Fight over Israel, Gaza rhetoric as aid request lingers

Andrew Brown and Dominic Giannini |

Adam Bandt says the attorney-general made defamatory comments about him over Palestine protests.
Adam Bandt says the attorney-general made defamatory comments about him over Palestine protests.

The federal government has been criticised for its handling of tensions in the Middle East as a US request for aid in Gaza remains unfulfilled.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has threatened Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus with legal action over claims the minor party’s MPs encouraged pro-Palestinian protests that led to electorate offices being damaged.

Mr Bandt accused the government and the coalition of trying to detract from the situation in Gaza after both major parties blamed the Greens for stoking community tensions.

Adam Bandt
Greens leader Adam Bandt has threatened Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus with legal action. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

The Greens leader denounced violence in any form at a press conference on Thursday and confirmed he had served a legal notice to Mr Dreyfus for comments about his role in such protests.

“The prime minister is desperate to make it about anything other than the children who are dying in Gaza and the people who are being slaughtered,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said the Greens had been misrepresenting the government’s response to the conflict in the Middle East.

“We’ve been clear about our concern for the people of Gaza,” she told ABC TV.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused the Greens of being central to university campus protests where there were anti-Semitic chants and accused members of being “evil”.

Mr Bandt retorted: “I will not be lectured to about peace and non-violence from a prime minister and opposition leader who back the invasion of Gaza and continue to do so right up to this day, even as we see the tragic suffering”.

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi also accused the Liberals of ignoring Islamophobia on campuses.

Julian Leeser
Liberal MP Julian Leeser has raised concerns about rising levels of anti-Semitism in Australia. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

But Liberal MP Julian Leeser expressed frustration at the government, universities and other bodies being “unable to say anti-Semitism without saying Islamophobia in the same breath”.

He used a speech to raise concerns about rising levels of anti-Semitism in Australia following the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, after the designated terrorist organisation killed 1200 people and took more than 200 hostages.

Israel’s counter-offensive has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians and injured more than 80,000 people, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

“To fail to singularly identify and call out the particularity of anti-Semitism, and indeed the largest increase in anti-Semitism in our history, in and of itself is anti-Semitic,” Mr Leeser told parliament.

Australia has expressed concern for the humanitarian situation but a US request for help building and sustaining a new pier in Gaza for delivering aid remains unanswered. 

Defence department officials have briefed the government on the matter, with factors under consideration including the security situation and logistics for personnel, such as food and accommodation.

Hugh Jeffrey
Defence official Hugh Jeffrey said Australia was in discussions about providing aid to Gaza. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Australia would provide assistance outside the Indo-Pacific where possible but partners closer to the region often replied “more rapidly and with a greater capability”, deputy secretary Hugh Jeffrey said.

“We have been involved in discussions with the United States and other partners around humanitarian support to the crisis in Gaza,” he said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham criticised the government for not responding to the US request to international partners.