16 October 2023

Everyone who's spoken on this motion has spoken with incredibly moving words. For me this is a very important subject. I'm Jewish. I can trace my ancestry in this country on both sides back many generations. I don't have many Holocaust survivors or their descendants in my family. Some of my relatives came out here as convicts. They've contributed to Australia in many ways. I've always been proud to call myself Jewish. One of my grandfathers founded the Emanuel temple in Woollahra in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. My ancestor, Abraham Rubin, founded the first permanent synagogue in Australia—one that is still functioning in Hobart. It's been there for hundreds of years. We are proud of our history in this country.

As a child growing up, Israel was a country that we as a Jewish family were proud of. It was the one place in the world where Jewish people from all corners could seek sanctuary. Australia had a large part in the founding of Israel, through Doc Evatt, who was later to be Labor leader.

Last Tuesday I attended a vigil with the Jewish community in Sydney. Many people spoke, and they all spoke very meaningfully and very movingly. The most moving part was the recitation of the prayers for the dead by Rabbi Ben Elton because that brought home the horrors that have been forced upon Israel by Hamas, the most evil of terrorist organisations. It brought home the children that had died, ripped from their families' arms, the young mothers, the grandmothers, the fathers and the young people ambushed at, of all things, a music festival. It brought home the horrors that Hamas had visited upon Israel. The prayers for the dead brought that home.

These are children and young adults who will never fulfil their potential and fathers who will never see their children grow up or see their grandchildren. Those horrors were inflicted upon people who were going about their lives peacefully. These were not army veterans. These were not fighters. These were everyday people like you and me, gunned down without any way to protect themselves. It's absolutely horrible. Hamas have opened the gates of hell, which was their intention. This was clearly planned. Clearly this was a way of getting Israel to react, and, unfortunately, it will lead to the further deaths of innocent people—Jews, Palestinians and others—in the most horrible, horrible way. I congratulate our Prime Minister for his response and the New South Wales Premier for his response as well and all decent people responding to support Israel's right to exist.

I am not particularly religious, but it seems to me that what Hamas has done has broken every moral rule that we can live by. As I've said, my family have lived in this country for many generations, and what happened on the footsteps of the Opera House in Sydney recently, where people were chanting, 'Death to the Jews,' and, 'Gas the Jews,' is something that I never thought I would ever see in this country. It's something that I am, as a Sydneysider, deeply ashamed of, and I hope the people that were responsible for that are brought to justice.

As a paediatrician, I have treated children of every colour and every creed. The one thing I never ask people is their religion. It has nothing to do with any medical treatment, and I have always treated people equally, as they have treated me. I've looked after Muslim families, Buddhist families, Jewish families, Catholic families and others and treated them the same. That is why I can also grieve for the many innocent Palestinians who are going to lose their lives in this conflagration, and that's what it is. It is very hard to see an end to it.

Whilst I've always believed that peace is possible, as we did eventually see peace in Northern Ireland, it is very hard to see the road to peace from now, and it's important to understand that, whilst Hamas does not represent even the majority of the Palestinians, what they have done has been deliberate. They have destroyed any chance of peace—certainly, in the near future—and they have also opened the Israel-Palestine conflict to a wider audience. I hope very much that we don't see the further involvement of Iran or of Hezbollah in Lebanon, although I think that is very likely. This is going to be a conflict that will not have any short-term ending.

Israel has a right to exist—I have believed that as long as I have been alive—and Israel has the right to protect itself. People will die and children will die, in all likelihood, and that is just abhorrent to me. I hope that some way can be found to end this conflict as soon as possible, and I hope that the number of people who die will be kept to an absolute minimum. I grieve for every one of them. I grieve for all the families that have lost people in this conflict already—Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, Thais, Germans and Australians. This is an act of complete evil by an evil group, and what they have done has the potential to cause many thousands more deaths.

Israel will protect itself, but we also need to understand that in this conflict the Palestinians will be victims just as much as the Israelis. It is very important that Australia does what it can to support the refugees—to support people in Israel and in Palestine—and through the United Nations helps to bring this conflict to an end as soon as possible. I grieve for all those people; I grieve for the families, I grieve for the loss for the chance of peace and I grieve for the trauma that many people, particularly in the Jewish and Palestinian communities in Australia, are going through. I have always been a strong supporter of Israel, although I don't support all the actions of the Israeli government. It's important that Israel is allowed to defend itself, but I just hope that this conflict can be brought to an end with minimal further loss of life. I know the particular hell that the families who have members who are hostages must be going through. I hope that we can do all we can to help those hostages to be released unharmed.

What the Australian government has done is very important, and I congratulate the Prime Minister on his actions. But I fear that this is a conflict which may continue for some time.