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Monday, 11 September 2017
Page: 9787

Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (11:26): I would like to begin by thanking Stuart Robert, the member for Fadden, for bringing this motion to the attention of the House, and particularly for standing up for the rights and freedoms of the state of Israel, which have too often been ignored in this place.

The reality is that as a nation we have allies: allies who stand with us through thick and thin and whom we should reciprocate with. Israel is one of those states that should continue to enjoy the support of this country and this government and will continue to do so. My only hope is that we can say the same at some future point, should there be another government of a different political persuasion, because the reality is that we know there is not the same commitment as often sits on this side of the House. Every member of this side of the House believes strongly in the right of Israel to exist, to exist freely, to exist without threat or intimidation and to be able to provide a homeland for the Jewish people. I can say, as a member of this House with an electorate which has a very high percentage of the Jewish community in Melbourne, that my position is resolute and uncompromising.

In the end, the heart of this debate and this issue is whether we, as a nation, stand for enlarging the freedom of all people to live their lives in safety and peace. There are many other debates where we take a very similar position and should continue to do so. Having visited Jerusalem myself, I have seen the consequences firsthand of what happens when some people seek to deny that liberty and that peace—particularly some of the efforts of the Palestinian authorities and those who support them to deceive the public, or to make misrepresentations or to create misunderstanding about what actually occurs, particularly under the state of Israel.

In fact, on one of my visits to Israel many years ago, we were given a briefing about the activities of Palestinian Media Watch. This organisation scrutinised Palestinian media in particular and how they sought to misrepresent information to build a perception of victimhood that was not always in accordance with reality. Sometimes these examples can bring a certain degree of scepticism. I myself, being a first-time visitor, brought scepticism to some of the claims that were presented to me until we went to Bethlehem. We went to a refugee camp to speak directly to Palestinians about some of the challenges that they faced.

While we were there, we saw a group of young children throwing rocks at IDF soldiers. This eventually escalated to the point where the IDF tear gassed. I can say that I can tick off being tear gassed by the IDF on my bucket list. That's not a point of humour: it's just a point of reality, and anybody else who has been tear gassed will know that it's not a particularly pleasant experience. But the critical point came afterwards. What we saw were misrepresentations in the Palestinian media that we were attacked by the IDF. That was not true. In fact, they were provoked by those who were encouraged to throw rocks and commit violence against IDF soldiers, who then acted to defend themselves. This is just one of many examples where we see misrepresentations to try to build a sense of sympathy with the Palestinian cause—which I think many people have, but it should be rooted in facts and reality.

I have previously spoken in this chamber about my frustration with the conduct of UNESCO in trying to deny and erase from history the connection between Jewish people and the Temple Mount. If you look at the effort made by some people who want to disconnect that relationship, it amounts to a cultural genocide of people's past and their connection, and we should not be ashamed or afraid to call it out. I acknowledge the select number of members opposite who are prepared to do that for making the same principle. As somebody who has Armenian heritage and knows exactly what it means to have had not just an actual genocide but a cultural genocide against their people, I say we must remain determined always to stand up against these measures, because it's not just about erasing people; the intention is to erase people's memory and legacy and the culture and traditions that inform them and continue to inform their future.

Finally, in giving my support very strongly to this motion, I want to reflect on the ongoing discussion about whether our embassy should be based in Jerusalem. As a proud supporter of Israel, a proud supporter of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and a proud Australian, I can see no reason that we should not be able to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem, on the basis that it is safe for Australians..