Sussan Ley MP – in support of the Prime Minister’s motion

photo of Sussan Ley MP
October 16, 2023

So today as a country and a parliament we unequivocally say two things: we stand with people of Jewish faith in this country and abroad, side by side, as you experience the most difficult period of your lives, and we stand against these acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and support Israel taking the strongest possible action to ensure this can never happen again.

Ms LEY (FarrerDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:38): I rise to support this bipartisan motion on Israel, and I commend the fine words of both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

On Saturday 7 October, the Jewish people suffered their worst day since the Holocaust. The merciless killing of more than 1,300 people at the hands of Hamas was barbaric. The atrocities committed were war crimes: elderly women with dementia taken hostage, soldiers beheaded and babies burned alive. These sick acts of depravity have no place in our world, but take place they did.

So today as a country and a parliament we unequivocally say two things: we stand with people of Jewish faith in this country and abroad, side by side, as you experience the most difficult period of your lives, and we stand against these acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and support Israel taking the strongest possible action to ensure this can never happen again.

After the Holocaust, the world said to the Jewish people, ‘Never again’—never again would people of Jewish faith be murdered because of their religious beliefs, never again would the scale of that suffering be repeated and never again would the world stand by and allow such atrocities to occur. But on Saturday 7 October, ‘never again’ did happen again, and it is on that basis that we stand as one in this parliament in support of the United States and with the rest of our allies to pledge our full support to the people of Israel.

Last week I attended a vigil in the Sydney’s eastern suburbs, joining with 7,000 people to pay respects and mourn with the Jewish community. I was pleased to stand with colleagues from across parties and parliaments. It’s important we speak with one voice on this. At the vigil, I met Itsik Sabug. Itsik is a proud Australian of Israeli descent. Like so many people of the Jewish faith in our country, he migrated to Australia from Israel. Itsik’s nephew, Ziv Shapira, who’s still in Israel, went to that now infamous music festival. All Ziv wanted to do was have a good time; all he wanted to do was catch up with his friends. He wanted to enjoy the party, have a dance and have fun. Ziv was only 26 years old. Ziv never came home from that music festival—lost to his parents, lost to Itsik and lost to his friends forever. This is just one story of thousands, just one anecdote of so many in our Jewish community.

There is unimaginable pain for so many people in our country—pain we seek to soothe as a united parliament, pain we seek to soothe as a united people but pain that for many was compounded as a result of the disgraceful scenes we saw at Sydney’s Opera House last week. We should never be in a situation in our great country where we rightly make a significant symbolic gesture to support a group of people facing trauma, only to then have such a failure in administration that this gesture backfires and further upsets them. I pay tribute to the New South Wales Premier, Chris Minns, for apologising to the Jewish community. He gave a fine speech at the vigil in Dover Heights.

But it is a timely reminder of just how deeply antisemitism does run across the world and even in sections of our country. We must wrap our arms around the Jewish community. We must remind them that we condemn and reject these abhorrent views. Seeing a mob chant ‘gas the Jews’ and ‘burn the Jews’ days after the Jewish people experienced their worst tragedy since the Holocaust is one of the worst things I have seen in this country. We must learn from this as national leaders. We must understand the depth of hatred that Jews face and commit to addressing it.

In the coming days and weeks I look forward to visiting more Jewish communities around the country. It’s important that they know their national leaders support them, are listening and will act. If the Jewish community needs more funding for security upgrades, then that is what governments must deliver. If the Jewish community is telling us that some parents don’t feel it’s safe to send kids to school, then we need to listen, act and assure them of that safety. It’s important they know where we stand locally and internationally in support of them. Every parliamentarian must denounce all acts of hate speech and antisemitism towards the Jewish people in Australia and around the world.

Of course we condemn the barbaric, violent and unprovoked terrorist attack by Hamas on the people of Israel. Of course we condemn the murder, rape and hostage-taking of innocent civilians, including babies, children, women and the elderly. Of course we support the state of Israel’s right to self-defence in taking action to respond to these terror attacks by Hamas, including eradicating Hamas from Gaza and dismantling the capability of Hamas to conduct terrorist attacks on the people of Israel in the future. And of course we will support the work of recognised international aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance and protection wherever possible to all innocent civilians caught in any ensuing conflict.

Less than a year ago I travelled to Israel and the UAE with the member for Berowra as part of a study tour. Less than a year ago I was standing on those same streets in Sderot where, just last week, so many civilians were gunned down in cold blood. As I said a few weeks ago before these atrocities occurred: ‘Seeing bomb shelters in the middle of kids’ playgrounds is terrifying; it is sobering. It gives us pause to try to reflect on how we would feel if we had to deal with that reality in Australia.

Seeing the Hezbollah flag flying high mere metres from the Israeli border; reaching to the top of the Golan Heights, and being guided through the areas so many hostile forces routinely occupy; learning how, in Sderot, communities are surrounded by makeshift bomb shelters because of what they face so frequently. This is the only way someone can properly appreciate the real and pressing threat the people of Israel face every single day.’

Israel faces these threats directly because of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran is funding, training and arming a whole ecosystem of terrorist organisations, including Hamas. The sole desire of Iran is to destroy the Jewish State of Israel. There’s no deal to be done here. They unashamedly want to see Jewish people die and the State of Israel cease to exist. There can be no accommodation here and no compromise with Iran. They are the biggest threat to peace and order in the Middle East. The landmark Abraham Accords were changing, and can continue to change, the Middle East region for the better, and that’s why Iran is so hell-bent on destroying them and stopping further agreements. The coalition stands in complete unity with the United States of America in warning Iran of the consequences should they seek any further involvement in this war. We must acknowledge that the acts of barbarity perpetrated by Hamas and the terror group’s ongoing use of more than 100 innocent Israelis, including babies and children, as human shields have irrevocably changed the region. We must also reassure the Palestinians that condemning this terrorist group and its terrorist activities—the worst the world has seen since 9/11—should not, and cannot, be taken as any negative expression against the Palestinian people, with whom I have had a long and enduring friendship and connection.

I want to make one final point. In the days and weeks ahead, Israel has rightly stated they will have no choice but to launch a very forceful response, seeking to ensure these atrocities can never occur again. Unfortunately for Hamas, civilians are always collateral damage in their quest to advance their terrorism. As civilians suffer, we must remember that this is because of one thing and one thing only: the actions of Hamas. We must stand resolutely with Israel as they respond forcibly, because the Hamas-Iran joint propaganda machine will be seeking to persuade the world that they are the victims. We must ignore that propaganda and stay strident in our support for the Jewish people, and we must all remember that their actions in the coming days and weeks are in self-defence of their people and their country. For decades now, whenever Israel has been forced to respond in situations such as these, some have been very quick to hold Israel to a standard they themselves would never meet. It forced former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir to once remark:

If we have to have a choice between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.

I say clearly: Israel have a good image, and they are alive. They have a good image because they are a good people and a good country. They are alive because, as we have seen for literally thousands of years of history, no matter what tragedy befalls the Jewish people, the Jewish people live and the Jewish state lives. Israel lives.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard