Australia and the Israeli-Hamas War

Jun 12, 2024
Waving flag of Israel and Australia.Image:iStock

We, the undersigned, urge the Australian Government to pursue a policy towards the Israeli-Hamas war which is more transparent, consistent and principled than currently is the case.

We are not enemies of Israel. Most certainly, we hold no sympathy for Hamas, whose brutal attacks on 7 October 2023 unleashed another bout of Israeli-Palestinian bloodletting. To date, that bloodletting has taken more than 35,000 lives, the majority of them Palestinian, of which an appallingly high proportion has been women and children.

Australia has long been a friend of Israel, has consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, and has strongly advocated a two-state solution as the best way of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Australia has worked hard to support an international order in which Israel should be an active participant. Deputy Prime Minister Marles told the recent Shangri-la Dialogue that Australia respected the important role the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court play in upholding international law and the global rules-based order. Israel, he said, “must comply with the binding orders of the ICJ”.

Often, Israel appears intent to write its own rules and to pay only lip-service to efforts to resolves the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s Prime Minister Netanyahu has opposed the two-state solution and, when leading the Israeli Government, has worked assiduously to impede progress towards that goal, ignoring the wishes of the international community, including Israel’s friends.

We welcome Australian Government gestures towards recognition of a Palestinian state. That said, the immediate priority in Gaza must be a sustainable ceasefire and the provision of critically needed food and medical supplies. While we recognise that Australia’s capacity to shape events is limited, we propose the following steps to underline to Israel that its approach to the conflict must change.

The Australian Government should:

  • Pause all approvals for the export of defence-related materiel, including items which arrive in Israel via third-parties. The Australian Government maintains it does not export “weapons” to Israel. That appears to be an exercise in semantics. A 2023 media release from the Victorian Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions advised that more than 700 “highly technical parts” for the F-35 fighter jet, used in Gaza by the Israeli Airforce, are manufactured in Victoria. The department said “the critical assembly role” undertaken in Australia ensured the F-35 was “mission-ready, anytime, anywhere”.
  • Provide visas for Palestinians seeking either permanent refugee status or temporary stay in Australia, for as long as the conflict continues (a similar approach was used for Ukrainians after the Russian invasion of Ukraine).
  • Sanction individual Israelis. Israel’s current Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, a self-described “fascist homophobe,” has derided Palestinians as an invention. Israel’s current National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, claimed in 2023 that his rights in the occupied West Bank were more important than those of Palestinians, earning him a rebuke from the US State Department. The US has also condemned suggestions by both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir that the Gaza war offered an opportunity to “encourage” Palestinians to leave the territory.
  • Make clear Australia’s readiness to comply with the rulings of the ICJ and the ICC. We note that Australia’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has included sanctions on more than 1200 individuals and entities. Despite Israel ignoring persistent calls for restraint, including from the UN, the ICJ, and Israel’s own friends, Australia does not appear to have sanctioned a single Israeli.
  • Recall Australia’s Ambassador to Israel for consultations. This would signal the Australian Government’s frustration with Israel’s constant ignoring of appeals for restraint and also provide an opportunity to consider the “day after” for Gaza. Issues to explore include to what extent Australia might be involved in any future “peace process”; the level of Australia’s humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians (currently well below the amount of humanitarian aid provided to Ukraine); who will take on the task of peace-keeping and reconstruction in Gaza? (Here, we note recent comments by Indonesian President-elect Prabowo that Indonesia is prepared to contribute a substantial peace-keeping contingent in a post-war situation).

We call for urgent Government action on these matters.

Stephen Fitzgerald AO – Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney University, former Ambassador to China and former Director of the Asia-Australia Institute
Abul Rizvi PSM – former Deputy Secretary, Department of Immigration
Mary Kostakidis – former Chair Sydney Peace Foundation and former anchor SBS World News
Margaret Reynolds AC – former Senator and Federal Minister with commitment of Australian Peace Movement
Richard Broinowski AO – former Ambassador to Mexico, Vietnam and South Korea and former general manager of Radio Australia
Alison Broinowski AM– former Australian diplomat and member of Australians for War Powers Reform and World BEYOND War
Patrick Gourley – former Department of Defence official
Percy Allan AM – former Secretary, New South Wales Treasury
Joe Camilleri – emeritus Professor, La Trobe University
Jocelyn Chey AM – former diplomat and Visiting Professor, University of Sydney
Wanning Sun – Professor, University of Technology
Geoff Miller AO – former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Ambassador to Japan and Korea and High Commissioner to New Zealand
Mack Williams – former Ambassador to Korea
John Menadue AO – former Secretary Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Ambassador to Japan and CEO Qantas.
Peter Rodgers – former Ambassador to Israel
Mike Gilligan – former Department of Defence official
Tony Kevin – former Ambassador to Poland and Cambodia
Peter Slezak – Honorary Professor of Philosophy, University of New South Wales
Andrew Farran – philanthropist
Charles Mott – former Ambassador, journalist and Adjunct Professor, La Trobe University
Michael Keating AC FASSA– former Secretary of the Departments Employment and Industrial Relations, Finance and the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Phillipa Smith AM – former Commonwealth Ombudsman
Roger Beale AO – former Secretary Environment and Heritage Department, Deputy Secretary, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Climate Commissioner
Ralph Evans AO – former management consultant and Chief Executive of Austrade
Tony Blunn AO FIPAA – former Secretary , Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department
Tony Walker AM, Journalist

Media contact:Peter Rodgers, 0408 410 130

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