Australia is a silent partner in atrocity in Gaza and the West Bank

Apr 29, 2024
Israel and Australia flag together realations textile cloth fabric texture

On 27 February, we wrote to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) expressing concern that Australia had failed to fulfil its obligation under the Genocide Convention (1948) to prevent any action that further risks the survival of the Palestinian people. That failure continues.

We copied our letter to Judge Hilary Charlesworth at the ICJ. We also sent it to Prime Minister Albanese, and other Ministers, pointing out that their inaction could make Australia complicit in the genocide whose plausibility the ICJ identified on 26 February. We documented widespread non-government sector advocacy in Australia for action in response to statements from the ICJ and the UNHCR.

On 26 April we received a reply from Senator Penny Wong. She doesn’t mention the export of Australian weapons or components to Israel, which she has claimed did not occur after November 2023. But the Israel weapons company Elbit Systems was reported on 27 February 2024 to have been awarded a fresh Australian defence contract worth $917 million, spanning ‘a period of five years’.

DFAT data shows that in February 2024 alone, Australia directly exported over $1.5 million in ‘arms and ammunition’ to Israel, nearly as much as the entire value of such direct ‘arms and munitions’ exports since the Albanese Government came to power, collectively worth over $3.25 million. In addition, Australia exports directly to Israel or through third countries, such as engines for drones and military-grade steel for armoured vehicles, and F35 fighter parts 
(greens.org.au, 27 April 2024. ‘Australia exported $1.5 million worth of weapons to Israel in February 2024, fresh DFAT data shows’).

Senator Wong condemns the actions of Hamas against Israel but finds the IDF’s murder of seven World Food Kitchen workers merely ‘unacceptable’. She deplores Hamas holding fewer than 230 Israelis hostage, but fails to mention more than 9000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel’s jails. She does not propose independent negotiations for their release.

Senator Wong writes that parachutes for aid airdrops by Jordan and the UAE are to be delivered by the RAAF, and says Australia is providing an additional $4 million to UNICEF and $2 million to the UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza. She states that these amounts bring Australia’s total humanitarian contribution since October 2023 to $52.5 million. They are ‘in addition to Australia’s core funding of $20.6 million for UNRWA, which has already been provided for this financial year’. Whether Australia’s suspended UNWRA funding will resume next year she doesn’t say.

Like her Defence colleague Richard Marles, Senator Wong repeatedly refers to the ‘rules-based order’, rather than the international law-based order. She says she regularly raises peace in the Middle East with other countries, but doesn’t mention expressing specific concern about Israel’s defiance of international law and the ICJ, or with what result. She merely says ‘Our shared expectation is that Israel act in accordance with the ICJ’s ruling’.

Such diplomatic efforts as Australia has made have no effect. Short of failing to acknowledge Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Australia continues to fall short of its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

In fact, Australia is committed to exceptional treatment of Israel – following the United States as always. Even as she reversed the Morrison government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Senator Wong stated on 18 October 2022 that Australia will ‘always be a steadfast friend of Israel’.

Actions for the Foreign Minister urgently to consider include:

  • Recall Australia’s Ambassador from Israel, and restore contact with the pariah state only when there is a permanent ceasefire.
  • Recognise Palestine as a UN member state, as have more than 140 other countries.
  • Publicly acknowledge Australia’s responsibilities under the Genocide Convention and the consequences of failing to do so.
  • Correct the public record about sales by Australia to Israel of weapons and systems which are used in Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Send Israel a stronger message about its military evacuation of Gaza than ‘Do not go down this path’.
  • Rectify cancelled visas for Palestinians seeking temporary refuge in Australia.
  • Establish an Australian Reconstruction Plan in which the international community can rebuild and rehabilitate the destroyed homelands of Palestinians.
  • Have DFAT join with civil society groups in Australia to deliver practical support to Palestinians to make up for the government’s failure to oppose genocide.

 

You might also be interested to listen to John Menadue and Margaret Reynolds unpack the Tragedy of Gaza.

Podcast: The Tragedy of Gaza

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