Lion FM The Daily News
With Ralph Zwier and Ronit Fraid
13 October 2010
E & OE
Subjects: Gilad Shalit, Israel
Recently Senator Mitch Fifield stood up in Parliament to make a bold plea for the release of Israeli Staff-Sergeant Gilad Shalit, who has been held in captivity for over four years. He was kidnapped by Hamas on the Israeli side of a Gaza border crossing and has been held virtually incommunicado since mid-2006. In his moving speech, Senator Fifield communicated the human suffering caused by Gilad’s situation, as well as explaining Israel’s situation. And he reaffirmed Australian support and solidarity for Israel. Senator Fifield is on the line with us today – hi Mitch.
I was just wondering what prompted you to raise this important issue at this particular time in the Parliament.
I think it’s very easy to forget the situations of individuals such as Gilad. It’s all well and good to express concern at the time that an outrage such as the kidnapping of Gilat occurs. But it’s so important that we don’t forget. That we keep fighting, and that we keep reminding people that GIlad is still in captivity. That his family is still in anguish. And to quote what all of us say at ANZAC Day lest we forget. We shouldn’t forget those who have put themselves in harm’s way in the defence of their country. And it’s just so important that democracies such as Australia stand in solidarity with other democracies that support the rule of law and support human rights.
I wanted to ask you, we put a transcript of your Senate speech up on the ICJS website, and in a couple of days it collected about 600 reads. Have you yourself had much public feedback from that speech?
Yes Ralph, my email inbox has been inundated by members of the community who have been very pleased that the plight of Gilad has been raised in such a public way. And there are hundreds and hundreds members of the community who are extremely concerned about Gilad’s plight, and many of them have registered that with me as a result of the speech.
Is that members of the general public as well, Mitch? Or mainly the Jewish community?
Both. Members of the Jewish community and people who write to me who say, ‘look, I’m, not Jewish, I’ve never been to Israel, but this is just a fundamental injustice, that a soldier who was going about their business, as they were entitled and duty bound to do, within the borders of their country, was kidnapped.’ And many people are just outraged that the Red Cross can’t get access to see how he’s going. That Hamas won’t even allow letters from members of his family. It’s very cruel, what Hamas are doing to Gilad and to his family.
Do you think there is anything more that you could suggest to listeners who are concerned about this situation? Anything more that they can do to help the circumstances of Gilad Shalit? For example, would there be any point in putting further pressure on the International Red Cross about it?
More pressure is never enough. I think any member of the community who is concerned about this should register that concern with their Federal Member of Parliament. They should register it with the Red Cross. They should phone talk-back radio to air the issue. The most important thing is to make sure every avenue possible is used. To make sure that those who are in a position to bring pressure to bear have Gilad in mind and that they take the opportunity to do that. The worst thing that could happen would be if Gilad and his plight recedes from the public consciousness and the consciousness of those in public life. We’ve got to make sure that we’re continually registering that.
Mitch, I just want to ask obviously we know your views, because you’ve put them down in public. I’d like to ask what the general sense is in the Parliament are you expressing the general view? What’s your sense of the thinking of the Parliament on issues like this?
Well I haven’t had a single Member or Senator contact me to say that they disagree with what I’ve said. I think that the overwhelming view of Federal Members and Senators is that what has happened to Gilad is an outrage, and that he should be released immediately. And there’s great goodwill in the Australian Parliament towards the State of Israel. When you count them, there aren’t that many democracies in the world that are committed to the rule of law, to everyone being equal before the law. And particularly in the Middle-East, Israel is a beacon of hope and liberty. And that’s something that I think is broadly recognised in the Australian Parliament.
We’d really like to thank you for your time today, Mitch. And also, thank you very much for representing Gilad Shalit and his family, and the State of Israel, so very eloquently in the Parliament. Thanks very much.
Thanks to you both.