Federal Workplace Relations Minster Tony Burke has been slammed for not calling out ABC Radio host Patricia Karvelas for asking him if Israel is committing “genocide”.
In a wide-ranging interview about the Hamas war, Burke described people in his southwest Sydney electorate “seeing horrific images updated every hour” from Gaza. He also quoted Hamas casualty figures from Gaza as fact.
When asked by Karvelas, “I’ve heard people describe it as a genocide. Do you say it that way?”, he replied, “I think your listeners will find their own words to be able to describe it.
“When we go straight to ‘do we use this word, do we use that word’ we end up in an argument about linguistics.”
Asked if he thought Israel’s policies towards Palestinians constituted apartheid, he again said, “I don’t want to get into the debate about the label.”
Burke also quoted Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant referring to “human animals” without clarifying that Gallant was speaking strictly about Hamas.
He “supported completely” a decision by Canterbury-Bankstown Council in Sydney’s southwest to fly a Palestinian flag.
“I’m very proud that it was my local council,” he said.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said Burke had “crossed a line”.
“Tony Burke has made vile and ridiculous statements, implying both Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ and an offensive moral equivalence between the slaughter of Israeli civilians by Hamas and the accidental deaths of Palestinian civilians who are unfortunately being killed because Hamas made a deliberate decision to use them as human shields,” Rubenstein said.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said, “Genocide isn’t a buzzword. It is the most heinous crime a nation can commit. For a respected journalist to give the claim credibility … is deeply irresponsible. Language matters … We expect better.”
Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “While we share Tony Burke’s concern for the welfare of innocent Gazans, his comments on Radio National were appalling. They were a complete inversion of both morals and the laws of armed conflict.”
A spokesperson for the ABC said use of the word genocide “is being widely discussed … She [Karvelas] doesn’t use the word herself.”