Stewart Mills (NSW) writes to The Hon Christopher Pyne MP re your reported commment about FM Carr and Israeli settlements 22Jan13 January 22, 2013

Dear Mr Pyne,

I am writing to you as a Christian, a person actively involved in interfaith, a former volunteer in a Palestinian and Jewish school in Israel, a former student of international criminal law and someone born on Biripi land.

I was dismayed by Milanda Rout and Christian Kerr report in the Australian on 21 January 2013, ‘Pyne slams Carr as ‘dangerous amateur”, that stated you “disputed that the Israeli settlements were illegal”.

Is this accurate of your views (that Israeli settlements are not illegal under international law)?

The Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention has clearly stated that settlements are illegal.  The EU consistently opposes settlements.  The UN General Assembly annually raises the illegality of settlements.

David Kretzmer, Professor Emeritus of International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and professor of Law at Sapir Academic College writes:

“It has been the consistent position of the international community that establishment of such settlements by the Government of Israel are incompatible with Israel’s obligation under Article 49, paragraph 6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention not to transfer part of its civilian population into the OT [Occupied Territory].  The position was confirmed by the ICJ in its Advisory Opinion on Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall.”

It has been US policy since the June 1967 war to oppose settlements in the West Bank and Gaza (I have included references below that demonstrate this).  US Presidents may refer to settlements in different ways, some will expressly state settlements are “illegal” (e.g. Carter) other will state they are “unnecessarily provocative” (e.g. Reagan).  What is clear is that successive US administrations have identified Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace.

On settlements, President Barack Obama, as quoted by The Jerusalem Post stated:

“Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are,” in regard to Israeli plans to advance new settlement construction, including that in the controversial E1 corridor.”

Mr Pyne, wise leadership on this issue requires condemning not just terrorism (state or individual) but settlements.

I note in January 1994 you visited Israel and as you stood on the Golan Heights you could not help but understand the insecurity of the Israeli nation. It was there that you learned about “the conundrum of Israel that can best be described as: there are 6 million Israelis and, while everyone wants peace, there are 6 million views as to how to achieve it”.  I note that of those 6 million views, 1 million of those are Palestinian-Israeli.

Mr Pyne, I also note your personal news piece on ‘The Search for Pemulwuy Skull’, 3 August 2012.  You stated:

“Pemulwuy was one of only a few examples of indigenous resistance to British settlement and therefore is a unique and important historical figure for Australians.”

As someone who was born on Biripi land and who has volunteered in Israel I can clearly see there are lessons to be learned from other colonial settler states, like Australia.

Mr Pyne, over 500,000 Israeli settlers now reside in the West Bank. Since the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord, the number of Israeli settlers has trebled. With every block of settlements, a Palestinian state gets harder.

Would you please reconsider your views on Israeli settlements.  I am afraid the advice you have been acting on does not take into account the full significance of settlements and the obstacles this presents for peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.

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