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Wednesday, 3 December 2014
Page: 14191


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (19:50): On 18 November some Torah-observant Jews in the Har Nof Synagogue in West Jerusalem were praying shacharit, the daily morning prayer. The silence of their prayer was shattered by two jihadists, who knew the rhythm of the congregation and butchered four unarmed rabbis and a brave Druze policeman who sought to intervene.

One of the men in the Har Nof Synagogue, Yaakov Amos, was in the middle of a prayer called Sim Shalom, which means 'grant peace.' As part of every prayer service, a thrice-daily ritual asks God to 'grant peace everywhere, goodness and blessing, grace, loving kindness and mercy to us all'. His call for worldwide compassion and peace was answered by evil murder.

These two Palestinian jihadists entered this house of prayer, brandishing guns and a meat cleaver. They slaughtered five and injured seven other worshippers. The PFLP, the second largest part of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Liberation Organisation, took credit for this attack, but it was probably organised by the new Hamas faction that is based in Turkey, about which we had a debate in this parliament just this week at one of the friendship group meetings. A dear Australian-born friend of mine, Arnold Roth, pointed out that the slaughter of these unarmed rabbis at prayer had nothing to do with the grievances about the Temple Mount. Most of the ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Har Nof synagogue—indeed, most ultra-Orthodox Jews—do not subscribe to the view that one should visit the holy Temple Mount or, as the Arabs call it, the Haram al-Sharif because one might trample on the holy of holies, the old temple that stood there a millennium ago. It has nothing to do with occupation; Har Nof is in the far west of Jerusalem, far away from the 1967 borders. It has nothing to do with settlements; no Arab or Muslim had ever made their home where Har Nof stood. It had nothing to do with oppressing Arabs; at least one of the two murderers is reported to have lived in the neighbourhood grocery just down from the synagogue supporting himself and others from that source. It certainly has no dimension of getting back at the Israeli military; the victims were men engaged in full-time learning in the Torah who do not participate in military service. The site of the killings, a Haredi synagogue, is not emblematic of what Israel stands for in the Arab mind; it is emblematic of what Jews represent, especially in the torrent of incitement that must be one of the issues that we deal with eventually when a two-state solution comes about. Those sermons, cartoons and video clips have been endlessly shown to members of this parliament; they are intolerable and must be addressed if any peace treaty is to be arrived at.

All acts of terrorism are barbaric—whether it is the murder of unarmed Kenyan mineworkers or the slaughter of non-Muslim Yazidis or Muslim Shias—but there is something unspeakably evil about murdering four holy men immersed in prayer. Every member of this House holds that all Australians have the right to freedom of worship without fear. To be involved in an act like this is a violation that is both aesthetically and ethically repugnant to all Australians. When a Jewish extremist killed Muslim worshippers, I am very proud to say, the Prime Minister of Israel excommunicated him from the people of Israel—as did the Chief Rabbinate—for his heinous actions. No mainstream section of Israeli society attempted to explain, let alone justify, his acts. Yes, Mr Abbas made a perfunctory condemnation under pressure from Secretary Kerry; but, if one looks at the Facebook page of the Palestinian Authority, the statements of its religious affairs adviser are all in sympathy for the terrorists. Indeed, Madam Speaker, I regretfully have to report to you that the Speaker of the Jordanian parliament held prayers for the two murderers.

It is very interesting that Secretary Kerry, on behalf of the American government, condemned these attacks—just like the Australian government. Indeed the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, said:

Nothing can justify the senseless violence against innocent people going about their worship. Our thoughts are with the victims and the families of those who were killed in this horrific attack …

When one is trying to organise a two-state solution and peace between parties incitement and this kind of horrific killing, and support for it afterwards by mainstream Palestinian sources, has to be addressed.