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Cabinet Minister Ed Husic says Palestinians are being ‘collectively punished’ for Hamas’ barbarism

Industry Minister Ed Husic, the only Muslim in the Albanese cabinet, has said he feels “very strongly” that Palestinians are being “collectively punished” for Hamas’ barbarism.

As the Middle East crisis risks raising tensions within Labor, which has a divided feelings about Palestine, Husic sought to tread a careful line, while emphasising the mounting toll of Palestinian victims.

“Let me put it in a way that might be difficult for some to hear,” he said on the ABC. “It might also go to some way explaining why Palestinians and people who are sympathetic of them have reacted in the way that they have.”

He said the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians had been described as Israel’s equivalent of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

“The number of Palestinians that have been killed so far equates to the number of people who lost their lives in 9/11,” Husic said.

“We don’t see any public landmarks in Australia that are being lit up in red, black, white and green,” a reference to the Opera House and Parliament House being lit with Israel’s colours after the attacks.

“Now there will be people that are very uncomfortable with me making that remark. But it goes to the heart of what Palestinians and those who care for them in Australia […] think, which is that Palestinian lives are considered lesser.”

A humanitarian catastrophe was unfolding in Gaza, Husic said. There were choices that could be made to avoid that.

“It’s really important that we are conscious of that, and that we contribute to international voices speaking up for Palestinians, particularly innocent Palestinian families.” The 3000 deaths so far included about 1000 children.

It was important to say there had to be “a more strategic and precise way to hold Hamas to account, but not affect innocent Palestinian families,” he said.

“You’ve got homes, schools, medical centres destroyed – that’s before we even contemplate how they’ll get rebuilt. No food, fuel, medicines, water.

"It’s no surprise that there are some saying that this is the collective punishment being extended to Palestinians.”

Husic said he was very mindful of Anthony Albanese’s words that protecting the innocent was not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. “I genuinely believe there needs to be a de-escalation.”

He also felt while pursuing a two-state solution was once seen as important, now “this is spoken more as a way in which we can just comfort ourselves at these points, and then when the situation and the tensions subside, nothing practically happens”.

Husic said he had made clear his depth of feeling for Israelis who had suffered and acknowledged Israel’s would respond to the Hamas barbarism.

“I have made that clear, but I’m also genuinely concerned about what happens to innocent Palestinians from this point on.”

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Anne Aly, also Muslim, who is in the outer ministry, said some people said Israel had committed war crimes. Asked whether she believed that, she told the ABC it was “possibly something that could be investigated. And I think that anyone, any state or any group that commits war crimes should be investigated and should be held accountable.”

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said Husic’s comments exposed Labor’s deep division about Israel.

“Cabinet ministers do not get the luxury of freelancing on foreign policy and the precedent is very clear when ministers publicly disagree with their government’s official position,” Ley said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the Senate: “Every innocent life matters, whether Israeli or Palestinian.”

She said at home “our role as a government and I would say our role as a Senate is to do all we can to keep our country unified, to make sure our community feels heard.

"There are times where it is important that we actually put aside partisan politics and differences of views because there’s a greater purpose to what we are doing,” she said.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton said the Prime Minister, who will be in Washington for a state visit next week, should go to Israel.

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