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Sydney Imam: Labor should have condemned ‘heinous Israeli crime’ that killed two Australian citizens

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30 December 2023, The Australian, by Joanna Panagopoulos and Mohammad Alfares

Terrorist group Hezbollah should not be condemned for attacking Israel and Labor should demand Australian-Israelis leave the Jewish homeland, a prominent southwest Sydney Imam says.

The death of Ali – claimed as a fighter and martyr by Hezbollah – and his brother this week has heightened tensions in Australia over the Israel-Hamas war as intelligence agencies ramp up efforts to prevent local violent attacks inspired by the Middle East conflict.

Sheik Yousef called the Israeli air strike on the Bazzi brothers’ home in southern Lebanon a “heinous Israeli crime” that should be condemned by the Australian government.

The sermon came as Hezbollah said its attack on Israeli border town Kiryat Shmona on Thursday was a retaliation to the airstrike that killed the Bazzi brothers.

The imam’s comments prompted one senior security expert to warn against comparisons between Australians joining a professional state-based military force such as Israel’s and terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah.

Hezbollah gave Ali, 30, military honours as his funeral. The terrorist group did not claim Ibrahim, 27, or his Lebanon-based wife Shourouk Hammoud. Several of Ibrahim’s closest friends told The Australian that Ibrahim had nothing to do with the group.

Masjid Arrahman – also known as al-Rahman Mosque – has previously commemorated Hezbollah fighters who died in Lebanon as “martyrs”.

The Lebanese Shia political and militant group is a listed terrorist organisation under Australian law.

Sheik Youssef appeared to take umbrage at Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’s comments urging Australians against travelling to Lebanon, where there was daily military activity. “For Australians in Lebanon, we urge you to leave while commercial options remain available,” the minister said.

But Sheik Youssef said his community was surprised that Mr Dreyfus “would demand that Australians of Lebanese descent leave Lebanon immediately and also demand that Hezbollah cease its attacks on Israel”.

“We expected the government and Australians to condemn, in the strongest terms, this heinous Israeli crime and to take a strong position in demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and southern Lebanon,” he said.

“When you called on Australians of Lebanese descent to leave Lebanon, why did you not call on Australian-Israelis to leave Israel? On the contrary, they are actually joining the Israel Defence Force … How come you don’t ask them to leave?”

Sheik Youssef said “we know the amount of pressure that the ­Israeli regime is putting on Australian politicians” and invited them “to be more balanced with their discourse, and to exercise their humanity when discussing these events”.

“It is shameful to put the killer, the murdered, the prosecutor, the prisoner, the butcher, and the victim in the same room,” he said.

“What is even more shameful and disgusting is condemning the victim and defending the criminal and the killer.”

Questions remain over killed Australian brothers and Hezbollah involvement claims

More questions remain than answers over the “lack of clarity” from the Australian government on the two… Australian brothers killed in an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon this week, Sky News Senior Reporter Caroline Marcus says. “After terror group Hezbollah claimed one of the brothers, Ali Bazzi as one of More

Strategic Analysis Australia director Peter Jennings said Mr Dreyfus’s comments were sound and that imams should be careful giving such “partial, politically motivated lectures”.

“I would draw a distinction between people motivated to join a terror organisation, declared illegal in Australia versus the idea of a national wanting to join the defence force, the legit defence force of a legit country,” Mr Jennings said.

“There may be some Australians who join IDF, it’s not an illegal terror organisation.

“I think it’s not helpful when imams to give such partial, politically-motivated lectures to their congregations.

“What they should really be wanting them to do is to educate themselves on the details of these things.”

ANU counter-terrorism expert Clive Williams said Australians and the government should distance itself from the Middle East conflict.

“I don’t think we should be involving ourselves in (the) IDF … And I don’t think Australians should be involving themselves with Hezbollah either,” Professor Williams said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said Hezbollah was an “enemy” of Australian values and should not be supported by anyone in this country.

“To extol Hezbollah during a prayer service is to celebrate evil and pervert religion,” he said.

“The Middle East has for centuries been cursed with senseless acts of bloodshed incited by the bigotry and the lies of hate preachers. It’s the last thing we want in Australia and it cannot be allowed to happen here.”

By 8pm on Friday more than 100 people had filed into the al-Zahra mosque in the southern Sydney suburb of Arncliffe for a commemoration for Ibrahim Bazzi. Al-Zahra is the largest Shia Islam mosque in the country.

Family groups entered mostly wearing black.

Sheik Youssef earlier offered his deepest condolences to the dead Australians’ families.

“Last Tuesday, the Israeli forces launched an aerial strike on the city of Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon, which led to the martyrdom of two brothers who both held Australian citizenship, along with the wife of one of them,” he said.

“We would like to offer their families our deepest condolences and we ask Allah almighty to ­accept them and gather them with the Prophets, the martyrs, the righteous people and good friends.”

Mr Dreyfus said on Thursday that his government was investigating Ali Bazzi’s alleged links to Hezbollah.

Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said he would “not … leap to any conclusion” about Ali’s Hezbollah links but warned Australians not to join the group. “What I do know is that it’s against the law of Australia, the law of the sovereign nation that you live in, to join a terrorist ­organisation overseas,” he told Channel 7. “Australia is now your home, be happy with the opportunities you’ve got for your families here in Australia.”

Mr Shorten also said it was “crucial” that Australians maintain social cohesion amid the “incredibly distressing” conflict in the Middle East.

“I like to think most sensible Australians take the advice of ­security agencies very seriously,” he said.

“My message is to people who come from other parts of the world, you can never forget where you’ve come from, but don’t bring these arguments to these shores.”

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Article source: The Australian/ Joanna Panagopoulos and Mohammad Alfares 30.12.2023

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000