Motion on Hamas attacks on Israel and ongoing conflict

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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16 October 2023

The last nine days have borne witness to the most desperately sad tragedy. A tragedy for Jews, a tragedy for Muslims, a tragedy for Israel and a tragedy for Palestinians. And the unfolding disaster has been a matter of precise calculation by Hamas. And Hamas stands in absolute condemnation.

The very nature of terrorism is shocking. It invades normality, such as simply attending a knock on the front door or leaving your kids at childcare, or going to a music festival, just as thousands of young people, my kids, do in Australia all the time. To have fun, to dance, to enjoy youth. In fact, the motivation for those who went to the supernova festival the weekend before last to experience friendship, and joy, and community could not be further removed from what they then encountered in the face of Hamas. Evil, extreme violence and death.

And against the backdrop of the anticipated normal, the reality was so shocking that it robs everyone, no matter what they are doing, of the ability to feel safe. And of course, that is the point. These were innocents, they were not combatants, and their death is murder. And so today we stand with Israel and its people.

Israel is a liberal democracy. Values of human rights and freedom of speech form the founding ethos of its country. And in that, Israel and Australia are alike. But our connection with Israel runs much deeper than that. It was an Australian Foreign Minister who chaired, who drove the UN Special Committee on Palestine in 1947, which gave rise to the very creation of Israel. ‘Doc’ Evatt regarded this as his signature achievement in public life and he was inspired and supported by the Australian Jewish community of the time. And prior to these events, his role was to be acknowledged in the naming of the ‘Doc’ Evatt Room at the Israel National Library in Jerusalem this week.

But what this says is that from the very beginning of Israel's remarkable journey, Australia was there. And this history makes all the more significant the statements of solidarity that we make now in respect of Israel. And at the heart of the relationship between Australia and Israel is the Australian Jewish community. And over the course of the last nine days, that community has been filled with a sense of deep anxiety about the safety and welfare of their family and their friends, the 10,000 Australians who call Israel home. And so we are with them in hoping that those people are all right. We weep for the more than 1400 innocent Israelis who have lost their life. Our thoughts are with the thousands who have been injured. And we fervently pray for those who now find themselves in the unspeakable position of being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

But we also weep for innocent Palestinians. There are more than 2 million Palestinians who live in Gaza and the vast bulk of them have absolutely nothing to do with Hamas. They have been born into a life of trying to fashion a version of happiness, of joy, of hope and aspirations for their children, all compromised by being caught in an enduring conflict which is measured in decades.

Hamas does not speak for these people and Hamas has completely undermined the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. And now, in their innocence, we are watching Palestinians die in significant number and we hold our breath as to what the coming days and weeks will unfold. And so for all of this, we condemn Hamas in the strongest possible terms. Hamas has an ideology of terror and its acts over the course of the last nine days have been of the most profound evil.

Israelis and Palestinians have a right to exist in peace and security. Israel has a right to act in its defence. It has a right to seek the protection and indeed the liberation of its citizens. And it has a right to move against Hamas. And in that, Australia stands with Israel. And in the same breath, we add our voice to the international call that the rules of war be respected.

The events in the Middle East are reverberating around the world. They are also reverberating here in Australia. And at this moment, it is essential that we are vigilant about the cohesion of our own society. We understand that there is a context in the Middle East. We understand that over a long period of time these issues have been complex and there are people in our country who hold views about them passionately. But there is no excuse for the scenes and the chants that we heard outside the Sydney Opera House last Monday. That is nothing other than ugly anti-Semitism and it completely diminishes any attempt to advocate on the part of the innocent. There is no place in this country today for anti-Semitism and there is no place for Islamophobia.

In this moment, it is absolutely essential that as we walk the path forward, we do so with respect to each other as Australians. And in doing so, we can find illumination from the Islamic faith itself. When Muslims refer to the Prophet Muhammad, they attach a phrase “peace be upon him”. They do this to accord the highest respect to the Prophet by attaching his name to the word peace.

In Surah 2:208 of the Holy Quran, the Prophet Muhammad says “enter absolutely into peace”. Indeed, the very word Islam is derived from the word peace in Arabic. Peace is at the heart of Islamic theology, as it is at the heart of Judaism and Christianity. And as we watch this misery unfold from afar, peace must be the bedrock of our actions here. And as we walk the road ahead, peace must be our guiding star.


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