THE AGE: Palestinians urged to join global court 29Nov12 November 29, 2012

by Ruth Pollard   –  The Age    -   29 November 2012

ISRAELI troops and politicians could be the target of legal action around the globe, with Palestinians urged to follow their tilt for a seat at the United Nations by joining the International Criminal Court.

While Jewish community leaders expressed disappointment over Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decision not to oppose the Palestinian bid, despite personally wanting to, a leading human rights monitor in the occupied territories said Australia had not stood in the way of ”justice”.

”Even if Australia has good relations with Israel, even if you are a real and genuine friend to Israel, you have to say this is right and this is wrong,” said Shawan Jabarin.

Mr Jabarin, head of the Palestinian rights group Al-Haq, was in Canberra on Wednesday and said the first move after the UN vote should be to join the global court.

”We will push them to submit their application to join ICC because there is no remedy and there is no protection provided to Palestinians from the UN,” Mr Jabarin said.

Al-Haq reports on human rights abuses in the occupied territories by Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Mr Jabarin, who is based in Ramallah in the West Bank, said Al-Haq had been unable to meet its field workers in Gaza since militant group Hamas seized control and Israel imposed a blockade.

The fear of international prosecution has been prominent among Israel’s arguments against Palestinians winning standing in the UN.

Colin Rubenstein, from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, said the Palestinian bid would only intensify the conflict, warning Israel was being subjected to ”lawfare” by abusing international mechanisms.

”You can’t defeat Israel through war and terrorism – though Hamas tries to do it from time to time – so you then attempt to discredit Israel,” Dr Rubenstein said.

But Mr Jabarin said it was not an abuse of process.

”Instead of saying lawfare, what about saying what is fair on the ground,” he said, adding he doubted Israel would change its policy unless there was ”real pressure” from outside.

The vote to give Palestinians an equivalent standing to the Vatican in the UN General Assembly is expected in New York about mid-afternoon on Thursday (Friday morning Australian time). Philip Chester, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, said there was disappointment and surprise in the Jewish community over Ms Gillard’s decision to abstain and he was exploring how to engage the government in the hope it could yet oppose the move.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, said in response to the Australian decision: ”I think everyone who wants to see peace and reconciliation in the Middle East should be supporting an unconditional return to direct negotiations and this UN bid is at best a silly diversion and at worst is going to undermine negotiations.”

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