Statement on Israel-Hamas conflict

STATEMENT ON THE ISRAEL-HAMAS CONFLICT

I rise today in this House to speak to my community and on behalf of my community. I often say of the electorate I represent that it is one with many challenges, but one of incredible possibility. Last week I was in India, describing our community to civic leaders and politicians there. To describe it best, I cut to our schools, where children from over 100 countries can be seen at school assemblies, sitting side by side, shoulder to shoulder. These children and their families, our civil institutions and leaders work hard every day to build a cohesive, multicultural, multifaith and multilingual society: a pocket of Melbourne's west that the world will look to as a great multicultural community. It's where the world comes together to build a strong, compassionate and collaborative society—a community built on respect, where we can look one another in the eye and have difficult conversations in trusted ways.

As the elected representative of that community here, I stand to condemn the attacks by Hamas in Israel 10 days ago. World events are, very naturally, discussed in my community, as there will be a personal take, a family connection or the deep knowledge of a place which people have come from. My community is not home to a large Jewish community but it is home to a large global community, and it was rocked last week by the news from Israel. We were shocked by the violence, the loss of life and the hostage-taking, and aghast at the actions of Hamas. I join with all those in this House today to condemn the actions of Hamas. These were motivated by hate, but I also want to separate the actions of Hamas from the people of Gaza and the people of a future Palestine.

I rise to join other voices to acknowledge that the attack has set back hopes for the two-state solution that would allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace inside safe and internationally recognised borders. That knowledge is deeply understood in my electorate; it is deeply understood in my community. I rise because in my community, across a weekend when we in Australia went out to have our democratic say on a debate, we walked past one another respectfully and took things from one another before we went in to vote. While that was going on, members of my community were emailing me, holding their breath for fear of what was going to come to the people of Palestine.

I have worked with young people all my life. I have supported them in building cohesive communities and helped them to understand why we have rules, and that rules are there to protect them. Many in my community have emailed me across this weekend. While we conducted a referendum, while we used our democratic decision-making processes, locals took time to reach out to me to express their fears for the innocent civilians; for those already lost in attacks and those lost already inside Gaza, where two million civilians live. So I also join calls today for respect for the rule of law, for international law.

When I work with young people, I always talk to them about what happens when conversations stop, hatred takes over and violence becomes a part of our community.

Hate begets hate; anger begets anger. I ask my community to join in the hope that we can still find a peaceful solution here.

I welcome the commitment made by the Australian government: $10 million of aid to support the humanitarian assistance. That will provide much needed essential supplies and support services for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza. I call for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to civilians affected by the worsening humanitarian crisis. I add that we are committed to the pursuit of peace and a just and enduring two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live within those secure borders.

I urge my community and communities across Australia to remain respectful and to strongly condemn anyone who incites violence and hatred in our community. While we respect the right of anyone in Australia to protest peacefully, violence is unacceptable. I encourage families, friends and communities to contact authorities for help and advice if they become aware of indications that an individual or group may be planning to resort to violence.

Other members of this House have detailed the horrific cases of antisemitism that have been seen in the last week. They are shocking and they are wrong. But I also want to condemn white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who have committed acts of cowardice and bastardry before and after the recent outbreak of conflict in the Middle East, because my community are already talking about the Islamophobia that they're interacting with in the broader community in Melbourne. Just as antisemitism has no place in our country, neither does Islamophobia, abusing women in hijabs through verbal attacks nor denying girls in a hijab an Uber ride.

Australia prides itself on being the most successful multicultural nation on earth. I represent a community that is living that every day, and I want to say to the people in my community: we have a cohesive community. We can have these conversations, but we have to have them respectfully. In times of conflict, what we need to do here in Australia is to be the voice of reason. To be that voice of reason on the world stage, we need to be that voice of reason at home, around our kitchen tables and in our classrooms. I want to send a message to all the teachers in classrooms across my community, because these issues will be live in those classrooms. Unlike some opposite, I don't want to see footage. I don't want to hear details about atrocities—maybe it's because I'm a woman—because it hurts me too deeply. I want to ask teachers to be careful in their classrooms, to monitor the conversations that are happening about this conflict and to monitor closely to ensure that children aren't sharing details or footage of violent atrocities with one another. I want to ensure that they are in a safe space where conversations about this conflict, if they are happening, are done in respectful ways.

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