No more fence sitting … the Australian Government must condemn Israeli genocide!

May 27, 2024
21 October 2023, Palestinian Territories, Al Zahra: An aerial view of Madinat Al-Zahra near Khan Yunis. The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has risen by more than 200 to 4,385 since the beginning of the war with Israel two weeks ago, the Hamas-run Heath Ministry said. Photo: Alamy/ Shadi Tabatibi/dpa

We must make it clear to the current Israeli administration that our nation can no longer accept its actions and certainly do not “share its values “

Since January 26, 2024 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has urged the State of Israel to respond to its responsibilities as a democracy and United Nations member required to uphold humanitarian law to prevent genocide. On March 26 the Court reaffirmed its provisional measures citing in particular “starvation and famine “and insisted Israel:

“Take all necessary and effective measures to ensure without delay full cooperation with the United Nations, the unhindered provision at scale by all concerned of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid.”

It also warned Israel that it must:

“Ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit acts which constitute a violation of any of the rights of Palestinians in Gaza.”

Finally on May 24th the ICJ considered the urgency of the ongoing catastrophic conditions and military bombardment in Gaza and directed that:

“Israel must immediately halt its military offensive violence and any other action in Rafah which may inflict on the Palestinian group conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction”

Over the same period the Australian Government has ignored its obligations as a signatory to the Genocide Convention and studiously avoided any explanation of its reasons for this failure.  Instead Australians have been constantly reminded of the initial Hamas attack yet there has been no comparable outrage from Australian government leaders, who have refused to comment on the devastating statistics caused by Israel’s  collective punishment in its determination to destroy  the State of Palestine.

It took three months for the Attorney General to finally recognize letters of concern from Australian human rights advocates shocked that the January 26 interim ruling of the  International Court of Justice calling on Israel to prevent genocide was never officially  acknowledged by the Australian Government.  The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Attorney General himself have studiously avoided any public statement even though Australia is a signatory to the Genocide Convention so Australians are entitled to know if and how the government is acting on their behalf to prevent war crimes.

On May 10 I received a letter from the International Security, Criminal and Diplomatic Law Group in the Office of International Law of the Attorney Generals Department. It advised that “the Attorney General had requested the Department respond on his behalf and apologized for the delay in our response “ The letter  was enthusiastic in its praise of Australia having ‘a longstanding position of support and respect for international law and is firmly committed to its obligations under the Genocide Convention”.

However, the letter then proceeds with an obvious contradiction –

“Australia is aware of the ICJ Advisory opinion but is not participating in these proceedings. Australia is not a party to the case  that South Africa has brought against Israel in the ICJ under the Genocide Convention, however we are closely monitoring it “

What is involved in such monitoring? When has the Australian Government tried to influence Israel as a” forever friend “to act with humanity and adhere to international law?  It appears there has been only silence as the Labor leadership hides from the horrific reality of military attacks on civilians. The harshest condemnation from the Australian Government to date has been phone calls to President Netanyahu indicating it was “unacceptable” for the Israeli Defence Force to target food aid delivery killing several workers including an Australian woman.

Only one of the youngest members of the Labor Government, Western Australian Senator Fatima Payman had the courage to question why the Prime Minister has not reacted to atrocities being committed despite the International Court of Justice warnings. She spoke on behalf of her community and indeed her generation unable to comprehend how those in authority with the power to act can be so reluctant to call for full accountability.

And was she recognized for her moral leadership?  Sadly, Labor senators allowed themselves to be further silenced by Opposition opportunism pretending a divisive slogan is more disturbing to them than the death and destruction of Gaza.

Many Australians still want to believe that the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong is committed to her considered role as a peace maker but many of us are appalled that the Albanese government has not yet condemned war crimes committed by the Israel Defence Forces

It would be instructive for the government to publicly document just how many times it has used the refrain “Israel has a right to defend itself” and how many times has it declared “Palestinians too have a right to live free from military occupation and attack”? Many Australians would like it revealed when the Prime Minister has met with Palestinian or Israeli advocacy groups to consult how best the Australian government can contribute to ending the siege of Gaza and the implementation of the two-state solution, which would bring peace to both Israelis and Palestinians. Has Prime Minister Albanese also met with Arab diplomats based in Australia to hear their nations’ plans for an urgent  global conference to implement the two-state solution and has he offered his government’s support?

Failure to be proactive and vocal about the way international law has been ignored by Israel and its close allies has led to the Australian Government appearing weak and uncertain about its official response. Yes, the leadership team has consistently advocated for a ceasefire and two state solution, but the mixed messages of hesitancy have not convinced many Australians that essential humanity is the priority of the Albanese Government. His team of advisers seem more preoccupied with avoiding attacks by the Opposition and manic Murdoch media, than the devastating military attacks on women and children in Gaza.

Now that the International Court of Justice has directed Israel to withdraw from Rafah it is no longer possible for the Australian Government to continue its hopeful fence sitting. We demand an informed and ethical response that must start with absolute commitment to condemn Israeli genocide and publicly make it clear to the current Israeli administration that our nation can no longer accept its actions and certainly do not “share its values”.

As the International Court of Justice was preparing to release its most recent directive to Israel, Prime Minister Albanese made an encouraging statement declaring that Australia was a sovereign state and would chart its own course, so let us hope that means being guided by international law and the humanity of Australians.

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