Other members are right to point out that this act of terror isn’t just an end in itself. It is designed to provoke a reaction and it is designed to see retribution, and they have designed it in a way that the legitimate military targets are put in places where civilians are. Those are decisions that Hamas are making. None of us who say, ‘Israel has a right to defend itself,’ will take any joy or any pleasure with what’s coming next. No reasonable person would look forward to that.
Mr WOLAHAN (Menzies) (18:19): I want to acknowledge the contributions by just about everyone in this chamber. This isn’t an easy time, and these aren’t easy things to speak to. Often, through the day, we have been talking about images and events that are quite graphic. At some times, there were children visiting this place. That might have been hard for them, but that is what we do here: we stand up and we speak about things in tough times and we speak to communities to say, ‘You’re not alone.’ There are many Australians who are looking for comfort because they are scared right now.
Jewish people should feel safe in Australia. Jewish people should feel safe in Israel. Indeed, it’s why it exists. This wasn’t just an attack on the sovereignty of a nation. It wasn’t just an incursion across a border. It was an attack on the sovereignty of people’s homes. Families were in their places of refuge, in their places of comfort and in their places of the most significant joy. The doors that they walked through after they were first married, the doors that they walked through when they brought their children home from a hospital became the doors that saw terror enter their homes, and none of us can imagine what those moments were like. They weren’t just filled with unwanted attacks and murder. Where there was time, they were filled with the worst imaginable torture, and the torture wasn’t just reserved for the man of the house. It was also for the mothers, the grandmothers—some of whom were Holocaust survivors—the children and the babies. That’s where some of the most unimaginable acts of human torture happened, in 2023. In this time, in this age, with all of the modern technologies and advancements we have, this happened on our planet on our watch.
Many have said, ‘Protect your loved ones from the images that are on social media,’ and we must do that. But for those of us who are adults and are in places of responsibility, like here, we should look at them. We should look at what terror actually is and what actually happened, because, when you look at what was deliberately planned and executed, you realise this was no normal event. It is not hyperbole to say this was Israel’s September 11 moment. When you look at the proportion of deaths to the population, it was worse, and, like September 11, it left a mark that will echo through the decades. It impacted my life, halfway around the world. This will echo through the decades for Israel, for Jewish people and maybe for all of the world.
Other members have been right to point out that this wasn’t just about Hamas and that particular border crossing point and the destruction they caused. There are regional and global strategic interests at play as well. Those things will play out in due course. But we mustn’t look away. When we don’t look away, we see the horror of children who weren’t just executed; their burnt bodies were found lined up with their hands tied behind their backs. Of all the horrors that happened in the Holocaust and the scale of that, this form of death is even worse. And it happened in 2023—not in 1943 but in 2023. Children were killed in their cots. In the aftermath, family pets were sitting on the beds where their family had been. If they could talk, they’d say, ‘I let you down.’
For fathers and mothers, we can only imagine that, as they did everything they could to save and shield their children, they also thought: ‘What have I done? My God, I’ve let my family down.’
I think of the father who gave an interview on Al Jazeera or the BBC. I think he was a man with an English accent; he may have been born in Ireland. He let his daughter Emily go to a sleepover. Emily was only eight. For a few days he didn’t know where Emily was or what had happened to her, and, when he was told that Emily was killed, he jumped with joy. He was so relieved because, for him, that was better than what he thought would happen if she were taken hostage in Gaza, because by then he had seen and heard of the torture and inhumanity that had happened to his neighbours and others in the kibbutz. Just stop and think about that: a father feeling joy that death for his eight-year-old at a sleepover was better than the alternative.
We mustn’t forget the images of children and women being taken hostage. That was a deliberate act. That’s part of what’s coming next. We saw the images of a young girl with bloodied clothes being dragged by her hair from the boot into the side of a car. We saw the grotesque images posted of Hamas holding young children and a baby in a pram. That image is designed to cause terror and fear. And then the threat not only to execute the hostages but to broadcast it, to publish it—that’s the worst fear imaginable. That is why the comparisons with ISIS are absolutely right. But, again, Hamas is probably even worse because of the scale of the attacks and the scale of the terror. Hamas is not only an enemy of Israel; it’s an enemy of the world and it’s an enemy of the people of Gaza. Other members are right to point out that this act of terror isn’t just an end in itself. It is designed to provoke a reaction and it is designed to see retribution, and they have designed it in a way that the legitimate military targets are put in places where civilians are. Those are decisions that Hamas are making. None of us who say, ‘Israel has a right to defend itself,’ will take any joy or any pleasure with what’s coming next. No reasonable person would look forward to that.
I think of the many families in Australia who have relatives who are reservists, who signed up and did their training in the Israeli Defence Forces and who have now been called up. In the coming days, weeks and months, many of them will die. That will happen. And those families are living with that fear and apprehension right now. I’m thinking of the families of the hostages who are there. There’s potentially some hope, some way that they can be saved, and if there’s any humanity in Gaza, any humanity in Hamas, please do everything you can to see them released. Even just some of them, just the children and the babies—let them go.
In July, I was on one of three parliamentary delegations that left from this place with members from across the aisle and went on various trips to Israel and Palestine. On my particular trip we went throughout Israel, but I remember being in Sderot, in the north-eastern border town near Gaza. We were shown a playground where bunkers were turned into a snake that children would feel free to play in. I keep thinking that many of the children who played in that are no longer with us anymore and many of those children who played in that playground are now hostages in Gaza.
I know it’s unparliamentary to refer to members’ names, but I want to single out some of the Jewish members in parliament here: Mark Dreyfus, Julian Leeser and Josh Burns. It has been particularly hard for them, as well as for some of the Victorian state members: Paul Hamer, who overlaps with my seat, and David Southwick. This is particularly hard on that community, and I acknowledge that it is hard on the Palestinian community here, too, and on members who have relatives in Gaza.
That has been put well by other members.
I want to acknowledge the North Eastern Jewish Centre in my electorate and I want to thank the Community Security Group in Melbourne, who are working around the clock to keep the Melbourne Jewish community safe. I want to thank you, and say that we’re thinking of you and are here for you.