Remember, the genesis of the most recent conflict was the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan evictions within East Jerusalem and the ongoing government campaign to expand settlements in the occupied territories. The Morrison government expressed zero concern at this prospect of Israeli annexation of the West Bank in 2020 and nor did the government voice any criticism of the so-called vision for peace.
Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (10:30): by leave—at the request of the member for Calwell, I move:
That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) recent violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories has resulted in the deaths of at least 222 Palestinians in Gaza, including 63 children, and 12 Israelis, including two children;
(b) a ceasefire was declared on 20 May 2021; and
(c) according to the United Nations, more than 74,000 Palestinians in Gaza were displaced from their homes during the conflict;
(2) recognises that the impact of this violence is far-reaching, and that many in the Australian community are hurting at this difficult time; and
(3) calls on the Government to ensure Australia is working constructively to support security and human rights in advance of a just and enduring two-state solution in the Middle East.
I reserve my right to speak.
Mr HAYES (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (10:41): by leave—From a very young age my upbringing caused me to know and understand that the Jews have, historically, been a much-persecuted people. Therefore, I find it easy to accept the right of the Jewish state to exist and I believe the people of Israel are entitled to live in peace. Having said that, the recent violence that we saw unfold in Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem was deeply concerning. The escalation of violence, the level of destruction and the loss of life are deeply disturbing—unacceptable and an affront to humanity. As a nation, we must be willing to stand up for human rights where we see them being oppressed, and that includes the rights of the Palestinian people.
There is no justification for indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli citizens and the use of unlawful force or violence. I recognise that Israel has a right to defend itself and its people. However, when I saw the unwarranted and excessive force against the Palestinian protesters—innocent worshippers who were going about their prayers during the holy month of Ramadan—I was shocked and revolted. The disproportionate use of force saw 222 Palestinians killed, 1,700 injured and 74,000 Palestinians in Gaza displaced during that conflict. This death toll includes 65 children. Having said that, Israel lost 12 people who were tragically killed and two children. These incidents have had a profound impact on me because I believe every life matters—Jews and Palestinians. No fair-minded person could possibly believe that what occurred in Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem was acceptable. The situation cries out for humanity and demands the attention of the international community. While it’s pleasing to see that the agreed ceasefire is holding, it is also important to note that the issues underpinning the hostilities are still not resolved. This will ultimately require goodwill and a genuine commitment to the peace process—something that, I would assert, we are yet to see. Meanwhile, the cycle of tension, the escalation of violence and the destruction are all too familiar to the Israeli and Palestinian people. I absolutely believe in the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace within secure and recognised borders. That’s why we must be committed to a just and enduring two-state solution based on a respect for human rights and being consistent with international law.
However, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the hostilities in Israel’s occupied territories as well as the lack of progress towards the creation of the Palestinian state, as Palestinians too have a right to exist and to enjoy statehood. We must continue to use our voice within the international community to seek an unequivocal commitment from Israel to a Palestinian state and, importantly, the reinvigoration of the peace process itself. As part of this, the issue of settlements must be addressed, as this alone continues to frustrate any efforts towards a peace process. I’d also support the call for an immediate halt to the forced evacuations in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and to the ongoing forced displacements of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
I believe it falls to countries like Australia, who believe in the dignity of all people, to become more engaged in the peace process, addressing the need for tangible progress towards the creation of a Palestinian state while ensuring respect and security for the Jewish homeland. I recognise that peace will be achieved not by statements alone but rather by a concerted international diplomatic effort. Australia has an important role to play in this discussion, not only to ensure the ceasefire remains in place but in using its influence to promote a long-term solution.
I believe Israel’s future depends on a peaceful relationship with its neighbours. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the Israeli and Palestinian people and their families, all of those affected in this recent violence. I end by lending support to the words of Pope Benedict: ‘Let the two-state solution become a reality and not remain a dream.’