Speech in the House of Representatives – 7 February 2024 – Middle East

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I want to commend the member for Kennedy for bringing this motion to the House.

The motion was seconded by my friend the Member for Bradfield, who spoke extremely well on the issues that pertain to the terrible terrorist organisation that is Hamas.

I note the Assistant Minister’s speech as well, and I note that sitting next to me today is the chair of the International Allies Caucus on Israel, the member for Fisher.

I want to begin by saying something you might not expect.

I’m asking you to believe Hamas. Believe them when they say they want to exterminate all Jewish people. Believe them when they chant, ‘From the river to the sea.’ Believe them, because their actions and their evil speak volumes.

Their deliberate and calculated actions on 7 October saw babies captured, caged and killed.

It saw women sexually assaulted on the streets.

It saw children sexually assaulted in front of their parents, and parents sexually assaulted in front of their children, before they were murdered.

In homes, places of love, security and safety, the most gruesome and cruel tortures and humiliations were inflicted upon families.

In fields surrounding a music festival, young people were hunted like prey.

There were actions so evil and so horrific that they would defile our shared humanity by recounting them.

Believe Hamas, because they filmed, broadcasted and boasted of their crimes. Believe Hamas, because they continue to mistreat and kill hostages. Believe Hamas, because they have a history of murdering their own people.

Like with the Nazis and ISIS, our humanity underestimates this evil at our peril.

No matter our race, creed or nationality, we are all people of memory and story.

We grapple with our histories of family and country and of understanding the good and the bad, pain and hope, and relationships that unite and divide. The whispers of history reside in us all.

For Jewish people, these are the whispers of persecutions, pogroms and the Holocaust, so we know what it means when a Greens MP speaks of Jewish tentacles and argues publicly for the exclusion of Jewish people from charities, sporting groups, culture and politics.

This is a sick conspiracy theory. We’ve seen this before. We know what it means, and we know where it leads.

We know what it means when businesses are boycotted for no other reason than that the owner is Jewish. We know what it means when art galleries are shunned or vandalised because they’re supported by Jewish Australians.

Hamas didn’t just seek to brutalise Israel. They sought to unleash antisemitism across the world and, sadly, they have.

Like Jewish people around the world, I’m seeking to understand the complexities of our times.

As a parent, I’m trying to explain why there are people that hate me and my family and wish us harm for no other reason than our faith tradition.

As an Australian, I wonder how our shared ethos has been corroded on our campuses and by extremist politicians of the far left.

This is a time for empathy. Empathy is not merely identifying with people who are just like us; it’s something deeper.

True empathy is seeing the humanity of someone when they are not like us and when we don’t see ourselves in the face of another. It’s a challenge for all of us, no matter our background.

One of the groups I’ve learnt empathy from is the local Persian community in my electorate. One of them brought a book to my office as big as an old-fashioned telephone book. It was leather bound and in it were the names and photos of tens of thousands killed by the sponsor of Hamas, the Iranian regime.

I learnt that, whilst the government of Iran exports terror around the world, including to Gaza, its first victims were in fact the people of Iran.

I do think of the people of Gaza, many of whom live in fear of Hamas.

We know that Hamas exercises the most vile punishments on its own citizens—on women, on gay people, on people of other faiths and on anyone who might disagree with them.

The Leader of the Opposition is right. This is a time for moral clarity, and I think of our country and what lies ahead.

Will Australians continue to see the humanity of the Jewish people? Or will we condemn Jewish people because of an ideology and conspiracy theories that say they embody privilege or, as the Greens imply, somehow have tentacles?

To the members of the Greens, I say: I don’t have tentacles, neither does my five-year-old son or my two-year-old daughter; neither does my friend the member for MacNamara, the member for Isaacs, or the member for Macarthur; and neither do the patriotic Jewish Australians who contribute to the country they love by serving in the ADF or the police force, by supporting community organisations, by bolstering multiculturalism and by making this country stronger.

We give back because that’s what we’re called to do and because that’s what it means to be a good Australian. We don’t have tentacles. We are human beings just like you.

So I say to the Greens: it is time to root out the anti-Semitism in your political party. This is a test of your moral courage and humanity. Time always exposes behaviours and motives, and your response to your fellow Australians will go down through history.

On 5 October, just prior to the Hamas attacks, the High Court Justice Jayne Jagot, who herself is not Jewish, gave what I think is an extraordinary and important speech.

She gave the Zelman Cowen Oration, and she focused the speech not on Cowen’s extraordinary work as a jurist or as Governor-General but on anti-Semitism.

She reminded us that anti-Semitism is the ‘canary in the coalmine of global hatred’. More than a threat to the Jewish people, anti-Semitism is a broader symptom of an underlying loss of confidence in liberal democratic ideals and practices.

The Hamas attacks were more than an attack on Israel. They were an attack on our shared democratic ideals, and our democratic ideals are always defended by people of goodwill.

I saw that defence after the 7 October attacks, when members of a local Anglican church in my electorate brought flowers to my office because they wanted to let me know that the local Christian community were standing with me and other Jewish Australians and were thinking of us at this difficult time.

I saw it when constituents stopped me regularly in the street just to let me know they were standing with the Jewish people.

We saw it today with Nova Peris’s brave statements and similar actions from Indigenous leaders like Marcia Langton, Warren Mundine and Sean Gordon.

And I’ve seen it in the genuine multi-partisan work on anti-Semitism I’ve been doing with my friends, the member for Macnamara and the member for Wentworth.

This land, like so few in human history and like so few around the world, has been good to the Jewish people. It is a wonderful and underappreciated aspect of our broader Australian story.

I believe it will continue to be so if we as Australians, regardless of our faith and regardless of our background, continue to stand and resist those who would seek to deny the humanity of the Jewish people.

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