House of Representatives Speech- Gilad Shalit 2011

  I rise to speak about the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 18 October. The news of Gilad Shalit's release brought joy and relief to all those who had hoped and prayed for his safe return. It had been 1,940 days of heartache and sorrow as the people of Israel intimately lived the story of Gilad Shalit's long wait for freedom, which was brought to the attention of Israel and the world through the determination of his parents, Noam and Aviva, to once again see their son.

I rise to speak about the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on 18 October. The news of Gilad Shalit's release brought joy and relief to all those who had hoped and prayed for his safe return. It had been 1,940 days of heartache and sorrow as the people of Israel intimately lived the story of Gilad Shalit's long wait for freedom, which was brought to the attention of Israel and the world through the determination of his parents, Noam and Aviva, to once again see their son.

Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas on 25 June 2006 when he was just 19 years old. He was held by Hamas for five years in a secret location in Gaza, without access to the Red Cross or the basic human rights of a prisoner of war. I can only guess the emotional toll on the Shalit family over these dreadful five years. I cannot imagine how I would have coped in the same situation if one of my children had been kidnapped. I am sure parents everywhere can sympathise.

For so many Israelis, Gilad Shalit became a symbol of Israel's struggle for peace, security and freedom. Israelis marked each anniversary of Gilad Shalit's kidnapping by calling on Hamas to release him. I too marked each anniversary by calling, in this House, for Gilad Shalit's release. The prisoner swap illustrates the stark contrast between Israel's commitment to human rights and the violence and brutality of the Hamas regime. Israel's willingness to release over 1,000 prisoners in exchange for the freedom of one Israeli demonstrates Israel's lasting commitment to the inalienable rights of each citizen. This is an example that negotiations can produce concrete outcomes and, as with every step towards peace, it is something we should build on in the ambition for peace and harmony with Palestinians. We should pause to remember that Hamas are a terrorist organisation that torture and murder opponents. The 1988 Hamas charter commits Hamas to the destruction of Israel and includes genocidal references aimed at Jews. Hamas glorifies suicide bombing and urges their people to commit acts of violence against their fellow citizens.

Australia has consistently confirmed its support for Israel and the family of Gilad Shalit. The Foreign Minister visited Gilad's parents Noam and Aviva in the tent where they were keeping a daily vigil for their son last year. I can only hope that Hamas are not encouraged by this act of clemency. Hamas's totalitarian stranglehold over the people of Gaza remains the main obstacle to peace that is the eternal hope of all Israelis and Palestinians. In synagogues around the world, empty chairs that were used to symbolise Gilad Shalit's absence, I am happy to say, are no longer needed. It is a great pleasure to record the release of Gilad Shalit. His freedom has brought joy to his family and his nation and encouragement to all those who oppose terrorism and violence.