping Israel from the map.
Mr VAN MANEN (Forde—Chief Opposition Whip) (17:19): I rise to speak on the motion in relation to what was a deplorable act of violence by Hamas in Israel a little over a week ago. As I stand here and reflect, it’s immensely disappointing to have to stand in this chamber and speak on this type of motion.
The deliberate act of violence perpetrated by Hamas on innocent Israeli civilians was designed and intended to inflict maximum harm on those innocent civilians. Elderly women slain at bus stops, young people murdered while attending a music festival, which was actually promoting peace in the region, and families slain in their homes—these were not the righteous acts of freedom fighters but blatant, unprovoked, abhorrent terrorist attacks by a terrorist organisation. There is never any justification for the murder of innocent civilians, and I stand with my coalition colleagues and all of those in this chamber who have condemned these unprovoked and abhorrent attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians.
Israel, as many have said, has every right to defend itself in response to attacks and to deter future attacks and other acts of aggression, coercion and interference. We stand with Israel to remove the ability of Hamas to repeat such atrocities. I think it’s fair to say that Hamas has shown little if any interest in achieving peace in the region given their stated objectives of wiping Israel from the map. I heard my colleague in the Senate put it quite well earlier today. Senator Paterson said: ‘The IDF looks to protect the Israeli people, whereas Hamas uses innocent Palestinian civilians to protect themselves, using them as human shields.’ That speaks to me, saying that Hamas is nothing but a group of cowards. The actions of Hamas are not just a threat to the Israeli people but, as I’ve just said, they’re a threat to the Palestinians as well.
I’ve received a number of emails in my office this week pointing out the atrocities that have happened and focusing predominantly on what is happening to innocent civilians in Gaza. But, interestingly, in those emails, there is no condemnation of Hamas’s initial activities, and I find that disappointing. I find it disappointing that innocent Palestinian civilians who are looking to go about their ordinary business and improve their lives should suffer because of Hamas’s power and their control of the Gaza Strip. It’s through their power and control that those Palestinian people suffer. They fired rockets made from ripped-up pipes installed to develop water infrastructure. They base their military operations out of apartment buildings in areas were civilians congregate in order to induce the maximum collateral damage, should Israel be forced to retaliate.
I’ve been to Israel, and I’ve actually been to that particular police station in Sderot that was raided and burnt to the ground by those Hamas militants. I saw when I was there the remains of rockets that had been fired by Hamas into that town over a significant period of time. I went to the park. The play equipment in that park is designed to also act as a shelter, to provide protection for the children in the event of rockets being fired. Having been to those areas, it brings home how heinous these actions by Hamas have been. They fire rockets, artillery and mortar from residential neighbourhoods. Last night we saw that a potentially misfired Hamas rocket hit one of their own hospitals, killing many hundreds of people. For what purpose? There hiding amongst the innocent civilian population, Hamas clearly has no interest in furthering the Palestinian cause of self-determination. They seek only to destroy.
As I noted, I’ve received emails from residents who are concerned about Israel’s actions to defend itself. Let me say to those who have sent me these emails: the underlying cause of the suffering and pain being endured both by everyday Palestinian citizens—innocent people who wish to go about their lives—and by innocent Israeli civilians is the same. As long as Hamas is allowed to act with impunity, neither side will know peace.
I hope that, out of this, Israel will be able to rid Gaza of Hamas and move forward in a new direction that promotes peace, ends the bloodshed and violence, and allows civilians on both sides of this conflict to lead the sorts of lives that we all enjoy in this country, in our multicultural society that recognises a wide variety of religions and cultures and provides tremendous opportunities. I know many people of Palestinian background or Jewish background have come here for a better life, as have people from many other parts of the world. I think it’s terrific that they can come to Australia for a better life. But I hope that they get to lead that better life here, and that their relatives, friends and family back in Israel, Palestine and other parts of the world can enjoy some of that quality of life in their home countries and home communities. I hope that this conflict is resolved sooner rather than later. I stand with Israel and its right to defend and protect the lives and property of its people.