Fight for Australia to condemn Israeli land grab

On August 31, 2014, Israel announced the confiscation of a thousand acres of Palestinian land for the expansion of its West Bank settlements.

International condemnation of the land grab was been swift and forceful:

  • “The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which – as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions – is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 1 September 2014.
  • “The appropriation of nearly 1,000 acres of land in the West Bank near Bethlehem is utterly deplorable. Settlements are illegal under international law and will do nothing to create the kind of peace process we all want, and we urge the Israeli government to reverse this decision.” UK Prime Minister David Cameron, 1 September 2014.
  • “These steps are contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they proceed.” US State Department Spokesperson Jan Psaki, 2 September 2014.
  • “We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision and to engage in good faith towards a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.” Statement by European Union Spokesperson, 2 September 2014.
  • “The Government of Japan strongly deplores that the Government of Israel has announced to expropriate nearly 4 square kilometers of land in the southern part of the West Bank. This announcement by Israeli Government clearly contradicts the ongoing efforts by the international community toward ceasefire agreement over Gaza as well as realizing a two-state solution.” Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement, 2 September 2014.
  • “By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs President Abbas and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violent [sic] delivers Israeli concessions while nonviolence results in settlement expansion.” Israeli NGO Peace Now statement, 31 August 2014.
  •  “This was a grab that was not brought before the cabinet and at this time simply causes damage to the State of Israel” Israeli Finance Minister, 2 September 2014

In Australia, however, neither Prime Minister Tony Abbott nor Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made any initial comment. Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Tanya Plibersek merely noted that Labor is “extremely concerned” and requested an “immediate explanation”, declining to either condemn the land grab or call for its reversal.  The Greens leader Christine Milne has called on the Government to condemn the move.

On the 5th September, APAN launched a campaign for Australians to write to their parliamentarians, asking them to condemn the land grab and call for the decision to be reversed.

On the 11th September, the Foreign Minister issued a statement criticising the decision, and calling on a reconsideration.  Liberal MP David Coleman also expressed deep concern about the land expropriation, stating that it would undermine the peace process.

On the 12th September, the Shadow Foreign Minister also released a statement, calling on a Israel to reverse the decision and saying settlements are “not in line with international law”.

Whilst both statements weren’t as strong as we would have hoped, it was a significant step forward.