Australian Labor MP condemns Israel’s bombing of Gaza schools

A cabinet minister has condemned the killing of civilians and the bombing of schools in Gaza following warnings from an ex-Labor senator that Muslim and Arab voters are feeling disenfranchised by the federal government’s rhetoric.

Education Minister Jason Clare said the war in Gaza had affected his community in Western Sydney more than most, due to the higher proportion of Muslims and people from the Middle East.

“I condemn the killing of any innocent people, whether it’s the bombing of a hospital in Ukraine or whether it’s the bombing of a school in Gaza — death is death,” the Blaxland MP said on Thursday.

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“Those dead bodies that we see on TV every night, they have names, and in my community sometimes they’re brothers and sisters, they are family.

“And that’s why they see it differently, that’s why they feel it differently, that’s why they’re hurting so much.”

The Labor government had stood up for Palestine by supporting a ceasefire, voting for greater recognition at the United Nations and reversing the previous government’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he added.

“We’ve made all of those points clear and I know that there is more work to do — ultimately what people want is the killing to stop,” Clare told reporters in Sydney.

Fatima PaymanFatima Payman
Senator Fatima Payman resigned from the Labor Party. Credit: AAP

There was an “overwhelming” level of dissatisfaction among Labor voters because the government had failed to move ahead with its policy to formally recognise a Palestinian state, Senator Fatima Payman said.

The Muslim senator for Western Australia resigned from the Labor party last week after earlier crossing the floor to side with a Greens motion supporting Palestinian statehood.

“People wanted to see more from a Labor government and they’re quite disappointed,” she told The Conversation.

“I was making a lot of ruckus and noise behind the scenes, talking to colleagues, literally telling them that we’re bleeding … this is going to impact us electorally, people are not happy with us, and I felt like it went on deaf ears.”

She called on Labor to use its opportunity while in government to fulfil its pledge to recognise a Palestinian state, which was in line with what its members and unionists wanted.

“The advocates from Gough Whitlam to Bob Hawke to Paul Keating, all those big Labor giants who have been so outspoken on Palestinians’ right to self-determination and statehood,” she said.

“And knowing that the prime minister himself has advocated for longer than I’ve been around — for me, I felt like this is the best time.”

But she stopped short of backing faith-based political parties, as speculation swirls that pro-Palestine independents could target Labor heartland in Western Sydney over the government’s rhetoric on the war in Gaza.

“I don’t think it would be wise to have a Muslim party … because you need to look at your broader base,” Payman said.

According to the Muslim Vote website, Clare and a number of his Sydney federal colleagues — including Tony Burke, Chris Bowen and Andrew Charlton — could be challenged at next year’s election.

The Muslim Vote says it’s not a political party, but wants to mobilise people to support independent candidates in these seats.

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