There is no moral equivalence between actors where one fights according to the laws of war under international scrutiny and the other commits terrorist attacks that target children, the elderly and the unarmed.
Senator DEAN SMITH (Western Australia) (20:00): I rise this evening in support of the motion moved earlier today regarding the Hamas attacks on Israel and to echo the contributions of party leaders, in particular the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Birmingham. Eighty years ago, when the full extent of the Holocaust emerged, Australia and its democratic allies declared, ‘Never again.’ The massacre perpetrated by Hamas last Saturday resulted in the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Second World War.
A recent letter signed by survivors of the Holocaust captures powerfully both the surprise and horror of the tragic events witnessed by the world:
Today, we witnessed the worst killing of Jews since the Holocaust. This is not what we expected in this final chapter of our lives.
This is the reality we must keep in our minds and our hearts as events unfold—that, for many people of Jewish heritage around the world, their very right to existence is again under attack.
In my home state, many have been motivated to show their solidarity. One is the Friends of Israel Western Australia, of which I’m a proud patron. They have said we must not allow ourselves to lazily accept the view that there are ‘two sides’ to this conflict and that the issue here is not one of conflict but of terrorism. There is no moral equivalence between actors where one fights according to the laws of war under international scrutiny and the other commits terrorist attacks that target children, the elderly and the unarmed. They have gone on to make the point that last week’s attack was not politically motivated. Rather, Hamas carried out the attack because violent antisemitism is at the heart of its worldview. It is now beyond dispute that peace in the Middle East and, in particular, peace for the people of Palestine and Israel will not be possible so long as the influence of Hamas remains unchecked.
As unforgivable as Hamas’s actions are, they should not be our only focus. It is now clear that Iran played a central role in the attack on Israel. Australia should look to reimpose, as a bare minimum, sanctions on Iran focused on those within the regime who bear greatest responsibility. So long as Iran is determined to support terrorism that results in the death of innocent people, it must be held accountable for its actions.
It is, of course, not for us to tell Israel how to respond. It will do what it must do to protect its borders and its people. Our task is to support our much valued ally and to reassure the Australian Jewish population that, so long as they are here, they will be safe from the race fuelled violence that many of their kin must now defend themselves against.
We can start by taking a far tougher line on the antisemitic rallies of the type witnessed in Sydney recently. These shameful demonstrations were occurring as Israeli soldiers uncovered the bodies of murdered babies and as parents were being told their children they thought were attending a music festival had been gunned down or taken hostage.
Freedom of speech applies equally in our society, and it was illuminating to see who showed their true colours by supporting that outbreak of ignorance in Sydney. However, we must never fail our Jewish diaspora, which has made such a remarkable contribution to the business, cultural and academic life of Australia.
If there is one ray of hope from any of this, it is my unwavering belief that the state of Israel will rise, as it has done before, from this place of unimaginable pain to a world beacon of freedom and prosperity, a country where not only Jewish people but people from all creeds and backgrounds can enjoy one of the most unique, beautiful and, indeed, wonderfully privileged countries in the world. In the end, of course, their victory will not merely be their continued survival but their flourishing.