Australia’s disgraceful diversion of responsibility over Gaza war crimes

Apr 8, 2024
Rafah, Gaza. 21st Feb, 2024. Smoke billows in the sky following Israeli bombardment on Alfaroq Mosque in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday, February 22, 2024. Image: Alamy / Ismael Mohamad/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

It seems our PM and Foreign Minister remain able only to show a carefully graduated and modified ‘outrage’ over the death of an Australian aid worker in Gaza. Expressed directly to Netanyahu, Albanese could only deliver restrained diplomatese: sought was a “thorough investigation” with “full accountability and transparency”. That hardly rocked Netanyahu to the core: his response – it was a mistake but such things inevitably happen in war – bordered on the offensive.

Albanese’s carefully crafted politude did then extend to ‘concern’ about a ground invasion of Rafah and to urging that humanitarian assistance should reach people in Gaza unimpeded and in large quantities. And, finally responding to interview pressure, there is an admission by the PM that what happened could be seen as a war crime. But there followed a careful diversion away from responding to whether we would so prosecute. That puts us way behind the eight ball with Biden having finally found the strength of character to use leverage to unlock further humanitarian aid to Gaza. This only followed trenchant criticism of his initial Albanese like response. Jon Favreau (a former chief speechwriter for President Obama) summed up the derision: “The president doesn’t get credit for being ‘privately enraged’ when he still refuses to use leverage to stop the IDF from killing and starving innocent people”.

Locked in we still are then, to only a modest graduation from the usual outpouring of concern-without-consequences over the way in which the IDF is committing a swath of war crimes in Gaza. That no sanctions have even been proposed by Australia is dumbfounding given the litany of clearly unjustified acts of war inflicted upon the Palestinians. Since October 7 Netanyahu’s ‘inevitable consequences of war’ has meant:

  • 203 aid workers killed of whom 95% were Palestinian (this figure is higher than the total number of aid worker fatalities that typically occur annually worldwide)
  • More United Nations aid workers have been killed in Gaza than in any other single conflict in the organisation’s 78-year history
  • 102 UNWRA aid workers killed and 27 others wounded
  • UNRWA’s facilities have been hit over 290 times in the hostilities,
  • 374 medical personnel have been killed
  • 120 ambulances have been completely destroyed.
  • 12 of 35 hospitals are only partially functioning
  • 51 of 72 primary medical care facilities are closed.
  • Hospitals and other vital medical infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank have been attacked nearly 600 times
  • 613 people have died within health facilities (of which seven were in the West Bank) and more than 770 have been injured, (WHO)
  • In the West Bank, 286 attacks caused seven deaths and 52 injuries. Some 24 health facilities were affected along with 212 ambulances
  • At least 95 journalists have been killed according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in what has been the deadliest period for journalists since the NGO began tracking casualties in 1992.

The above translates to an Israeli army for which the rules of engagement are being ignored at will – an army totally out of control. This, no more clearly demonstrated that in the case of the attack on the World Central Kitchen convoy. Israel’s investigation admits to a siting of a single person thought to be a Hamas soldier who was then thought to have accessed the convoy. No verification was achieved, no proportionality of casualties considered leading to an utter disregard for the safety of an aid worker convoy already subject to Israeli verification and permission to operate. Similar stories surround the deaths of the other 200 aid workers.

This begs the question why has proportionality not been applied to thousands of other destructive operations by the IDF in Gaza? Proportionality is no undefined rule of war – it is formally codified and prohibits attacks ‘which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated’.

Particularly relevant to the World Central Kitchen convoy attack is the reinforcing of the principle of proportionality by the obligation to do everything feasible to assess whether an attack may be expected to be disproportionate and to cancel or suspend an attack if it becomes apparent that it may be expected to have disproportionate effects.

The lack of proportionality by the IFD is nowhere better advertised than in a breakdown of the Gaza war casualties. The Israeli Government admits to the death of around 600 Israeli defence personnel (but only half during the invasion of Gaza with the balance occurring during Hamas’s border invasion). The so called ‘unintended’ human collateral damage totals 32,000 Palestinians 22,000 of which have been women and children. While Israeli claims 13,000 Hamas soldiers killed, that appears greatly inflated given a substantial proportion of the balance of 10,000 male Palestinian killed would have been non-combatants. One leaked Hamas estimate puts combatant deaths at around 6000.

Such a flagrant disproportionality in casualties has not translated in a proportionate diplomatic response from our Government. In our lack of moral spine it is difficult to ignore the extent to which ethnicity plays a role. If 32,000 Israelis had been killed and 1.5 million driven to the point of starvation western world outrage would surely have been well and truly proportionate.

The Israelis play this ethnicity card skilfully. Witness the recent widespread use of Netanyahu’s spokesman Avi Hyman who delivers his mistruths and obfuscations in friendly, impeccable well nuanced, Oxford English. In justifying the destruction of the Shifa medical complex – in which 22 patients died as did around 400 others – Hyman seeks to bestow western military values on the IDF with an outrageous claim. “I believe …. the subsequent special forces operation to clear the hospital of terrorists will be studied by future generations of military strategists at West Point and Sandhurst as the gold standard for urban warfare”.

So how much longer can we now shelter in this western ethnic bias? Just how much more horrendous than the deliberate creation of famine for 1.5 million people and the killing of 32,000 civilians do acts of barbarity need to be to get a response from our government which is anywhere near proportionate to the crimes being committed? Has not the time well and truly arrived for us to use our own leverage and support the prosecution of Israel for war crimes through the ICJ?

Share and Enjoy !

Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter
Subscribe to John Menadue's Newsletter


Thank you for subscribing!