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Wednesday, 2 June 2021
Page: 110


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (10:31): [by video link] I thank the member for Fowler. I've spoken in this parliament before about the situation in Jerusalem and the recent escalation of violence in Gaza. We've had a ceasefire since, but, tragically, we have witnessed the deaths of at least 222 Palestinians in Gaza alone, including 63 children, and 12 Israelis, including two children. It's another devastating humanitarian crisis for the people there, and we must not look at these figures in isolation. They come on top of the pervasive nature of the continued blockades in the occupation and the absence of a resolution that puts justice, dignity and human security at the heart of this conflict.

Importantly, we shouldn't sanitise figures and become inured to violence, destruction, death and suffering. I invite the House to look at the list of deaths from this latest tragedy. You will notice a pattern of family members listed en masse. How devastating it is for entire generations of families to be condemned to death and wiped out in one fell swoop. This motion speaks to their memory and adds voice to the calls of the many Australians across this country who are rightly outraged—the tens of thousands who took to the streets across each of our cities; who wrote to their members of parliament; who engaged in many forms of community action, calling on the Australian government to support security, human rights and justice for the Palestinian people; and for the many Australians, including those in my electorate, who wrote to me. Those killed are not just names and numbers. The images they saw are of streets and locations and of communities they are very familiar with not only in sentiment but in actual reality of kinship and ties.

One of the most devastating images to come out was that of a Palestinian child crying at the funeral of his father and brother, killed by Israeli airstrikes. He runs amidst the crowd in tears, crying hysterically, and in desperation yells: 'Goodbye, Father. I love you, my dear. I wish it was me instead of you.' And what of Nadine, a little 10-year-old Palestinian girl, one of the more than 74,000 Palestinians displaced from their homes, who stood in front of her destroyed house, crying: 'I'm only 10. I just want to be a doctor or anything to help my people, but I can't. I'm just a kid.'

Why should we pay particular attention to these words? It is because they remind us that we need to step up and take a lead on peacefully and justly resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to ensure that the words of these devastated young boys and girls do not condemn yet another generation lost to the failures of the international community. It is because the consequences are far reaching, not least geopolitically, not only to that region but to the world at large. If the international community absolves itself of the responsibility to ratify its own resolutions, we risk the inevitable consequences of outbreak after outbreak, an endless cycle of violence and counterviolence.

Countries such as Australia professing to be good international citizens by promoting peace-making, stability, justice and security should think about ways and means of making a direct real contribution to the peaceful and fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Australian government, our parliament and Australia's diplomatic community need to step up and do what we do best—get involved, get active and act as a trusted broker towards global efforts aimed at peace-making, mediation and conflict resolution.

We have a long history of engagement in multilateral institutions as a middle power with a pragmatic problem-solving ethos that gives priority to our diplomatic engagements. As the motion states, we must recognise that the impact of this conflict is far reaching and that many in the Australian community are hurting at this difficult time. This hurt also extends to members of our own Jewish community, who are also very concerned, along with many Israelis who I have met who have a diversity of opinion and who are troubled by the lack of peaceful resolution to this conflict. It is the voices of these people that the government should listen to because not only does it serve to promote the long-denied justice for the people of Palestine but they strengthen the very institutions we rely on for our own peace and security and Australia's ethos as an international good citizen.