Australia’s role in further collective punishment on Gazans

Jan 29, 2024
Waving flag of Israel and Australia.Image:iStock

Israel has for years been determined to cut aid to the refugees both in Gaza and the West Bank.

While the UN Secretary General and head of UNRWA calls for an investigation into what Israel alleges are crimes committed by some 12 Gazan UNRWA staff (among the 13,000) in the participation of the October 7th events, the leaders of the Western world including Australia just jump on board of these allegations and immediately cut aid to UNRWA. In so doing I believe they are all involved in yet further collective punishment, Australia among them, on an entrapped, starving, drenched, freezing, ill and injured 2.3 million Palestinians.

There is always context when dealing with Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has for years been determined to cut aid to the refugees both in Gaza and the West Bank. With Trump and our former PM  Scott Morrison, they achieved part of their goal and aid to UNRWA was reduced by at least half. For years they have also been set on undermining the critical work of the UN agency. They have chosen now ( nearly three months after the event) to bring this information to the worlds attention just as the ICJ found that the South African charges of genocide against them contained merit. The ICJ found that there is a probability of Israel committing genocide in Gaza. This is no co-incidence.

Just let’s examine where the greatest damage done by the IDF over the past months in Gaza. There are 8 refugee camps in Gaza that contain 85% of the population, mostly relying on food aid and support from UNRWA and other UN agencies.  these names have become very familiar to us, Jabalia, Nuseirat, Bureij and Maghazi camps among the eight, because these are where Israel has concentrated its military efforts and killed the most people. These camps were home to refugees who lived in abject poverty, already on the edge of existence, requiring food aid with unemployment among the highest in the world, close on 50% in 2023.

And in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank what do we see? The following camps that routinely come under Israeli fire are the refugee camps of Jenin, Balata, Nour Shams, Tulkarem, and the Aqbat Jabr camp. Since   October 2023 until now, 361 Palestinians have been killed, including 92 children, across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The majority of these were killed by Israeli forces although Israeli settlers also killed Palestinians. The 2023 a total of 507 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, making it the highest number killed since OCHA started recording casualties in 2005.  In the same period  4,358 Palestinians, including 657 children, have been injured in the West Bank – again mostly by Israeli forces and settlers. There has been a rapid rise in settler attacks with some 460 Israeli settler attacks in the past three months. (OCHA opt Flash update103 ).

Israel’s military and political aim has been to physically destroy the camps and destroy all possible sources of support to refugees in these camps. This latest attack on UNRWA. the only means of food, preventative health care, maternal and child health and importantly education are all deliberate targets of the IDF. It’s  art of destroying all hope and opportunity through access to food, health care and education that Palestinian refugees have.

And what does Australia and most of the Western nations do? They jump when Israel says jump and say ‘yes we believe you’ when we know that Israel’s military are murderous liars. Are we to have another Iraq situation when the government is lead astray by spurious intelligence? Let the UN undertake its own investigation.  Let the UN deal with this issue. Don’t just jump to Israels demands like sheep. To stop or ‘pause’ all aid to UNRWA at this critical moment when so many are suffering shocking deprivation, abuse, psychological torture, being told to move to Israeli identified safe spaces only to be bombed and killed or having the minimum that they have destroyed again, and again is morally cowardly and despicable. As a former UNRWA consultant I share the outrage being expressed by the head of UNRWA and the UN Secretary General and the call for this desperately needed aid to be maintained. The UN special rapporteur for the Occupied Territories Francesca Albanese comments that,“ the dire needs of the desperate population they serve must be met”, and notes that states “ cutting funding aid to UNRWA could violate states obligations to the Genocide Convention”. That includes us, Australia.

Australia is used to Israel lying about its aid program and it is a shame that our Government has not learnt from previous Labor governments and taken what Israel says with more than a pinch of salt. Remember all the lies we were told about World Vision funding terrorists in Gaza and after months of investigations these were proved to be false and yet an innocent man languishes in prison. A similar situation existed for Union Aid Abroad APHEDA a few years back where a diligent member of the Murdoch press, following an Israeli funded trip, wrote a pack of lies about APHEDAs important and valuable work in Occupied Territories. Once again, these were found to be blatant untruths.

So why has our Government just jumped to Israels request and pathological intent to destroy the only lifeline Palestinians have? It seems that although the Government has lost its moral courage in relation to Palestine a very generous private foundation in Australia has donated $2.2 million to OCHA opt. We also know that millions of Australians have donated to aid organisations and those supporters are very angry, so furious, at the actions of the government. They can see the desperate needs of the Palestinians and the much needed role of UNRWA, so why has this Labor Government been so appalling, shameful and so morally reprehensible in turning its back on the Palestinians in Gaza at this critical moment when they are starving. Yes starving Ms Wong and Mr Albanese. How could you ?

The view expressed in this article are mine alone.


Learn about the global campaign for raising funds for UNRWA – Dignity is Priceless 

Click to access dip_campaign_factsheet.pdf


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