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#################### Geoff Seidner
WHEN Australia sought support for its bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, then foreign minister Kevin Rudd said, “Australia has no interest in being on the council for the sake of being there. We are there to make a difference — bringing to bear a combination of our values, our interests and our significant national capacities.”
One of those values was, he said, “that in international relations, we seek to do what we say we are going to do … it is a potent message if at the same time we seek to be an effective voice for the small and medium countries of the world … It gives international expression to that enduring Australian value of a fair go for all.
“There is an intrinsic big-heartedness about Australians,” he said, “that causes us all, when we witness disasters, human or man-made, anywhere around the world, to ask ourselves this simple question, what can we do? And that is the Australian voice in the world that the world wants to hear ... that Australians themselves expect of this great country of ours in the councils of the world.”
On winning the seat, then foreign minister Bob Carr said, “The world is saying we respect Australian values ... we want to see Australia provide leadership.’’
And Tony Abbott welcomed the win saying, “Let’s hope we put the next two years on the Security Council to good use.’’
For three weeks now Israel has been collectively punishing Palestinians and bombarding the Gaza Strip in occupied Palestine, deliberately targeting houses, mosques, hospitals, schools, media centres, ambulances, killing and maiming thousands of civilian men, women and children. Using up-to-date US weapons made to confront armies, the Israeli military strikes these targets “with surgical precision”.
Israel’s claim that the Palestinian resistance stores weapons in houses, mosques, hospitals and schools is a lie to justify targeting and collectively punishing the civilian population for their resistance and force the Palestinians to surrender; yet despite the bombardment of thousands of civilian targets we have not seen any stores of weapons exploding.
So what is Australia doing to stop Israel’s aggression on Gaza?
It is shameful that the government has not even condemned Israel’s flagrant crimes and violations resulting in, so far, more than 512 Palestinians deaths; over 3200 wounded; and complete or partial destruction of more than 20,000 homes, 85 schools, eight hospitals and health centres, 67 mosques and two churches, creating 90,000 refugees.
Israel claims it is defending itself and its population, but Palestine is the one under attack. Israel is a colonialist power, occupying Palestine, ethnically cleansing, oppressing and racially discriminating against its people and denying them their basic human and national rights.
Israel’s war against the Palestinians has never stopped for the past 66 years. It is the Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves and not the other way round. Further, the right to defend oneself is governed by international law and prohibits collective punishments and harming civilians. Israel’s occupation and aggression are defined in inter- national law as war crimes; they are state acts of terrorism and grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949.
They violate Palestinians’ basic human rights as laid out in the bill of rights and several other binding international documents as well as numerous UN resolutions and the Oslo agreements. They threaten to plunge the whole region and beyond into further destabilisation.
Consecutive Israeli governments haven’t altered their colonialist policies or prepared their people for the historic compromise to solve the Palestine question. The Fourth Geneva Convention obliges the international community, including Australia, to ensure that the convention, the primary purpose of which is to protect a population under occupation, is respected. Israel should not be allowed to be above international law.
Successive Australian governments continue to close their eyes to Israel’s gross violations and war crimes. This policy is inflicting tremendous damage on Australia’s national interest and it has to stop, time is changing.
The government must safeguard Australia’s national interest and uphold its pledges, especially to the Arab and Muslim countries that supported its bid for the UN Security Council seat, and call for immediate international protection for the Palestinian people, Israel’s cessation of hostilities and withdrawal from the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories.