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Friday, 6 February 2015

Getting Away With Murder Again: Israel’s Latest Victory |

Getting Away With Murder Again: Israel’s Latest Victory |

Getting Away With Murder Again: Israel’s Latest Victory

By Michael Brull
report into the latest slaughter in Gaza isn't even out yet, and
already Israel is working to undermine the process, writes Michael
Israeli government is undoubtedly rubbing its hands together with glee.
Their local propagandists throughout Australia are eagerly awaiting
their talking points. Any hopes of holding Israel accountable for its
latest massacre in Gaza have basically vanished, and the path is
effectively being cleared for a new round of horrors.

Over the course of several weeks last year, Israel unleashed hell on Gaza. It killed more than 2,200 Palestinians,
including hundreds of children. It destroyed and badly damaged about
18,000 homes, rendering about 100,000 homeless. It resumed its attack on
Gaza’s electricity supplies, further reducing the access of Gazans to clean water.

The destruction is really indescribable – there are pictures
published by the United Nations and others, showing entire suburbs
reduced to rubble.

As usually happens after such events, the United Nations decided to inquire into what happened. In August last year, it appointed a respected Canadian legal academic with Jewish ancestry to lead the inquiry, William Schabas.

As a scholar on human rights issues and international criminal law, Schabas had unsurprisingly voiced opinions critical
of the Israeli government, such as suggesting that Prime Minister
Netanyahu should be put in the dock at the International Criminal Court.
However, he said that this position should not be overstated: “I didn’t
say he was guilty of anything.” Schabas denied being “anti-Israel”
(whatever that means), and is a member of
the editorial board of the Israel Law Review. This may be compared to
his work on a “truth commission” which investigated allegations of human
rights abuses in Iran. On that occasion, the commission found “the
Islamic Republic of Iran” the “only authority responsible for these

So does this make Schabas biased against Israel? It all depends on
what you consider constitutes bias. If expressing an opinion on Israeli
actions in the past constitutes bias, then Schabas was biased. But if
this is bias, we can also dismiss every Amnesty International or Human
Rights Watch report. Why should North Korea listen to Amnesty, when it’s
been criticised by them before? The fallacy is obvious: those who work
in a human rights field don’t do anything illegitimate by coming to
certain conclusions, unless the path to that conclusion itself was

Reaching unfavourable conclusions only show bias, if those
conclusions were illegitimately unfavourable. To demonstrate that
Schabas could not investigate the facts fairly and impartially would be a
demonstration of bias. If there was a certain predisposition one way or
another – such as, if Schabas were married to a leader of Hamas or the
Israeli government - one might expect that kind of attachment to
influence his findings. Showing that Schabas has said something critical
of Israel in the past would only demonstrate bias, only on the
assumption that no fair and impartial investigation of the actions of
Israel could reach that conclusion.

Some Israelis found this argument compelling, but it did not impress
many others. As is traditional, once Schabas was appointed, Israel and
its loyal propagandists around the world began their battle to discredit
the report before it was written. With customary restraint, the Israeli Prime Minister announced that the United Nations Human Rights Council was, in fact, a “terrorist rights council”.

Denouncing investigations by the UN and human rights organisations is
kind of a national pastime in Israel. And elsewhere, for that matter.
Back in 2009, after that year’s Gaza massacre ended, the UN appointed a
famous inquiry led by Richard Goldstone. The Australian Jewish News
warned in an editorial one week that it should be taken “very seriously”
– before flip flopping the next. Still, the first editorial warned against “The boilerplate argument that the report should not be taken seriously because the UN has a historic bias against Israel”.

Under heavy pressure, Goldstone later distanced himself
from the report he led the way in writing. That distancing helped clear
the way for Israel’s later massacres, such as the one last year. This
time, Israeli propagandists have had another great success, and much
earlier too.

Israel sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council, noting that Schabas once wrote a legal opinion for the PLO, for which he was paid $1,300. Schabas doesn’t think that this has discredited him,
but claimed that the situation had become “unbearable” for him, and
that by resigning, he will prevent personal attacks overshadowing the
substance of the report.

Schabas has commented that
the opinion he was paid to give was “of a technical legal nature”, so
Israel’s alleged concern about the letter is not about its substance,
but that because of the exchange of money, Schabas had a “blatant
conflict of interest”. It might be a little bit hard for some to
understand why doing paid work for an organisation once would forever
make it impossible to have an unbiased opinion about that organisation,
but really, all that’s ever needed is a little bit of mud and the hope
that some of it will stick.

No matter who was appointed by the UN, Israel was always going to do
what it could to discredit the appointment, and proclaim that the new
appointee was notoriously biased against Israel. The problem, of course,
is that any serious investigation of how Israel treats the Palestinians
is going to come to unpleasant conclusions, because what Israel has
done to them is unconscionable. Gideon Levy commented that that anyone who wasn’t shocked by Israel’s attack on Gaza last year:

deserves to be condemned, have their character assassinated and
their past scrutinized. They either live in blindness, denial and
repression, or their moral standards are fundamentally distorted and

It was impossible not to be appalled by what the Israel Defense
Forces did in Gaza last summer - unless you’re a propagandist, a liar or
a racist.
Canadian legal professor William Shabas.

Canadian legal professor William Shabas.
Israel is already crowing over its victory. Netanyahu predictably declared that
“After the resignation of the committee chairman, who was biased
against Israel, the report must not be published”. When the report comes
out, Israel will already have its stick to beat it with. Israel refused
to cooperate with the inquiry when Schabas led it. As noted in a
Ha’aretz editorial, Israel still refuses to cooperate with it.

Already, human rights organisations have started releasing reports
documenting Israeli atrocities last year. Amnesty International released a report
documenting Israel killing “scores of Palestinian civilians in attacks
targeting houses full of families which in some cases have amounted to
war crimes”. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released a similar report
on Israeli targeting of residential homes, investigating 70 incidents
in which 606 Palestinians were killed, more than 70 percent of them

The report noted that these attacks were because of a “policy of
attacking homes”, supported by a “broad definition” of a valid “military
objective” for targeting, and a “flexible interpretation of the concept
of ‘collateral damage’”.

The Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights also released a report. It found there were serious violations of human rights law.
For example, there was “heavy and unpredictable bombardments of
civilian neighbourhoods in a manner that failed to discriminate between
legitimate targets and protected populations and caused widespread
destruction of homes and property”. These attacks “must have entailed
approval from top-level decision-makers in the Israeli military and/or
government”. There is also Israel’s continued use of the “double tap”
strike – whereby, after Israel bombs an area, it waits a little while
before bombing again, the second strike killing medical workers, loved
ones and others who attended to the scene of the first strike.

Harvard specialist on Gaza, Sara Roy observed
that in three decades of studying Gaza, she has “never seen the kind of
physical and psychological destruction that I see there today”.

A whole indigenous economy has been all but destroyed, with
extensive damage to civilian infrastructure; Gazan society has been
reduced to almost complete aid dependence. It has also been radically
economically levelled, with the virtual destruction of its middle class
and the emergence of a broad new class of “poor”.

Gaza’s social fabric has greatly weakened, and is now characterised
by a new kind of fragility and disempowerment; entire neighbourhoods
have been eliminated, and their community life destroyed.
Roy observed that the supposed plans for reconstructing Gaza after
the devastation imposed on it by Israel “read more like security plans”
for Israel, explaining how the UN will address Israel’s concerns.
Meanwhile, the blockade of Gaza was to be “strengthened”, whilst the UN
was to take on responsibility for maintaining the siege. Israel took on
zero financial responsibility for reconstruction – this was left to the
international community. In short, another triumph for Israel.

The devastation of the attack and ongoing siege was worsened
with floods in November, with the UN declaring a “state of emergency”
in Gaza. Meanwhile, three Palestinians, including two infants, were
reported as having frozen to death in Gaza,
due to a lack of public shelter. I’m sure their families will take
heart from the fact that the reconstruction process has been properly
taking into account Israel’s “security concerns”, which is presumably
why they didn’t have homes in the first place.

As for the UN inquiry, it is going ahead with a new head,
former New York judge Mary McGowan-Davis. Israel has decided she’s more
“balanced”, because the inquiry she led into the follow up to the
Goldstone Report supposedly convinced Goldstone that the conclusions of
his report had been wrong.

In fact, the report plainly did no such thing. I reviewed it in May 2011.
The conclusions were not particularly damning. In part, this was
because Israel was purporting to investigate allegations of human rights
violations at the time, and McGowan-Davis’s report didn’t dismiss all
such investigations in advance (unlike another government we might be
able to think of).

At the time, Israel refused to cooperate with her investigation. Her
report complained that Israel wasn’t investigating “those who designed,
planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead”, and held that the
“appropriate mechanism” for investigations was a “public commission”,
not the Military Attorney General.

As for the credibility of the process, McGowan-Davis’s report
observed that whilst one soldier was sentenced to seven months
imprisonment for stealing a credit card, two soldiers who used a child
as a human shield received suspended sentences of three months, and were
demoted. That was their punishment – and that exhausts the list of
Israelis who were held accountable for atrocities committed during the
massacre in Gaza from 2008-9.

The report observed that “as long as victims – in Israel and in Gaza -
continue to lack confidence in the investigative processes, and
continue to live in difficult and unsafe conditions, without remedy,
there will be no genuine accountability and no justice”.

Whilst McGowan-Davis had grounds for drawing stronger conclusions,
her report still had valuable information. However, it was, like so many
other reports on Israel, mostly ignored, and almost entirely unread.

Which is the path we can expect for her next report on Gaza. Israel
will argue the whole process is tainted, and will claim vindication in
the resignation of Schabas. He resigned because Israel produced what it
regarded as irrefutable evidence of his bias, and every news story on
the report will note that the process involved a different leader, who
resigned in the wake of accusations of bias.

Few will read that report, just as few read McGowan-Davis’s report in
2011. All most took from the Goldstone Report was that it condemned
both sides and was written by a respected Jewish Zionist. And then, when
he distanced himself from it, that was the end of the Goldstone Report
in the mainstream media.

This time around, Israel’s talking points have been neatly lined up
for it, and soon there will be an avalanche of bullshit, as its
propagandists around the world do their best to prevent Israel being
held accountable for another slaughter in Gaza, and a continuation of
the siege.

And they can pat themselves on the back, for their tremendous
victory, as Gazans freeze to death because Israel won’t let them rebuild
their homes. What a wonderful triumph.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Palestine, the Political Football: Good Enough For Soccer, Not Good Enough For Statehood |

Palestine, the Political Football: Good Enough For Soccer, Not Good Enough For Statehood |

Palestine, the Political Football: Good Enough For Soccer, Not Good Enough For Statehood

By Nishadh Rego

participation in the AFC Asian Cup places the Australian government
between a rock and hard place, writes Nishadh Rego.

prior to New Years 2015 there were two significant developments in
Australia-Palestine relations. On December 30, the Australian government
rejected a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for the end of
Israel’s occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the creation of
an independent Palestinian state within three years.

Less than a day later, over a hundred enthusiastic Australians
welcomed the Palestinian national soccer team to Australia for the AFC
Asian Cup. 

There is an important contradiction at play here. Australia is
hosting a sporting team from a nation that the Australian government
repeatedly refuses to recognize as a sovereign state. It’s a perplexing
situation not only because it’s a first in international diplomacy, but
also because sport and politics often go hand in hand.

Why host a sporting team from a place you don’t recognize? Why give life and form to a nation that you explicitly deny?

In the aftermath of the UN vote, Australia’s ambassador Gary Quinlan challenged
the content of the resolution, calling it too one-sided. He also argued
that the unilateralism of the UN-based statehood campaign precluded a
negotiated settlement between the two parties.

To pick at Quinlan’s justification, the resolution called for the end of an occupation, aspects of which are conclusively ‘illegal’ under international law and for a state based on pre-occupation 1967 borders
with negotiated land swaps. Moreover, the Palestinians have only
brought their statehood case before the UN because negotiations with
Israel have repeatedly proven ineffective.

The last round of US-brokered peace talks between the two parties
ended in April 2014 after Israel refused to halt settlement construction
in the West Bank. The Americans called out Israel’s rejectionist approach and Mahmoud Abbas pointed, in frustration, to a new round of internationalized diplomacy on the issue.

Despite Quinlan’s focus on the individual resolution, Australia’s
‘no’ vote is emblematic of a broader affinity with Israel. Australian
voting patterns on the issue in the UN over the last 10 years indicate
strong support for Israeli interests.

For instance, since 2003, both Labor and LNP governments have either abstained or voted against
Palestinians’ sovereignty over their natural resources. LNP voting
patterns have been markedly more pro-Israel. The Howard government, for
example, abstained or voted against  all UN resolutions
highlighting the illegality of Israeli settlement building, the
application of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Palestinian
Territories (oPT), and the right of the Palestinian people to

These stances were reversed during the Rudd-Gillard years, but have largely been renewed since the Abbott government came to power.

Irrespective of nebulous government statements
in support of a two state solution, their public positions have been
overwhelmingly pro-Israel, especially in the last two years.

In the aftermath of a 2012 General Assembly vote on Palestinian
non-member observer status at the UN, shadow foreign minister Julie
Bishop criticized the government’s decision to abstain and said that a
LNP government would have voted against it.
And after being elected in 2013, Bishop questioned the well-documented
“illegality” of Israeli settlement building practices in occupied West
Bank under international law, asking “to see which international law has declared them illegal.”

Soon after, Attorney General Brandis created further furor by questioning the widely used descriptor “occupied” in reference to East Jerusalem, the desired future Palestinian capital.

Collectively these statements dismissed the key grounds on which
Palestinians have been calling for an end to occupation and an
independent state.

In an August 2014 speech, Christopher Pyne announced “Australia
has always been prepared to be in the fight and always on the right
side. And that’s how we view the State of Israel - that we are on the
right side.”

These rhetorical overtures, combined with voting patterns, illustrate
that recent Australian governments have leaned towards pro-Israel
positions and the current Australian government is, as political scientist Amin Saikal puts it, “uncritically supportive of Israel.”

In the face of such an unequivocal political stance against
Palestinian statehood, why hasn’t there been a political reaction to the
national team’s participation in the Asian Cup? No statements by
politicians. No talk of a sporting boycott.  Nothing but silence. Why
implicitly acknowledge Palestinian statehood by allowing the national
team to participate on Australian soil?

There are a number of factors that inhibit any political action
against the Palestinian team. These factors highlight the utter
isolation of Australia's position on Palestinian statehood, and shed
light on the silence over Palestine’s AFC Asian Cup participation.

First, Australia’s statehood stance is at odds with that of FIFA, the
world’s soccer governing body. FIFA recognizes Palestine as a full
member. This means that the Palestinian soccer team can participate in
any FIFA event, including the World Cup and Asian Cup. FIFA’s decision is controversial
because it was made in 1998, pre-dating Palestine’s recognition as a
state at the UN, and negating FIFA’s own key prerequisite for full
membership. The move was also likely facilitated by the Arab states’
clout within the governing body.

Yet there have been no objections about Palestine’s membership from
other members and the Palestinian national team has generally been able
to participate in football tournaments across the globe, when Israel
grants them exit visas. FIFA president Sepp Blatter, for his part, has threatened the Israeli FA with suspension from FIFA in the past if it continues to restrict Palestinian players’ travel.

Given this consensus within the soccer community, it would be almost
impossible for another member country to challenge Palestine’s
participation in a soccer event based on its own political standpoint
without risking sanction from FIFA. Raising too many questions about
Palestine’s participation would have likely put Australia’s AFC Asian
Cup hosting and participation rights in jeopardy.

But Australian governments have been immune to such consequences in
the past. We have a long history of using sporting boycotts to political
ends, especially when there is strong public conviction against a
political foe or a perceived moral pariah in the international
community. The apartheid boycotts, and the Fraser government’s attempt to pull Australian teams out of the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan are cases in point.

However, the moral or political case for the same against the Palestinians is simply non-existent. Indeed, civil society boycott campaigns are
much more widely aimed at Israel. The once prominent “terrorist” label
accorded to Palestinian political groups is now defunct within
mainstream Western public discourse because most factions, Hamas
excepted, have explicitly disavowed guerrilla warfare and terror tactics
since the early 2000s.

On-the-ground media coverage of
Israel’s invasion of Gaza in July 2014, and its proliferation on social
media has, for the first time ever, shifted popular Western focus on to
the immorality and illegality of Israeli military practices. This has
also helped recalibrate the Palestinians as unequivocal “victims” in an
asymmetric conflict.

While our government mirrors Israeli and American positions at the
UN, others have become much more attuned to the shifting sands of
international and domestic public opinion. A total of 138 countries
voted in favor of non-member observer state status for Palestine at the
2012 UN GA vote. And in the last six months, a number of parliaments
have recognized Palestinian statehood, responding to shifts in European public opinion.

The British, French, Irish, and Portuguese parliaments voted to back
recognition of a Palestinian state by margins of 274 to 12, 339 to 151,
and 221 to 9 respectively. Sweden became the first Western European
state to officially recognize Palestine. Given this reality, political action against the Palestinian team would probably create a global diplomatic storm.

These shifts extend to recent Australian public discourse.
Ironically, they have gained even prominence since the Palestinian
team’s arrival. Feature articles in many of Australia’s major newspapers
and online media outlets – the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian,
the Guardian, and the Newcastle Herald – highlight a common narrative:
the achievement of qualifying despite the daily challenges of living
under occupation.

The tournament organizers themselves are promoting Palestine as “the fairy tale story… committed to football despite ongoing conflict in the region”. And a public school in Newcastle even “adopted Palestine” as part of the AFC Asian Cup’s Adopt A Team competition, interested in “how they were able to qualify through adversity.”

These sentiments are backed up by late 2014 polling data, which
shows that more Australians are sympathetic towards Palestinians than
towards Israel, and that 57 per cent of Australians thought that the
government should vote in favor of Palestine becoming an independent

The Australian government’s position is out of sync with the public,
meaning that any political action against the Palestinian team would be a
serious public relations disaster.

It is apparent that the government’s most politically prudent option
in the face of Palestine’s soccer sojourn on Australian soil is to
remain silent and let it pass with minimum fuss. It’s clear that the
limits of the government’s solidarity with Israel stem from the weight
of institutional, diplomatic, and public support for Palestinian
statehood and Palestine’s participation at the AFC Asian Cup. In this
context its important to ask what benefits Australia derives from
persisting with such a damaging rejectionist stance?

In the interim, as Palestinians increasingly assert themselves on the
international stage, governments like ours will be repeatedly forced
into compromises, highlighting strange and perplexing contradictions,
like the one we have now.

Israel started it all BBC documentary

BBC documentary about how Israelis invaded Palestine, Egypt, Syria and
attacked Lebanon. Israel started the 6 day war and therefore caused the
78' war. Egypt at least got back their lost territory and Syria got back
only 1/3 of their own. Israel is not the country you think it is, they
are thiefs, and murderers.

Jimmy Carter: Israel's Apartheid

Former President Jimmy Carter, author of a new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,
interviewed from his home in Plains, Georgia. He responds to a caller
who asks questions concerning pressure put on the US political system
and the resulting support of Israel. The caller refers to author James
Bamford's book "

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Australia's UN vote on Palestine does a disservice to all sides, including Israelis | Bob Carr

Australia's UN vote on Palestine does a disservice to all sides, including Israelis | Bob Carr


Australia's UN vote on Palestine does a disservice to all sides, including Israelis

Australia’s voting record at the UN on Israeli-Palestinian issues has changed under the Abbott government. A true friend of Israel should be able to send a message about what Australians think

More Australians winced than applauded when they learned of their country’s very last vote at the end of its two year term on the security council. On 29 December Australia was one of only two nations to vote against a Jordanian draft resolution designed to hasten a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Once again the conservative side of Australian politics was delivering what the pro-Israel lobby in Australia wanted, ignoring majority Australian opinion and the views of more liberal Jewish Australians. Ignoring as well, the national interests of Australia, the increasingly dire conditions of Palestinians and – a case easily made – the enduring interests of Israel itself.
That is, the long term security interests of Israel as opposed to the expectations of its current ethno-nationalist leadership. Australia was ignoring the prospect Israel will end up as a “Greater Israel” governing 5 million Arabs with inferior legal status to Israelis – and be isolated and condemned as a result.

It was a lousy way to wrap up a two year term on the security council, given the intense competition to win the seat.
The draft resolution tabled by Jordan was unexceptional in terms of 25 years of work on Israeli-Palestinian peace. It called for a settlement on pre-1967 lines. It declared East Jerusalem capital of the Palestinian state within three years. It called for security arrangements, thus meeting the long term western commitment to security guarantees for Israel. These would include a “third party presence”; that is, western peacekeepers. It thus captured the recent Palestinian concession that there should be western peacekeepers within the territory of their putative state. And Australia voted that down.
There were eight votes in favour of the resolution. Those of France, Luxembourg and Chile added enough western heft to give even a nervous Australia a level of comfort about voting yes. Five nations abstained, including the UK. Again, plenty of comfort if Australia had lodged its presence in the abstention column. But Australia under the Abbott government was unable to do what a conservative-led coalition government of the UK found routine – that is, break ranks with the US to make a point against the Israeli hardliners.
One can only imagine the despondency with which Australia’s accomplished UN ambassador, Gary Quinlan, read into the record a three-paragraph “explanation” of Australia’s position. The Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, normally eager to be in the news cycle, was completely silent. In a press release on 31 December proudly listing Australia’s achievements in its two years on the security council, this vote received no mention. Yet there could hardly be a more persistently nagging agenda item than Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The pro-Israel lobby lives in permanent nervous agitation. It frantically lobbies against any Australian government criticising settlements. It spends profligately on overseas trips for journalists and MPs. Sky newsroom reporters and one paper’s gossip columnist were recently recruited. Every MP elected at the 2013 election has been offered a trip. One member of the NSW upper house was off weeks after being elected. Yet the cause does not have majority support among Australians. A poll by Roy Morgan on 5 November, commissioned on behalf of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, recorded that 57% of Australians supported a yes vote to advance Palestine’s full UN membership. Remarkably only 8% believed Australia should vote against an independent Palestinian state. The public are way out in front of their political leadership.
Last year three state conferences of the Australian Labor party – New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia – voted to recognise Palestine. The motions were carried on the voices. That is, without a vote. Among those allowing the motions to become party policy were MPs, union officials and others who had been given, even in the previous few months, paid trips to Israel from the Israel lobby. One can imagine that some of the business people who donate to fund the trips are asking why those who return don’t even raise a protest on Israel’s behalf!
The majority within the federal parliamentary Labor party which would support a pro-Palestinian tilt is greater than it was in the last parliament, especially given the European move to unilateral recognition of Palestine.
The erosion of the pro-Israel instinct in Australia became evident when I was foreign minister. In November 2012 the Gillard government had to determine how Australia would vote on a general assembly draft resolution that elevated Palestinian status in the general assembly (still only a matter of non-state status). Some readers found the battle within the government to be the most entertaining narrative I shared in Diary of a Foreign Minister (published in April last year).
My position was that Australia should not block the Palestinian bid. I would have liked a yes vote but was resolved on getting us to abstain at the very least. In the diary I spelled out in full the stubborn opposition from former prime minister Julia Gillard, who had a member of her staff seemingly engaged full time in appeasing the Likud-aligned pro-Israel lobby.
It came to cabinet on 27 November. Minister after minister – people I hadn’t had time to lobby, whose views I wouldn’t have guessed – spoke up and favoured a yes vote or abstention. I wrote in my diary: “Moments like this – moments of clarity and outspokenness – make it possible to love the party”.
They had lost patience with Israel’s hardline leadership. Years of publicity about settlement expansion, the poor living conditions on the West Bank and in Gaza, and an apartheid legal system in the occupied territories, had corroded the instinctive social democratic sympathy for the Jewish state. Israel itself had changed. It was running a permanent occupation and undeniably undermining a two state solution. By the time the discussion wrapped up the prime minister’s position that Australia should vote no was looking very fragile. Only two colleagues had supported it.
The next day, at a full meeting of the federal parliamentary Labor party, Gillard faced defeat. A motion was to be moved by a backbencher committing us to abstain on the Palestinian bid and it was going to be carried, and carried by a decisive majority. In other words, so strongly did the parliamentary party feel, they would have voted against their own prime minister. She remodulated. She explained that after listening to all the arguments, she had changed her position. She now favoured an abstention. So a shift of opinion in the Labor government saw Australia reject voting down the Palestinian bid. We abstained, in respectable company: with Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Overwhelmingly, public opinion – the editorials, commentaries and by all accounts the broader public – supported this decision. It was a signal defeat for the take-no-prisoners, win-at-all costs approach of the Likudniks who, for example, had been outraged at any suggestion Australia should ever criticise expansion of Israeli settlements and had used their influence with Gillard’s office to overrule me as foreign minister on the subject (again as recorded in Diary of a Foreign Minister, under the entry for 10 November 2012).
But the Abbott government, elected in September 2013, has proceeded to give the lobby everything. Australia’s position on the regular votes criticising Israel has been reversed. Australia no longer votes for general assembly motions criticising settlements or motions that note all settlements are illegal under international law. Even for the first half of the Howard government, between 1997 and 2002, Australia voted in favour of the argument that Israeli settlements were illegal.
There were 25,000 settlers in 1977, 10 years after the Six Day War. Now there are 500,000. No rusted-on friends of Israel can defend these ugly pre-fabricated suburbs and outposts crammed with fanatics who appear to despise Palestinians and paint “Death to Arabs” on churches and mosques – and whose violence against Palestinians is now routine.
Even the pro-Israel lobby struggles to defend a project that is making Palestinians strangers on their ancestral soil, settlements timed to blow up any American-sponsored peace talks, settlements that are gobbling up the land that for 25 years has been intended as a future Palestinian state subject to security guarantees for Israel and mutually agreed trade-offs about boundaries.
Our voting pattern conveys that Australians are happy to go along with Israeli behaviour deliberately – the word can no longer be avoided – designed to undermine the two-state solution that has been the mantra of all sides in the post-1967 battle for an Israel-Palestine peace. Israeli ministers came out in opposition to a two state solution (60% of the cabinet) and there is no message from Australia. Instead the voting pattern of Australia sends the message that Australia is completely relaxed about the degradation of Palestinian life. The treatment of Palestinian children and youths under Israeli military law alone would justify a symbolic vote to encourage the moderates battling Israelis’ now dominant chauvinism.
Wouldn’t a true friend of Israel feel an obligation to send a message about this? Let alone a friend of the Palestinians.
Of course, without a Palestinian state Israelis are left administering 5 million Arabs. The process of downgrading the citizenship of those in Israel has only been halted because elections have been called. Israeli novelist Amos Oz warns the country is in danger of becoming an “isolated ghetto”. Ministers of Binyamin Netanyahu’s government talk of annexation of the West Bank. The whole settlement process has been corrupted, according to the Israeli opposition, with millions in government funds supporting the settlements, run by people who vote for the rightwing in Likud primaries. Yet the country now values settlements more than international friends. Hence the European thrust to recognise Palestine.
Around Canberra it’s possible to encounter the argument – a pretty tinny, half-hearted one – that we can’t depart from our American friends on this (other US allies do, regularly – the UK, France, Germany). During the November 2012 debate in the Labor government there were hints of this in the arguments from our prime minister. She quoted the fact that Obama had agreed the vote on Palestinian status “will make no difference”. I took a different view.
I believe the State Department and White House would see it as remarkably helpful if Australia broke ranks with the pro-Israel voting pattern that America is locked into because of the influence of its own Israel lobby. I encountered this in a meeting with John Kerry on 18 March 2013, when I told him why Australia had voted not to block enhanced Palestinian status. Kerry said that the vote was “fine” by him and if the vote were held today the Israelis wouldn’t get a vote from anyone except themselves. Since then the US has forcefully attacked the raft of yet more settlements announced by Jerusalem.
Why wouldn’t an American secretary of state like to see Israel even further rebuked? Even more so now, after they used more settlement announcements to blow up the last round of US sponsored talks in April 2014.
It’s the only way of bringing the ethno-nationalists in Jerusalem into line, although – subject of course to the current Israeli election – their wrong-headedness looks irreversible. And, if they have their way, so does Israel’s isolation.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Australia's vote against Palestinian statehood 'reinforces feeling Coalition is anti-Arab'

Australia's vote against Palestinian statehood 'reinforces feeling Coalition is anti-Arab'

Australia's vote against Palestinian statehood 'reinforces feeling Coalition is anti-Arab'

‘The government opinion on Palestine does not reflect the majority
view of the Australian public,’ says Eddie Zananiri, a leader for the
Palestinian community

Link to video: the UN security council votes against Palestinian resolution.

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

“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.

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 Arab Council’s chief executive, Randa Kattan, said the vote
“would hurt relations to some degree” because the issue was of such
great significance to the community. “Every meeting the Arab Council has
had with the government … Palestine is the top of the agenda,” she

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

“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.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Australia 'damaged' relations with Arab world by voting down UN Palestinian resolution

Australia 'damaged' relations with Arab world by voting down UN Palestinian resolution

Australia 'damaged' relations with Arab world by voting down UN Palestinian resolution

Warning from the chief Palestinian representative in Canberra comes
after Australia votes against the resolution demanding an end to Israeli

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour

Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour at the UN
security council on Tuesday. Photograph: Frank Franklin II/AP

Australia’s relationship with Palestinians and the Arab world will be damaged by its decision to vote against a United Nations
resolution that demanded the end of Israeli occupation within three
years, the chief Palestinian representative in Canberra has warned.

Australia was one of only two nations, along with the United States, Israel’s closest ally, to vote against the resolution.

Five other nations, including Britain, abstained from the vote,
meaning that just eight of the 15 UN security council nations voted in
favour of the resolution – one vote short of nine necessary for passage.

Abdulhadi, head of the general delegation of Palestine to Australia and
New Zealand, said he was surprised at Australia’s vote as he expected
it would “at least” abstain.

“It was very disappointing and regrettable ... and will unfortunately
affect relations with Palestine and the Arab world,” Abdulhadi told
Guardian Australia.

“It’s really very disappointing and I can’t understand why the decision was taken. We don’t know what the reasons are for this.”

Abdulhadi claimed there had been a shift in Australia’s position on
the long-running conflict, citing what he viewed as a new Australian
stance on East Jerusalem.

In June George Brandis, Australia’s attorney general, said it wasn’t appropriate to refer to East Jerusalem as occupied as it was a pejorative term.

“There is a policy shift in Australia’s voting position, as
represented with the East Jerusalem issue,” Abdulhadi said. “I hope
there will be a discussion with Australia on the issue and an
opportunity for engagement with the foreign minister.”

He added that Palestinians would continue the process of getting
international support, despite the “bad advice from US and Australia to
wait before continuing the process”.

Even if the required nine UN votes were achieved, the US would have
been able to use its veto power as a permanent member of the security
council. China, Russia, Britain and France are the other veto-wielding
permanent members, with Australia among the 10 non-permanent members.

Palestinian resolution set out a year-long process for a “just, lasting
and comprehensive peaceful solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, which it stipulated should include a “sovereign and viable”
Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. All Israeli forces would
withdraw from the occupied territory by 2017, under the resolution.

Gary Quinlan, Australia’s ambassador to the UN, said Australia was committed to a future where Israel and Palestine exist peacefully in side-by-side states.

“Regrettably, the draft resolution under consideration today will not
help this process and that is why we have voted against it,” he said.

“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. A process agreed by both sides is the only way forward to reach
an enduring agreement.

“The violence experienced in recent months in the Palestinian territories
and Israel underlines the terrible human costs of the failure of final
status negotiations and how fragile the situation is in the absence of
genuine progress towards establishing a Palestinian state – an objective
in which Australia believes and to which we are committed.”

Britain said while it supported much of the resolution’s content, it
had to abstain because normal negotiation processes didn’t take place.
Russia and China both supported the resolution.

Liu Jieyi, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations,
said: “This draft reflects just demands of Arab states, including the
Palestinian people, and is in accord with the relevant UN resolutions,
the ‘land for peace’ principle, the Arab peace initiative and Middle
Eastern peace roadmap.

“We express deep regret over the failure of the draft resolution to be adopted.”

Australia joined the security council last year. Its two-year term ends as 2014 draws to a close.

Australia has used its security council membership to pressure Russia
over the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, in which 38
Australians died. The foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has also
addressed the security council on the threat posed by Islamic State.

The Israeli embassy in Canberra said: “We are glad that the UNSC
understood 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
UNSC ending today, and call for the Palestinian Authority to return to
the negotiation table.”

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Labor for Palestine: It's About Time |

Labor for Palestine: It's About Time |

Labor for Palestine: It's About Time

By Stuart Rees

time for the ALP to ask itself serious questions about the situation in
Israel and move to new policy platform, writes Stuart Rees

this week a meeting in was held in western Sydney to discuss whether
the Federal Labor Party should support Palestinians’ rights to

In response to the unspeakable suffering of all Palestinians -
Gazans, West Bankers, Arab citizens of Israel, and the 5 million
refugees still served by the UN Refugee Works Association (UNRWA) - why
would the ALP not take a stand for Palestine?    

But change from adherence to the Israeli narrative to fearless
support for the Palestinian cause may not be easy. Questions to ALP
members, which relate to the identity of a party which claims to promote
social justice, might do the trick. Here are the questions. 

Key Questions

How can you retain self-respect if you appear to collude with Israeli
Government’s occupation of Palestinian lands? Do you have any sense of
disbelief at the displacement and replacement polices which have been
occurring since 1948, or at the blood bath of Operation Cast Lead which
began on December 27, 2008? 

Surely the disproportionate use of force in the 2014 Operation
Protective Edge in Gaza would affect your attitude?In that operation,
over 2000 Palestinians were killed and 11,000 wounded. The non-combatant
ratio of Palestinians to Israelis who lost their lives was
approximately 600:1.

Eighteen thousand housing units were destroyed, 24 medical facilities
damaged and at least 16 health workers killed. Twenty-six schools were
destroyed, 228 were damaged and another 31 schools left to serve as
shelters for displaced people.

Will you acknowledge the unnecessary Israeli deaths but also the
massive imbalance in Israeli/Palestinian casualties, property destroyed
and the means of livelihood lost?

Since 2007, within Israel, at least 402 civilians and 58 security
forces have died as a result of suicide bombing. UN figures also
indicate that in Operation Protective Edge, the number of Palestinian
children killed – approximately 500 – exceeds the total number of
Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in rocket
attacks and all other attacks over the past decade.

Far away from the Middle East, Australians may become blasé about
body counts, but how could you not protest the cruelty involved  in
control of the most precious life force – water?

UN figures indicate that Israeli citizens receive 300 cubic meters of
water per year, Palestinians 35-85 cubic metres. Israeli settlers on
the West Bank are allotted 1,500 cubic metres and enjoy green lawns and
swimming pools while Palestinians often get no water at all. Haaretz
journalist Amira Hass warns there’s little point in arguing whether
Israelis’ water consumption is four or only three times that of
Palestinians. Instead she requests, “Open your eyes: the thick pipes of
the Mekorot (Israel’s national water provider) are heading to the Jordan
valley settlements, and a Palestinian tractor next to them transports a
rusty tank of water from afar.”

“In the summer, the faucets run dry in Hebron and never stop flowing in (settlements) Kiryat Arba and Beit Hadassah.”

On 9 February 2014, B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for
Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reported that “over 90 per
cent of water in the Gaza Strip is unfit for drinking. Wastewater
treatment facilities have been damaged, sewage seeps into ground water
and fills the sea.”

Following massive floods across the Gaza Strip in early November
2014, the head of Gaza’s water authority admitted, “The recent war
destroyed everything in Gaza. Many sewage pipes and water networks are
still buried under the rubble.”

East Jerusalem Violence

The record of suffering grows. How would ALP members respond if they
observed the hopelessness which Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem
feel when faced with attacks from armed settlers?

Admittedly there have been awful tit for tat killings, as in the
recent fatal stabbings in a synagogue. This violence occurs in the
context of incitement from settlement leaders, Jerusalem being cut off
from the West Bank, more evictions, more house demolitions and excessive
police brutality.

Israeli author and human rights activist Jeff Halper calls the
collective punishment involved in the demolition of people’s homes,
‘atavistic revenge.’ He emphasizes that the targeting and punishing of
family members innocent of any crime constitutes a violation of Article
33 of the Geneva Convention relative to the ‘Protection Of Civilian
Persons In Time Of War.’

What do party members know of the civil rights of Palestinians living
on the West Bank and in an East Jerusalem almost completely surrounded
by large Israeli settlements?

Israeli leaders encourage Jews to attempt to worship in Moslem holy
places and have given a green light to settlers to attack Palestinians
and their property. Gershon Baskin writes,
“The only real services that Palestinian neighbourhoods of East
Jerusalem receive are those of Border Police arresting suspects, closing
neighbourhoods as well as house demolitions and taxation.”

He reminds us that 80 per cent of East Jerusalem Palestinians live under the poverty line.

Hate speech in Israel and from leading members of the Knesset is an
almost daily occurrence.  A right wing settlers’ slogan reads, “A Jew is
a blessed soul, an Arab is a son of a whore.”

In response to the current discrimination, hate speech and violence
in East Jerusalem, distinguished Palestinian lawyer Dianna Buttu
comments, “This has been the most dehumanizing ordeal in my experience.
All you hear about is the idea that Palestinians don’t value human life,
‘They have a culture of martyrdom’.”

To add to these cruelties a Jewish Nation State Bill is in legal
preparation as the right wing’s one-state solution which would include
the annexation of the territories and the establishment of a Jewish
apartheid State. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy writes that in the
proposed new law, Palestinians will become formally, legally second
class citizens. The architects of this new Israeli state must make sure
at any price that it will not be democratic and egalitarian.

Not Standing Alone

In recognising Palestine as a state, Australian Labor is not being
asked to go it alone, though there would be every reason for taking a
leadership role irrespective of the attitude of other nations.

Several European countries have already taken this stand. The Swedish
Government proposes to extend full diplomatic recognition to the State
of Palestine. By large majorities the Irish Parliament, the British
House of Commons, the Spanish Parliament and the French National
Assembly have voted to recognise the state of Parliament. The motion in
the French Assembly invited “the French Government to recognise the
state of Palestine in order to obtain a definitive settlement of the

Australian state Labor parties have also moved on this issue. A South
Australian Labor resolution mirrors similar statements passed in
Tasmania, NSW and Queensland. The South Australian resolution recognises
peace in the Middle East will only be assured by the foundation of a
Palestinian State based on 1967 borders with agreed land swaps and
security guarantees for itself and Israel.

“SA Labor welcomes the decision of the Palestinian Authority to
commit to a demilitarised Palestine with the presence of international
Peace keepers including US forces,” it says.

Will the Labor Party leadership also heed the cues being given by significant Israeli citizens?

In September 2014, 660 Israeli public figures called on the Danish
Parliament to recognise the State of Palestine. “This would be no
anti-Israel act,” they wrote, “it would help Israel’s future.”

In November 2014, 106 ex-Israeli generals, senior police, and former
heads of Mossad urged Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to negotiate with
“moderate Arab states and with Palestinians in the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip”.

Their letter refers to the Saudi backed peace proposal that was
adopted unanimously by the Arab league in 2002. It offered full peace,
diplomatic recognition, and “normal relations” between Arab states and
Israel in return for Israel’s withdrawal to borders based on the
pre-1967 armistice lines, with negotiated land swaps and a ‘just’ and
mutually ‘agreed’ compromise solution to the Palestinian refugee

If Labor supports Palestine, will political leaders be sufficiently
resilient to not bend in the face of the torrent of derision which
always follows anyone who dares to criticise Israeli government

In response to an article of mine explaining why the world wide
Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement was neither racist nor
anti-Semitic, one threatening letter read, “Go hide in a tunnel… or
stick a grenade up your arse like ur crocodile buddies”.

One of those crocodile buddies was presumably Bob Carr who had
identified and condemned the small group of largely Melbourne
businessmen who supported Israel’s fundamentalist position on illegal
colonies and who sought to veto any change in an Australian government’s
attitude towards Israeli policies.

Carr’s criticism prompted the usual howls of derision from the Israel
right or wrong lobby. Melissa Parke MP received similar vitriol when she spoke in the House of Representatives about the merits of the BDS campaign.

Labor politicians who have spoken in support of the rights of
Palestinians know that the criticism they receive is nothing compared to
the violence and humiliation meted out to Palestinians. They should
know that some Israeli leaders are also dismayed by reactions to any
criticism of the policies of their government.

Quoted in The New Yorker,
the current President of Israel Reuven Rivlin said, “It is time to
honestly admit that Israel is sick, and it is our duty to treat this

He also commented, “I must say that I’ve been horrified by this
thuggishness that has permeated the national dialogue…I’m not asking if
we’ve forgotten how to be Jewish but if we’ve forgotten how to be

From Change of Attitude to Policy?

Beyond the symbolic importance of Labor recognising the state of Palestine, how might such a gesture be converted into a policy?

Although one state already exists in Israel/Palestine, and is about
to be consolidated in the Jewish Nation State Bill, the ALP policy still
envisages a two state solution. In which case a diplomatically sound
elaboration of ‘Labor for Palestine’ could be to return to UN Resolution
242 adopted unanimously in 1967.

Commitment to the terms of that resolution would require all the
parties to cease military activities and return to borders existing
before the 1967 war.

The ALP needs to recognise that if they want to remain a friend of a
democratic Israel, let alone find enough vestiges of humanity to support
the Palestinians, they should be urging negotiations under UN auspices
regarding the goals of Resolution 242. Those goals have much in common
with the Arab Peace Plan and with ALP state branch resolutions.

In the process of moving from a change of attitude to the crafting of
a new policy, emotions will come into play. But it should not take much
courage for Federal Labor to at last say, ‘We’ve had enough of cruelty
as a government’s policy. We’ve had enough of indifference to
international law. We object to violence from all sides but we have not
forgotten about justice; and we will not be intimidated by the Israel

In relation to a change of policy towards all Palestinians we want to
re-craft Gough Whitlam’s unforgettable slogan: ‘It’s about time!’’