By Shalailah Medhora
‘The government opinion on Palestine does not reflect the majority view of the Australian public,’ says Eddie Zananiri, a leader for the Palestinian community
Arab-Australians have condemned the Coalition’s decision to vote against a United Nations security council resolution on Palestinian statehood, saying it degraded their relationship with the federal government.
Australia and the US were the only two countries that voted against the resolution this week.
Eddie Zananiri, who has represented the Palestinian community at meetings with the Palestinian ambassador to Australia, said: “[The vote] reinforces a feeling by the community that this government is anti-Arab.”
“The government opinion on Palestine does not reflect the majority view of the Australian public, including the Arab community.”
Relations between the community and government are already tense, Zananiri said, citing the Coalition’s failed attempt to relax section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and moves to call East Jerusalem “disputed” rather than “occupied”.
Zananiri said the government was not listening to community concerns about these issues, criticising its “closed-door policy”.
The Australian National Imams Council also called for more dialogue. Australia’s grand mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, said: “I would like to reiterate the message that we conveyed to the honourable foreign minister, Julie Bishop, when we met with her in September: Australia must take a balanced and just approach to the Palestine-Israeli conflict. At the moment it is blatantly one-sided.”
“The Australian government cannot champion human rights on the global stage yet turn a blind eye to the injustices and crimes committed against the Palestinian people,” he said.
Australia’s ambassador to the UN, Gary Quinlan, said Australia was committed to peace between Israel and Palestine but added that the UN resolution “will not help this process and that is why we have voted against it”.
“It lacks balance and seeks to impose a solution put forward by one party alone. Final-status issues can only be resolved between the two sides,” Quinlan said.
Bishop George Browning, the head of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, said the vote “achieves nothing except to undermine moderates and strengthen extremists on both sides”.
“By voting against Palestinian statehood the government is in danger of giving an invaluable gift to extremists throughout the Muslim world who never tire of pointing to the west’s double standards regarding Palestine as proof of its hostility towards Islam,” Browning said.
The Israeli embassy in Canberra welcomed the vote. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the embassy told Guardian Australia that “accepting the proposed resolution would do nothing but harm chances for peace and undermine hopes for a better future for Palestinians and Israelis alike”.
“We commend the Australian government for its level-headed vote, which characterised Australia’s time at the UN security council ending today, and call for the Palestinian authority to return to the negotiation table,” she said.
Guardian Australia contacted several Australia-based Israeli community groups for comment.