Senator Linda Reynolds – in support of Senator Wong’s motion

October 18, 2023

Hamas has brought Israel’s response upon itself, and in doing so it has tragically exposed to danger the very people, the Palestinian people, it cruelly claims to stand for. Hamas, and Hamas only, are responsible for the current loss of Israeli, Palestinian and many other lives.

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (12:54): I rise to again strongly support the motion, passed in the Senate this morning, on the Hamas attacks on Israel. I was incredibly proud to support this motion, and I join coalition colleagues who have condemned the unprovoked and abhorrent attacks by militant Hamas. I also unequivocally support Israel’s right to self-determination, its right to exist and its right to protect its own citizens, which is enshrined in international law. The removal of the threat of Hamas is essential.

Australia, alongside like-minded nations, must support efforts by Israel to defend itself and its people against future atrocious attacks. I think one of the principles that unite us all in here is that we must support others that we hope and expect would support us in similar circumstances. If this unimaginable atrocity happened to us, we would expect and hope that our like-minded allies and friends would support us as well.

Hamas has brought Israel’s response upon itself, and in doing so it has tragically exposed to danger the very people, the Palestinian people, it cruelly claims to stand for. Hamas, and Hamas only, are responsible for the current loss of Israeli, Palestinian and many other lives. I don’t envy the moral dilemma of the Israeli government, and certainly it’s not one that any of us would envy. No-one ever wants to see lives lost. All human life deserves care and support, including Palestinians, and that is why the coalition supports properly targeted humanitarian assistance. However, that said, let us not be led into false equivalences, as some in this chamber and elsewhere have sought to do. In its attack, Hamas acted with surprise and with intent to brutally kill innocent civilians. They took hostages—men, women, children, babies. Israel, in contrast, provided public warnings to minimise civilian losses. It is targeting the weapons it uses, its capabilities, to the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.

Last week in Perth I had the privilege of attending a solidarity with Israel event held by the Jewish community of Western Australia at the Perth Hebrew Congregation in Menora. There, over 1,000 Western Australians gathered in support of Israel and its people, singing ‘Oseh Shalom’, a prayer for peace. The grief and sadness in the room, the impact of these horrific attacks, was palpable. There are so many people in Western Australia, in Perth in particular, with relatives and friends who have been caught up in these attacks. I couldn’t help but reflect, while sitting there, listening and sharing in the experience, that sometimes in the face of great evil there are simply no words to adequately convey how you feel. That was certainly one of those moments, but I hope that being there with many of my Western Australian Liberal colleagues spoke much louder than words ever could.

Eleven days ago, at 6.35 am Israel standard time, the first air raid sirens were activated in southern and central Israel in response to thousands of Hamas missiles. Rockets rained down on the people of south Israel, and the terror that was unleashed—a lot of us have seen the photos and footage—was the most inhumane attack on innocent civilians. It was designed to be brutal, designed to be deadly and designed to send a message. It was, quite simply, a bloody, brutal murder, a savage act that should have no place in our world today. What happened there, one of the worst examples of terrorism in the modern age, has certainly shaken the foundations of our shared values. The pain and the suffering of the Israeli people are reverberating and being shared around the world.

I was very proud that the former coalition government officially recognised Hamas as a terrorist organisation, as have so many other nations. I’d like to take this opportunity to condemn all forms of terrorism, violence and horror and the use of fear, terror and death to achieve political and ideological goals. Having travelled to Israel many times, I know that the state of Israel is a robust parliamentary democracy, much like Australia. Australia stood with Ukraine when it was subjected to the barbarity of the Russian invasion, and today we also stand with Israel in its hours, days, months and years of need to come. Global support for Israel—for its right to exist, its right to self-defence and its fight against antisemitism—is crucial for us all to stand up in this place and support. Australia was proud to lead the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

Hamas’s brutal attack has also led to the largest killing of Jews in a single day since the Holocaust in World War II. Such targeted slaughter—for that’s what it was—should never lead to the scenes of jubilation that we have seen in our very own nation—in fact, in the heart of Sydney, at the Sydney Opera House. These disgraceful antisemitic acts on the steps of the Opera House stain our nation and deepen the stain for Australia’s strong and proud Jewish community. There is no question—I’ve seen it myself many times—that Australia’s relationship with Israel is underpinned by a vibrant Australian Jewish community. I’ve seen that in action many times in Western Australia. Through the motion that we passed in this place today, the Australian parliament has sent a very clear message to the world, especially to our Australian Jewish community, that we stand with you in your time of need and support you.

But I have to say that there are sometimes occasions in this place when I feel great shame for what is said and what is done in this chamber. Fortunately, that does not happen very often. But I think the behaviour of the Greens and some of the teals in the other place is a stain on our nation. It was distressing to see members of the Greens wearing Palestinian keffiyehs in this building. In fact, they’ve been wearing them every day this week. The extremist rhetoric coming from the Greens and from some of the teals has no place in this nation. There can be no justification for anybody in this place, or in the other place, to support terrorism and to support the acts of terrorists and particularly these most barbaric attacks in Israel. There has been the largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust. I also find it abhorrent that the Greens and some teals in the other place are creating a false equivalence between Hamas’s terrorist attacks and the legitimate right of Israel to defend itself and to defend its citizens.

In conclusion, the Australian relationship with Israel has a long, very strong and very proud history. This month marks the 106th anniversary of the First World War Battle of Beersheba, in which Anzac forces played a decisive role, fighting alongside their Allied counterparts in that war. Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution which led to the creation of the state of Israel as a sovereign state, with the right under international law, which all other nations enjoy, to defend itself. I was privileged to be in Be’er Sheva itself for the 98th anniversary of the famous mounted charge of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade for a very moving service to commemorate the 31 light horsemen killed and the 36 wounded in the charge. We do share a long and close history together, and Australia must continue to stand by Israel. (Time expired)

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