Dear Ms Bishop
Australia’s unconditional support to Israel in the face of its gross human rights abuse is inconsistent with Australia’s image as a modern, civil society.
Australia won a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 18 October 2012 at a cost of $23.6 million (there were other hidden costs to taxpayers exceeding $3 billion). In the one year of its UNSC presence and in all its UN history, Australia has only shielded Israel from scrutiny of its gross human rights abuse.
As Israel’s dispossession and annexation of Palestine gathers momentum, so, necessarily, will its repression and so will Australia have to incrementally silence its conscience. Continued support to Israel’s annexation policies, therefore, will only corrupt Australian society and its leadership. Listed below are some of Israel’s atrocities that Australia ignores. It is sadly ironic that a nation that fought to end the occupation of Europe sits by and allows a ‘friend’ to brutally annex another nation house-by-house-village-by-village even as ‘peace talks’ are underway.
Australia’s 2008 apology to its aboriginal people is meaningless if it supports a nation which brutalises, dispossesses and occupies another indigenous population.
This is a cry from all corners of the world demanding that you stand on the right side of decency and reconsider Australia’s support to Israel.
AUSTRALIA’S SUPPORT TO ISRAEL’S CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
1. Both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop, in a gross error in judgement and diplomacy, declined to meet Dr Mustafa Barghouti, the internationally respected Palestinian leader, during his current visit to Australia (Dr Barghouti was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 by 1976 awardee Máiread Maguire who said she was “inspired by the life and work of Dr. Barghouti whose commitment to nonviolence, in his personal and public life, is truly in the Ghandian spirit. For the Nobel Committee to give their 2010 Award to Dr. Barghouthi would be a recognition of not only his great spirit of peace and nonviolence, but also the Palestinian Nonviolent Movement, which gives us all hope for the future of Palestine, Israel and the Middle East Community.” Barghouti was presented with France’s highest honour, the Legion of Honor, in 2010 for his work as a non-violence activist and recommended by Britain’s parliament for the Nobel).
2. Australia has been historically silent to this day on:
A. Israel’s child abuse: The report ‘Children in Israeli Military Detention’, UNICEF, February 2013
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized. This conclusion is based on the repeated allegations about such treatment over the past 10 years and the volume, consistency and persistence of these allegations. The review of cases documented through the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave child rights violations, as well as interviews conducted by UNICEF with Israeli and Palestinian lawyers and Palestinian children, also support this conclusion.
The pattern of ill-treatment includes the arrests of children at their homes between midnight and 5:00 am by heavily armed soldiers; the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties; physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints; lack of access to water, food, toilet facilities and medical care; interrogation using physical violence and threats; coerced confessions; and lack of access to lawyers or family members during interrogation.
Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children; denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences; and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel. The incarceration isolates them from their families and interrupts their studies.
These practices are in violation of international law that protects all children against ill-treatment when in contact with law enforcement, military and judicial institutions.”
B. Ethnic cleansing of Palestinians both from the West Bank and Israel itself. This ethnic cleansing has currently received a further impetus with Israel's ongoing Prawer-Begin Plan to relocate upto 70,000 Arab Bedouins from their land in Israel.
The Prawer Plan: The Israeli government is planning the largest single attempt at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the 1948 Nakba. The Begin-Prawer Plan is part of a historical drive by the Israeli government to prioritise and privilege Jewish settlement in the Negev while forcing Bedouin citizens - those who weren’t expelled in the first decade of the state’s existence - to live in approved zones and shanty towns. It will mean the destruction of up to 40 Bedouin villages. Over the ruins of these villages, the Jewish National Fund will plant forests and help to establish Jewish-only settlements.
The Prawer Plan aims to:
* confiscate around 210,000 acres of land in the Naqab (Negev) desert
* expel over 30,000 Palestinian Bedouins
* demolish about 40 unrecognized villages
* confine the Arab Palestinian Bedouins who are 30% of the Naqab in to 1% of the land
Update: The Israeli cabinet, on Sunday, November 10, 2013, gave the go-ahead to set up two new towns of Hiran and Kassif with 14,500 settler units in the southern Negev region exclusively for Jews.
At the same time, Israel is planning to evict about 1,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages in the South Hebron Hills in the West Bank to make way for a military shooting range. Israel has built more than 120 settlements in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem since its occupation of the lands in 1967 and now continues with expanding the settlement construction.
C. Israel’s/Israel-organised relentless siege on Gaza in place since 2006 causing an endless humanitarian as outlined in the Statement on Gaza, Under-Secretary- General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief , OCHA, Valerie Amos: “The blockade of Gaza, now entering its sixth year, has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of the 1.6 million Palestinians who reside there. More than 80 per cent of families are dependent on humanitarian aid, and Gaza remains subject to severe restrictions on imports, exports and the movement of people, by land, air and sea. This amounts to a collective punishment of all those living in Gaza and is a denial of basic human rights in contravention of international law. “
The gravity of the humanitarian crisis is also indicated by the following:
a. Stocks of vital medicines in Gaza have hit zero:
b. The dramatic effects of the tightening siege are revealed in the July monthly humanitarian report, published on 23 August by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_the_humanitarian_monitor_2013_09_27_english.pdf: “In the Gaza Strip, the situation is particularly concerning with only one in ten households being food secure, while the ‘food insecure’ category increased to a worrying 57 per cent. The worsening food security situation in Gaza can be can be explained primarily by the prolonged blockade, which continues to prevent any meaningful recovery of the local productive economy.”
c. Power Crisis: The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. James W. Rawley’ expressed his concern at the shut-down of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) due to a critical fuel shortage. “In recent years, Gaza has been running on less than half of the electricity that it needs. The shut-down of the power plant today and related fuel shortages will impact all essential services, including hospitals, clinics, sewage and water pumping stations. It will also mean that Gaza’s 1.7 people will experience power outages of up to 16 hours per day.” warned Mr. Rawley. - See more at: http://reliefweb.int/report/occupied-palestinian-territory/united-nations-humanitarian-coordinator-calls-urgent-action#sthash.oOnlTWvw.dpuf
D. Settler violence: Jewish settlers in the West Bank are conducting a systematic and expanding campaign of violence against Palestinian farmers, families and children with the Israeli authorities turning a blind eye, according to confidential reports from senior European Union officials. In two reports to Brussels from EU heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, obtained by the Guardian, the officials found that settler violence against Palestinians has more than tripled in three years to total hundreds of incidents(http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/21/israel-settlers-violence-palestinians-europe)
"Acts of settler violence are becoming a serious concern for the Israeli state which has so far failed to effectively protect the Palestinian population," says the report sent to EU ambassadors in Brussels last month.
The campaign of intimidation is especially targeted at Palestinian farmers and their livelihood, the reports found, noting that settlers damaged or destroyed Palestinian olive groves en masse. Around 10,000 trees were destroyed last year. But last autumn's olive harvest season was quieter than previous years.
The Israeli authorities are accused of structuring their security operations to minimise the cost to the settlers of the campaign of harassment, intimidation and violence.
E. Israel’s inhumane and illegal arbitrary detention system under its administrative detention system and military courts.
The Palestinian Ministry Of Detainees issued a press release on October 14, 2013 revealing that Israel is currently holding captive 5200 Palestinians in 17 prisons, detention camps, and interrogation facilities.
Administrative Detention: Administrative detention may be used against protected persons in occupied territory only for “imperative reasons of security”. In practice, Israel routinely uses administrative detention in violation of the strict parameters established by international law. In addition, administrative detention is frequently used – in direct contravention to international law – for collective and criminal punishment rather than for the prevention of future threat. In practice, Palestinians can be detained for months, if not years, under administrative detention orders, without ever being informed about the reasons or length of their detention. Detainees are routinely informed of the extension of their detention on the day that the former order expires. Under the existing administrative detention procedures, Palestinians have no effective means by which to challenge their administrative detention.
Military Courts: The main function of the Israeli military court system is to prosecute Palestinians who are arrested by the Israeli military and charged with “security violations” and other crimes as defined by Israeli in its military orders. However, these orders enforced through the military courts also criminalize a wide array of other types of activities, including “certain forms of political and cultural expression, association, movement and nonviolent protest, even certain traffic offenses”.
Within these military courts, military orders always take precedence over Israeli and international law. Judges in the military courts are military officers who do not have long term judicial training, and many served previously as military prosecutors. The prosecutors are Israeli soldiers in regular or reserve service appointed to the position by the Area Commander; some of them are not yet certified as attorneys.
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Putting Australia in the global spotlight will dampen her support to Israel's human rights abuse