Muslims tell Australian Prime Minister that the Israelis are acting like terrorists
MUSLIM leaders have accused the Israeli Government of acting like a terrorist organisation over the past three weeks, during a tough-talking phone hook-up with Prime Minister John Howard.
Representatives from the Muslim Community Reference Group urged Mr Howard during a 30-minute discussion yesterday to condemn the targeting of innocent civilians in Lebanon and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
But delegates told The Age that Mr Howard rejected the group's claims that the Israeli Government had deliberately targeted civilians and said any ceasefire would have to be conditional.
During the "very frank" talks, Mr Howard also ruled out making changes to his Government's 10-year-old foreign policy regarding Israel and criticised delegates for not condemning the activities of Hezbollah, according to the group's chairman, Ameer Ali.
Dr Ali this week said he would write to Mr Howard asking him to remove Hezbollah from the list of banned terrorist organisations.
"The Prime Minister clarified the Government proscribed only the military wing of Hezbollah, not the political wing," Dr Ali said. "We felt even the military wing was not a terrorist organisation — that was a point of difference."
In a statement, the Muslim Community Reference Group said: "We condemn the Israeli Government for its blatant disregard of humanity and international law and believe their actions over the last three weeks are more suited to a terrorist organisation."
The group told Mr Howard that in order to prevent hostilities in Australia, the Government needed to display an even-handed approach in its condemnation of the loss of innocent lives. Dr Ali said he also expressed his sincere thanks to the Government for its work in repatriating Australian citizens from Lebanon.
Delegate Mustapha Kara-Ali said it was frustrating that Mr Howard refused to acknowledge that Lebanon had a right to defend itself against occupation.
Before the phone hook-up, Mr Howard said there would be no change of attitude to Hezbollah.
Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council said of the Muslim group's characterisation of Israel: "This very disappointing, wrong-headed and inflammatory statement undermines communal cohesion in Australia".
PM disagrees with Muslims on Hizbollah
PM can't be swayed on Hezbollah
Controversy over Hizbollah terror status