24 November, 2010

An Open Letter to Australian MPs

Dear elected representatives of the Australian people

I write to you to express my concerns regarding the proposed Australian delegation to Israel. This delegation, like the previous ones in which Julia Gillard participated, gives the appearance of Australian endorsement for all of the various activities of the Israeli government of which you must be aware. Many Australians are concerned that the Israeli government has committed numerous acts for which the United Nations has issued reports of human rights abuses and war crimes. It is simply not adequate to dismiss the findings of such an eminent Jewish lawyer as Judge Goldstone, whose report for the UN on the IDF's military attacks on Gaza should be read as part of your preparation for this trip. Your delegation could appear to the rest of the world as an endorsement of these acts by the Israeli government, an endorsement that many members of the Australian electorate find deeply offensive, unacceptable and not representative of our concerns.

If the Australian media has not made you fully aware of the facts of the long-standing dispossession and displacement of the Palestinian people, I suggest that you should familiarise yourself with the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz available online in both Hebrew and English http://www.haaretz.com/ If this newspaper had few readers it would go out of business. It is widely read and well-respected in Israel. There are actually many peace and human rights groups in Israel. The fact of other shades of opinion among Jews in Israel should be part of your preparation for this trip, lest you be subsumed into compliance with the official views of the Netanyahu government to the exclusion of all other information.

You may wish to ignore the facts of the military occupation, various military actions, the illegal settlements being built on land stolen by force of arms from Palestinians, the daily humiliation of Palestinians at check points; but in doing so you are placing your approval for discriminatory and oppressive policies on the public record and situating yourself as an accessory to these acts. These acts would not be permitted in Australia, nor would they be tolerated by Australians. A representative of the Australian electorate should be both consistent and principled in the stands they take on issues. You may be situating yourself in what amounts to a breach of your own code of conduct if you allow yourself to be characterised as a supporter of what we could call ethnic cleansing. Of course, you will be reminded of this at the next election and in every venue where you speak and everything you say will be closely examined.

You will also be called upon to determine the attitude of the Australian Parliament in respect of Israeli intentions to pre-emptively attack Iran, whether or not there is UN Security Council approval and whether or not there is well-founded justification for such an attack. It is possible that Israeli forces might use some of the nuclear weapons they have but do not talk about. You will then need to vote on whether you would send Australian troops to such a conflict. Clearly, you will acknowledge that such an action would provide serious provocation and may have regional implications that further threaten world peace.

Below are some further points made by the Australian Friends of Palestine:

There are a number of concerns that should give you pause to reconsider your participation.

  • As the peace talks certainly look set to fail because of Israeli intransigence on illegal settlement construction, Australia should be particularly circumspect in showing support for Israel. Already Australia has enough reasons to keep its distance after Israel’s abuse of Australian passports for which there was no apology and for its shabby treatment of Australian citizens when Israeli commandos violently took control of the humanitarian flotilla to Gaza in May this year.
  • From a legal perspective, Israel is in blatant defiance of international law and UN resolutions. Thus, for Australia to conduct bilateral relations with Israel compromises its commitment as a signatory to upholding international law and Geneva conventions and certainly its objectivity in the Israel/Palestine situation.
  • There are, as you would be aware, long-standing Cabinet decisions that acknowledge the “occupied” status of the Palestinian territories, which
    should require the delegation to spend equal time with Palestinian contacts in Ramallah, Gaza or East Jerusalem. We believe there is no such arrangement and gives the strong impression that Australia has abandoned any attempt at a “balanced” policy on Israel/Palestine.
  • Further, this trip - organised and partly funded by a private lobby group - seriously infringes Westminster principles that do not allow the mixing of Government and private interests.
  • If you still believe that your participation is warranted, we propose that you at least insist on speaking with Palestinian representatives and visiting the occupied Palestinian territories.

I wish that you should read this yourself and search your conscience, not pass it on to a minder for an impersonal response.


Willy Bach


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