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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2222

Mr WHITTORN (Balaclava) - It is on but rare occasions that I speak in an adjournment debate and that is why I decided not to yield to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). I wish to speak on a subject about which all of us have a deep feeling. I refer to the crisis in the Middle East. For the last 2 days I have endeavoured to ask the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) a question. Those who observe honourable members rising in this House would have seen that I have been doing this. To make sure that the question is on record I propose to read what I was wanting to ask the Prime Minister. This is the question:

I ask the Prime Minister why he stood up before a Jewish audience earlier this year and told them that the sovereignty of Israel was not negotiable and he now says that he will follow a neutral, an evenhanded policy in the Middle East? Is this the best we can do as an Australian Government when United Nations observers have said who the aggressors are in the Middle East? Or does he not remember that it was an Australian, Dr Evatt, who presided over the United Nations when it voted to create a separate state of Israel? If he believes that Israel's sovereignty is not negotiable, a few words of sympathy and understanding would help.

My purpose tonight is to endeavour to ensure that the Prime Minister, or the Government, is forthcoming so far as this real problem is concerned. I am making a belated plea as a Christian to ensure that we in Australia do a little more than we have done in the past so far as this crisis is concerned.

There is not any doubt in my mind that the Jewish people and the Arab nations have taken a battering over a number of years because of the crisis in the Middle East, but I make this plea on 3 grounds. The first is that in the United Nations in 1947 the countries of the world decided to create this separate state of Israel. Coincidentally, this forum was presided over by a sound Australian, Dr Evatt. All member countries of the United Nations except the Arab nations and, 1 believe, some of the communist countries, supported the proposal. The second point I want to make - it was mentioned in the question I read earlier - is that the United Nations observers have reported to the United Nations that the recent war was initiated by the Arab countries. I do not want to incite the minds of people in this House or of the people of Australia. All I want is to get some assurance that the present crisis was incited by the Arab countries. Then we ought to be able to say something positive about it. I am neutral so far as the decision is concerned but I believe that we in Australia should find out what the problems are, and if the present conflagration was initiated by Arab countries I think we ought to say so. I believe that this small country of 3 million Jewish people with a territory of 35,000 square miles ought to be supported by people in Australia which is so far away from their country. We helped to create the state of Israel and therefore I believe that we ought to support it in some form or other. The third point I want to raise relates to the report that we ali read in the newspapers yesterday that Israel's Prime Minister, Mrs Golda Meir, stated:

When we get an invitation to the ceasefire table we will go there without any pre-conditions.

To me this seems to be a clarion call to the peace loving nations of the world either to get the Israeli nation to the peace table as well as the Arab countries or to at least give support to the country which obviously wants to go to the peace table. It is my impression from the news reports that if the Israeli people cannot get the other 8 Arab nations to the peace table they will fight like mad when they are attacked. I guess that we cannot blame them as individuals for that. As I said earlier, it is not my purpose to take sides. I am not sure of the cause of the present trouble except that there has been a problem between the Arab nations and Israel since 1947 when the new Israeli state was created by the United Nations in New York. As I understand it some 3 million Jewish people are working hard in an endeavour to make the country fertile. I am told that they are very successful. Not having been there I cannot confirm this information but it is my belief that they have done a wonderful job. They should be used as an illustration of what sound working people can do when they set their hearts to it. They have rehabilitated deserts. They have made the country fertile. It is my understanding that they have resettled at least 600,000 refugees from various countries in Europe and from Arab nations. For this alone they ought to get support from peace loving countries throughout the world.

As I have said, the United Nations observers reported that the Arab countries initiated the present war. Of course there have been wars in the Middle East area for too long. If there is initiation of war by a group of countries or by one country I think that the Australian people deserve to be told the facts. The recent war was started on the most holy day of the Jewish people of the 365 days of the year. All business in Jerusalem had stopped. There was no business activity whatever. No work at all was being done because it was their holy day. All the schools were closed and I am told that unfortunately so were the radio stations so that the people of Israel were unable to hear that fighting was taking place on their borders. That is why I ask the Prime Minister and the Australian Government to be a little more forthcoming to show that the Australian Government and people have some sympathy and understanding for this problem. I did not want to take the time of the honourable member for Mackellar and the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) but I felt that as I had seen you, Mr Speaker, earlier this morning I should not yield to them.

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