To be clear, I want to see a cessation of hostilities. The cry for a ceasefire is a deeply human and entirely natural response to the humanitarian disaster that the world is witnessing, and everyone wants to see the violence stop. Surely that’s true for everyone in this parliament. A ceasefire, of course, requires both parties to agree, and by its nature it cannot be one-sided. Hamas still holds over 200 hostages as human shields and has a stated intent to kill Jews and destroy the State of Israel.
Mr HILL (Bruce) (12:33): What the world is witnessing in the Middle East is an utter tragedy for the innocent Palestinians and Israelis who are victims in this. Australians are understandably traumatised by the horrific violence and loss of life. In the media, on social media, on WhatsApp—it’s everywhere. The overwhelming feedback I’ve heard from my community concerns the need to protect and value all human life, and calls for recognition of Palestinian and Israeli suffering, accompanied by a despairing cry that two million people in Gaza should not pay the price for the horrors perpetrated by Hamas. All human life is sacred and all innocent lives should be protected.
To be clear, I want to see a cessation of hostilities. The cry for a ceasefire is a deeply human and entirely natural response to the humanitarian disaster that the world is witnessing, and everyone wants to see the violence stop. Surely that’s true for everyone in this parliament. A ceasefire, of course, requires both parties to agree, and by its nature it cannot be one-sided. Hamas still holds over 200 hostages as human shields and has a stated intent to kill Jews and destroy the State of Israel. Those facts cannot just be magicked away, and it is a horrible situation. As an urgent step, Australia has led international calls for humanitarian pauses, or humanitarian ceasefires, if you like, but clearly much more is needed.
The world has witnessed a harrowing number of civilian deaths, including children, and this must not continue. It should not be controversial to state that Israel’s right to respond to Hamas’s attacks is not unfettered and does not and cannot justify any action. Australia has vocally and repeatedly expressed concern about the unacceptable loss of civilian lives and the need for Israel to observe humanitarian law. That matters. Condemning Hamas’s actions in no way diminishes the legitimate support and the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians for a just settlement and a state of their own. Saying this also in no way negates the legitimate criticisms over many years of the Israeli government’s illegal settlement policies in the West Bank or the occupation—concerns which numerous Israelis share. I am gravely concerned about the accelerating forced dispossession, the killing of Palestinians and settler violence in the West Bank which have escalated since Hamas’s attacks. This is simply unacceptable. I’ve been a longstanding and vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, and the actions of Hamas are not in the interests of Palestinians and hamper efforts to end the occupation and achieve a just resolution—so do the illegal settlements and the behaviour of extremist settlers. Ultimately, there can only ever be a political solution to this conflict.
But, amidst all this despair for people in Israel and occupied Palestine, I worry about our community here in Australia. We must not let ancient hatreds in this decades-old conflict divide our multicultural society. I genuinely decry the gross politicisation of this tragedy by the Leader of the Opposition and the Greens political party; both are seeking domestic political advantage at the expense of our social cohesion, which is beyond contempt. ASIO director Mike Burgess was right to call for calm in the Australian community. Responsible political, religious and community leaders right across the country would and should heed this call. People are traumatised, and it is beyond irresponsible for politicians to stoke the flames of anger. It will lead to violence here if they do not stop it. I can’t speak more clearly. I encourage those on the other side to restrain your leader.
Antisemitism is to be utterly condemned, and the fear that the Australian Jewish community is now feeling is unacceptable. Islamophobia is corrosive and unacceptable and hurts us all in our wonderfully diverse country. Community leaders and all concerned citizens need to work together to lower the temperature of the debate. All of us, every one of us here and in the community, can play our part in this in the way that we talk and advocate. I hope all of us are guided by the same principle of a just and enduring peace and a negotiated solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state co-exist in peace and security within internationally recognised borders.