In Parliament

Motion - Middle East Conflict



Tuesday, 17 October 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (13:05):

Almost 100 years ago an Israeli poet immortalised two words: never again. The phrase was a call cry to Israelis at the fall of the ancient kingdom of Masada. The poem and those words commemorated the Jewish struggle against the darkest adversity. Only two decades later the Jewish people would suffer the darkest stain on our global history, and as they did, those two words were used again. Liberators of concentration camps found survivors with handwritten signs, with those two same words written on the signage: never again.

Many Holocaust survivors today still speak of their responsibility to pass on the atrocity they witnessed in an effort to prevent future genocide. It is why survivors and Jewish people more broadly use those two words to this day. As one survivor wrote, ‘It is a prayer, a promise, a vow.’ Two simple words carry the voices of Jews and millions who were murdered. Those two words have haunted me for 10 days, because 10 days ago we witnessed the worst act of atrocity borne upon the Jewish people since the Holocaust, a coordinated Hamas terrorist attack on the most vulnerable Israelis.

In many cases the communities that were targeted had been the first to show compassion towards Palestinians. It was an attack that saw people hiding in their homes, scrambling to survive, children and the elderly slaughtered – atrocities committed in a way reminiscent of the horrors of the Holocaust. There are reports of Israelis like 90-year-old Gina, a Holocaust survivor who had survived the Nazi atrocities only to be shot in her head in her lounge room last Saturday after terrorists attacked her kibbutz. As we know, the most unspeakable evil attacks last Saturday were committed on babies and on children. On behalf of my community, I say the relationship between Australia and Israel is deep – we are family. An attack on Israel is an attack on our country. An attack on you is an attack on me.

The attack last Saturday saw 1300 Israelis massacred and 3300 injured. Mothers, fathers, grandparents and children were shot point-blank, burned alive or abused and then murdered by the terrorist organisation Hamas. Of those that were not murdered, almost 200 were kidnapped and taken to Gaza to a fate we cannot imagine – a fate spoken of by Israeli father Thomas, who said he felt blessed on finding out that his eight-year-old daughter had not been kidnapped but that she had died. As a parent myself, his words will stay with me. Many will have seen footage of the terrorists parading two kidnapped babies yesterday. I am sure I speak for every member in this place when I call for the release of all hostages. The world community is praying for the safe return of those children to their families and of all hostages to their homes.

As we come to terms with the atrocities committed 10 days ago, we must accept that those crimes were not just committed on Israelis, they were atrocities targeted at Jews. That is why the words ‘never again’ haunt me. The crimes of 10 days ago committed on the Jewish people are crimes that repeat those crimes we hoped we would never see again, crimes that are rooted in unspeakable evil – the evil of denying Jews a right to exist, evil that aims to instill fear in a good people. The truth is that antisemitism is a deep-rooted disease. It is a disease that exists in all parts of the world, but at its most deadly it was in the hearts of the terrorist attackers on 7 October, just as it is in the hearts of the Hamas movement, which calls for the eradication of all Jews.

We must accept that the disease of antisemitism is not confined to the Middle East. In recent days we saw it in Melbourne at our iconic Flinders Street station, where a troop of black-hooded militants marched onto a train and demanded to know whether passengers were Jewish. And we saw it most openly on the steps of our country’s most iconic building, the Sydney Opera House, where ralliers called for the gassing of the Jews.

Our world needs to be reminded of the words ‘Never again’ as much today as they ever have been, because the disease that is antisemitism is spreading. It is spread every time an activist chants ‘From the river to the sea’, a chant that calls for the eradication of Israel. Make no mistake, antisemitism is founded in hate – hate in the heart of Hamas and hate at the heart of Nazism. We must all stand against that hate. We must stand with Israel in its mission to act on Hamas. Hamas are terrorist cowards who are refusing to let Palestinian civilians evacuate; cowards who have built tunnel systems under Gaza, underneath their own civilian buildings and homes; and cowards who are using their own people as human shields. Israel will never be safe while Hamas exists, peace-loving Palestinians will not be safe while Hamas exists and our world will not be safe whilst the terrorist organisation Hamas exists.

The peace-loving people of both Israel and Gaza are victims of the evil, hate-filled terrorist organisation Hamas. In the names of all victims, we cannot be silent. And if we are to honour the profound words ‘Never again’ and honour the millions of Jews murdered, we must not be silent. I stand with Israel, and I share the grief of the Jewish community at this time. Acts of atrocity must not stand – 80 years ago, 10 days ago or any other day: never again.