A FORMER UN official in Gaza has been appointed Australia’s first Minister for International Development.
Prior to entering politics, Fremantle MP Melissa Parke spent two-and-a-half years working for the legal division of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
In recent months, UNRWA has come under fire for inflating the number of refugees into the millions by including not only those who left or were forced to leave the State of Israel during the War of Independence, but also their descendants – a definition of refugees not applied to any other group of people.
In terms of international aid, the government’s financial support for World Vision which funds the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) has also been criticised. UAWC has been accused of being a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, a charge World Vision denies. Nonetheless, UAWC does support the BDS campaign against Israel.
As an MP, Parke put her name to a petition calling on the Australian government to vote in favour of the recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN. While recognising Israel as an “independent and sovereign state” and noting Australia’s “commitment to a two-state solution”, the petition also stated, “Israel has continued to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land and has subjected Palestinians to military occupation.”
During a May 2011 speech in Parliament, Parke spoke of “the disproportionate use of force by Israel against civilians that was evident in the war on Gaza”, adding, “also contrary to international law is the blockade on Gaza, which constitutes collective punishment of the civilian population.”
In an interview with The Conversation last December, Parke said, “I think Israel would benefit from having a responsible neighbour that has to be accountable for its actions. Palestinians, like all other human beings, have a right to a state and a national identity. Israel’s right to exist is not in question, but Palestinians have not had a state.
“I think after all this time they are entitled to one.”
Minister for International Development and Fremantle MP Melissa Parke.