SPEAKING in State Parliament on August 5, Caulfield MP David Southwick slammed a letter so far signed by 68 Labor and Greens politicians that has called on Israel to end its Gaza operation.
Known as the Canberra Declaration on Gaza, the letter ignored Israel’s right to defend itself, its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas’s use of human shields, Israel’s early warnings to Gazans of air raids, and Hamas’s refusal to cease firing rockets.
Southwick claimed the letter “blatantly comforts Hamas, the terrorist group which shares a world view with ISIS and al-Qaeda, and with which Israel is engaged in a life and death struggle. This letter is bereft of context and, in places, plain wrong.”
The MP stated: “This conflict was caused solely by the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, menacing and paralysing most of the country. Israel only responded after Hamas ignored several calls from Israel for calm … No country, including Israel, should be expected to live with this double threat of rockets and tunnels.”
Southwick conceded that “casualties in Gaza are tragic” but “are caused by the war crimes and actions of Hamas who target Israeli civilians from among its own civilian population, using them as human shields, even demanding they stay in harm’s way even when Israel warns them to evacuate”.
“At times like this, all Australians, especially MPs, should stand with Israel, our ally, friend and fellow democracy,” he said.
The declaration – which was initiated by Western Australian federal ALP member Melissa Parke, a former aid worker in Gaza – called for “all Australian politicians to condemn the ongoing Israeli military bombardment and invasion of Gaza”, and for an end to Israel’s “occupation of the Palestinian territories” and the blockade of Gaza.
Signatories include five Victorian state Labor MPs, Bronwyn Halfpenny, Khalil Eideh, Lee Tarlamis, Johan Scheffer and Maree Edwards.
Meanwhile, Victorian ALP leader Daniel Andrews said a visit to Sderot last year convinced him of Israel’s perilous situation. The Opposition Leader told The AJN he had met locals “and they said to me that the reality had been, for too long, a rocket reality. They knew no different than this terrible turmoil and violence, the terror of these rocket attacks.
“You cannot ask Israelis to live under those circumstances, when all they want is a peaceful existence, a coexistence. These acts of terror on behalf of Hamas, and that’s exactly what they are, cannot be tolerated.”
PETER KOHN AND ADAM KAMIEN
Caulfield MP David Southwick.