Palestinians are being “collectively punished” and Israel is potentially breaking international law, Industry Minister Ed Husic says.
Mr Husic, the first Muslim-Australian minister, condemned the actions of Hamas but broke with cabinet rank to voice his concern at how Israel had retaliated.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian ambassador to Australia is calling on the Albanese government to condemn Israel for committing war crimes against Palestinians in Gaza, warning of the “huge consequences” if the international community doesn’t move quickly.
The Israeli Defence Force has been bombing the Gaza Strip for the last 12 days, killing nearly 3000 Palestinians – more than 1000 of whom are children. Israel has also declared a total blockade, cutting off the crucial supply of food, water and electricity, and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding.
The international community, led by the US and including Australia, say Israel has every right to defend itself in the wake of Hamas’s attacks but have called for the protection of civilians.
A blast at a Gaza city hospital earlier this week killed at least 500 people, but Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are pointing fingers at each other.
Regardless, the Australian government has called for the rules of international law to be obeyed, but – alongside the Coalition – stopped short of supporting a Greens motion on Wednesday that sought to condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza.
Speaking on Thursday morning, Mr Husic said while Israel absolutely had a right to defend itself, he felt “very strongly that Palestinians are being collectively published here for Hamas’ barbarism”, but said there is a higher expectation that innocent lives should be protected during the ongoing conflict.
“I really do feel that there is an obligation on governments, particularly the Israeli government, to follow the rules of international law and to observe in particular that innocents should be protected,” he told ABC Radio.
“I genuinely believe there needs to be a de-escalation. I don’t think it’s in Israel’s interest long term to engage in the occupation of Gaza.
“And certainly not in Palestine interests. And I do think that this is a moment where we have to recognise there is a humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Gaza.
“We forced basically half the population into the south and Gaza itself, being roughly smaller than the size of Canberra, you just appreciate how difficult this is for innocent Palestinians.”
His fellow Muslim ministerial colleague, Anne Aly, said it was “difficult to argue” that the Palestinian people were not being collectively punished but backed the government’s motion that passed the parliament on Wednesday.
Ms Aly said it was “entirely appropriate” that the government pass a motion in the parliament to condemn the Hamas attacks.
“If you look at the motion which we passed, it does talk about the ongoing conflict,” she told ABC News.
“And the Prime Minister and Penny Wong have been very careful to also talk about the loss of civilian lives in Palestine.”
Asked if she believed Israel had committed war crimes, Ms Aly said that was something that should be investigated, and if found to have done so, Israel “should be held accountable”.
The Palestinian ambassador to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, said he would meet with Foreign Minister Penny Wong to ask the government to “condemn in the strongest terms the attacks on civilians in Gaza”.
“(What’s happening in Gaza) is a huge humanitarian crisis … It’s really catastrophic and a tragedy,” he said.
“And there will be huge consequences if the international community does not move quickly to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza.”
Dr Abdulhadi said the Australian Palestinian community were “really angry and sad” over the Albanese government’s position.
“They think that the Australian position is biased to the Israelis,” he said.
Israel has described what happened on October 7 – the day Hamas attacked, slaughtered and kidnapped Israelis – as their September 11.
Mr Husic said the number of Palestinians that had been killed so far “equates to the number of people who lost their lives in 9/11” but that fact was going broadly unacknowledged in Australia.
“We don’t see any public landmarks in Australia that have been lit up in red, black, white and green,” he said, making reference to the suite of landmarks that were illuminated in the Israeli flag earlier this month.
“Now, there’ll 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 than.”
He said Hamas had “absolutely” set back the progress of a two-state solution.
“And there are other players in the region who are quite happy to see this happen,” he said.
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/industry-minister-ed-husic-says-palestinians-are-being-collectively-punished/news-story/ef747e267169ce4859c2d88dd956da08 Industry Minister Ed Husic says Palestinians are being ‘collectively punished’