Over 1,000 people demonstrated against the visit to Australia by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Sydney’s Town Hall Square on Thursday February 23, 2017. Following the rally, the protestors’ planned march to Netanyahu’s hotel overlooking the harbour was blocked by police.
Organised by the Palestine Action Group, the event featured a number of speakers who condemned the Israeli government’s violence and ongoing construction of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories, all in blatant defiance of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Condemned as well was Prime Minister’s Malcolm Turnbull’s grovelling endorsement of Netanyahu and his government’s policies during the four day visit.
Unfortunately for both Netanyahu and Turnbull, a number of events prior to the visit exposed just how repugnant Israeli government policies are regarded within the global community. Two of these events are outlined below.
First, on December 23, 2016, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 2334 “(c)ondemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions” and which expressed “grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines.” The Security Council voted 14-0 in favour of the resolution, with the United States abstaining due to the absence of any meaningful peace process.
Second, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on February 7 that the Knesset had passed 60-52 a contentious bill that would retroactively legalise the theft of privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank, while the thieves living on it will be granted “the presumption of innocence.” This legislation grants approval to around 4,000 settler homes built previously in contravention of Israel’s own laws. Palestinians have condemned the land-grab claiming it could destroy the chances of reaching a peace deal.
The UN, the UK, France, Jordan, Turkey and other countries promptly condemned the legislation. Not so the Turnbull government that was busy preparing the red carpet for ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu. In response to the rising chorus of condemnation within Australia and around the world towards Israel’s illegal settlement activity, Turnbull had an article published in The Australian just one day prior to Netanyahu’s visit. In this article he strongly criticised the U.N. for passing “one-sided resolutions” critical of Israel. He went on to assert that Israel and Australia are “bound together first and foremost by the values we share – a mutual commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”
In ridiculing such empty slogans employed by Turnbull to defend the indefensible, speakers at the rally called on the Australian government to end its support for a country that repeatedly blocks genuine negotiations towards Palestinian self-determination. It is a form of moral degeneracy to express support for a two-state solution on the one hand, while failing to condemn Israel’s illegal settlement activity designed to rob Palestinians of a homeland on the other.
What the Turnbull government fails to comprehend is that Israel is now one of the most reviled and feared countries in the world. Over 40 years ago, Israel opted for a policy of expansion over security. This pursuit of expansion has been a disaster. With respect to Israeli society itself, it has inexorably led to internal decline, division and isolation. Indeed it may well lead to Israel’s eventual destruction.
What the Coalition and Labor Party need to understand is that the greatest threat to Israel is, and always has been, the policies it espouses. By continuing to support these policies, Australia is contributing to the very threats that the Israeli people are currently confronting.
We thank four of the speakers at the Sydney demonstration for agreeing to have their speeches published. These speeches can be accessed here: Randa Abdel-Fattah, Marcelo Svirsky, Julia Finn MP and David Shoebridge MLC.