One of the Albanian government’s most senior ministers is the latest to break ranks with Australia’s unwavering support for Israel and rally behind the Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
Employment and Industrial Relations Minister and Arts Minister Tony Burke on Friday released a video of an interview with ABC Radio National breakfast presenter Patricia Karvelas in which he supported a local councilor’s decision to fly the Palestine flag outside its offices.
“I fully support Canterbury-Bankstown Council’s decision to fly the Palestinian flag and this is why,” the video’s caption reads.
The City of Canterbury-Bankstown has voted to fly the Palestinian flag outside municipal offices until a ceasefire is declared in Palestine.
In the interview, Ms Karvelas asked Mr Burke if he supported the move, to which he replied: “I fully support the decision.”
“You have to understand that people in my part of Sydney are watching everyday death.” “They are looking at everyday images, sometimes of people they know, often of children,” he said.
Mr Burke is a member of Watson, which covers western Sydney suburbs.
“A working woman recently told me she had never seen so many bodies of dead babies in her life,” he said.
“When I walk through the suburbs across from Belmore, Lakemba, where I live in Punchbowl, all the way to Bankstown, pretty much everyone knows someone who has lost someone.”
Mr Burke said until Canterbury-Bankstown Council made the decision to fly the Palestinian flag, “there was no place in Australia where these colors were recognized as worthy of mourning”.
In support of the Palestinians, Mr Burke said: “We cannot say that we only mourn certain people who are being slaughtered.”
Mr Burke stressed that the flag was not the flag of Hamas, but the flag of Palestine, and that this “offers the chance that there is recognition and not selective mourning”.
“We cannot say that we only mourn certain people who are slaughtered.” “We cannot have a situation as a nation where we only officially recognize certain deaths,” he said.
Meanwhile, a senior Australian Jewish organization has criticized Ms Karvelas and Mr Burke for “pushing the idea” that Palestinians are victims of genocide during Friday’s interview.
Karvelas asked the minister whether he considered the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza an act of genocide.
Mr Burke said he would prefer to “describe the facts” and let listeners “find their own words”.
Alex Ryvchin, co-chief executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the interview was a clear example of how “language and leadership matter”, adding that the council “expects better”.
“Genocide is not a slogan. “It is the most heinous crime a nation can commit and involves the deliberate extermination of an ethnic group,” Ryvchin said.
“It is deeply irresponsible for a respected journalist to lend credence to the claim and for a Cabinet minister to have even entertained this idea.”
Mr Burke is the third member of the Albanian government to speak out on behalf of the Palestinians in recent weeks.
Senior federal minister Ed Husic said last week that Palestinians would be “collectively punished for Hamas’ barbarism” in a bold statement condemning Israel’s reprisals in Gaza.
Federal Minister Ed Husic (center) said last week that Palestinians would be “collectively punished for Hamas’ barbarism.”
Western Australian Labor MP Anne Aly immediately backed Husic, saying it was “hard to argue” that Palestinians, including 1,000 children killed, would not be “punished collectively”.
Aly, the early childhood education minister, suggested that Israel could be investigated for war crimes.
However, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stood by US President Joe Biden at a lavish state dinner this week to support Israel.
President Biden welcomed Mr. Albanese to the White House on Thursday and emphasized the two countries’ alliance against the backdrop of violence in Israel and Ukraine.
“Together we stand with Israel against Hamas’ terrorism.” “We stand with Ukraine against Putin’s tyranny,” Biden said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured right with Boe Biden) joined the US president at a lavish state dinner this week to support Israel
Left to right: Jodie Haydon, Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden and Jill Biden at a state dinner this week
Before the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Albanese praised Mr. Biden’s involvement in the Israel-Gaza war in a speech to several thousand people on the South Lawn outside.
“All Australians condemn the atrocities, terror and merciless brutality of Hamas,” he said.
“And Mr. President, we applaud the personal resolve you have brought to this troubled part of the world.”
Meanwhile, pro-Israel supporters struck at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Friday after about nine Palestinian flags were raised at the city’s popular landmark.
It is currently unknown who raised the flags.
According to a Facebook event, a two-hour “Vigil for Gaza” organized by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Casey Friends of Palestine and Free Palestine Melbourne will be held at Federation Square from 7pm.
Since Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7, Israel has waged a relentless campaign against the terrorist group in the besieged Gaza Strip.
More than 7,000 Palestinian civilians are estimated to have been killed so far, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, while the rest of Gaza’s more than two million residents face a dire humanitarian crisis.