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The decision to abstain from a UN resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas has fuelled frustrations with Labor in Australia’s Muslim community, according to the Federation of Islamic Councils.
Chief executive Kamalle Dabboussy said some Muslim leaders were discussing blocking Labor MPs from mosques and community centres over the government’s support for Israel. It comes as tensions rise within Labor’s caucus over contradictory messaging on the Middle East conflict from senior cabinet ministers.
“I am hearing of talk about non-engagement with the government and not welcoming them in our centres,” Dabboussy said. “There is anger in the community and there is talk of questioning the value of engagement.”
Islamic Council of Victoria’s Adel Salman said he had also heard of Islamic centres making Labor MPs unwelcome, saying it was an unsurprising reaction to “one-sided” statements from Labor figures.
Australia’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, James Larsen, said Australia abstained because the resolution failed to recognise Hamas’ responsibility for the October 7 massacre of 1400 innocent Israelis.
Dabboussy said the Muslim community had for many years developed a close relationship with Labor, but the community felt it had been “dropped like a hot potato” since the outbreak of war.
The nation’s living ex-prime ministers were in discussions over the weekend about a joint statement of support for Israel. However, Paul Keating issued his own statement on Sunday saying he would not be a signatory, casting doubt on the show of support.
Peter Dutton has attacked the government after Australia abstained on a UN resolution over the conflict.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke, whose western Sydney seat has a large proportion of Muslims, last week acknowledged the feelings of those who believed Palestinian deaths were not being grieved by Australia’s political establishment.
In an escalation of the domestic political fallout from the war, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese should give Burke a “dressing down” after the Labor frontbencher refused to say in an ABC radio interview if he thought Israel was committing genocide.
Dutton, who Trade Minister Don Farrell claimed was trying to score political points through a war, said Australia should have stood with “our long-standing allies” on the UN vote.
“The prime minister had an opportunity here in the United Nations to send a clear message about our values and where we stand. And he failed that test. And I think it was an incredibly weak display of leadership from the prime minister,” Dutton said on Sky News.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will raise China’s refusal to condemn Hamas when he visits this week.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Albanese said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s refusal to condemn Hamas over its attacks was among the topics he would raise when he visits China this week in a highly anticipated trip.
“We have a very different position when it comes to the actions of a terrorist group like Hamas, and we’ve seen the dreadful consequences,” Albanese told the ABC’s Insiders program in a pre-recorded interview aired on Sunday.
The General Delegation of Palestine in Australia, which represents the Palestinian Authority, released a statement on Sunday saying it was “deeply disappointing” Australia did not support the UN declaration, which passed with 120 members voting yes and 14 voting no.
Zionist Federation of Australia President Jeremy Leibler said: “Australia made the right decision not to support a UN General Assembly resolution on Gaza that failed to condemn the barbaric terrorist attack … or call for the release of more than 229 hostages”.
Burke’s comments have raised eyebrows in some quarters of Labor’s caucus. Some MPs believe his rhetoric was at odds with the government’s support for the Middle East’s only liberal democracy in a fight against a listed terror group.
Senior members of the government have had conversations about Burke’s language, which came after Muslim cabinet ministers Ed Husic and Anne Aly made earlier remarks criticising Israel’s response to Hamas’ terrorist attack.
One MP said: “Albo and Penny [Wong] have been super careful getting the tone right. What Burke did was totally reckless.”
Burke has been contacted for comment.
Mike Freelander, a Jewish Labor MP and strong supporter of Israel, said Burke was speaking for his constituents and did not deserve to be criticised.
Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
“There’s sadness on both sides and I think the government’s response has been right,” he said.
Senior government ministers have in recent weeks held talks with top Muslim leaders to discuss the war, which is exposing divisions within Labor and the broader community.
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