Hamas has an ideology of terror, and its acts over the course of the last nine days have been of the most profound evil. Israelis and Palestinians have a right to exist in peace and security. Israel has a right to act in its defence. It has a right to seek the protection and indeed the liberation of its citizens and it has a right to move against Hamas. In that Australia stands with Israel. In the same breath, we add our voice to the international call that the rules of war be respected.
Mr MARLES (Corio—Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence) (12:04): The last nine days have borne witness to the most desperately sad tragedy—a tragedy for Jews, a tragedy for Muslims, a tragedy for Israel and a tragedy for Palestinians.
The unfolding disaster has been a matter of precise calculation by Hamas. Hamas stands in absolute condemnation. The very nature of terrorism is shocking. It invades normality—such as simply attending to a knock on the front door, leaving your kids at child care or going to a music festival, just as thousands of young people—my kids—do in Australia all the time to have fun, to dance, to enjoy youth. In fact the motivation for those who went to the Supernova festival the weekend before last, to experience friendship and joy and community, could not be further removed from what they then encountered in the face of Hamas: evil, extreme violence and death.
Against the backdrop of the anticipated normal, the reality was so shocking that it robbed everyone, no matter what they are doing, of the ability to feel safe. Of course that is the point. These were innocents, they were not combatants and their deaths are murder. So today we stand with Israel and its people.
Israel is a Liberal democracy. The values of human rights and freedom of speech form the founding ethos of this country. In that, Israel and Australia are alike. But our connection with Israel runs much deeper than that. It was an Australian foreign minister who chaired—who drove—the UN Special Committee on Palestine in 1947 which gave rise to the very creation of Israel. Doc Evatt regarded this as his signature achievement in public life. He was inspired and supported by the Australian Jewish community of the time. Subsequent to these events his role was acknowledged in the naming of the Doc Evatt Room at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem this week.
What this says is that, from the very beginning of Israel’s remarkable journey, Australia was there. This history makes all the more significant the statements of solidarity that we make now in respect of Israel. At the heart of the relationship between Australia and Israel is the Australian Jewish community. Over the course of the last nine days that community—the 10,000 Australians who call Israel home—has been filled with a sense of deep anxiety about the safety and welfare of their family and their friends. We are with them in hoping that those people are alright. We weep for the more than 1,400 innocent Israelis who have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with the thousands who have been injured, and we fervently pray for those who now find themselves in the unspeakable position of being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.
But we also weep for innocent Palestinians. There are more than two million Palestinians who live in Gaza, and the vast bulk of them have absolutely nothing to do with Hamas. They have been born into a life of trying to fashion a version of happiness, of joy, of hope and aspirations for their children—all compromised by being caught in an enduring conflict which is measured in decades.
Hamas does not speak for these people. Hamas has completely undermined the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. Now we are watching Palestinians, in their innocence, die in significant numbers, and we are holding our breath and watching how the coming days and weeks will unfold.
For all of this, we condemn Hamas in the strongest possible terms. Hamas has an ideology of terror, and its acts over the course of the last nine days have been of the most profound evil. Israelis and Palestinians have a right to exist in peace and security. Israel has a right to act in its defence. It has a right to seek the protection and indeed the liberation of its citizens and it has a right to move against Hamas. In that Australia stands with Israel. In the same breath, we add our voice to the international call that the rules of war be respected.
The events in the Middle East are reverberating around the world. They are also reverberating here in Australia. At this moment, it is essential that we are vigilant about the cohesion of our own society. We understand that there is a context in the Middle East. We understand that, over a long period of time, these issues have been complex and that there are people in our country who hold passionate views about them. But there was no excuse for the scenes and the chants that we heard outside the Sydney Opera House last Monday. That was nothing other than ugly anti-Semitism, and it completely diminishes any attempt to advocate on the part of the innocent. There is no place in this country today for anti-Semitism, and there is no place for Islamophobia.
In this moment it is absolutely essential that, as we walk the path forward, we do so with respect for each other as Australians. In doing so, we can find illumination from the Islamic faith itself. When Muslims refer to the prophet Mohammed, they attach a phrase ‘Peace be upon him’. They do this to accord the highest respect to the prophet by attaching his name to the word ‘peace’. In 2:208 of the holy Koran the prophet Mohammed says, ‘Enter absolutely into peace’. Indeed the very word ‘Islam’ is derived from the word ‘peace’ in Arabic. Peace is at the heart of Islamic theology, as it is at the heart of Judaism and Christianity. As we watch this misery unfold from afar, peace must be the bedrock of our actions here, and, as we walk the road ahead, peace must be our guiding star.