Statement: Israel

Wednesday, 18 October 2023

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (16:50): I rise to strongly support the motion of the parliament in relation to Israel and the unconscionable attacks of the terrorist group Hamas on the people of Israel. It's very unfortunate that we have heard so much in this debate, whether it be from the Greens or members of the teal political party, highlighting another side of the case because, when you consider that this is the attack of terror groups against a nation-state, targeted at civilians, you can't believe that there are two sides to this particular issue that we are discussing as a parliament; there is only one. So it is good to see the unity of this parliament in relation to all members strongly condemning terrorist violence. There is no equivalency between a nation-state like Israel, which has a right to exist and a right to defend itself, and the actions of terror groups deliberately targeting civilians and deliberately killing Jewish people for the great crime of simply being Jewish.

When we will look through the record of history and examine the record of humanity, there's no doubt that one of the saddest features and one of the greatest stains on the soul of humanity will be antisemitism. It has been more durable than it should be. It has lasted longer, it has killed more people, it has done more damage and it remains today a completely irrational strain of thinking that, tragically for the Jewish people, continues to dominate a large part of the world's thinking. When you consider the motivation of terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and their backers in Iran, you understand that they simply want to wipe out the existence of Israel and the Jewish people altogether. There can be no peace with groups that have that as their objective. It's naive to suggest that there can be.

I know people here want to say we can have peace. In a peaceful country like Australia, in a western liberal democracy which is based on rights and the rule of law, we sometimes consider that we can simply call for peace and that will somehow help. We can't have peace with people whose objective is the murder of people for their race or for their characteristics or for their religion or for their background. These terror groups simply don't want peace. Their actions demonstrate that they don't want peace because they were targeted at stopping a major Arab state, Saudi Arabia, which is also a major Muslim state, from normalising relations with Israel, and sadly and tragically they have probably delayed and put off what would have been a major advancement and a step towards peace and stability for Jewish people and the entire Middle East region.

So in a sense we're here today because of this evil and violence against Jewish people. We're also here, depressingly, to acknowledge that the actions of this group have set back the course of peace, and that's why we shouldn't equivocate about our response or our condemnation in relation to terror groups who are striking with a greater purpose, which is not simply the killing of people and the creating of chaos and the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people but also the prevention of other actors in the world today, like Saudi Arabia and others, from moving down a path of peace. It's an inherently evil act to prevent peace and to take steps to deliberately destroy a more peaceful process and a more peaceful world.

So it was depressing and distressing as well to see an outbreak on the streets of the town where I grew up and the city that I'm very proud of, Sydney. I want to say to the Jewish community of Sydney, in particular, that the group of thugs that presented themselves on the streets of Sydney and chanted those evil and insidious chants do not represent all of the Australian population's view about Hamas, Hezbollah and the conflict that they are going through. In fact, it is the obligation of the New South Wales police—and I call upon the New South Wales police minister to get across her brief and do her job. It is unacceptable for the response of the New South Wales state government to have been to arrest peaceful Jewish Israeli Australian citizens while they were attempting to support their parent country peacefully on the streets, but enable, allow and protect thugs on the streets calling for the execution killing and racial vilification of other Australians. It's simply unacceptable. It shouldn't be allowed on our streets.

When you consider what's been happening in Australia in recent times, we do need our police forces to do more and we do need our security forces to do their jobs. Security services need to do their jobs. In Melbourne, we have had scenes, replicated on multiple occasions, of Nazis, Australian Nazis, on the streets of Melbourne, throwing Nazi salutes. This was replicated just the other day, where masked men on trains were throwing Nazi salutes. This should not be happening, and it's not just to the Australian Jewish community. My own family fled from Greece after World War II as a result of a Nazi massacre. I'm only standing here because of the massacre of civilians in Greece by Nazis. Yet, in Australia in 2023, we are now not only witnessing Nazis on the streets of Melbourne—and we need our police and our security services to do better; our streets in Sydney are being taken over by a group of Hamas-supporting thugs, directly threatening and inciting racial and religious violence against other Australian citizens.

While I hear the call of Mike Burgess from ASIO—and I understand his point very well—I also say to our agencies, who have been given multiple tranches of powers by this parliament under multiple tranches of security legislation: your responsibility is also to do your job. Sure, you might ask politicians to calm their rhetoric, but we would also ask you to use the powers that parliament have given you, use the multiple agencies that are under your control, use the money that has been given to you to protect the Australian people, to protect all of our citizens, to protect not just Australians of Jewish descent but Australians of all backgrounds who've come here.

We have one of the largest Greek populations outside of Greece in Melbourne, and it is unacceptable to have Nazis on the streets of Melbourne, throwing Nazi salutes. I welcome the Victorian government's outlawing of the Nazi salute today and I welcome this parliament's move and the government's move to rightly outlaw hate symbols and other Nazi symbols from being produced on the streets of Melbourne—more laws that we need to pass to stop this extremist response.

In spite of these very difficult developments, I know that the Australian people support and stand steadfastly behind Australia's Jewish community, a peaceful, happy, productive community that has come here and contributed so much to the fabric of Australia. We are behind you and we don't see any equivalences in parliament between terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and their backers in Iran and the great and peaceful migration that the Australian Jewish community represents here in Australia.

I also welcome, President Biden and Secretary Blinken, the great response of the United States—it's still the leader of the free world today and of the West—ensuring their absolute steadfast support to Israel. Why? Because Israel has a right to exist, because after the Holocaust, the pogroms and all of the tragedy of the Jewish people throughout history, Israel, the modern state of Israel since 1948, represents the best chance for the Jewish people to live in peace. And, while Australia continues to support a two-state solution, and we do—and of course the loss of any civilian life is absolutely tragic—the actors that initiated this recent round of conflict, Hamas and Hezbollah, are terror groups, and we should not shy away from that. All of the civilian loss of life that is coming about now has been initiated by terrorist actors.

The United States, Australia and the free world stand behind Israel because it is the rational thing to do, because it is the right thing to do, because it respects human rights and international rights. I'm very proud of Australia for its response and proud of the government's response as well.

Today I have the great privilege of saying to the Australian Jewish community: we support you; we love you; we know how much you have suffered from this senseless and baseless attack; we do very much understand—and any rational, right-thinking person who examines this conflict understands—the hatred that is behind the acts that have happened here, and their indecency and utter lack of humanity. If we truly stand on the side of peace, we will always stand behind countries that respect rights, countries that have the rule of law and countries that want freedom and peace. I believe Israel is one of those, and we support you. I'm very proud to support this motion.