Destroyed building in Gaza City
Politicians are expressing concern about Australia's diaspora communities amid violence overseas. Image by AP PHOTO
  • politics

MPs seek to turn down heat on Israel-Gaza debate

Kat Wong December 1, 2023

Federal politicians have urged respect in the Australian community as complex and ancient rivalries play out in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Labor and coalition MPs with multicultural electorates are seeking to turn down the heat and anger, as two Hamas gunmen killed three people at a Jerusalem bus stop.

The shooting came as a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas was extended for a seventh day with hostage and prisoner swaps continuing.

It followed weeks of violence sparked by the militant group’s attack on October 7 that killed 1200 Israelis and led to hundreds more being taken hostage.

Education minister Jason Clare
 Jason Clare says Australians should unite to “turn down the heat” over the Middle East conflict. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS 

Cabinet minister Jason Clare reiterated the distinction between Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by the Australian government, and the civilians living in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“There are a lot of innocent people that are caught in the crossfire,” he told Seven’s Sunrise on Friday.

“All of those dead bodies we see on our TVs every night – if you’re a Jewish Australian or if you’re a Palestinian Australian – are different because those people often are their family.

“That’s why they’re angry, it’s why they’re scared, that’s why they’re asking for a bit of compassion from us.”

All Australians, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, should unite to turn down the heat, Mr Clare said.

“We can’t change what’s happening on the other side of the world, but we’ve got to keep this country together.” 

Prior to the truce, Israel responded by unleashing a bombing campaign and imposing a blockade on food, water and electricity that has killed more than 15,000 Gazans and displaced nearly 80 per cent of the population.

The conflict had sparked unprecedented discord in the Australian community, deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said.

“I have despair at the lack of humanity from Hamas to the Palestinian people of Gaza and we have to remember that using those people as human shields in this conflict has triggered some pretty awful results,” she told Sunrise.

“We have to remember that there are Jewish Australians who are fearful to show the symbols of their faith to get on their school buses, to worship at their synagogues.”

Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley
 Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley said she had never seen such discord in Australia before. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS 

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham echoed his colleagues’ calls to maintain peace within Australia.

“People are free in Australia to express their views (but) they should do so never in a way that intimidates others,” he told Sky News.

“They must do so in a way that is respectful of complexities here and the fact that there are tragedies felt by all sides.”

Acknowledging the historical context was important, Labor MP Julian Hill said.

“This didn’t just start on October 7th – as many people in my community know viscerally – this is a 75-year-old conflict,” he told ABC radio.

A desire for a ceasefire is a “deeply human response” and Mr Hill welcomed the pause, but he urged Australians to maintain social cohesion.

“I don’t want to see these ancient hatreds, or this 75-year-old conflict, break out in violence in our community,” he said.