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Australian politicians respond to the conflict in Israel and Gaza

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Australian politicians have had varied responses to the conflict in Israel and Gaza, as the Government officially calls for "humanitarian pauses" following the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.
Israeli bombardments in Gaza following Hamas October 7 attack

Australian politicians have had varied responses to the conflict in Israel and Gaza, as the Government officially calls for “humanitarian pauses” following the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October.

The Government has evacuated some Australians from Israel and is seeking the exit of Australians in Gaza. It has also asked Australians in neighbouring Lebanon to return home.

Here’s how Australian federal politicians from across the spectrum have responded.

Background

On 7 October, Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing more than 1,400 people according to Israeli authorities. Australia considers Hamas a terrorist organisation. More than 200 hostages were captured and taken to Gaza. Four have been released.

Israel responded by declaring war and seeking to “eliminate” Hamas. It has shut off access to basic necessities including food and fuel. More than 7,000 people have now been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

At least 74 aid trucks have reached Gaza via its border with Egypt, but the UN, the U.S. and Australia are among those
who have called for significantly more aid access.

Government response

The Australian Government has “unequivocally” condemned “heinous attacks on Israel by brutal terrorist group Hamas”.

The Government recognises Israel’s right to self-defence, with Prime Minister Albanese saying this week “we pick a side against Hamas”. Australia has consistently warned all parties to abide by rules of war.

In recent days, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said “the way Israel exercises its right to defend itself matters… Innocent Palestinian civilians should not suffer because of the outrages perpetrated by Hamas.” Wong said the amount of aid so far provided to Gaza is “nowhere near enough”.

Labor MP comments

Several Government MPs have strayed from the Government’s official language.

Cabinet Minister Ed Husic said last week he felt “very strongly that Palestinians are being collectively punished here for Hamas’s barbarism.” Collective punishment is a war crime under international law. Another Minister, Anne Aly, agreed Israel should be investigated for possible collective punishment.

Labor MP Josh Burns disagreed, saying the phrase collective punishment was “not one I would use… [Hamas] is a terrorist organisation… this is not a good faith actor nor one that you can make peace with.”

The Government has not accused Israel of committing war crimes.

Cabinet Minister Tony Burke said he was “proud” the Canterbury Bankstown Council in his electorate had decided to fly the Palestinian flag. “It is not the Hamas flag… It’s a flag that gives people the chance to know that there is recognition,” Burke said.

Coalition response

The Coalition has expressed “unequivocal” support for Israel.

Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham said he supported “Israel’s right to exist and right to self-defence, and the ambition to remove Hamas from any position of power or influence”.

Birmingham said Israel had “shown restraint” and not committed war crimes. He also criticised the inconsistent language used by government ministers.

“Consistency of language matters, particularly from a government,” he said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has also criticised Labor’s language, accusing Wong and Albanese of “hesitancy” in support for Israel and said there was “understandable anger” in the Jewish community at the Government.

He noted Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had not answered Albanese’s requests for a phone call, saying it “says as much as anything about the Israelis’ view on where Anthony Albanese is on these matters.”

The Greens

The Greens have opposed Israel’s actions in Gaza. Greens leader Adam Bandt said last week: “The indiscriminate bombing and siege of civilian populations is not self defence and to support it as such undermines international law and Australia’s global position.”

Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi has accused Israel of “committing war crimes and collective punishment in plain sight… Gaza is being bombed to dust… World leaders are silently watching this catastrophe unfold. They should hang their heads in shame forever.”

Defence Minister Richard Marles has accused the Greens of “getting this very wrong,” and Dutton has accused them of “encouraging hatred”.

Former Prime Ministers

Six former Australian Prime Ministers have released a statement on the conflict.

“There is no more tenaciously evil race hatred than antisemitism… We stand in solidarity with Jewish Australians at this time. 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 Hamas terrorists sought to horrify and intimidate the people of Israel… they also sought to provoke Israel into a reaction that would kill countless innocent civilians in Gaza… [Israel’s] legitimate objective of defeating Hamas must be accompanied by support and protection for the civilian population of Gaza.”

 

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