All but one of Australia’s living ex-prime ministers have joined together to condemn Hamas, urge Israel to avoid civilian casualties and express solidarity with Jewish and Palestinian Australians.
In a joint statement published on Monday, the six former leaders said there was no place for racial or religious hatred in Australia and warned against allowing the Israel-Hamas war to “turn Australians against each other”.
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“We believe we speak for the vast majority of Australians, of all faiths and of none, when we say we stand in solidarity with Jewish Australians at this time,” the former leaders said.
“Likewise, we stand too with the Australian Palestinian community whose families are dying and suffering in this terrible conflict. They too deserve our love and support.”
The former prime ministers condemned Hamas’s October 7 attacks as a “cruel and murderous attack”.
“It was the single greatest massacre of Jewish since the Holocaust and its grotesque cruelty and violence was comparable to that of ISIS,” the statement said, referring to the ISIL armed group.
They also accused Hamas of seeking to provoke a “reaction that would kill countless civilians” in Gaza and having “no more interest in the safety of Palestinians than do they of Israelis”.
This is the statement issued today by six former PMs of Australia pic.twitter.com/nb2moESGak
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) October 30, 2023
But the former Australian leaders also said Israel’s war against Hamas must be accompanied by “support and protection for the civilian population of Gaza”.
“Israel promises it will do all it can to avoid civilian casualties, we urge it to do so with all of its humanity and skill,” they said.
“We are horrified by the thousands of deaths and injuries inflicted on innocent Palestinian civilians, including many, many Palestinian children.”
Scott Morrison, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, John Howard, Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd – former leaders from both the centre-right Liberal Party and centre-left Labor Party – put their names to the statement.
Paul Keating, who governed Australia from 1991 to 1996 under Labor, did not join his fellow ex-prime ministers.
Keating said in a statement on Sunday that he had declined to add his name after being approached by Mark Leibler, the former president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, without providing further details.
Australia’s current government, led by Labor’s Anthony Albanese, has acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself while calling on all sides to show restraint to protect civilian life.
Some Labor politicians, however, have broken ranks to condemn Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
On Friday, Australia abstained from voting on a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza – which passed overwhelmingly with 120 votes in favour – arguing it was “incomplete” because it did not name Hamas.
At least 8,005 Palestinians, including more than 3,200 children, have been killed in Israeli air raids on Gaza, according to authorities in the Hamas-governed enclave.
At least 1,405 people were killed in Hamas’s surprise attack inside southern Israel, according to Israeli officials.