Senator Hollie Hughes – in support of Senator Wong’s motion; and condemning UNRWA’s education program

Photo of Senator Hollie Hughe
October 17, 2023

But we must remember it was Hamas whose actions have instigated this recent tension. It’s Hamas that has no qualms about its people dying if it stirs up further hatred and mobilises the community against Israel. It is Hamas that entrenches itself in the hearts of civilian populations to goad Israel into attacks on the innocent. It is Hamas that denies opportunities for a ceasefire and peace.

Senator HUGHES (New South Wales) (21:12): I would like to acknowledge Senator McGrath’s outstanding contribution. I, too, rise tonight in support of the government’s motion and to speak on the ongoing conflict in Gaza and the heinous Hamas attacks that have been perpetrated on Israeli civilians. Save for a few individuals consumed by their own hatred and lost to the narrative of perpetual victimhood, it has largely been encouraging to see bipartisan support, in keeping with the longstanding tradition of standing with Israel during the many periods of adversity that she has faced in her short existence.

I don’t pretend that I’m an expert on the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like all of us here, we don’t like witnessing the needless loss of life of women and children and of civilians and we don’t like witnessing families torn apart and communities destroyed—both Palestinian and Israeli. It is a tragedy when conflicts such as these occur anywhere in the world.

But what we have seen has, frankly, been sickening, with the lightning speed with which some members of the Australian public, and even some members in this place and the other place, have jumped at the opportunity to criticise Israel for its response and—strangely—even more quickly to defend and, in some truly disgusting cases, to celebrate the plight of terrorists.

Hamas is officially a terror organisation. Hamas has deliberately inflicted death and savagery of the worst kind not on the IDF but on civilians, on their sworn enemies, on people who couldn’t defend themselves, on families, on young people at a music festival and on babies. That’s something I genuinely cannot get my head around. It is absolute monstrous barbarity at its worst. The chants of, ‘Gas the Jews,’ ‘Eff the Jews,’ and, ‘Eff Israel,’ at a Sydney rally at the Opera House are incomprehensible. This blatant antisemitic hate speech should never be heard.

To anyone who is resorting to whataboutism, I strongly suggest you reflect on what you’re implying by rushing to that position without carefully considering the nuance of the situation. This is not a question of whether there are questions to be asked of Palestinian treatment or plight. This is not a moment in which to examine socioeconomic inequalities. This was simply about calling out a terrorist act perpetrated by terrorists for their express goal of bringing death, destruction and fear to a longstanding enemy. It was most likely designed to goad this very type of retaliatory response from Israel, with the implicit desire to demonise Israel when civilians inevitably die on both sides. It is Hamas that should be condemned, unilaterally and universally. It is Hezbollah. It is Iran. It is the sympathisers that we should be calling out with steeled resolve. This actually is a moment for intolerance—intolerance of this vile position and support for terrorism.

If we were so quick to shut off Russia’s access to finance and engagement in global community, if we were so quick to condemn their war with Ukraine, how can anyone be sympathetic to Hamas? They are terrorists. These people are not simple. They’re not stupid. They knew exactly what they were doing.

They’ve actually been educated by the UN. I know many of you would be surprised to learn that, in the UNRWA that is embedded within Palestine, there are antisemitic-at-heart educators who educate kids on the dislike, mistrust, hatred of and desire to eradicate the Jews. It’s actually ingrained in their syllabus. An insane part, just one part, is that the UN is aware of it and defends it by saying that many of their teachers were refugees themselves and therefore still carry the trauma of their hatred, which they pass down to the next generation. So the conflict never ceases. Why? How? How can the UN be complicit in this? How do they support a curriculum that teaches Palestine is in fact the land of Israel? This can only be seen as supporting the erasure of Israel, a member state of the UN.

For those who don’t believe this is possible, I thought I would include a couple of examples of the integration of antisemitism and radicalisation in the Palestinian education system. The indoctrination of Palestinian kids for Israeli hatred has been so totally kneaded into the fabric of the curriculum that even learning grammar and punctuation has some form of propaganda included.

One of the schools examined in a report into the UNRWA was the Asma Middle School for Girls, where the schoolgirls were taught to liberate their homeland by sacrificing ‘their blood’ and pursuing jihad. This is an example from one of their workbooks: ‘Read the following sentences and explain why the hamza’—which is an orthographic sign in Arabic—’is written on the words,’ and option 3 is, ‘I will commit jihad to liberate the homeland.’ The school also had students examine a text called ‘My land’. This was question 11: ‘What are the obligations of the people of the homeland towards it?’ The answer is: ‘That they would defend it and sacrifice for it their blood, their possessions and the most precious thing they have.’

In February 2022, Tel Al-Hawa Middle School 7th grade boys were taught a poem from a Palestinian textbook: ‘The enemy is despicable, Palestine is ours. The departure of the occupier from our land is inevitable. We shall oppose the enemy’s tanks with blood and flesh.’ This United Nations Relief and Works Agency Islamic education exam asked students to mark true or false that ‘Liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque and making sacrifices for it is an obligation of all Muslims,’ with the correct answer being true.

Even in their studies on literary techniques and devices can you find this sort of pervasive propaganda. For example, ‘Let’s explain the beauty of the metaphor in the following: The Zionist gangs their fangs of hatred into her pure body.’ This is a United Nations approved examination! But it is not hard to believe that they do that, because there are also scores of teachers and educators that belong to and are employed by the UNRWA that have been found to be supporting terror acts, antisemitism and even Hitler on their social media.

I have a number of examples of that, but I will just run through some very quick ones. Riad Nimer, who is a teacher with UNRWA, liked to post praising the gruesome Jerusalem synagogue axe and shooting attack in which two Palestinian terrorists murdered five Jewish worshippers and a responding Jewish police officer with axes, knives and a gun. The translation of the post that he liked was ‘When they ram us, they will be rammed. When they stab us, they will be stabbed. When they hang us, they will be hanged. The axe is extra. This is Jerusalem. These are fortresses of the revolutionaries. This is the fortress of the suicide attackers and the heroes. A unique and heroic act of self-sacrifice—suicide attack—in occupied Jerusalem. The initial harvest: seven bodies and 17 wounded.’

Zaher Fanous, another teacher with the UNRWA shared a video praising a teenage Palestinian boy who attacks Israeli soldiers with stones as ‘righteous a hero’. By deeming the Palestinian teenager a hero, the post encourages children to engage in violence.

Labibeh Iskandarani, another UNRWA employee, in October 2017 posted a photo of Hitler with a caption calling on him to wake up because ‘there are still people you need to burn’. In the Facebook post she apologises to Hitler. Notably, three UNRWA employees liked the post. Iskandarani also liked two comments by the employees endorsing the post. The UNRWA routinely minimises its staff neutrality violations on social media and in the classroom. While the UNRWA insists it has a zero-tolerance policy for hatred and antisemetism, the agency has refused to acknowledge the more serious issue of hiring antisemetic and terror-supporting staff in the first place.

To come back to the issue at hand, when Israel is surrounded by enemies on every side, when there is such deep hatred for its very existence, is it any wonder that they’re able to stand proudly at all? And yet it holds on, yet it continues. I will, like many of my colleagues, stand here every day voicing my support for one of the few Middle Eastern nations that respects the rules based order, that’s incredibly progressive. Tel Aviv is very modern, progressive city. The IDF has serving women. Do you think Palestine or Hamas has a very welcome rainbow policy for the LGBT community? Tel Aviv does.

Yesterday, in a most disgraceful action, we saw the teal MP, Sophie Scamps, the member for Mackellar, and Kylie Tink, the member for North Sydney, join forces with the Greens to amend a bipartisan motion condemning Hamas’s actions in an attempt to accuse Israel of war crimeless. After all their moral posturing during the Voice referendum claiming to be on the right side of history and doing the right thing, who purport to be the moral superiors of the majority of the population, they have now shown us how morally bankrupt they are. To believe there’s an equivalence between the action of a terrorist organisation who brutally slaughtered 1,400 innocent Israeli citizens and the actions of the Israeli state in response to this terror, to suggest Israel must use restraint when it is Hamas hiding behind its own civilians has exposed the true moral insanity of the Teals. This is just another example, showing how disconnected the Teals truly are in their privileged bubbles in the beachside and inner-city suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. I think perhaps it’s time for some of them to visit Israel. Perhaps, when they do, they may get to understand that the Palestinians maintain a pay-for-slay policy, where the families of martyrs who kill Jewish civilians are paid an ongoing allowance for the murders that they commit. Within Palestine, in Ramallah in the West Bank, there are monuments erected to acknowledge and pay tribute to martyrs who have killed Jewish civilians. To listen to anyone who says that Palestine and the Palestinians are committed to a peace process while maintaining a pay-for-slay policy is simply ludicrous

But we must remember it was Hamas whose actions have instigated this recent tension. It’s Hamas that has no qualms about its people dying if it stirs up further hatred and mobilises the community against Israel. It is Hamas that entrenches itself in the hearts of civilian populations to goad Israel into attacks on the innocent. It is Hamas that denies opportunities for a ceasefire and peace. I really, in some ways, feel it’s disgraceful that we need to be having this conversation instead of standing united against a terror organisation, regardless of the very nuanced positions and perspectives on the conflict itself, which we could have discussed and dealt with at a later date, when appropriate. But instead the closeted antisemitism masquerading as concern for Palestinian civilians has reared its ugly head. Tonight I was absolutely appalled to see that the 7.30 program, just a couple of hours ago, hosted an interview with the head of international relations for Hamas. A recognised terror organisation, and our national broadcaster gave them validity and legitimacy by hosting an interview with the head of international relations. It is extraordinary that Hamas has a head of international relations, but this is the world we live in. But the fact that the ABC gave them airtime tonight is just beyond comprehension. But, when it comes to antisemitism, I will call it out every time I see it. I am pro-Israel and I am a Zionist and I won’t be cowering to any of these leftie nut jobs, and the Australian people shouldn’t either. We should call it out every time we see it. I know I will.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard