It must surely be considered the ultimate badge of shame – a word of thanks from Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. It was given this week in response to Australia’s complicity in defeating the Palestinian UN resolution, calling on the world to recognise their homeland by 2017.
It makes no difference that the goal of the Palestinians resolution is entirely in accord with official Australian policy, and it makes no difference that the Australian people are unequivocal in their support for a Palestinian state. The Australian government continues to do what its US overlords tell it to do, thus betraying not only the Palestinian people but her own people as well.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that here, as in other foreign policy arenas, Australia is intent on fanning the flames of violence and division. We happily send troops to help bomb Iraq again while refusing to allow aid workers to fight Ebola in Africa. We thwart every attempt by the Palestinians to reach a political solution to their crisis while remaining mute about the murderous Israeli attacks on Gaza. Meanwhile, back at home, we dream up new ways to inflict pain on refugees. Indeed it is a shameful time to be an Australian.
Netanyahu lauds US, Australia for efforts to reject Palestinian UN bid
Israel responds to draft Palestinian statehood resolution that failed to pass UN Security Council vote on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday lauded the US and Australia for voting against the Palestinian UN Security Council draft resolution on Tuesday, and praised Rwanda and Nigeria for abstaining.
“I want to express appreciation and gratitude to the United States and Australia, as well as special appreciation to the President of Rwanda, my friend Paul Kagame, and to the President of Nigeria, my friend Goodluck Jonathan,” Netanyahu said when he arrived Wednesday morning to vote in the Likud primary.
“I spoke with both of them, they promised me personally that they would not support this decision, and they stood by their words. That is what tipped the scales,” he added.
The Palestinian resolution calling for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines by 2017, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, did not muster the necessary nine votes Tuesday in the Security Council.
Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the Palestinian failure to get their statehood resolution passed Wednesday in the UN Security Council should teach them that provocations and attempts to unilaterally impose conditions on Israel will lead them nowhere.
“The Palestinian disregard for important countries in the international arena, first and foremost the US, stems from the backing they get form some of the states in Europe,” he said, in an obvious reference to the “for” votes cast by France and Luxembourg.
“Every state that truly wants to move an arrangement forward needs to act responsibly and make clear to the Palestinians that decisions are only made around the negotiating table,” Liberman said.
While France and Luxembourg voted for the Palestinian resolution, two other EU countries – Britain and Lithuania – abstained, illustrating the wide differences on the Mideast that exist inside the 28-state EU.
Liberman praised his ministry for the work it did to thwart the resolution, the second time in three years that Israel dodged a bullet on this issue in the Security Council, and cited Israel’s concentrated diplomatic efforts in Africa, the far East and central Europe. In 2011 the Palestinians failed in their attempt to win full UN statehood recognition in the UN.
In addition to the United States, Australia voted against the resolution on Tuesday. Britain, Lithuania, South Korea, and two of the three African states on the Security Council – Rwanda and Nigeria – all abstained, depriving the Palestinians of their nine votes needed to pass the resolution and force a US veto.
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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …”
Thus Dickens begins ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. The cities he had in mind were London and Paris, and yet his words form a fitting introduction to the story of Jerusalem and Ramallah in 2014.
It is the worst of times!
As I write, the IDF is tightening its military grip on the West Bank and enacting raids and arrests on a scale not seen since the Second Intifada! Meanwhile settlements continue to flourish, Gazans struggle to find fresh water, Australia abandons all pretence of concern, and the negotiating table is empty.
In the corridors of power – in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Washington and Canberra – it is the worst of times for our Palestinian sisters and brothers. But this is not the whole story! Tectonic shifts have been taking place at the grass-roots, and what’s more the church is at the very heart of the shift!
The accomplishment of Pope Francis in bringing Abbas and Peres together for prayer in Vatican City was nothing short of miraculous! Who would have thought that such a thing could happen?!
The tangible effects of the Pope’s initiative might not yet be obvious but what Francis has done is to help accelerate a paradigm shift in the way the world is dealing with the Palestinian Occupation. Israeli and Palestinian peace is no longer simply a political issue. It is also a spiritual issue and a human issue, and as such it is something for which we all need to take responsibility!
The quest for justice and peace in Palestinian is becoming a truly democratic struggle, as seen in the ever-growing ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign’ (BDS). The BDS again moves the struggle for justice beyond the realm of professional politicians to a place where every business, every household and every individual can play a role in defunding the Palestinian Occupation!
And so it should not surprise us to see these two forces converge – spiritual leadership and BDS – with the United Methodists of America last week divesting from companies fuelling the Palestinian Occupation and with the Presbyterian Church of the USA about to follow in their wake!
It is the worst of times for political settlements being established from the top down, and yet the death of the American-led ‘peace process’ has opened up the way for ordinary people, and for the church in particular, to take the cause of Palestinian peace into their own hands!
In Biblical Greek the word ‘kairos’ means ‘time’ but not in the sense of clock-time. It means an opportune time – a God-given moment that needs to be taken hold of and taken full advantage of. Now is such a kairos in the struggle for Palestinian justice. Now is the time to act, now is the time to pray, now is the time for us to organise our churches to act and pray and to shout out to the world that our Palestinian sisters and brothers have suffered long enough!
If we – the Church of Jesus Christ – take hold of this time and work hand-in-hand with other grass-roots groups of concerned people around the world, I do believe this could turn out to be the best of times for Palestine, and a decisive turning point in the global struggle for justice and peace.
It is extraordinary, as an Australian, to watch the speed at which our new government is undermining whatever respectability this country had left in the Arab world through expressions of unconditional love for the State of Israel. More extraordinary still is the fact that Mr Abbott has a competitor, determined to outdo him in his Zionism – namely, his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper.
Harper’s recent pledge to the Knesset – that his government’s support for Israel was of Biblical proportions – “through fire and water” – did not go unnoticed by the Canadian public, as seen in the telling piece of Satire published in the Canadian blog, The Beaverton, last week, entitled “Israeli Prime Minister Stephen Harper returns after long visit in Canada”.
Abbott’s Zionism seems to have attracted less attention in Oz. This may simply be because most Australians are still too transfixed by the new PM’s brutal treatment of refugees to notice any other acts of inhumanity.
The Israel-lovers club of Canada and Australia: White, Conservative and Christian
By Chemi Shalev
After hearing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise the Knesset this week that his government would support Israel “though fire and water,” one could excuse Israeli lawmakers for thinking that they had died and gone to hasbara heaven.
And after seeing Benjamin Netanyahu enthusiastically nodding at Harper’s assertion that singling out Israel for criticism was the same as anti-Semitism, one might easily imagine the prime minister imploring God to seriously consider “castling” the current residents of the White House in Washington and Langevin Block in Ottawa, at least for the remainder of President Barack Obama’s second term.
And coming straight on the heels of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s even more extraordinary proclamation in Jerusalem last week on the legality of Jewish settlements in the territories, Harper’s visit to Israel took on the airs of what the Hassidim call “mashiachzeit”: this is the way the world will look after the Messiah arrives.
But even for Israelis less religiously inclined, these back-to-back expressions of uninhibited political support were welcome rays of sunshine amidst the gathering clouds and proliferating forecasts of impending torrents of condemnation, isolation and boycott. Things can’t be that bad, many Israelis told themselves, if fine, upstanding countries such as Canada and Australia were willing to unabashedly stand up against the otherwise shrill winds of Western public opinion.
Indeed, under their respective conservative governments, both Canada and Australia have gone above and beyond the traditional parameters of support for Israel, much to the dismay of its detractors among commentators and public opinion in both countries and in the Arab world at large. Harper has dramatically broken with the mildly supportive but largely detached Israeli policies of his predecessors, while Australia’s Tony Abbott has rapidly reinstated John Howard’s effusive pro-Israel policies after three years of realignment efforts carried out by the recently ousted Australian Labor Party.
Although the prim and proper Harper and the bold and brash Abbott have been described as polar opposites on a personal level, their shared love for Israel stems from nearly identical ideological roots. Both are deeply-religious social conservatives and proud nationalists who view themselves as serving on the front lines of a Western, Judeo-Christian civilization that is under threat: their support for Israel is not just a matter of political expediency, if that, but of firmly held convictions and belief.
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It appears that the Abbot government has slyly changed Australia’s policy regarding Israel-Palestine without making any mention of it to the Australian public!
Two weeks ago Australia abstained from voting on two resolutions at the UN General Assembly – one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Just in case there was any doubt about the new position, yesterday Australia voted “NO” to a resolution declaring 2014 the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.
If you read the details contained in the resolution (below) there is nothing in them that is remotely anti-Israel. Even so, the usual culprits objected:
- Israel, the United States and Canada (the big three)
- Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau (the three US protectorates) and …
This effectively reverses the stance of the previous Australian government. Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, was right in calling this a “shame”. Julia Bishop had the gaul to refer to the new policy as more “balanced”!
From a purely mathematical point of view – 110 votes in favour and only 7 against – I suppose Australia is contributing to more balance, in a sense, until you realise that the rest of the world has good reason to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. They are victims of the longest military occupation in human history!
I personally cannot reconcile how the new Australian Prime Minister can openly call himself a Christian and yet taken such an inhuman stance on both refugees and the suffering people of Palestine. Perhaps I’m missing something?
UN Declares 2014 As International Year Of Solidarity With Palestinians
The resolution called for all efforts to promote the realisation of the inalienable rights of Palestinians including their right to self-determination, support the Middle East peace process for the achievement of a two-state solution and the just resolution of all final status issues, and to mobilise international support for and assistance to Palestinians.
The resolution also affirmed the general assembly’s support for the Middle East peace process on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States and a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Among others things, it welcomed the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations on July 29 aimed at resolving all core final status issues and concluding a final peace agreement within the agreed time frame of nine months.