By Jake Evans
- Four former Liberal prime ministers and two former Labor prime ministers have joined to condemn Hamas
- The former leaders also urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in its response
- They said nothing justified hate speech against any Australian community
All of Australia’s living prime ministers except for Paul Keating have joined to express their support for Israel and call for solidarity with Jewish Australians, in a rare statement undersigned by former leaders of both major parties.
The joint statement by Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and John Howard also called upon Hamas to release hostages taken in the October 7 terror attacks, and urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties and sustain humanitarian access into Gaza.
The former prime ministers called upon Australians to treat each other with love and respect.
“If our hearts are filled with hatred, then we will be doing the terrorists’ work,” the statement read.
“No complaint or concern about international affairs justifies hate speech against any Australian, or any Australian community.
“We believe we speak for the vast majority of Australians, of all faiths and of none, when we say we stand in solidarity with Jewish Australians at this time.
“Likewise, we stand too with the Australian Palestinian community whose families are dying and suffering in this terrible conflict.”
Former PMs caution Israel to avoid killing civilians
The former leaders expressed their condemnation of Hamas, saying it sought to provoke Israel and had “no more interest in the safety of Palestinians than they do of Israelis”.
However, they said Israel in its response must keep its promise to avoid civilian deaths.
“On the battlefield in Israel and Gaza we do not presume to give strategic advice to Israel.
“But the legitimate objective of defeating Hamas must be accompanied by support and protection for the civilian population of Gaza. Israel promises it will do all it can to avoid civilian casualties, we urge it to do so with all of its humanity and skill.
“We are horrified by the thousands of deaths and injuries inflicted on innocent Palestinian civilians, including many, many Palestinian children.”
The letter was coordinated by lawyer and political activist Mark Leibler, according to a statement by Mr Keating.
Mr Keating on Sunday published a statement saying he would not sign onto the letter “drafted by” the Zionist Federation of Australia.
The letter comes as Israeli military begin a ground operation into Gaza, as Israel’s war against Hamas escalates.
Israeli air strikes have pounded Gaza in a weeks-long campaign, reportedly killing more than 8,000 Palestinians, following the murders of a reported 1,400 Israelis in a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.
The United Nations has called on Israel and Hamas to negotiate a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid into blockaded Gaza.
In a statement published by the Zionist Federation of Australia, association president Jeremy Leibler said the statement demonstrated “Australia is a country that produces leaders of moral principle”.
“The fact that the former prime ministers are from both major political parties highlights that the condemnation of Hamas and its terror campaign, and support for Israel’s right to defend itself transcends politics,” that statement read.
The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network said it was alarmed that the group of prime ministers had “allowed themselves to be used” by the pro-Israel lobby.
“The statement’s reference to ‘Australian values of love and respect’ rings hollow, given that the former prime ministers failed to acknowledge the tens of thousands of Australians expressing their horror about Israel’s behaviour, and ignored the anguish that many thousands of Palestinian Australians are currently feeling,” the advocacy group’s statement read.
“The prime ministers have failed in their duty as states people to equally uphold international law. Their significant platform should have been used to echo calls by the United Nations for an immediate ceasefire.”