For the Record: Federal parliamentary statements on the recent Israel-Hamas conflict
Jun 7, 2021 | Jamie Hyams
During the recent violence between Israel and Hamas, many Australian federal Members of Parliament made speeches or put out media statements about the conflict. While some were even-handed, others showed an appreciation of Israel’s position or, more commonly, condemned Israel and blamed it for the violence. Below are extracts from a selection of these:
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Lib., Cook) answering a question at a Budget Lunch – May 14 – “… Israel unquestionably has the right to defend itself and its people. Unquestionably. And, equally, Palestinians need to be able to live safely. As a Government, we believe in the two-state solution…That is certainly our Government’s view, and we stand strongly and always have with the nation of Israel, with its many challenges over many, many, many years. Indiscriminate attacks with wanton disregard for civilian casualties perpetuate the cycle of violence and bloodshed.”
Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne (Lib., NSW) Media Statement – May 12 – “The Australian Government is deeply concerned by the escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank and unequivocally calls on all leaders to take immediate steps to halt violence, maintain restraint, and restore calm.
“We also call on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that destabilise peace. Violence is no solution. Rocket attacks and indiscriminate acts that fuel the cycle of violence and bloodshed are never justified.
“Respect for law and order is paramount, and we urge all parties to refrain from violent or provocative acts. We call for a halt to actions that increase tensions, including land appropriations, forced evictions, demolitions and settlement activity.
“The focus of all parties to the conflict must be on a return to direct and genuine peace negotiations as soon as possible, with a view to defining a just, durable, and resilient peace agreement.”
Shadow Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong (ALP, SA) Media Statement – May 13 – “Labor is deeply concerned about the violence in Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem in recent days. The incitement of hate, escalation of violence, destruction and loss of lives are tragic and unacceptable. We call on leaders to de-escalate and for a return to calm.
“We join Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, in calling for a halt to actions that increase tensions including land appropriations, forced evictions, demolitions and settlement activity. There is also no justification for rocket attacks against civilians.
“Labor has always been a strong supporter of the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live within secure and recognised borders. We remain committed to a just and enduring two-state solution, based on respect for human rights and consistent with international law.
“The cycle of tension, escalation and destruction is all too familiar for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
Leader of the Australian Greens Adam Bandt (Greens, Melbourne) – May 27 – “This month Benjamin Netanyahu’s military flattened buildings in Gaza that were homes and media offices and damaged key infrastructure. In 10 days 232 Palestinians were killed. At the same time, rockets fired from Gaza also stole the lives of 12 Israelis. We grieve each death. We also acknowledge that Palestinian losses are 20-fold those in Israel…Just as Israelis are entitled to their own state and to live in peace and security, so too are Palestinians…We are making the conflict worse by a muted response to Benjamin Netanyahu’s blatant disregard for the rule of law and by our military contracts with his government.
“We must…resolve the underlying issues, not just watch while a just peace is undermined by the next round of evictions, demolitions, settlements and violence. We must push to end the occupation and recognise Palestine, because only then will Israelis and Palestinians both be able to live in peace and security.”
Julian Leeser (Lib., Berowra) – May 25 – “Sadly…a private property dispute that is before the independent Israeli judicial system was weaponised both in Jerusalem and by Hamas in Gaza…Given the thousands of rockets which rained down on Israel, democratic Israel has every right to defend its citizens, prevent attacks and destroy the source of such violence. If this situation occurred here, we would expect our government to protect our citizens in this way too. Unfortunately, much of the commentary has painted Israel as the villain, because it had fewer casualties. Many of the Palestinian casualties were, tragically, human shields used in a Hamas propaganda war…Unfortunately the press coverage and one-sided debate has provoked a series of anti-Semitic attacks all around the world.”
Julian Hill (ALP, Bruce) – May 25 – “After the latest violence…it’s important not to lose focus on the barriers to peace. Chief amongst them are Israel’s settlement policies, explicitly stated as being to expand Jewish settlements across Jerusalem and the whole West Bank. The footprint of settlements is much larger than the buildings. They bring a network of exclusive roads, closed military zones, checkpoints and soldiers encircling Palestinian communities. Insidious, creeping annexation is killing hope for Palestinians to enjoy self-determination in a normal state.”
Graham Perrett (ALP, Moreton) – May 24 – “Recently, Queenslanders joined in commemorating the catastrophe of the Nakba, when 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee from their homeland during the 1948 Palestine war. Rallies everywhere throughout Australia remembered the brutal extinguishment and sacking of more than 400 Palestinian villages—the first steps in that long journey to the establishment of what would appear to be a semi-apartheid state…So, I stand with those Palestinians and their families who are still suffering from that catastrophe right now.
“In the last fortnight, nearly 60,000 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli airstrikes. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, almost half of them children. There is never any righteousness in targeting children…”
Anne Stanley (ALP, Werriwa) – May 24 – “The world has seen further escalation of violence with the bombing of al-Aqsa Mosque. I’m deeply concerned by the violence in Gaza, in Jerusalem and across Palestine and Israel…the use of banned weapons, tear gas and guns fired at worshippers at one of Islam’s holiest sites during the holiest month of the year is unsettling…There is no justification for rocket attacks on civilians and no justification for using white phosphorus in artillery shells.”
Josh Wilson (ALP, Fremantle) – May 24 – “The airstrikes followed from the rockets, but were not justified by the rockets, just as the rockets followed from the bullets in the al-Aqsa Mosque, and were not justified by that violence…The displacement and oppression of Palestinians is wrong. The illegal settlement of their land is wrong. The existential threats to Israel are wrong…Australia should always be in the game of urging the Palestinian leadership, and especially the government of Israel—because it’s the most influential actor in this conflict—to make special efforts to decrease tension, end the occupation and live together, side by side, in peace.”
Andrew Leigh (ALP, Fenner) – May 24 – “Hamas’s rocket attacks on civilians are ruthless and cruel. But so too are Israeli killings of Palestinian children. As Nicholas Kristof reminds us: ‘If you oppose war crimes only by your enemies, it’s not clear that you actually oppose war crimes.’ The expansion of settlements by the Netanyahu government, discriminatory laws against Arab citizens, and the street fighting that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin calls ‘a civil war’ have made a two-state solution harder…democracies should welcome being held to a higher standard.”
Ken O’Dowd (Nat., Flynn) – May 13 – “The core of the problem is that Palestinians do not live in freedom and dignity. To live under apartheid-type rule is inexcusable. This week Palestinians commemorate Nakba—in 1948 the Jewish military depopulated and destroyed Palestinian cities, towns and farming communities, and it’s still happening today. An estimated 750,000 Palestinians became refugees after fleeing from their homes, many of whom are still refugees today.”
Maria Vamvakinou (ALP, Calwell) – May 13 – “I want to join my colleagues in expressing my deep concern at the current outbreak of hostilities in Palestine and, in particular, the situation in Jerusalem…Anyone who has walked its ancient streets knows how much pride of place Jerusalem has amongst the Palestinians…It’s also a time which marks Al Nakba, referred to as ‘the catastrophe’, which symbolises the devastation of the Palestinian homeland and the continued displacement of its people, which, 73 years later, sees no just resolution for the Palestinian people.
“What is happening…punishes, through draconian measures, a population exercising their basic human rights in East Jerusalem, recognised as Palestine’s capital under international law…”
Senator Janet Rice (Greens, Vic.) – May 13 – “Minister, do you agree that this latest devastating outbreak of violence stems from the unlawful and unjust occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government? Isn’t ending the occupation the best way to end the violence?”
Minister for Trade Tourism and Investment Senator Simon Birmingham (Lib., SA) answering a supplementary question from Senator Rice – May 13 – “The rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel are never justified and represent indiscriminate acts that fuel the cycle of violence and bloodshed. They must cease. We do note that Israel, like any state, always has a right to self-defence under the UN charter. That does not change the government’s position in relation to the long-term importance of discussion between the parties and ensuring that the parties avoid all measures and matters that can escalate the chance of conflict and violence.”
Senator Mehreen Faruqi (Greens, NSW) – May 12 – “…the Palestinian people…,for generations, have had to pay the price of settler colonialism taking their land, homes and lives…My thoughts are with the 200 Palestinians who were injured on Friday evening, after Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan. It was a brazen attack on one of our most significant spiritual places. What is happening in Palestine is part of a broader spectrum destroying the strength, lives and livelihoods of the Palestinian people…Attacks on cultural sites are war crimes. Israeli authorities continue to act in clear defiance of international law.
“…Silence in the face of the persecution, dispossession and displacement of Palestinians is not an option. To stay neutral or to use weak both-sides language is to choose the side of the oppressor…On Tuesday, the Israeli Air Force renewed its attacks on occupied Gaza…
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
Josh Burns (ALP, Macnamara) – May 12 – “Violence begets violence, but I want to be very clear: there is no justification for targeting innocent civilians or using them as human shields. There is no justification for the actions of Hamas, recognised by Australia as a terrorist organisation, firing a barrage of rockets and missiles at Israel, at civilian populations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, at schools, hospitals and homes.
“…If rockets were being fired at Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra, there is no doubt the Australian Defence Force would be responding in the same way. The great tragedy is that many of these rockets fired by Hamas have misfired or fallen short and killed innocent Palestinian people. The violence needs to end; the rockets need to stop; the cycle of violence will never be solved by more violence.”
Senator Susan Lines (ALP, WA) – May 11 – “I rise to speak on Al Nakba, and Senator [Anne]Urquhart [(ALP, Tas.)] puts her name to these remarks… This violence has erupted because Israel will not halt forced evictions from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah…
“Seventy-three years after Nakba, life for Palestinians remains poor. Some 5.6 million Palestinians remain refugees. Many live in substandard refugee camps in neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. Palestinians make up 21 percent of the global refugee population. Other Palestinians live inside what is now Israel. They live as second-class citizens, with 65 laws discriminating against them and in favour of Israelis…Just 50 kilometres south, two million Palestinians live in Gaza—an isolated enclave, cut off from Israel and the West Bank. The situation there is dire…”
Senator Janet Rice (Greens, Vic.) – May 11 – “This week Palestinians commemorate Al Nakba day, Arabic for ‘the catastrophe’ when in 1948 thousands of Palestinians were killed, and an estimated 700,000 lost their homes and became refugees. Many of their descendants have remained in refugee camps since…East Jerusalem is recognised as being under military occupation. Israel has used a raft of discriminatory residency regulations and planning frameworks to reduce the Palestinian population in Jerusalem. …Palestinians who lost homes or property in 1948 are not compensated nor can they exercise their inalienable right to return to their former homes inside what is now Israel, which is a right enshrined in UN Resolution 194…
“These are some of the policies that have led human rights groups to conclude that Israel is committing apartheid…We condemn the escalation in violence overnight, which has cost the lives of Palestinian civilians, including children. This violence has roots in the efforts of Israeli settler groups to evict Palestinian families.”