Senator FIFIELD (Victoria) (7.02 p.m.)-I was interested to see an advertisement in the 16 August edition of the Melbourne Weekly Bayside. The advertisement attacked a number of parliamentarians. The advertisement is headed ‘Israeli Terror’ and it reads:
Helen Shardey MP (Liberal, Caulfield) and federal MP’s Michael Danby (ALP) & Sen Mitch Fifield (Lib) all attended pro Israel rallies, in Melbourne in 17 Jul 06, at the same time as Aussies were being bombed in Lebanon. Perhaps they could explain why they attended an Israel rally when terrified Aussies were in mortal danger? Why haven’t there parties expelled them for this appalling conduct?
That advertisement was placed in a Melbourne newspaper. Given that the ad called upon me to explain why I spoke in support of Israel, I am very happy to advise the Senate of why I did. The reason is that Israel is a beacon of hope and liberty in the Middle East. It is a great and robust democracy. At a time when it is being attacked by those who would seek to destroy it, Israel needs its friends. I am proud to say that, with Australia, Israel has a true friend. The Australian people will always stand by the Israeli nation and the citizens of Israel. I attended the rally to support freedom. I attended the rally to support the State of Israel and its citizens. I attended the rally to support Israel’s right to live in peace. But how is this peace to be achieved?
I had the privilege of leading a delegation to Israel in 1997, where I met Gideon Ezra. He was then a Likud MK and a former intelligence chief. He is now a member of Kadima and is the environment minister. When I talked to Mr Ezra he was at pains to leave me with one message. The message that he wanted to leave was: first comes security, then comes peace. Those words have really stayed with me since that time. In 2003 I was very fortunate to return to Israel as part of a government delegation and had the great privilege of meeting Prime Minister Sharon, as he was then. His message was the same: first comes security, then comes peace.
The rally I attended was essentially a statement of the facts, because in conflicts the facts actually do matter. The facts are not relative; there are facts and there are falsehoods. So what are the facts? The violence in the recent conflict began with attacks on Israel by Hezbollah-rocket attacks on Israel from the south of Lebanon by Hezbollah and Hezbollah incursions into Israel to kidnap two members of the Israeli defence force. From Gaza in the south and from Lebanon, Israel has been under attack over the past few weeks by more than 3,000 missiles. Israel did not provoke these attacks. The aggressors are known by various names, but I do not think we should shy away from calling those aggressors what they are-terrorists and criminals-and Israel has every right to defend itself against them. Israel not only has the right to defend itself; it has an obligation to defend itself. Its right to take action in self-defence is enshrined in international law under article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations. To fail to defend itself would be a dereliction of its duty.
Could I say how angry I get at people who talk about the concept of proportionality-angry at armchair critics who I think have perhaps watched one too many episodes of The West Wing. It is as though Israel should be disadvantaged for having a more powerful and sophisticated military and for having a better civil defence system. It is as though a military conflict is somehow like a handicap horse race and Israel should have weights in its saddle bag to give poor old Hezbollah a sporting chance! If Australia were being attacked, I would not want my government’s response to be proportionate; I would want my government’s response to be entirely disproportionate. I would want my government to make sure that whoever attacked Australia did not have the opportunity to do so again or, at the very least, that they would think twice about attacking again.
I have absolutely no doubt that, if Israel had not responded in such a robust way, the UN Security Council would not have passed resolution 1701. The resolution is a little disappointing. It does not contain any requirement to disarm Hezbollah. It does not contain a requirement to return the kidnapped IDF personnel, but I have no doubt that the resolution is much stronger than it would have been if Israel had not defended itself in such a robust way.
If we ever doubt that Israel is facing an existential challenge, one only needs to turn to a letter which I received from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran last week. The cover note seems quite nice. It says:
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran presents its compliments to the Honourable Members of the Parliament and the Senators and has the honour to enclose the message from his Excellency the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamanei, presenting His Excellencies’ latest views regarding the crisis in Lebanon
The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran avails itself of this opportunity to renew the assurances of its highest consideration.
I read the cover note and I thought: ‘That’s nice of a good embassy, taking steps to inform members and senators. I will read this very carefully with an open mind.’ I started to read the following references:
… the bloodthirsty Zionists and their bigheaded … American supporters …
… the resistance of the people of Lebanon and the heroic struggles of Hizbollah …
After reading that sort of preface, I thought, ‘This isn’t looking good,’ but I persevered. I continued and read the following:
how long should the Islamic world tolerate existence of the scheming and evil Zionist regime?
… … …
Today it has become clear to all that attack on Lebanon was premediated and part of a joint American-Zionist stratagem and is a major step toward domination over the middle east and the Islamic world.
It then went on to talk about the ‘evil and wicked Zionist regime’, ‘the value of jihad’ and the ‘savage wolf of Zionism and the aggressions of the great satan’.
When you read something like that you could be forgiven for thinking it is a dialogue sequence from the movie Team America, but sadly it is not. This is not a lame attempt at satire. These are the views of a sovereign government. These are the views of a nation which is very well armed. These are the views of a nation which has been supporting and arming Hezbollah, an outlawed terrorist organisation which is a state within a state. If ever anyone questions whether Israel has a right to defend itself strongly and robustly or stand against terrorism and seek to take out terrorist infrastructure, they only need to avail themselves of this kind note from the Iranian embassy in Canberra. I think the Iranian government perhaps needs a better advocate and spokesman in Canberra. If this is what they are peddling around the parliament of Australia, the only thing I can say is: it gives us a true indication of what it is that they stand for.
As if that was not enough, in the Australian today we read under an article headed ‘Iran gets laugh out of holocaust’ that Tehran is holding an exhibition of more than 200 cartoons about the Holocaust-200 satirical, joking, mocking cartoons about the Holocaust, in which six million Jews died. It says:
The display, showing 204 entries from Iran and abroad was strongly influenced by the views of Iran’s hardline President … who drew widespread condemnation last year for calling the Holocaust a ‘myth’ and saying Israel should be destroyed.
He deserves widespread condemnation for calling the Holocaust a myth and for saying Israel should be destroyed. Israel is a beacon of hope. It is a beacon of peace. It is a strong, robust democracy. Australia has always stood by Israel. Israel has two great friends in the world: the United States and Australia. I was proud to stand on the steps of the Melbourne GPO in support of Israel and its right to exist, and democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Given the opportunity again, I would do so.