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Australian Public Divided on Israel – Hamas War

Police watch as protesters march during a pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney, Australia, Nov. 4, 2023, in support of Palestinians caught up in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Police watch as protesters march during a pro-Palestinian rally in Sydney, Australia, Nov. 4, 2023, in support of Palestinians caught up in the war between Israel and Hamas.

The war in Gaza has splintered public opinion in Australia, where there have been large pro-Palestinian demonstrations and rallies by supporters of Israel.

Community groups are reporting a significant increase in Islamophobic and antisemitic abuse in Australia since the conflict began.

Death threats, physical violence, arson and verbal abuse are some of the Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents that have been reported in Australia since the start of the war between Israel and the militant group Hamas in Gaza.

Data from Islamophobia Register Australia, a community group, indicates that Islamophobic attacks have increased 13-fold since the start of the conflict.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry has told local media that it has seen a six-fold increase in antisemitic incidents in the same period.

Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian rallies have been regularly held in Australia since the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas.

A recent discussion on the Australian Broadcasting Corp's Q and A program brought together various experts, who answered video questions from viewers.

Daniel Lowinger asked the panel why Israeli captives held by Hamas were not mentioned more in the media.

“Do those who are calling for a cease-fire mean to also include the hostages and their safe return – women, children and all? And if they do, why do they never mention them?” Lowinger asked.

Ayman, a Palestinian man living in Western Australia, asked Dave Sharma, Australia’s former ambassador to Israel, about the bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

“Question to Sharma. Dave, you have been to Gaza before. You know everyone there is not Hamas. You have met them. You have seen them in your own eyes. You know my dead sister is not Hamas. That my other sister, still trapped in Gaza, is not Hamas. And you are a father, too. You have children," he said. "How many more dead Gaza kids is OK? How can you sleep at night continuing to support this disproportionate attack that is literally killing thousands of innocent children like my nieces and nephew?”

Sharma, a member of the conservative Liberal Party, responded that the “loss of innocent life” was a “terrible tragedy,” but he added that until Hamas was “ousted from political power,” he did not see a way to resolve the conflict.

One of two Muslim members of the Australian cabinet says Palestinian civilians have paid "too heavy a price" as a result of the Israel-Gaza war.

Minister of Science and Industry Ed Husic told local media that he condemned what he described as Hamas' "horrific" attack on Oct. 7, but said Israel’s response had been "very disproportionate."

“My concern then was that innocent Palestinians would pay a truly too heavy a price and that is exactly what we have seen and I think, clearly, we have got to take concrete steps to a cease-fire that sees all hostages released and sees Israel stop that action that has led to the loss of life of innocent Palestinians," he said. "Nearly 70% according to the U.N. are women and children.”

A poll published Nov. 29 by Roy Morgan, an independent Melbourne-based research organization, in conjunction with the Islamic Society of South Australia found that 49% of Australians believe the Canberra government should "not take sides" in the current crisis in Israel and Gaza.

Of 1,006 respondents aged over 18, some 19% said the Australian government "should do more to support Palestine" and 17% said it "should do more to support Israel."

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong is preparing to visit Israel and other Middle Eastern countries in January to help efforts to secure peace.

Wong’s trip will be the first visit to the region by an Australian federal cabinet minister since the attack by the Hamas militant group on Israel on Oct. 7.

A delegation of Australian lawmakers is scheduled to travel to Israel next week to express solidarity with the Israeli people.

The Canberra government is committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state co‑exist within internationally recognized borders.

Australia has insisted Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas militants but has also urged restraint.