By George Browning
The UN special Human Rights investigation into Palestine/Israel which found Israel to be primarily responsible for ongoing unrest and violence received a strong rebuke from the US, which in turn sought support from its allies to sign its statement. Australia declined to do so, issuing its own statement.
The significance is not so much in what the statement contained, but in the very fact that after nine years of blindly following the US, Australia wishes to make its own statement and judgement about human rights, justice, and peace. This should be resoundingly applauded. The US statement is predictably partisan, and while the Australian statement mirrors the US statement in the oft repeated claim that Israel is being unfairly picked on, it is far more nuanced.
In this and other matters of world politics it is important that Australia takes its own informed position. The blunt truth in relation to Israel/Palestine is that because of its unapologetic partisanship, the US is not, and cannot be, a contributor to a lasting and just peace. For example, the US may make critical statements about Israel’s expanding settlement programme, but Israel simply thumbs its nose, and the US continues to give unequivocal diplomatic support together with $US12B in annual military and loan guarantee aid. The US always has Israel’s back.
The UN report simply states what anyone who has visited the occupied Palestinian territories knows, namely, that Israel is the oppressor. The Palestinians are the oppressed. Examples of this oppression have frequently been elaborated by various writers to Pearls and Irritations. The latest egregious act was announced in the Beer Sheba Court yesterday when after six years in jail Mohammed El Halabi was found guilty of channelling World Vision money from its Gaza project to the military wing of Hamas. Various forensic audits, including DFAT, World Vision and Deloitte, have shown that this accusation is not only untrue, but is impossible to be true.
ʺAll the judge said was that the security forces cannot be wrong. That’s why he was convicted.” (BBC Report)
Israel is not being unfairly picked on at the UN or in the court of international opinion. First, China and Uighurs, Myanmar and the Rohingyas, Russia and Ukraine, even Australia and our treatment of First Nations people, all receive appropriate attention. There are currently 8 investigations being undertaken by the Human Rights Council, including others that are open ended. Second and very significantly, Israel is the only country in the world that claims to be democratic, is best friends with Australia, and the US, wants to sit at the table of “respectable” nations, yet at the same time is guilty of perpetuating egregious human rights violations based on racial discrimination. Israel’s claim to live by free world standards should automatically bring it before the bar of those standards. Persecution of a minority is a crime. But Palestinians are not even a minority – they comprise half the population. This is why the word ʹapartheidʹ is now being used to most accurately describe the situation Israel has created. While Australia supports a two-state solution, Israel has already created one-state in as much that it controls everything that occurs in Israel itself, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Nothing takes place, is allowed in or out, that is not permitted by the State of Israel.
In all of this are Palestinians guiltless? Living under oppression makes daily life intolerably difficult; negative reaction to provocation is easy to criticise by those not having to endure it: Palestinian inability to form a cohesive and respected political system is tragic. The PA is a toothless servant of Israel’s occupation. Not only can violence against citizens on either side not be condoned, but it inevitably perpetuates further violence. The reality is that violence always suits an oppressor. It feeds the propaganda machine used to justify further suppression.
The Gandhi doctrine cannot be demanded and is very hard to embrace. Without external support and partnership, it is nigh on impossible. Gandhi taught that oppressed peoples must hold their heads up, retain dignity and self-respect, assert their human rights, but resist violence. When you are unemployed as most young in Gaza are, or your cousin on the West Bank has been shot by Israeli military, or your brother from East Jerusalem is in gaol without trial or reason, or your home has been demolished, or your family olive orchard has been raised to the ground, Gandhi’s way is too difficult without support – in this case from the international community.
This is where Australia and the new Australian government comes in. We can help dignify Palestinian lives by our words and actions. The Albanese government is committed to the recognition of Palestine. While this wonʹt immediately end the occupation, it will help create the environment where a real and lasting just peace can be negotiated. It will dignify Palestine and Palestinian lives and in so doing promote the ultimate cause of peace and justice.
The US has blind spots with almost fatal consequences. Domestically there is no clearer example than in its inability to enact gun control laws and in its political toleration of alternative realities of truth. In relation to Israel its blind spot is in allowing Israel, to continue destroying the very civility of its nationhood. No nation can continue without destroying itself if its very survival is dependent on the permanent suppression of others.
In the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, we look forward to working with the Albanese Government in charting a fresh forward path, knowing that yesterday’s policies will continue yesterday’s suffering.