Australia joins allies in moral failure of historic significance

Oct 24, 2023
A magnifier zooming in Middle East countries on a global map.

Blame for what has and will unfold in Gaza will be shared with Israel by those States, all acting with presumed impunity, which blindly support Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law.

Since 2017, Australia and Israel have expanded cooperation on national security, defence and cyber security. We have a resident Defence Attaché to the Embassy in Tel Aviv and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cyber security cooperation. As evidence mounts of Israel’s war crimes against the innocent citizens of Gaza, we must ask the Australian government if it has used all its influence to protect the innocent men, women and children of Gaza.

Since the Hamas attacks on 7 October 2023, the Australian Government has:

  • appropriately condemned the Hamas attacks
  • lit up Australian landmarks in solidarity with Israel
  • by its Prime Minister, provided general political support to Israel “as requested”, as distinct from offering sympathy to Israelis and condemning the actions of Hamas
  • asserted that Israel has a right to defend itself without reference to the requirements of international law that:

– it not to do so unless it exhausts all peaceful means

–  defensive measures cannot take the form of warfare

–  an occupying power cannot use self-defence to justify measures against people under occupation

  • by Foreign Minister Penny Wong, said on the one hand, “I think it is always the right thing for Australia to urge restraint and the protection of civilian lives” but on the other made no comment on credible reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, ICRC, MSF, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations of Israel’s forced displacement and starvation of Gaza civilians, its use of white phosphorus and its bombing of civilian homes, schools and hospitals
  • called for the protection of civilian life and for the observance of international law but has not said what it has done to satisfy itself that Israel has complied with the international rules of war and international humanitarian law
  • rightly called for the unconditional release of all hostages
  • provided $10 million in humanitarian aid for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza but said nothing about the illegal blockade which prevents that aid reaching the civilians;
  • in response to Israel’s order to cut Gaza’s food, water and fuel supplies, said quite disingenuously that it is “very difficult from over here to make judgements about what security approach other countries take. We’ve said Israel has a right to defend itself.” (Foreign Minister, Penny Wong)
  • said “Israel is acting within the rules of war” (Defence Minister / Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles)
  • in response to claims that Israel bombed the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, responded: “Assessments are difficult, I think it’s appropriate to refer to the US Security Council” and “Our current assessment is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion in a hospital in Gaza” (Foreign Minister, Penny Wong)
  • remained silent about whether or not it is prepared to suspend defence exports and defence cooperation with Israel until credible allegations of war crimes are fully investigated
  • not pressed Israel’s Ambassador to Australia for any to answers to the allegations of war crimes being committed in Gaza
  • not imposed autonomous sanctions against Israel
  • not publicly revealed the extent to which Pine Gap is facilitating Israel’s military response in Gaza
  • passed a Senate motion that:

–         condemns “murder of civilians, including women and children… and indiscriminate rocket fire” by Hamas, but fails to criticise similar behaviour by Israel

–          baldly says the loss and suffering on both sides is “a result of the attacks by Hamas”, which ignores more than 50 years of historical conflict as a causal factor

–          “calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” but fails to clearly include the civilians of Gaza, who are ongoing hostages

–          “reiterates Australia’s consistent position in all contexts…to call for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international law” while it remains hypocritically inactive in securing compliance by Israel

  • not called for an immediate ceasefire or de-escalation, or for an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza

Human rights lawyers have already warned President Joe Biden that unconditional support for the war on Gaza may implicate the US in Israel’s crimes. Like the United States, the Australian Government offered unreserved political support to Israel and its response soon after the Hamas attacks.

Blame for what has and will unfold in Gaza will be shared with Israel by those States, all acting with presumed impunity, which blindly support Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law. As well as demonstrating no real diplomatic will to prevent or stop a humanitarian disaster, Australia joins its allies in a moral failure of historic significance and a foreign policy stance that precludes lecturing any other State from any high moral ground on freedom, justice and respect for international law.

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