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Speech on the violence in Israel and Palestine

On Wednesday 18 October 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


E WATSON-BROWN: I think we've all been watching the news over these past two weeks in utter horror at what has been happening in Israel and Palestine. The Greens and I condemn the horrific attacks against civilians perpetrated by both Hamas and the Israeli military. There is no justification for this kind of violence. There is also no justification, as many other speakers have said, for antisemitism or Islamophobia here in Australia. We all deserve to feel safe in our own communities.

Over 1,000 Israelis and over 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in this conflict so far. I won't pretend it's easy, but we must talk openly and honestly about what it will take to end this cycle of violence and ensure lasting peace for millions of Israelis and Palestinians. There must be an urgent ceasefire and end to the invasion of Gaza, there must be an end to the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian territories and there must be an internationally coordinated reconstruction program to ensure infrastructure and community can be re-established in the Gaza Strip so all are able to live good, flourishing lives.

Let's lay out the facts about what life is actually like for ordinary Palestinians in Gaza. Gaza has been described by many as an 'open-air prison'. Movements in and out are controlled under a strict permit system operated by the Israeli government. Ninety-seven per cent of the water in Gaza is undrinkable. The import of basic necessities like food and medicine is strictly controlled by the Israelis. They can cut off food, water and medical supplies at any time and, indeed, have done so at time of speaking. Electricity in Gaza is also extremely limited. That is something that's essential for the running of hospitals and other public services. I think we'd all agree that people need hospitals. Eighty-two per cent of Gazans are unable to refrigerate food. The skies above Gaza constantly hum with the buzz of Israeli surveillance drones like something out of a dystopian novel. It's estimated that 50 per cent of the Gazan population are children. That means the majority would not have known life before the blockade.

In 2018 and 2019, Palestinians peacefully marched on the border checkpoints, calling for peace. It's estimated that around 200 were killed and thousands injured after being shot by the Israeli military. In one particularly harrowing incident, a young medic in a white coat was fatally shot while trying to tend the wounded, reportedly with her hands raised. We need to be clear about this: These brutal conditions—and they are not compatible with peace—amount to collective punishment for a crime that most Palestinians did not commit.

Since the utterly horrific attack by Hamas on 7 October—and the Hamas attack was horrific and should be roundly condemned, and we condemn it—Israel has used this attack to justify unprecedented violence against civilians in Gaza. There is no justification for these actions and there is no justification for countries like Australia and for the Labor government to be supporting these actions, which can be described as war crimes and breaches of international law. The Israeli defence minister has referred to Palestinians as 'human animals' and said that Israel will 'act accordingly', and Netanyahu has said, 'This is only the beginning.' In that context, saying that we stand with Israel and not condemning this incredibly dangerous language used in the run-up to the worst crimes against humanity in history is criminal. We cannot stand by while thousands have died and potentially millions are to be displaced.

Just this morning we learned of the bombing of a major hospital in Gaza city, killing 500. It has been reported in the past week that the Israeli military have used white phosphorus and bombed civilian escape routes. They have also cut off supplies of food, water, medicines and electricity. Gazans injured in the conflict essentially have no hope of proper medical treatment—that's a war crime—leaving many to die of their injuries, and that is really the crux of it. That is the effect of the blockade: to rob Gazans of the hope for a better future, to rob a lot of them of hope for any future. They have no hope of a good life for themselves or for their children. There will be no peace until hope is restored to the Palestinian people and they are allowed freedom and self-determination.

Australia must join calls for a ceasefire and put a stop to the Gaza invasion, an end to the long-term Gaza blockade and illegal settlements in the West Bank. Labor needs to stop running cover for the IDF and not just condemn, as we do, the terrible Hamas attack but also the war crimes and the breaches of international law by the Israeli military.

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