Australian voting in the United Nations on Israel reveals unpleasant realities

Dec 7, 2020

One of Australia’s best kept secrets by our media is our voting record in the United Nations on resolutions condemning the occupation of Palestinian land  and human rights abuses by the State of Israel.

Tom Toby photographer
Rally in Sydney against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Australia, February 2017

Apart from the period of the last Labor government, when the general policy was to abstain on issues in the General Assembly critical of the conduct of Israel, the voting record has consistently been one of support for Israel by voting against any resolution critical of the actions of the Israeli government.

One of the features of this voting pattern is that it is largely unreported in the Australian mainstream media. As there is also editorial silence on the matter, one is left to speculate on what the purpose of the Australian voting pattern is, other than the obvious one of an unqualified support for the regime in Tel Aviv.

That support covers a wide range of topics. In recent years the United Nations General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn, inter alia, the illegal Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and the treatment of its Palestinian citizens. Let us look briefly at the Golan Heights. In 1968 Israel and Syria fought a brief war, in the course of which Israel captured the Syrian part of the Golan Heights.

It is well established international law that no country can maintain occupation of territory belonging to another country captured in the course of a war. Yet that is precisely what Israel has done. Repeated United Nations resolutions demanding that the territory be returned to its rightful owners, in this case the Syrians, are simply ignored by Israel. When the matter is voted upon in the United Nations General Assembly the vote is overwhelmingly in favour of Israel vacating the occupied territory.

Israel simply ignores the resolution, secure in the support of the United States that the United Nations will not take steps to enforce the will of the General Assembly. Australia votes in favour of Israel’s defiance. That situation has now continued for 52 years and each year Israel increases its hold on the occupied region, including establishing Israeli settlements there.

This week, on 2 December 2020, the pattern was repeated. There were five resolutions before the United Nations General Assembly. They all condemned Israel’s repeated violations of international law. One of those resolutions, A/75/L.34 called for the “Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine.” The vote was 145 in favour and seven against. The seven ‘No’ votes followed a very familiar pattern. They were Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and the United States.

Those seven countries regularly appear as part of a tiny minority to vote against United Nations General Assembly resolutions critical of Israel. Three of the seven are inconsequential islands that owe their existence to either the United States or Australia. The United States and Israel are two of the remaining four, together with Australia and Canada who act in the United Nations as effectively colonies of the United States.

The tiny minority voting “No” to the resolutions are no surprise. They are the “regular seven” that can be relied upon to vote for Israel’s interests and against the overwhelming majority of the world’s countries. What is of interest to the Australian reader however, is that Australia’s voting pattern, on this as on nearly all such occasions, was unreported in the Australian mainstream media. Newspapers, radio and television were uniformly silent.

In such a situation, silence generally implies consent, and this is no exception to that general rule. The one favourable point that may be taken from the overwhelming media silence is that they are ashamed of Australia’s continued subservience to the United States –Israeli viewpoint, fearing that even if it is publicised then it might invoke a negative public reaction. One would certainly hope that was the case.

It is difficult to think of a rational reason for Australia’s continued support for what is a history of unparalleled disregard, not only for the rights of the Palestinians, but also fundamental principles of international law. By the same token that silence implies consent, the acquiescence of the Labor Party in this ongoing support for arguably the world’s second greatest law breaker (after the United States) counts as a shameful blot upon their political credentials.

One thing that Australian silence on Israeli criminality, which includes assassination of Iranians officials and waging an declared war on Syria, does reveal, is that Australia’s much vaunted support for the “rules based international order” is no more than empty rhetoric.

It is long past time that Australia acknowledged itself for what its conduct, and not only in the United Nations, reveals to the world. The answer is not pretty, but until that reality is faced there is unlikely to be any measurable change for the better.

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