It was pleasing to see that not everyone in Australia welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel and accused war criminal as enthusiastically as PM Malcom Turnbull and his yes-men colleagues did last week.
Indeed, the collective oppositional voice was very strong, with large demonstrations against Netanyahu and Israel’s anti-Palestinian expansionist policy in most capital cities. I was pleased to attend the Sydney demo and heard an impressive array of speakers passionately tell of Israel’s aggression, including Greens MP David Shoebridge.
Opposition to Netanyahu’s unwelcome presence wasn’t limited to demonstrations. The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network organised a statement signed by over 60 prominent Australians, Facebook and the Twittersphere were replete with condemnations of Israel’s policies, and the Australian Jewish Democratic Society also added its voice to the protests.
So what is wrong with Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians? Words such as ‘plenty’ and ‘heaps’ come to mind. For example, Israel continues to defy all United Nations calls for it to comply with international law in respect of its illegal settlement building, and its treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population.
For over the last 50 years, Israel has held the people of Palestine under military occupation and continues to illegally build settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It continues to confiscate Palestinian land and continues to demolish Palestinian homes. Its policy of continuing the imprisonment of Palestinians without trial even of children as young as 12 continues, as does its blockade of the 1.8 million civilian inhabitants of Gaza.
Those actions are not symbolic of a nation desirous of building peace with its neighbours. They build understandable resentment, anger and desperation amongst Palestinians.
The Australian Government needs to rethink its one-sided support for the Israeli Government. Like thousands of others, I was appalled that our Government opposed the recent UN Security Council resolution supporting the application of international law to Israel and Palestine, when most nations, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France and New Zealand, support it. Even the USA did not oppose it.
As Greens Foreign Affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlum said, “The Australian Government should stand condemned for its warm welcome to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Mr Netanyahu seems determined to wreck any chances of a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he pointed out.
Many people might not realise that Mr Netanyahu’s Government is under preliminary investigation for war crimes in the International Criminal Court. On his orders, the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank has accelerated, as has the demolition of Palestinian homes and seizure of their land and water. Hence the appellation ‘accused war criminal’.
In 2008 and again in 2014, Mr Netanyahu authorised ground invasions and heavy bombardments of the densely populated Gaza strip, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties.
Readers will remember that only a matter of days ago Mr Netanyahu stood smirking by the side of President Trump while the US Commander in chief casually trashed Palestinian’s aspirations for statehood.
So amidst this brazen contempt for international law and all attempts to promote a peaceful settlement, I utterly reject Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s glib assurances that the Australian people would ‘warmly embrace’ Mr Netanyahu on his arrival.