House of Representatives Speech- Mr Gilad Shalit 2010

I rise again to speak with deep sadness on the anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. This is the third occasion on which I have spoken on this anniversary in this place and I hope it will be the last. On 25 June 2006, Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid into Israel by the armed wing of Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation proscribed in Australia. Two of his fellow soldiers were killed in the raid. He was 19 at the time; he is now 23. For four years he has been held by Hamas. In contravention of the Geneva convention, he is being held as a hostage by a terrorist organisation. The International Committee of the Red Cross and all other representatives have been denied access to him. For his family these have been agonising years.

I rise again to speak with deep sadness on the anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. This is the third occasion on which I have spoken on this anniversary in this place and I hope it will be the last. On 25 June 2006, Corporal Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in a cross-border raid into Israel by the armed wing of Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation proscribed in Australia. Two of his fellow soldiers were killed in the raid. He was 19 at the time; he is now 23. For four years he has been held by Hamas. In contravention of the Geneva convention, he is being held as a hostage by a terrorist organisation. The International Committee of the Red Cross and all other representatives have been denied access to him. For his family these have been agonising years.

Hamas continues to hold Gilad Shalit as a bargaining chip, seeking to secure the release of hundreds of terrorists being held in Israeli prisons. It is important that leaders around the world continue to demand the release of Gilad Shalit. A former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in welcoming the easing of restrictions on Gaza by the Israeli government, yesterday repeated his call for Gilad Shalit to be released immediately. Let us be very clear about what Hamas is. This is a terrorist organisation that seized power in Gaza through a violent coup. It is a regime that tortures and murders independent activists, including trade unionists. The 1998 Hamas Charter commits Hamas to establishing an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. It is committed to the destruction of the state of Israel and includes genocidal references aimed at Jews. Hamas is not an organisation that accepts anything that is known and understood about human rights in Australia. It has a totalitarian approach to all media and education in Gaza, which feature incitements to genocide and glorification of suicide bombing and terrorism.

Internally, Hamas has carried out attacks on mosques, including in Rafah in August 2009, when the Hamas Brigade surrounded a mosque, firing rocket grenades and killing more than 20 Palestinians, including an 11-year-old girl, because of what it perceived as a threat to its authority. Contrast the coverage of this event with the coverage of the recent tragic flotilla incident. Reports on the true nature of Hamas, and the reasons for the ongoing blockade, have been absent in recent news coverage. Criticism of Israel, ostensibly based on concern for the welfare and rights of residents of Gaza, would be more credible if criticism were also directed towards the current rulers of Gaza, Hamas, and its behaviour, which is exemplified in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.

The Australian government has responded to the flotilla incident by attending to the welfare of Australians citizens involved by expressing concern about the loss of life and by calling for the establishment of an independent Israeli inquiry into the incident. It is very clear that this is necessary to ensure that there is no repeat of the Goldstone report approach. We have reiterated our support for Israel and recognise the unique security challenges that Israel faces—from Iran and the terrorist organisations that Iran supports, including Hamas. And we have called for the allowing of additional aid into Gaza. At no time has the Australian government called for a lifting of the blockade. In particular, the Prime Minister has confirmed that Australia recognises the need for Israel to prevent arms shipments into Gaza.

There has been a welcome announcement overnight of an easing of the blockade. Considerable humanitarian aid has been going into Gaza from Israel for several years but more can be done. Israel has announced that it will publish a list of items not permitted into Gaza and will let all other items through. Construction material will be permitted for infrastructure projects under international supervision. Capacity at crossings will be increased to enable a significantly greater volume of goods into Gaza.

To end this blockade is simple: Hamas must end the rocket attacks on Israel, of which there have been more than 5,000 in the last four years. It must cease importing arms from Iran. We should not forget Israel’s particular security situation. Israel continues to face existential threats in its region, in particular from Iran and its terrorist clients. Iran remains the great threat to the Middle East. Iran has funded and armed its terrorist clients, including Hamas, so that these terrorist organisations can continue their attacks on Israel. Israel has the right and the responsibility to ensure that Hamas does not build up an arsenal with which to terrorise Israeli citizens. Israel is entitled to maintain a legal blockade that intercepts arms which will be targeted at its citizens. Hamas must renounce violence, must renounce attacks on civilians and must renounce its commitment to the destruction of the state of Israel. It must cease violating international law and immediately release Gilad Shalit.