These things don’t happen in a vacuum

Nov 19, 2023
Posters on a street wall.

Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israeli citizens was horrific. There are 2 things to bear in mind – firstly it didn’t happen in a vacuum and secondly the scale of the retaliations, the punishment, far outweighs the crime.

Firstly the history of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people is well documented. Below are a few examples:

  • In 1948 Palestinians owned 94% of all land; now Israelis own 82%
  • In its treatment of Palestinians and the blockade of Gaza, Israel is currently in breach of, or has been the subject of, over 30 UN Security Council resolutions directed at it for violations which it has never taken action to remedy.
  • In an April 2021 report, ”A Threshold Crossed, Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”, Human Rights Watch has called on countries, including Australia, to impose sanctions on Israel which it claims has committed crimes against humanity under international law
  • In March 2021 the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda said: “I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine, pursuant to article 53(1) of the Statute. In brief, I am satisfied that (i) war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip (“Gaza”); (ii) potential cases arising from the situation would be admissible; and (iii) there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.
  • In March this year, the UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel. The resolution received the support of many European countries, including France, Germany, and Italy.
  • Four days ago, the now Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Karim A.A, Kahn KC, said; “I have to say that Israel has clear obligations in relation to its war with Hamas: not just moral obligations, but legal obligations that it has to comply with the laws of armed conflict. It’s there in the Rome Statute. It’s there in black and white. It’s there in the Geneva convention”.

Leaving the massacres in Gaza aside we should not ignore the ongoing alienation of Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories by the Israeli Settlements.

  • The UN Security Council has called upon Israel, as the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by the Fourth Geneva Convention and “….. not to transfer parts of its own civilian population into the occupied Arab territories”.
  • By 2021 the US had vetoed at least four UNSC resolutions condemningIsrael’s settlements on Palestinian land,
  • In March 2023 the Israeli government greenlighted an amendment that would allow Israelis to resettle four illegal settlements in the northern occupied West Bank that were evacuated in 2005.

The UN General Assembly last week adopted a resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” between “Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza”. We should not expect to see Israel respect it just as it has ignored all the international resolutions and reports listed above.

Given Australia’s nominal adherence to universal human rights, the rule of law and rules based international law, it is hard to understand why we would be embracing further cooperation with a country which has shown so little respect for the rule of law. Out abstention from the vote is predicated on the spurious grounds of its not also condemning Hamas; that didn’t bother the 120 nations supporting the motion.

It’s worth noting that 2 countries that have been subjected to oppression, South Africa and Ireland have been quick off the blocks to support Palestine.

As to the punishment outweighing the crime – one child killed every 10 minutes – one has to ask whether the ferocity we are seeing in the Israel’s brutal use of sophisticated weaponry is really about killing thousands to destroy a score of Hamas leaders or whether this is an apocalypse for the Israeli leadership – another attempt to wipe out a population it has failed to subdue through unjust laws and punishments.

As each day passes this conflict is becoming normalised and we become desensitised to the sight of devastation, to the knowledge that 2 million people are being denied food, water, medicine and fuel.

The world watches on helplessly as western leadership fails to race to stop these crimes against humanity in the 21st century.

Who said, ‘Never Again’?


For more on this topic, P&I recommends:

Scott Morrison, where are you? Eight years is too long

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