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Labor MP Peter Khalil says activists who dumped fake dead bodies outside politicians’ offices to protest Israel’s military action in Gaza are traumatising his staff and using the war for political gain as Labor and Coalition MPs broke ranks to join growing calls for a ceasefire.
Labor’s Maria Vamvakinou and Fatima Payman and the Nationals’ Mark Coulton joined the Greens on Thursday in calling for an immediate end to hostilities in the besieged Gaza Strip, where Israeli forces have killed more than 11,000, according to Hamas-run authorities.
Peter Khalil criticised protesters’ tactics, saying “vandalism and intimidation cannot be the answer”.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Since Hamas fighters killed about 1200 Israelis in surprise attacks on October 7, Israel has been under increasing pressure to spare civilian lives as it aims to wipe out the terrorist group that runs Gaza, prompting large protests across the world.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong stepped up her criticism of Israel’s military action on Sunday, calling for “steps towards a ceasefire” but stressing it could not be one-sided and must include the release of civilian hostages by Hamas. Her remark, which Opposition Leader Peter Dutton slammed as “reckless”, infuriated Jewish groups that believe a ceasefire would embolden Hamas.
A group called No More Bodies in Gaza on Wednesday placed fake dead bodies outside the offices of Khalil, Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten.
Khalil, the chair of the powerful joint security and intelligence committee, on Thursday criticised the protesters’ tactics.
“I completely understand that people, regardless of their religious, ethnic, cultural or political background, are in pain and experiencing trauma over what is happening in Gaza and Israel. I am deeply upset and concerned myself,” he said in a written statement.
“As I have said many times, I will always support the right of every Australian to protest peacefully and express their opinion. However, frightening and intimidating my staff and leaving threatening messages … is not the solution to the humanitarian crisis and conflict in Gaza and Israel. Vandalism and intimidation cannot be the answer.”
Khalil said most of his staff members dealing with these incidents were young women.
“They are juggling this difficult work alongside multiple professional and personal responsibilities. Many of us in the office – myself included – have personal connections to the region and are feeling the crisis deeply,” he said.
Fake dead bodies were dumped outside Labor electorate offices on Wednesday morning.
“I call on all sides of politics and all parties to avoid using the conflict overseas – which is causing massive human suffering – for domestic political gain.”
Vamvakinou, a veteran Labor MP from Melbourne, raised the case of a family “trapped in rubble” in Gaza.
“Their 10-year-old child is dead. And the rest of the family members have to remain in that house because there’s no possibility of evacuation. And there’s no one to come and remove the child’s body. So you have a family with children and one of the children is dead. This is Gaza today,” she said.
“We have to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.”
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties and Liberty Victoria have written a joint letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling for him to advocate for a ceasefire. It states Australia must not “contribute to the risk of ethnic cleansing occurring”, a charge Israel rejects.
with Olivia Ireland
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