Like any sovereign democratic nation, Israel has a right to defend itself and protect its people from terrorism. Australia should support and help Israel in any way that it can, without question. Israel is doing its utmost to ensure that the conflict is contained, civilians are protected and casualties are minimised.
Senator CASH (Western Australia—Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (19:30): I also rise to contribute to the motion on the Hamas attacks on Israel and the ongoing conflict. Like so many, I condemn the unprovoked and abhorrent attack on Israel by Hamas. It is without a doubt difficult to comprehend the scale and savagery of what the world has witnessed unfold in Israel over the past week. What we have seen has been pure destruction and terror inflicted by Hamas on a level that Israel has never seen before. As Sukkoth—a week-long festival to commemorate the harvest and the period after the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt—was coming to an end, Hamas militants commenced a fully-fledged surprise attack on Israeli cities on the outskirts of Gaza. At least 1,400 Israelis have been killed so far. Hordes of Hamas militants infiltrated kibbutz after kibbutz after kibbutz, setting buildings alight, killing innocent Israeli citizens, taking women, children and the elderly back to Gaza to be held hostage. Young Israelis were enjoying a music festival in the desert—and I have to say, as someone who had the privilege of living in Israel for almost two years, I many times danced in the desert when I was living on a moshav in Ein Gedi; I know how beautiful it is and what we used to do as young people. They were terrorised by Hamas attackers who came from all angles, descending from the sky on paragliders and arriving in a convoy of cars, vans, trucks and motorcycles. At least 260 were killed by militants armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. Civilians who were trying to flee were gunned down in their cars and on the streets by these jihadis, their bloodied bodies lying lifeless on the side of the road or, even worse, paraded around the streets in the back of utes. As if these attacks on babies, boys and girls, men and women and, as we saw reported yesterday, elderly Holocaust survivors could not get any more sickening, much of Hamas’s unashamed sadism has been posted online for the whole world to see.
Innocent Palestinian civilians and Israeli hostages will continue to be deliberately used as human shields by Hamas. Why? Because Hamas does not care. This is their modus operandi. These innocent people will simply be collateral damage. Australia and many of our allies across the globe, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and Japan, recognise that Hamas is a terrorist organisation controlled by Islamic extremists. After Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas became the de facto authority. It has reigned supreme ever since. Palestinians in Gaza have not voted for a legislature since 2006, nor a president since 2008. Time and time again, Hamas has shown its blatant disregard for life by inflicting sheer terror on innocent civilians, most of whom are Jewish people, in an attempt to destroy Israel. Last week’s attack was the most sickening and brutal example of this yet. We have all seen the shocking reports in the media and the videos that have been circulated online over the past week of hundreds of Hamas terrorists raiding and setting fire to homes, abducting and holding innocent people hostage, beheading helpless babies and massacring kibbutzniks on the kibbutz. Nothing can ever justify killing innocent people in this way.
Hamas has no desire for a peaceful two-state solution, something which both Israelis and Palestinians have been open to in the past. Hamas has always rejected Israel’s right to exist. Putting it simply, this attack is an attempt to destroy Israel and inflict maximum harm on its people. Israel has every right to fight back against this terrorism and antisemitism. It has every right to deter future attacks in order to defend itself. It has every right to put an end to any further aggression, coercion and interference, to ensure the protection of its people. The coalition recognises and unequivocally supports Israel’s right to do this.
In supporting Israel it must be stressed, though, that the coalition acknowledges the devastating loss of life and suffering that the Palestinian people are experiencing as a result of these attacks by Hamas. It is inevitable that Israel will retaliate in response to the attacks by Hamas. But for Israel this war is not about killing the terrorists who seek to obliterate it; it is about breaking the power of Hamas and upholding the foundation of nationhood and the rules and norms that Hamas so obviously seeks to destroy.
This morning the coalition party room had the honour and the privilege of being briefed by Israel’s ambassador to Australia., His Excellency Mr Amir Maimon. To echo the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, the coalition wishes Israel swift success in a war it did not choose but which it is compelled to fight.
What has occurred in Israel has been deeply distressing for many in the Australian community. Many have family and friends who are caught up on both sides of this conflict. In the light of the Hamas attack on Israel, we have seen a number of pro-Palestine protests occur across Australia. While there is most certainly a place in Australia for peaceful protest—this is something that we all value—there is absolutely no place in this country for protesters who show such disdain and disregard for people who subscribe to a religion that isn’t their own. Those chanting ‘Gas the Jews, F the Jews and F Israel’ and burning Israel’s flag outside the Sydney Opera House are, quite frankly, a disgrace to our nation. They have a disregard for human decency. I condemn them and their behaviour in the strongest possible terms. It is extremely concerning that the sort of violence and hatred being pushed by Hamas has been replicated and directed at Australia’s Jewish population, and it is disgusting and, quite frankly, extremely disturbing that language and behaviour of this sort is being used in our country. I support the Leader of the Opposition’s statements in relation to considering the deportation of people on temporary visas who have broken the law, incited violence and spewed such vile, antisemitic hate speech at these protests.
Understandably, there is a heightened sense of anxiety amongst Jewish Australians at the moment. Our Jewish community was unable to gather at the Opera House, which was lit up in blue and white, like many landmarks across Australia and around the world, as a sign of support. They were told by the New South Wales police minister to stay at home. Jewish people are worried about their children wearing the Jewish school uniform out and about in public. Jewish people are worried about doing their food shopping at their local Jewish supermarket. Jewish people are worried about being targeted for practising their faith at a synagogue. We have also seen reports that Jewish students are avoiding university campuses out of fear and concern for their safety due to anti-Israel slogans and material being broadcasted and distributed at various campuses across the country. Freedom of speech on campuses should be in no way limited, but it is incredibly concerning and disheartening to hear that Jewish students feel threatened by other students celebrating these attacks.
Last Wednesday night, a number of my colleagues and I were honoured to attend a vigil service with Perth’s Jewish community at the Perth Hebrew Congregation. There were over 1,000 people in attendance, but we joined with millions around the world—people of good faith, people who stand with Israel and people who speak out and push back against the unimaginable barbarity that we have witnessed in Israel in the recent days.
We are so fortunate to live in a country that has been built on the foundation of tolerance and mutual respect for one another. But there must be consequences for those who threaten our social cohesion and behave as some unfortunately have. Hateful prejudice has no place in Australia. What is occurring in Israel is beyond comprehension. The horror that innocent people are being subjected to is unjustifiable. Deliberate acts of terror being inflicted by Hamas are fundamentally abhorrent.
Like any sovereign democratic nation, Israel has a right to defend itself and protect its people from terrorism. Australia should support and help Israel in any way that it can, without question. Israel is doing its utmost to ensure that the conflict is contained, civilians are protected and casualties are minimised. Barbarity, however, cannot prevail. By standing with Israel, Australia is supporting it in one of its darkest times and is showing Jewish communities here in Australia that they have our unwavering support.