Motion on Israel – House of Representatives – 16 October 2023

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16 OCTOBER 2023


Members of the House have visited Jewish community centres and synagogues and schools during their service in this place. Inevitably members have to pass through a security station and often wonder why there’s security.

After all, this is Australia. This is Australia.

We’re one of the few nations on earth that has never had any formal discrimination against Jewish people, and I honour that history. Yet, even with that history, Jewish Australians have felt the pain of the murder of Jews in Israel. Hamas attacks in Israel have reminded Jews across the world that in each generation we face those who seek to exterminate Jewish people from the face of the earth.

Events in Israel have brought that long history that silently lives in our DNA and our memory as a people back to life.

Whilst our own sense of decency and humanity instinctively turns us away from looking at the depravity, we must not turn away—depravity that saw whole families murdered together in their homes; babies captured, caged and killed; young women sexually assaulted in the streets; a grandmother murdered, and images of her body uploaded to her own social media page; hundreds of young people at a music festival to celebrate peace mowed down by terrorists in body armour and brandishing AK-47s.

Not all were Israelis. The murdered and missing included people from 43 nations around the world. One hundred and fifty people were dragged from their homes and kidnapped, one of whom was an elderly Holocaust survivor.

With 1,300 dead, in a matter of hours there was the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust. History repeats itself again—another time and another evil group who seek nothing less than the extermination of the Jewish people from Israel and, if they could have their way, from the entire earth.

I appreciate the serious work being undertaken to bring home the Australians who want to come home. I commend all who are burning the midnight oil to get this done safely and quickly.

I also believe we must use this moment to reconsider our diplomatic relationship with Iran. Iran oppresses its people. Iran exports terror and has aided and supported terrorist organisations such as Hamas for far too long. I do not believe it is in our national interest to have diplomatic relations with a country that seeks to export terror throughout the world.

May I say a few words about the response in our country. It has been simultaneously wonderful and troubling.

We have an expression in Hebrew: ‘Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh bah Zeh’. Loosely translated it means ‘All the people of Israel take care of each other’. But, in this instance, we’ve seen not just the people of Israel taking care of each other but people of goodwill in Australia taking care of each other. I want to put on record my thanks to the people who’ve sent emails, reached out with messages of goodwill, and the social media posts of people standing with Israel.

Like many people in this House, over the last few weeks I’ve been occupied with prepoll. What was lovely at the prepoll is that it didn’t matter what side of the debate people were on; volunteers, members of the community, came up to me and shook my hand and hugged me and said: ‘We stand with you, Julian. We stand with the people of Israel and the Jewish people at this time.’ There was the beautiful gesture from Susan and the people of St Stephen’s Normanhurst, who dropped flowers at my office, not sure of what to do or how to express their support and their feelings about the actions in Israel.

There were other actions that troubled me and troubled Jewish Australians and Australians of goodwill, and that was the public emergence of an awful form of anti-Semitism.

What happened in our greatest city, Sydney, was nothing short of appalling. I never could have imagined a day when Jewish people in Sydney would be told by the police that the streets were not safe, nor indeed that the same police would arrest a man carrying an Israeli flag while giving an escort to the steps of the Opera House to anti-Semites celebrating the work of a listed terrorist organisation—which we in Australia have listed—murdering Jewish innocents.

Nor could I have imagined that anti-Semites would light flares and chant, ‘Gas the Jews!’ on the steps of Australia’s greatest cultural symbol while the police watched on—’Gas the Jews! Kill the Jews!’ at the Sydney Opera House in 2023!

These people should be prosecuted for inciting the murder of their fellow Australians and, if possible, removed from our community. More broadly, we need a serious debate about anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is always accompanied by an indifference to anti-Semitism. In too many places in the political sphere and the social sphere, the brutal terrorist acts were met with statements of false equivalence—as if innocent Jewish people had brought these murders on themselves. We’ve all heard this script before.

So many of these people lecture us incessantly about tolerance and hate speech; inclusion and racism; and indifference to violence against women. But they’ve shown that none of their beliefs apply to Jews: the Jewish people are the asterisk where it doesn’t apply. This moral equivalence is a failure of moral compass. The indifference of these people and their disregard for their fellow Australians has been on display over the past week, and I have to say that it has been particularly evident in some of the statements by members of the Greens party at the state and federal level.

Sadly, anti-Semitism in Australia is not uncommon: unfortunately, I experience it regularly. The member for Wentworth, the member for Macnamara and I co-chair the Parliamentary Friends of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, opposing anti-Semitism.

Let me let the House in on our work. Unfortunately, the places where anti-Semitism is alive and well are on the many campuses of our country. There are too many Quisling leaders on our campuses who do not have the strength to stop anti-Semitism and who refuse to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Many refuse to define anti-Semitism and they think we’re making it up! It’s festering, and we saw it on the streets of Sydney.

This is a trying time for Jewish people around the world and here in Australia. I draw strength from the many non-Jewish people around the country who are reaching out to stand with the Jewish people at this time. And I draw strength from the broad primary support for this motion.

I believe in what we call the vast middle of this country: good, fair, decent people who stand against evil. I draw strength from what Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said of the Jewish people, ‘They are the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind.’

He said: ‘Our ability to survive some of the worst tragedies any people has known without losing our faith in life itself; to suffer and yet rebuild; to lose and yet recreate; to honour the past without being held captive by the past—all of which are embodied today in the State of Israel, living symbol of the power of hope—are vitally important not just to ourselves but to the world.’

Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. It’s a country that shares the values of Australia: a belief in the rule of law and democracy, and respect for human rights. It’s one of the few places in the Middle East where not only Jews but Christians and Muslims can practice their faith freely. Australia and Israel share values and an outlook on the world.

Australia must stand with the people of Israel and it is right that Australia does so.

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