Palestinian statehood is the only way forward for peace. Our media don’t help.

May 13, 2024
The General Assembly adopts a resolution that

Australia’s recent vote to increase the status of the State of Palestine in the United Nations General Assembly is as welcome as it is historic. The positive vote recognizes that Palestine is qualified to join and recommends to the U.N Security Council that it reconsider the matter favorably.

Many human rights advocates were concerned that Australia would follow its traditional cautious Middle East policy by recording an abstention along with the United Kingdom, Canada and several European countries. However, Australia joined the overwhelming majority of 143 out of 193 nations in recognising this decision was essential if there is to be a ceasefire, release of hostages and restoration of Palestinian communities. Australia’s vote was consistent with support in our region including New Zealand, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Credit should be given to Foreign Minister Penny Wong who maintained her commitment to a two-state solution which can only be developed if it is negotiated between Israel and Palestine as independent recognised nations. Her leadership is consistent with her position as shadow foreign minister when she moved an amendment at the 2021 ALP national conference, elevating the status of a 2018 resolution, that calls on the next Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state. In moving the amendment, she said ‘it reflects our belief that Israel and Palestine deserve to prosper in peace behind secure and recognised borders.’

Gareth Evans, Kevin Rudd, Bob Hawke and Bob Carr as respected former Labor leaders have long advocated for recognition of Palestine statehood. Labor Friends of Palestine have persistently advocated through several party conferences to formalise the support of so many party members. Most recently Prime Minister Albanese reminded Australians that “you can support human rights for Palestinians without it denigrating the human rights of Israeli citizens.”

However, the debate within Australia has become polarised by political opportunism and attempts to present a simplistic narrative about good and evil. The initial Hamas atrocities of October 7th were condemned by all, but there have been few words from political leaders condemning Israeli genocide. Indeed, the Australian Government has steadfastly ignored the International Court of Justice, refusing to acknowledge the South African case and the ongoing targeting of Palestinians civilians.

Most Australians understand the history of anti semitism and recognise we must respect all cultures and beliefs. However, when the current Israeli government ignores international law to murder more than 35,000 Palestinians and destroy their communities obviously there will be protest against that regime. This is not anti semitism but justified criticism. For many Australians it is incomprehensible that Israel would enforce collective punishment on thousands of innocent civilians instead of relying on international law to punish the perpetrators of the initial attack. If the situation were reversed, we would expect to hear loud condemnation of such terrorism. Yet headlines like “Antisemitism threat spreads” continue to distort the reality that genocidal actions are being ignored while there is general complacency about the undermining of international law. The recent firebombing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in East Jerusalem barely rated a mention in the Australian media, yet reflects the risks to UN workers and staff.

Australian support for Palestinians is strong among our multicultural community which understands how vulnerable groups are treated in societies where colonial attitudes, occupation and military control prevail. Many citizens have fled from such persecution and identify with Palestinians wanting recognition and freedom. Australian Friends of Palestine has advocated nationally since 2004 to ‘promote just peace for the Palestinian people based on international law and United Nations resolutions’. In the last six months we have seen much support for “Ceasefire in Gaza” rallies and events in all capital cities and beyond in country towns. A majority of Australians support a ceasefire in Gaza and many people are now understanding the long struggle of Palestinians for human rights and justice.

Australian students have recently joined a global movement protesting the ongoing assault on Palestinian civilians and the complicity of those countries supplying weapons or component parts to the Israel Defence Force.

We have already heard outraged reaction to Australian support for Palestinian Statehood and no doubt it will continue from the usual suspects, who offer no solution to the current crisis. Supporting ongoing death and destruction in Gaza will not return hostages to their Israeli families nor will it offer peace in the region. The vote in the General Assembly offers a chance for the international community to support all diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire and negotiation to find a lasting solution for these two nations to live in harmony.

Sections of the Australian media will continue to mislead the community and use fear and smear to present extremist criticism of Minister Penny Wong. Some will promote fake news that distracts from the war crimes being committed daily in Gaza. Others will illustrate their ignorance by defending the indefensible.

However, increasing numbers of Australians are using a wide range of news sources including their very own “Pearls and Irritations” which provides regular analysis to ensure we can distinguish between fact and fiction and understand the double standards in so much mainstream reporting in Australia.

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