Israeli supporters gather on the steps of Parliament House in Melbourne, Australia Jan 4, 2009.Australian Senator Mitch Fifield speech to “THE RALLY FOR ISRAEL AND PEACE”, Sunday, 4 January Parliament House Melbourne, Australia.
For our American readers, Malcolm Turnbull being mentioned in the first paragraph, is presently Australia's opposition leader.
Ladies and gentlemen, firstly can I congratulate you all for coming out on a Sunday to stand up for your beliefs. I was talking to Malcolm Turnbull on the phone just before the rally and he asked me to convey to you all his very best wishes.
Israel is under attack. Not from the Palestinian people. Not from the Palestinian Authority. But from Hamas. A group known by many names. But we here today know exactly what they are. They are extremists. They are terrorists. And Israel has every right to defend itself against them.
Today is a rally in support of Israel. But today is also a rally for her neighbours and the right of all to live in peace. Today we rally for democracy. We rally for freedom. We rally for the rule of law.
It is important that we remind the international community that Israel is being attacked from within the borders of a territory that it did not occupy. That Israel is being attacked from within a territory over which it makes no claim.
Hamas in Gaza cannot claim to have been resisting an occupier. Let us remember that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Despite this, Israel has come under attack on an almost daily basis from rockets fired by terrorists linked to Hamas. More than 3,000 rockets in 2008 alone.
Hamas care nothing for civilian populations on either side of the border. Hamas fire missiles randomly at population centres in Israel. Hamas intentionally puts the residents of Gaza in danger by hiding weapons in civilian areas.
But if you listen to some commentators you could be forgiven for thinking that Hamas was some sort of benevolent religious organisation – a kind of Salvation Army with weapons. The truth is that Hamas seeks neither peace nor prosperity for Gazans.
Some believe that Israel, as the stronger military entity, should just sit back and absorb the rockets, the casualties and the deaths. That somehow every nation except Israel has the right to defend itself in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter. What lies behind such a view is the belief that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist and deserves whatever it gets.
The State of Israel has the right to defend herself. But more than that, the Government of Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens. To fail to do so would be a dereliction of its duty.
We should mourn all civilian deaths on both sides and hope and pray for a quick resolution to this crisis. The objective should be a sustained end to hostilities. What should not be accepted, however, is a one way ceasefire that just leads to further attacks on Israel. The rockets must stop. Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbours must be accepted.
Israel is a beacon of hope and liberty in the Middle East. It is a great and robust democracy. The people of Israel are free and always will be. And Australia will stand by them.