Opinion Piece

First published in The Australian on Saturday, 4 November 2023

My grandfather was a kind man.


He told me how, living on a Kibbutz in the southern part of Israel in the 1950s, he wanted to see peace with his Arab neighbours.


He loved Israel but he didn’t like the tensions; he didn’t like the conflict.


Just like my grandfather, I too want to see that peace.


Real, lasting peace between two peoples - Israelis and Palestinians living side by side.


It is my dream to see peace in my lifetime for both peoples, living in calm without violence or danger.


It is a dream that has been passed down from generation to generation in my family.


But that dream seems distant, as we wake up to the nightmare that confronts us.


A nightmare that is coming with an enormous cost to the Palestinian people. Of course, I see that and of course, I want that to end.


I was a student of the Middle East at University, and I understand the deeply complex nature of this conflict.


And I know a few hard truths that confronts us in the coming weeks.


I know that no peace is possible until we see the release of the more than two hundred people currently being held in Hamas’ labyrinth of underground tunnels.


The pivotal move for de-escalation is for Hamas to free the more than 230 innocent children, women and elderly people they ripped from their homes.


I understand that people believe the simple answer to addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza is to ask for Israel to cease its pursuit of Hamas.


But I also understand that asking Israel for a ceasefire without the hostages would be akin to telling their families that they are giving up on bringing their loved ones home.


No country would consider that. 


Nor would they consider putting down their defences if their citizens were still under threat of an indiscriminate attack like what we saw on October 7.


When Hamas attacked Israel on the Jewish festival of Simchat Torah, they knew that Israel would retaliate, as any nation would.


They attacked Israel knowing that any response would put innocent people at risk.


It is devastating to see the consequences of the conflict on the Palestinian people.


Just as it is devastating when I look at my own Jewish Community who are shattered by watching the worst attack on our people in 80 years.


The truth about humanity is that in this moment our hearts can break for the suffering of one people, and we can maintain empathy for others too.


Devastatingly, at home we are seeing a dramatic spike in antisemitic incidents. In Victoria alone, we have registered at least 55 antisemitic incidents since October 7.


This is a 1000 percent increase on the five incidents we saw during the same period last year.


In these times, we should remember Australia was a place European Jews sought refuge in following the horrors of the Holocaust.


For my grandfather, who witnessed the horror of the Second World War and the attempted destruction of his people, it was eventually Australia where he found the peace he was searching for with his wife and young children.


Yet, Jewish Australians are on edge, especially when social media and Whatsapp messages are filled with angry mobs in Sydney, Europe and Russia, brazenly chanting and threating their local Jewish communities.


Frankly, we need to ensure political contributions do not add to their anxiety.


Our leadership and clarity matter in this darkness.


Terrorism cannot prevail, nor can it be justified or sidestepped.


It must be confronted with clarity and strength.


But when the war ends, and when the dust settles, the duty of not passing on the devastation of war to the next generation awaits.


It will require both sides to make concessions that seem inconceivable in this moment.


I do not believe peace can be reached with Hamas, but I dream of it being realised with the Palestinian people.


To be honest, I don't know how this all ends. I don't have all the answers.


But I do know I don’t want to see the same cycle we have seen for nearly a century - conflict, ceasefire and then more conflict.


I finish where I began, with the dream of better days ahead.


The dream of seeing peace between Israelis and Palestinians seems further away than ever but we cannot lose sight of it.


Losing sight of peace lets Hamas win. For the future of both peoples that cannot happen.


We must stand united against terrorism, against violence, against antisemitism, and against hatred in all its forms.


The people of Israel, the Palestinian people, and indeed all humanity deserve nothing less.




Josh Burns
Federal Member for Macnamara


10 November 2023