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Jihad call by preacher in Sydney must be dealt with

Article’s tags: International Law, October 7

In the worst show of radical Islamist rhetoric seen in Australia for years, a preacher in western Sydney has urged worshippers to unleash Jihad. “Jihad is the solution … Raise up the flag of ‘there is no god but Allah’ so you die as a martyr,’’ the demented Brother Ismail – with a young child beside him – preached to his attentive audience at the Al Madina Dawah Centre at Bankstown in western Sydney. He does not represent moderate Muslims, whom he condemned. He and his followers reflect the grotesque hatreds that have surfaced across the world, including in Western democracies, since Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1400 innocent Israelis, slashing the throats of babies in front of their parents on October 7 and taking hundreds hostage. The Hamas attackers, Brother Ismail claimed, were “mujahidin, freedom fighters, honourable men”. Australia’s flag “is not our flag’’, he declared. Allah had exposed Anthony Albanese’s lies when the Prime Minister said Israel had the right to defend itself and labelled Hamas as terrorists. Australians were “hypocrites” for seeing Hamas’ massacre as “terrorism’’ while “forgetting (Australia’s own) dark past.” If the Australian government or ASIO “like it or not, if they want to deport me or not …’’ he dared authorities. Whatever “Brother Ismail’s ’’ real name and background, we would urge authorities to look at that option as soon as possible.

The 28-minute harangue is unlike anything that has been seen in Australia since Sydney’s Hyde Park riot 11 years ago when protesters brandished posters urging: “Behead all those who insult the Prophet” and “Behead those who insult Islam.” It signals a return to the extremism evident during the darkest days of Islamic State and al-Qa’ida militancy. The Al Madina Dawah Centre released the video, which raises the question: what is being preached behind closed doors?

From prestigious US universities such as Harvard to the once-peaceful, beautifully kept Jewish cemeteries desecrated in recent days in Vienna and Paris, violent anti-Semitism has flared across the world to a degree not seen since the Second World War. The stabbing of a Jewish woman in Lyon, France, with police finding a swastika drawn on her front door afterwards, exemplifies the spectre. Such behaviour has no place in Australia. It must not be tolerated by police, governments and under human rights laws. Around the world, the surge in extremist anti-Semitism has amplified what is at stake in Israel’s moral quest for survival and to destroy Hamas. At this stage, Israel’s war cabinet has had good reason to have refused to contemplate a ceasefire, and to resist pressure from the Biden administration for a “humanitarian pause”, advocated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he met Arab leaders in Jordan at the weekend. That call has been supported by Foreign Minister Penny Wong. With the Jewish state fighting a desperate battle for its very existence, and Jews across the world under concerted anti-Semitic attack, Israel’s war cabinet is right to stand its ground.

As Israeli forces advance strongly to complete their strategically vital encirclement of Gaza City, a ceasefire or even a pause in fighting is exactly what Hamas wants. It strains credulity to believe anything other than Hamas would use any pause to its advantage. The belief such murderers might give up their hostages or stop using innocent Gazans as human shields in return for a ceasefire is pie in the sky. History shows that, like their Iranian pay masters, Hamas will hang on to hostages as long as they can, as they provide their best leverage as Israel’s forces close in. The best way to help desperate Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire is not to slow Israel’s steady military advance with dubious pauses. Weakening control of Gaza’s streets by Hamas would allow more Gazans to escape the fighting. The destruction of Hamas should also allow more aid to be brought in, on a greater scale than the 100 trucks a day now being provided, reducing the risk of it being pilfered by the terrorists.

As the war enters its fifth week, the interests of Gaza’s people and civilised nations in which Jewish citizens play a constructive, important role in economic and community life, will be best served if Israel achieves its objective of to destroy Hamas as soon as possible. Only by doing so will there be a possibility, in the longer term, to rebuild Gaza and to find a durable solution to the challenges of sustained peace and progress towards Palestinian statehood.

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