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MORE than 100 Australian Jews, including two award-winning novelists and a former federal cabinet minister, have signed a statement condemning Israel's siege of Gaza, heightening tensions within the local Jewish community over the violence.
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, meanwhile called yesterday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but refused to criticise the Israeli offensive.
Authors Linda Jaivin and Sara Dowse, the environment minister in the Whitlam government, Moss Cass, and the NSW Greens leader, Ian Cohen, are among 120 Australian Jews to accuse the Israeli Government of a "grossly disproportionate military assault on Gaza because it was Israel that violated the fragile truce on November 4, 2008".
Their statement has provoked a backlash from leaders of Australia's main Jewish groups, who argue that Israel is acting in self-defence.
The statement was co-ordinated, but not endorsed, by the group Independent Australian Jewish Voices. It is part of an international outcry from dissident Jewish groups, including J Street in the US an