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A real friend to Israel would stand up for Palestinian rights

By Stuart Rees - posted Tuesday, 21 February 2017


Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has invited the Israeli Prime Minister to visit Australia because of ‘our absolute and enduring commitment to the State of Israel and our friendship.’

It could be argued that principles of freedom of speech justify the invitation. If that’s the case, Palestinian leaders should also be visiting this country.

A second issue concerns the preparation of questions for the Israeli Prime Minister about international law and human rights. Such questions should not be deflected by the inevitable and diplomatically safer discussion about innovation and cybersecurity.   

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Posters advertising Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s arrival this week depict him as a war criminal who should be appearing before the International Criminal Court (ICC). What evidence would substantiate these claims?   

In 2014, Netanyahu ordered Operation Protective Edge. The Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the consequences of that operation found that 2,251 Gazans were killed, of whom 551 were children and 299 women. One hundred and forty-two Palestinian families had three or more members killed in the same incident and more than 1,500 children were orphaned. Six Israeli civilians were killed and 67 Israeli soldiers.

That operation included 6000 Israeli air strikes and the firing of more than 50,000 tank and artillery shells. Eighteen thousand housing units were totally destroyed or severely damaged, 22 schools were destroyed and 118 damaged. Twenty-four medical facilities were damaged. 

The siege of Gaza is an amorality play on an international scale. Blame can be laid on Israel but also on Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, other Arab countries and the international community.

A January 2017 Report from the Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights to the Gaza Strip documented the desperation experienced by Gazan citizens. ‘It’s like travelling to another world. There’s terrible poverty. There’s simply no money. Not for food or for medications, not for warm clothes for children. … Water sources are contaminated. The water is unfit to drink. There is hardly any electricity.’

The UN has reported that by 2020 Gaza will be unfit for human habitation.

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Australian journalists should also be ready to cross examine the Israeli Prime Minister in relation to the latest illegal expansion of Israeli settlements.   

Desperate to obtain President Trump’s support for his – Netanyahu’s – building of settlements, the Israeli Prime Minister said he supported the President’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border. Netanyahu tweeted that he was in favour of walls. ‘I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.’  

Since Trump’s inauguration on January 20th, Netanyahu has announced the approval of 6,000 more housing units in the occupied Palestinian territories in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He thumbs his nose at the UN, at world opinion, at international law.

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About the Author

Stuart Rees is Professor Emeritus of the University of Sydney and Founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation. He is the former Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation (1998-2011) and of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (1988-2008), and a Professor of Social Work (1978-2000) at the University of Sydney.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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