19 October 2023

I acknowledge the past fortnight has been incredibly tough in many communities, including in my electorate of Blue Mountains, for many families and individuals, but none more so than for those who have been directly impacted by the international conflict. I put on record my wholehearted support for the statement issued yesterday by the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, which said:

The terrible acts of terror committed by Hamas are deeply inhumane. We call for the immediate release of hostages and reiterate our condemnation of all violence against civilians.

We call on the government of Australia to clearly call upon all actors, including the state of Israel, to comply with international humanitarian law.

I am deeply alarmed by the unfolding catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, which is putting at risk millions of people who are not involved in the acts of terror that have been carried out by Hamas. Thousands of people have been killed and nearly 10,000 have been injured and displaced, including women, children and the elderly. Food, water, fuel and medical supplies are running out in the Gaza Strip, compounding an already dire situation in one of the most densely populated places on earth. UNICEF noted that Gaza's children are paying the heaviest price, with hundreds already dead.

I note that half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are under 18 years of age, and millions from the Gaza Strip have fled south, but there is nowhere in the south for them to seek safety, so many have turned back to Gaza. Southern Gaza has no means of supporting the millions fleeing from the north. Trucks carrying aid have been waiting for days at the Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and Gaza. I support the innocent citizens of Gaza and urge the authorities to allow urgent relief, essential supplies and aid workers to enter Gaza safely and to ensure a safe passage for those fleeing the violence. I stand with Palestine—and the Palestinian Australian community—which is currently facing a catastrophic crisis. I am honoured, and I find it necessary, to provide a voice to the many who feel unheard. Here is a message from the CEO of the Muslim Women Association, Maha Abdo. She said:

Inan attempt to convey, articulate and communicate what many of us are going through right now, my tears flow quicker than my words. I urge you all to bring your conscience to the fore, to listen with an open heart, and to look for spaces of mercy and compassion in our seeking justice in what can be an avalanche of peace. With a heavy heart, as a mother, grandmother, and community leader, representing the sentiments of countless women whose hearts are shattered by the ongoing atrocities of the ethnic cleansing in Gaza, we can no longer bear witness to the immeasurable pain and heartache inflicted upon the Palestinian people. Do we Not learn from history?! Do we Not know that two Wrongs do not make a Right?! Do we Not understand that to live in "peace and harmony", to attain and maintain real "social cohesion", we must have justice with respect and dignity for all?!

Justice is the key that encourages us to appreciate and understand the essential unity and equality of all humans. These are hard, painful moments we are witnessing at this critical moment in time, where a whole nation is being wiped out, again, homes destroyed and flattened, again, all in front of our eyes. However, all the while, we are told the Occupier/Oppressor has the right to defend itself from the occupied people who are already living under oppression. How does this make sense? We are witnessing ethnic cleansing with no shame or guilt, and all we can do is speak up for justice and the right for all to exist with dignity and respect.This is not a conflict; this is not a war. This is genocide. The depiction of Palestinian men, women and children, all victims, in the media is deeply distressing and fails to capture the true extent of the suffering endured.

Our government's leadership need to use a language that reflects the severity of the situation and to acknowledge the 75 years of oppression and apartheid faced by the Palestinian people. You, our elected members of parliament must take responsibility for your words that should be uniting rather than favouring one group over another. Our struggles and fears must not be overlooked. They must be acknowledged, alongside our pain and anger, facilitating a safe and trusted space for the expression of our suffering, where our voices are not silenced or belittled. Rallies and protests should be supported as essential platforms for the expression of freedom, not as threats. They represent the fundamental right to peacefully demonstrate and speak out against injustice.

Let us come together to advocate for a future that embraces justice, because without justice, there can be no peace or dignity for anyone. I hope that we can sincerely pave the way for a world where no mother or child has to endure the horrors of violence and oppression, where we come together with AUTHENTIC engagement, holding the principles of fairness, justice and compassion for ALL, waging peace and together sowing seeds of hope in all hearts.