Pro-Palestine demonstration in Melbourne
The conflict in Gaza has raised community tensions in Australia. Image by Diego Fedele/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Plea for cool heads in Australia as war rages in Gaza

Dominic Giannini December 18, 2023

Australians need to cool the temperature over conflict in the Middle East and engage with each other peacefully, the prime minister says.

Anthony Albanese expressed concern about social cohesion in Australia as the Jewish and Muslim communities continue to hurt.

“I’m very worried and that’s why my government has provided support for both the Jewish community and the Muslim community and Palestinian communities,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
 Anthony Albanese says Australians need to cool the temperature over the conflict in the Middle East. Image by Brent Lewin/AAP PHOTOS 

“We know that there has been a rise in anti-Semitism, I’m very concerned at some of the attacks that have occurred on businesses.”

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against businesses owned by Jewish people was an example of this, Mr Albanese said.

“That is anti-Semitic, very explicitly, it should be called out and it should be opposed,” he said. 

Racism against Palestinians and Islamophobia also needed to be condemned, the prime minister said.

“Attacks that have occurred on young women in particular, for happening to wear a hijab down the street in the suburbs of our cities, is completely unacceptable as well,” he said. 

“We have a great multicultural nation here and it’s really important that some of the rhetoric that’s occurred be dulled down.

“We’re aware that some of the tensions mean that people are emotional but it’s very important that conflicts overseas do not create conflict and trauma here in Australia.”

Australia is also mulling a request to send a warship to the Red Sea as Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen enforce a blockade on ships going to Israel. 

Protesters at a pro-Palestine demonstration in Brisbane.
 The PM says it is very important that conflicts overseas do not create conflict and trauma here. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

But the callout from the US was not a direct request to Canberra, Mr Albanese said.

“We will give consideration to that appropriately,” he said. 

“But this wasn’t a request, to be clear, from the US government to my government, this was a general request to a range of nations for support there.”

Australian and US officials are expected to discuss the request during a meeting this week.

But Australia’s priority would remain in the immediate region, Mr Albanese said.

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network has called on the government to reject the request.

“Rather than involve the Australian navy in the Middle East conflict, the Australian government should focus on diplomatic efforts to end Israel’s brutal invasion and occupation of Gaza,” spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly said.

The government is also facing pressure from human rights organisations, aid agencies and activists to call for a full ceasefire after Australia voted in favour of a humanitarian ceasefire at the United Nations.

The Australian arms of Save the Children, Amnesty International and Oxfam joined more than 800 organisations across more than 93 countries in the call to peace on the Global Day of Action.

Rally for solidarity with Israel in Sydney
 The war in the Middle East has heightened tensions in Australian communities. Image by Steven Markham/AAP PHOTOS 

It comes as Israel opened a direct crossing for aid trucks to enter Gaza.

But attacks have not let up as military pressure was the only way the remaining hostages would be freed, Tel Aviv said.

The Palestinian death toll is nearing 20,000, according to Gaza health officials, with thousands more buried in rubble.

Half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people were starving, according to the UN, after Israel enforced a blockage after Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the Australian government, launched an attack across the border on October 7.

About 1200 people were killed in the Hamas assault and more than 200 others were taken hostage, according to Tel Aviv.

with Reuters