In an unprecedented show of unity, six former Australian prime ministers issued a joint statement calling for an end to religious and racial hatred, particularly anti-Semitism, in the wake of Israel’s ongoing campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
Tensions have escalated globally as Israel engages in a sustained campaign against Hamas, a group listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government, in Gaza.
The conflict has led to a disturbing loss of life, including thousands of children killed in Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza. Amidst this backdrop, the former leaders of Australia have come together to voice their concerns and offer a call to action.
The Joint Statement
John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, and Scott Morrison released a collective statement condemning hate speech against any Australian, regardless of what’s happening elsewhere in the world.
The statement emphasised that “there is no place in our country for racial or religious hatred.”
They particularly pointed out the issue of anti-Semitism, stating it is a “tenaciously evil race hatred,” and expressed their support for the Australian Jewish community who had been directly affected by Hamas’ activities.
Simultaneously, they also acknowledged the suffering of the Palestinian community in Australia, saying,
“Likewise, we stand too with the Australian Palestinian community whose families are dying and suffering in this terrible conflict.”
The statement underlined that Australia’s success depends on not letting global conflicts turn its citizens against each other. The former leaders warned against allowing the spread of hatred, stating that doing so would be “doing the terrorists’ work.”
Federal Government Response
Foreign Minister Penny Wong reaffirmed Australia’s call for Israel to respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians in Gaza. Minister Wong expressed deep concerns about the potential for the conflict to spill over into other areas in the Middle East, including Lebanon, where the terrorist-designated organisation Hezbollah is based.
The conflict has had a dire effect on civilians, especially children, with the non-profit organisation Save the Children revealing that more than 40% of those killed in Gaza are children. Humanitarian organisations have also warned of the impending collapse of civil order in Gaza as essential services like power and water are increasingly scarce.
Minister Wong stated that 88 Australians remain stranded in Gaza, unable to leave due to blocked humanitarian corridors. She also issued a warning to Australians in Lebanon, advising them to leave while commercial options are still available.
The united stance of former Australian prime ministers serves as a timely reminder of the role of national unity in times of international crises.
The statement and the Australian government’s stance affirm the need for a balanced approach that calls for an end to violence, the protection of human rights, and the importance of national unity against the divisive powers of hatred.
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