STATEMENTS - Israel

Mr PASIN (Barker) (19:09): On behalf of the people of Barker I want to take this opportunity to express our collective support for the people of Israel, the Israelis, and the state of Israel. In so doing I lend my support and that of my constituents to this motion condemning the activity of Hamas. This can be described no other way than as an egregious act of terror. The images that have been seen don’t bear discussion. Indeed, in many cases, people have found them impossible to view. I’m one of those individuals. I can’t bring myself to even look at these images. In one sense, the horror is unspeakable. These are the actions of terrorists; these are not the actions of a nation state. We send our support and also our love, prayers and concern to Israelis all over the world and to the state of Israel.

There are some comments that I’d like to make that are broader than that. I might not have been able to view the images, but I certainly viewed behaviour inside this nation, which I found disgusting and deplorable—people celebrating the actions of terrorists, people chanting words like ‘from the river to the sea’ and, of course, as the Leader of the Opposition made plain in this place, a phrase which I didn’t think anyone living in this free and fair country would ever utter but bears repeating because it’s important that we understand: ‘Gas the Jews.’ I’m disgusted as an Australian citizen. I am disgusted as a member of parliament. But those are the facts, and we need to face up to them.

I’m similarly disappointed by those in the civic square who have embarked upon an exercise in equivalence. There can be no equivalence here. Hamas have deliberately targeted civilians. In response, the IDF is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties. These were the actions of terrorists, and so it is right that it is being described around the world—by the Israeli president himself, by other world leaders and also in this country—as Israel’s September 11. That’s exactly what we’re dealing with here. These false equivalences, with respect, are incredibly dangerous. Some have sought to justify these behaviours. There can be no justification for these acts of extreme violence, of terror. These acts were perpetrated to not only send messages but send terror through that country and through other nations. To hear that young people in this country and families fear young people wearing Jewish school uniforms really does shake me to my core beliefs. But that’s where we’re at right now.

Like others in this place, I’ve had the great privilege of visiting Israel. I do a lot of travel in my electorate, so I’m not the first one to line up for overseas trips. I’ve only ever been away twice in the ten years that I’ve served in this place—once with the support of the Australia-Israel Jewish alliance and, not that it’s important, a separate trip to support our timber exports to Japan. But it’s telling that, like others in this place, I visited Sderot, which is in close proximity to Gaza. We visited the police station that was attacked. We visited a playground where I thought concrete pipes were strangely arranged in the distance, only to be told that that’s where young children are taught to hide in the event of a missile attack. I saw these improvised missiles that had been recovered and placed into storage. These missiles are barbaric in nature; the activities are barbaric in nature. But having been there, having spoken to people who, right now, find themselves on the front line—it’s very difficult.

To the Israeli ambassador, who is a friend of this place on both sides of the aisle—I want to tell him that my electorate and the broader South Australian community are in complete support of the efforts. This isn’t a war that Israel wanted, as he made clear to us in the party room, but it’s one they’re intent on winning. I send them all the strength I can. This is a very dark period.

To reinforce how surprised I was—and I think the rest of the world was—my sister was scheduled to travel to Israel in about three weeks on a religious pilgrimage. She asked me about three months ago whether I thought it was safe. I said, ‘Angela, the mood in Israel can be febrile, but my assessment at this stage is that it’s as good as it’s been for a while.’ Obviously that trip is cancelled. But to think that we have gone from what we thought was a process that would get us lasting peace to Israel’s version of 9/11 so quickly reminds me that I never thought we would see war in Europe again either. Yet we have seen that in Russia’s illegal, immoral war in Ukraine.

It should remind all of us that we need to remain vigilant. While some like to suggest that members of parliament can sometimes be war hungry and warmongers in our attempts to fund our defence forces, it’s just a reminder that we need to stay ever vigilant because what we thought, or at least what I thought, could never be again—war in Europe—is now a reality in Ukraine. What I thought was, let’s say in relative terms, a settled environment or a calmer environment, on balance, in Israel, has now turned into these grotesque acts of terror. In what we might think is a relatively stable region—our own—it reminds us why we need to be ever vigilant.

In the time I have remaining, I extend, one last time on behalf of the people of Barker, my strongest support, prayers and concerns to the people of Israel and the State of Israel. I hope all will be well. We’ll need to be patient, as the ambassador asked us to be in the party room, but let’s hope this war can be won and let’s hope the world can be rid of Hamas and its terror.

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