Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Victorian State Liberal MPs speak in support of Israel

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From Victorian Hansard

 

5 August 2014

 

Gaza conflict

Mr David SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) -- As members may be aware, a letter condemning Israel's operation in Gaza was signed by MPs -- mainly from the ALP and the Greens -- from around the country. This letter blatantly provides comfort for Hamas, a terrorist organisation which shares a world view with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and al-Qaeda, with whom Israel is engaged in a life-and-death struggle. This letter is bereft of context and wrong in places. In brief, the facts are as follows.

This conflict was caused solely by the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, menacing and paralysing most people in that country. Israel responded only after Hamas ignored several calls from Israel for calm.

Israel has now discovered an elaborate network of tunnels into Israel from Gaza which were intended to be used for a mass terrorist attack which would entail the slaughter and kidnapping of civilians. The people of no country, including Israel, should be expected to live under this double threat of rockets and tunnels. The civilian casualties in Gaza are tragic but are caused by the war crimes and actions of Hamas, who have targeted Israel's civilians from among its own civilian population, using them as human shields and even demanding that they stay in harm's way when Israel warns them to evacuate.

At times like this all Australians, especially MPs, should stand with Israel, our friend, our ally and fellow democracy. We must not give comfort to Hamas, a declared terrorist organisation with an ideology that threatens us all. I invite MPs from all sides of politics to come together and show their support for Israel.

 

6 August 2014

 

Gaza conflict

Ms Dee RYALL (Mitcham) -- In our concern for the civilian casualties we are seeing in so many parts of the world, we must ensure that as parliamentarians we condemn terrorism. Hamas is a terrorist organisation that uses innocent men, women and children as human shields. It stores and fires rockets from civilian locations including schools and hospitals. It has spent funds much needed for the welfare of people on rockets and terror tunnels designed to inflict maximum damage in Israel. Any country subject to terrorism has the right to defend itself. I do not believe for a minute that if we here in Australia were subjected to years of daily rocket attacks and tunnelling to inflict maximum damage on Australian soil we would not defend ourselves and try to shut down that continued terror being inflicted on our own people.

Terrorism in all forms must be condemned.

Israel should not have to live under the constant threats and actions of a terrorist organisation whose desire is to see it wiped from the map. All members of Parliament should show leadership, and we must be very careful when condemning a country for defending itself not to lose sight of the context and give legitimacy to a terrorist organisation that is driven to annihilate another country. Casualties in all circumstances are a tragedy. What we as parliamentarians should be doing is condemning terrorism in all circumstances.

 

Ms Elizabeth MILLER (Bentleigh) -- While we live in a wonderful part of the world where multiculturalism is celebrated, our friends in Israel are under constant rocket fire led by an internationally recognised terrorist organisation, Hamas. Unfortunately too many lives have been lost in the current conflict in the Middle East, but Israel has a right to defend itself and its citizens. What really concerns me is that we are now seeing anti-Semitic attacks from people who have brought the problems of Hamas and its hatred for Israel to our great state. Regardless of peoples' political views, there should be no place in Victoria for extremists who spout hate. People should have the right to feel safe in their homes and on our streets regardless of their religious or cultural beliefs.

 

Anti-Semitism

Mrs Jan KRONBERG (Eastern Metropolitan) -- My adjournment matter is directed to the Premier. The world is expressing its concern about the suffering of the people of Gaza, as Israel responds to the relentless missile bombardment it has had to endure from the terrorist group Hamas. We deplore the loss of life and the suffering in this conflict, especially when children are affected.

What is of increasing concern to me and to many here in Victoria, however, is the rise of anti-Semitism nowadays, seemingly because of what Israel has to do to protect its own people. In Europe, and in France in particular, Jew hatred and unbridled violence have escalated. People are chanting 'Death to the Jews'. Frighteningly, the attacks on Jews are largely ignored by Western media with the always paper-thin excuse that 'We are just being anti-Zionist, not anti-Jew'. That excuse has now been stripped away.

What we face as a result of Israel defending itself is blatant anti-Semitism in its many grotesque forms. The lesson for us here, as writer Melanie Phillips puts it, is that 'Anti-Jewish hatred is not just directed against Israel and the Jews of Europe. It is fuelling the Islamic war against the West. It is often said that the Jews are the --canary in the mine-- for the West itself'.

Right now a host of commentators are studiously ignoring the terror that Israelis live under, day in and day out, with thousands of missiles having been launched into populated areas of Israel since 2005. For me, this position defies all rational explanation. One has to ask, 'Why the selective memory? Why the total lack of understanding for the plight of Israel, surrounded by many enemies who state that they want all Israelis pushed into the Mediterranean?'.

We are now seeing the worst scenes of Jew hatred since the 1930s.

Even our own media in Australia has sanctioned that hideous 1930s Nazi-style cartoon just this week. By speaking out in Australia, where we still can, we can ameliorate the intensity of the fear the Jewish community feels by providing comfort and understanding. I grant that Hamas has won the public relations war, which is its stated intention. The people of Gaza have been brutalised by Hamas. They have been used as human shields and have been murdered when they have worked against Hamas's terrorism-fuelled interests.

In a stop press, the Hamas tunnel network, which now comprises 40 tunnels underneath the Gaza-Israeli border, was set to be activated during the Jewish new year holiday on 24 September this year, as a mass terror attack to result in tens of thousands of casualties with explosives placed underneath kindergartens in Israel. The action I seek of the Premier is for him to decry anti-Semitism in all of its guises.

 

7 August 2014

 

Jewish community facilities

Mr Clem NEWTON-BROWN (Prahran) -- I rise today to raise a matter with the Minister for Crime Prevention in regard to security funding for Jewish community facilities in Victoria, in particular those used by constituents of mine in the Prahran electorate. The action I seek from the minister is for him to determine whether any Victorian government grants are available to assist with the safety of Jewish organisations and their members.

The current conflict in Gaza has seen Israel defend itself from the terrorist organisation Hamas, and this has led to an increase in anti-Semitism in the community, with a horrific example in the last 24 hours -- not in Victoria, I might add.

Many of my Jewish constituents in Prahran have voiced deep concerns that these sorts of terrorist incidents could occur in our local community, and they have raised with me the need to improve safety measures in response to the increased threats and unrest towards the Jewish community.

Regrettably, the true nature of the Gaza conflict has been distorted via statements such as the Canberra Declaration on Gaza, which has been signed by over 70 Green and Labor MPs. There has been a spike in the level of hate directed towards Israelis and Jews in recent times. No person, whether in Israel or in my electorate of Prahran, or indeed anywhere else in Victoria or Australia, should be subject to unwarranted prejudice or the threat of harm. We must preserve and promote the great multicultural community of Victoria as the home of many cultures, where racial vilification is not welcome and safety should be assured.

It is on these grounds that I ask the minister to determine what assistance may be available in the crime prevention portfolio to help the Jewish community in my electorate of Prahran, and indeed in the neighbouring electorates of Caulfield, Bentleigh, Malvern and Albert Park and surrounding areas, to help them to respond to the safety issues associated with increased anti-Semitism in the context of the Gaza conflict.

 

Gaza conflict

Mr Ted BAILLIEU (Hawthorn) -- As Victorians we are fortunate to enjoy a strong and peaceful multicultural community. But sadly little has changed in the Middle East. Hamas still launches airborne explosives into Israel's power station in Ashkelon even though it supplies the very power so essential to Gaza. Those attacks lead to continuing fighting and further fighting in turn. But it is clear these tragedies will not stop until Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and others acknowledge the rights of Israel to exist in the right of Israel to defend itself, and all parties do whatever is necessary to ensure that children are no longer the innocent and unacceptable victims of this conflict.

 

Gaza conflict

Mr Neil ANGUS (Forest Hill) -- As a member of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel group I have had the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of Israel and the many significant contributions Israeli citizens have made in many areas, including innovation, science, health, education and agriculture. Some years ago I was privileged to visit Israel on a study tour organised by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. During that tour I visited the town of Sderot, a few kilometres from the Gaza border. As a result of terrorists in Gaza firing thousands of rockets towards the town over many years its residents have only 15 seconds to find shelter when they hear the code red alert. Every house has a bomb shelter, every bus stop doubles as a bomb shelter, as do the concrete snakes in the local playgrounds. The residents live their lives dominated by the need to stay close to shelter. It is an extraordinarily traumatic way to live.

The recent increase in both rocket and tunnel-based attacks on Israel by the terrorist organisation Hamas has resulted in Israel having no choice but to defend its citizens. Hamas's tactic of using civilians as human shields is deplorable and has tragically resulted in the death of and injury to many innocent people. My sympathy goes to the families of the innocent victims and soldiers killed in this conflict, and I trust that the current ceasefire holds and an end to the bloodshed is reached.

 

Gaza conflict

Mr Bill TILLEY (Benambra) -- During 2012 I was privileged to visit Israel as part of an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council delegation. It was an experience which left a deep impression, in particular a visit I made to the town of Sderot, a few kilometres from Beersheba and the Gaza border. When the residents of Sderot hear the code red alert, they have only 15 seconds to find shelter. Families have their lives dominated by the need to stay close to shelter. Post-traumatic stress disorder is pervasive in the community.

All war is a tragedy. Civilian deaths caused by conflict, regardless of whether the civilians come from Israel or Gaza -- or anywhere else for that matter -- are even more so.

Despite the histrionics of the left and those who constantly and consistently seek to vilify the free and democratic state of Israel, the current conflict has its genesis in the acts of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas and is made more tragic due to its barbaric human shield tactics. It should never be forgotten that Israel is forced to protect its people with weapons and Hamas uses people to protect its weapons.

I am proud to stand with Israel, and I hope for peace. There will only be a lasting peace if Hamas is demilitarised, which will require the efforts of the wider international community. To this end, I urge more members of this place and other democratic parliaments in our commonwealth which are privileged to meet in relative peace to stand publicly with the free and democratic state of Israel.

 

Anti-Semitism

Mrs Jan KRONBERG (Eastern Metropolitan) -- I rise to deplore anti-Semitism in all its grotesque forms, and to say that there is no place for anti-Semitism in Victoria. I want to refer to an article by Jeremy Jones in the 'Last word' section of the Australia/Israel Review. He said:

On the Facebook page of a Sydney-based group organising anti-Israel events, moderators permitted comments such as 'Jews ... have always been bloodthirsty', are 'whining about the Holocaust', have 'all the money in the world' and similar statements, interwoven with sinister suggestions that the Jewish community in Sydney's 'eastern suburbs' needed to become better acquainted with pro-Hamas protesters.

Just yesterday a school bus in Randwick in Sydney's eastern suburbs was stormed by a group of youths described as being aged between 16 and 18 years. They got on the bus, in which Jewish schoolchildren made up the majority of passengers, shouting, 'Death to Jews' and 'We will slit your throats'. The bus was carrying schoolchildren as young as five years old. This madness, which is continuing in our society, is a grave danger to us all.

The world is expressing concern about the suffering of the people of Gaza as Israel responds to the relentless missile bombardment it has had to endure from the terrorist group Hamas. Hamas does not care for its own people. It has brutalised its people... (Time expired)

 

Israel

Ms Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- Over the last month graphic images have been broadcast in our media of casualties caused by the Middle East conflict involving Israel and Gaza. While it is absolutely shocking to witness any casualties of war, and particularly innocent children who have been caught up in this conflict, no country should have to live under constant rocket fire. It has been reported that in the last three weeks Israel has had over 3000 rockets fired at it by the known terrorist organisation Hamas.

I am making this statement because just over a year ago I had the opportunity to visit Israel. It was an extraordinary experience to visit this geographically small, democratic and resilient country, which has achieved so much in a relatively short period of existence.

I also visited and met people living in Sderot, a town very close to Gaza, which is currently under rocket fire, and which has been constantly under attack for literally years. The heartfelt stories of people living under constant attack still resonates with me today: of parents having to choose which child to take to a shelter if they were travelling in a car when an alert went off, of children only being able to play in confined spaces with the protection of concrete play shelters in the shape of giant caterpillars, of houses having their own bomb shelters and of street shelters every 100 metres or so. Why? Because people only have 15 seconds from the time an alert goes off to the time they have to find shelter. That is the reality of daily life for the people of Sderot.

I along with the world community want this conflict to end. As much as we all want peace in the region, I also acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and defend itself.

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