Before I begin, allow me to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land upon which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, as well as their elders, past and present.
Three weeks ago, my wife and I were in Israel, celebrating the high holy days with our children and grandchildren. On Thursday October 5th, I drove down from Tel Aviv to Kibbutz Be’eri, where a memorial to the ANZACs is located nearby. It is less than a kilometre from this memorial to the Gaza border, and close to where one of my relatives was killed in 1949, not long after Israel’s independence.
This last visit to Be’eri will be imprinted in my memory forever. It was the last memory of my country as it was. Driving back home on Thursday afternoon along the boundary with Gaza, I passed the small kibbutzim on the way that are typical of southern Israel. Places that, under normal circumstances, most people in the world would never hear about.
As I drove past these places, I could not know that in little more than a day’s time, Israel would be at war.
I could not know that two of my relatives would be among the victims on the next Shabbat morning.
I could not know, nor could I ever imagine, the horrors that were in store for these places, which would change our people and our country forever.
Our lives are currently divided into two time periods: The time preceding the 7th of October, and the time following that date.
Israel is brimming with shock, pain and horror in the wake of the outrageous massacre perpetrated by Hamas on innocent civilians on the Shabbat morning, which was also a religious holiday. As I stand here, it is difficult for me to recount the shocking details of this terrorist onslaught. But we cannot look away. We must face this absolute evil to understand why Israel is determined to defeat this murder machine.
Beginning at 06:30 on Saturday morning, over 1500 armed terrorists broke into homes and gunned down whole families while they slept. They fired rocket-propelled grenades into bedrooms. Mothers hid their children in closets, desperately trying to keep their babies from crying, but Hamas spared neither women nor children.
Using steel wire, they bound mother to daughter, grandmother to grandson, and burned them alive. Do not look away from this evil. You must know what happened. They decapitated babies with knives, they raped young girls, they cut open a pregnant woman’s belly. They set fire to buildings, burning them to the ground while people were hiding inside.
They attacked young men and women celebrating at a music festival in a forest clearing. They hunted the fleeing revellers, shooting and killing them with inhumane cruelty. A few hundred young men and women were executed right there, in the forest. Using unspeakable violence, they abducted entire families, including six-month-old babies and terrified children.
whose parents had just been murdered in front of them. Some 1400 Israelis were murdered in a brutal act of mass slaughter, minute by minute, over many hours.
Were the murderers ashamed of their actions? Absolutely not. They enthusiastically documented the atrocities and broadcast them live. And during the mass slaughter, 222 people were violently taken from their homes to Hamas’ dens of darkness as hostages, including the elderly, people in their eighties, and small suckling babies seeking their mothers.
There are those who describe these actions as “animal behaviour”. This is incorrect. Animals do not behave in this manner. People who cold-bloodedly tortured entire families to death are not animals. They are depraved monsters. The horrific acts of October 7th awakened feelings of helplessness and fear in the collective memory of Jews – emotions that evoke the trauma of the Holocaust.
In the consciousness of the Jewish people, the names of places such as Be’eri, Kfar Aza and Re’im will be forever tainted with the same horrors as Treblinka, Sobibor and Auschwitz- Birkenau.
The State of Israel was established to serve as a home for the Jewish people. To ensure that Jews are never led to their death simply because they are Jews. Hence the terrible shock now prevailing in Israel. Nobody smiles. There is only profound misery, sadness and trauma.
But there is also a strong feeling of togetherness and a deep inner conviction that we must fight against this organisation of terror and defeat it. To eradicate the threat of annihilation hanging over our children.
We did not start this war, nor did we seek it. But it is a war that we are determined to win. We are fighting for our home. For our right to live.
For many years, the belief that a pragmatic way must be found to live alongside Hamas, while maintaining a certain status quo based on rational considerations, prevailed in certain capitals. This argument gained traction, despite the fact that Hamas’ ideology of violence and anti-Semitism was well-known.
We have always known who and what Hamas is. Its doctrine was openly available for all to see. We read the Hamas Charter: Hamas’ founding document authored by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1988—the most dangerous anti-Semitic document written in the world since the Holocaust.
The Hamas Charter blames the Jews for all the ills throughout history, dehumanizes Jews and rejects any political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In many of its clauses, such as clause 13, it states that “there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except through Jihad,” meaning a holy war. But the Hamas Charter also explicitly speaks of a new genocide for the Jewish people. Clause 7 calls for the murder of Jews in every corner of the world, quoting as follows: “…the stones and trees will say: ‘O Muslim, O servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding [behind] me, come and kill him.’”
And that is exactly what happened. They came to kill.
For many years, parts of the international community have demanded from Israel not to pay heed to what Hamas writes and what Hamas says. Not to take their words and calls to action literally. To ignore its ideology and terrible rhetoric.
Israel was told that, despite the threats, Hamas wishes to improve the living conditions of the two million Palestinians who live under its bleak dictatorship, to guarantee them a livelihood, to provide them with assistance and allow them the means to build infrastructure.
The well-planned attack on Israel on October 7th permanently discredited this position of naivety and tolerance towards Hamas. Hamas is not interested in coexistence or peace. It is not interested in a better life for the two million Gazans, but in the elimination of the Jewish state and the murder of its citizens. This is not only its jihadist ideological goal, but also its only course of action.
Hamas is ISIS, a Palestinian ISIS, that unfortunately enjoys warm public relations and even the compassion of many in the West, including many in the media.
Is there a more legitimate act of self-defence than when Israel attacks the Hamas terror organisation to defend itself? Israel is not attacking the Palestinian people. In fact, Israel poses no threat to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, as long as it does not join the attack on Israel. The same goes for any other actor in our region.
Hamas is not interested in establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but solely in the destruction of the State of Israel. In fact, the establishment of a Palestinian state is directly opposed to Hamas’ conception of its ultimate goal—the establishment of an Islamic state in
the entire territory, including the sovereign territory of Israel. “From the river to the sea”, as the slogan goes.
It is not interested in creation but in total destruction. Not in peace but in eternal war, until extreme Islamism assumes power. The only solution, according to Hamas, is the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of its inhabitants.
Hamas does not hesitate to sacrifice Palestinians in its attempt to achieve this monstrous goal. There is no freedom in Gaza, no freedom of speech and no freedom of religion. But the situation is far more desperate: Hamas establishes its military bases within civilian population concentrations in Gaza, fully aware that photographs of dead Palestinian civilians are its most powerful weapon.
Hamas conceals missiles beneath hospitals and United Nations schools, and fires at Israel from these sites in anticipation of live broadcasts on television networks. Indeed, as we saw during the Al Ahli hospital blast, many reporters were quick to broadcast Hamas claims and propaganda without any verification whatsoever. This applies not only to the chief offender in this regard, the Qatar-based “Al Jazeera”, but also many reporters from Western media outlets. In that instance, a terrorist rocket that intended to kill Israelis, malfunctioned and landed in the parking area of the hospital. There, it exploded in an open, unsheltered area, inflicting catastrophic damage and killing Palestinian civilians.
Of course, this is exactly the kind of coverage that Hamas wishes to promote when it uses the civilian population as a collective human shield. The only actors that should be blamed
for the deaths of innocent civilians in the Gaza Strip are Hamas and the other extremist organisations in Gaza, who hide among women and children, their own people.
While the Israeli army uses its weapons systems to defend Israeli civilians. Hamas uses the civilian population of Gaza to defend its weapons systems.
Israel is defending itself and fighting for its life. As a true democracy it is doing everything in its power to avoid harming the innocent. It exercises its military power in a targeted, careful and controlled manner, acting within the constraints of international law. Hamas, on the other hand, proudly documents its acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Israel’s compliance with international law extends beyond military operations, and also includes the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The conditions in Gaza, where healthcare, electricity and water infrastructure has been neglected and damaged, is the responsibility of Hamas, not Israel. Hamas has been in sole control of Gaza since 2007, not Israel.
When Hamas digs up water pipes to produce rockets, this is not Israel’s responsibility. When Hamas rockets fall short of Israeli territory and damage power stations, this is not Israel’s responsibility. When humanitarian assistance provided by well-meaning governments across the world are exploited to plan, prepare for and execute terrorist attacks, this is not Israel’s responsibility.
Do not be mistaken: The war against Hamas is not Israel’s private war. This is a campaign not only about the future of the entire Middle East, but about the future of the world in which we live.
It will have implications for all of us. On one side of the world, a valuable and important alliance is forming between the like-minded countries such as the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, many European countries, and Israel.
On the other side, an evil coalition of rogue states and terrorist groups, of which Hamas and Hezbollah are the most prominent, are attempting to reshape the world according to their dangerous agenda.
In this regard, it is important to understand the role of Iran in supporting violence and terror against Israel and its people.
Since 1979, Tehran has actively worked to roll back liberal, democratic and moderate Islamic values in the Middle East, in order to promote its radical Islamic revolution. It has sought to undermine relations between states in the region – including the normalisation of relations between Arab states and Israel. It has fanned the flames of religious and sectarian conflict in order to gain footholds and expand its influence.
In the process, Iran has become the patron of terrorist proxy groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which it funds, trains and equips with the goal of killing Jews and Israelis. Only days after the attack on Israel, Iran’s Foreign Minister met with leaders from Hamas and Hezbollah in Beirut, and foreshadowed military action against Israel.
The international community should, and must, begin to hold Iran to account. Not only for the repression it inflicts on its own people, but also for the way it undermines peace in the region.
When President Biden visited Israel last week, he reassured us: “You are not alone, we stand by you”. Israel was filled with pride when we saw and heard the President of the United States express his full support for Israel’s right to exist in security, and its duty to eradicate Hamas.
Prime Minister Albanese too has been crystal clear that Australia stands with Israel and recognises its inherent right to defend itself.
Other world leaders expressed their solidarity as well, including the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy.
In Israel’s darkest hour, Australia immediately grasped the horrific significance of what occurred on October 7th. The momentous impact that tragedy has caused for Jews, for Israelis, and yes … for innocent Palestinians as well.
While still in Israel, I received phone calls from Prime Minister Albanese, Foreign Minister Wong, and many political leaders from both sides of the aisle.
On October 16th, a landmark motion was carried in the House of Representatives. It unequivocally condemned Hamas and affirmed support for Israel, and our right to self- defence.
Bipartisan political support for Israel is firm, and the bipartisan political solidarity with Israel in its darkest moment is beyond doubt. This bond is not new. It dates back to the days of Minister
of External Affairs, Doc Evatt, and the very founding of the modern State of Israel. And now, in Israel’s time of need, the certainty of this bond is clearer than ever.
I also take this opportunity to thank all Australians who hold Israel close to their heart in these terrible times. Thank you for your prayers, your messages of support, for turning out at vigils and rallies in support of Israel. From Toorak to Townsville, the outpouring of spontaneous condolences and solidarity has been overwhelming.
Our reality is now divided into a time before October 7th, and the circumstances that now confront us. This reality obliges all of us to take action.
To defend Hamas is to defend ISIS and al-Qaeda. Anyone who follows this course of action will eventually bring these murderers into their house.
Every one of us will have to decide where we stand on this moral crossroads.