War – who is being advantaged by it?
The world’s media has swung into action to report the ‘imminent war between Hamas and Israel’ as if there is equality of capability and culpability. Why is it not reporting the desperation of Netanyahu to stay in power without a mandate, and the convenience of war for him? Why is it not reporting the reality that this ‘conflict’ makes it virtually impossible for a coalition to be formed against him, inclusive of Arab parties? Why is it not reporting that Hamas and Netanyahu need one another? In a strange way they are both on the same side, they were both born in and shaped by conflict, they both need conflict to cement their positions. Neither want a two-state solution, one seeking the supposed elimination of Israel, the other the extermination of Palestinians. Hamas may talk about its desire that Israel not exist but has zero capacity to influence or effect that outcome. On the other hand, the leadership of Israel that says it will never allow the existence of a Palestinian State has every capacity to achieve this end.
More importantly, why is it not being made unequivocally clear that for 70+ years Palestinians have been subject to gross violation of their human rights and that this subjugation is intensifying not diminishing. The threatened forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah is but the latest example of outrageous human rights violations. In the face of constant violations should anyone be surprised there are reactions. That some reactions are violent and threaten innocent civilian lives must be condemned. However, what should be reported and underlined is the cause. In a nutshell the cause is the occupation and its consequences. Reactions should not be treated with equal seriousness as the action that caused them.
Why is ‘disappearing Palestine’ not being made clear to the outside world. In the partition which was forced on the Palestinians following the second world war the intention was for two states of approximately equal size. As a result of the war that followed, for 70+ years Israel has been 78% of the original Palestine and the Palestinian territories 22%. In the Oslo agreement of the nineties, Palestinian leadership agreed to a state based on that 22% with East Jerusalem as its capital.
As a result of the aggressive and illegal settlement programme, pushed and accelerated by Netanyahu, Palestinians, although approximately equal in population to Israelis, are being progressively pushed out of the 22% into disconnected pockets of population. Netanyahu and his ‘government’ (there is currently no legitimate Israeli government) effectively control the fate of all Palestinians, no matter where they live. Gaza is blockaded and therefore controlled.
So, where does all this place the Australian government and its foreign policy. In a very tricky position. Australia purports to stand up for human rights. We have been quite outspoken about China’s oppression of the Uighurs – and rightly so. We have not been quite as outspoken about the denial of civil rights to ethnic minorities such as the Rohingya in Myanmar. How many Australians know anything about the fate of the Karen, or indeed have knowledge of the Karen diaspora in Australia?
We should raise human rights violations anywhere they occur in the world. However, we will remain hypocritical, two faced, because of our uncritical support for Israel as its supposed best friend. Silence in face of its human rights violations makes us tacit supporters of its system of growing apartheid. It is shamefully the case that we feel at liberty to criticise foes, but do not have the same compunction to criticise those with whom we are otherwise aligned. Is that partly because we are embarrassed and ashamed by our own domestic record?
Let me repeat what I have said many times before, more Australian politicians, Federal and State, especially of coalition parties, go to Israel than any other country in the world. Why? What knowledge or agenda do they wish to propagate on their return? What is it that they see when they are there?
How many have visited a Palestinian family evicted from their home? How many have joined the crowd of workers at 4.00.am being herded through a ‘security’ tunnel to try to be at work on time? How many have met a Palestinian farmer who can see his fields but must take a 40km trip to reach them because of no go zone. How many have stayed with a Palestinian family in Nablus to experience the intermittent availability of electricity or the scarcity of water while observing the illegal settlements above the city with manicured irrigated lawns and plenty of water to wash the car? How many have conversed with shop keepers in Hebron who daily contend with refuse being poured down upon them from settlers above. How many have spoken to an Australian member of the accompaniment programme who at the age of 80 has volunteered three months at a time to walk with Palestinian children from their homes to school to protect them from settler harassment? How many have spoken with Palestinian parents on their way to gaol to visit their 12-year-old son or daughter who has been incarcerate for supposedly throwing a stone at a soldier who has shot his or her cousin?
Yes, there are always two sides to a story. But here in Australia, so great is the pressure exerted by Israeli interests that only one side is permitted. The journalist John Lyons has long made this point, not least in his book Balcony over Jerusalem.
What is currently unfolding in Israel/Palestine is tragic beyond words.
Joe Biden has parroted the words beloved also of Australian Prime Ministers: “Israel has a right to defend itself”. But hang on a minute. Israel is not being attacked by some external power. It is experiencing dissent from within territories over which it exercises control. Apart from the rest of the Palestinian territories, it continues to maintain a blockade of Gaza and therefore controls it. Israel has within its power the capacity to end this endless cycle – take its foot off the neck of Palestinians. Grant equal democratic rights to all citizens. Abandon racist ideologies.
Hamas, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu, various competing Israeli political power plays, none of you are part of the solution, you are all part of the problem, step aside leave space for younger leadership which hopefully will see the future in terms of an integrated, free, respectful society in which difference is treasured and diversity embraced.