David Albuquerque (QLD) writes to Senator Bob Carr (now former FM) 30Aug13 August 30, 2013

 

August 30, 2013

To:
Senator the Honourable Bob Carr,
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6100
Senate
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Mr Carr

Your department’s commitment to human rights must be consistent even if the victims are Muslim and the perpetrator is Israel. As Australians, we do not expect you to let your personal/ethno-religious predilections, as founder in 1977 of NSW Labor Friends of Israel, to prejudice your responses to human rights abuse. In what follows, it appears that your/your cabinet colleagues’ and the prime minister (Kevin Rudd has described himself as “passionately pro-Israel” and as having support for Israel “in his DNA“)’s closeness to Israel have made you take a soft stance on Israel’s human rights abuse, on the one hand, and issue strident public condemnations of Arab/Muslim nations for their violationson the other.

I have been in correspondence with you intermittently for more than a year (since May 25, 2012) over the issue of your department’s diplomatic inaction over Israel’s systemic human rights abuse in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank –including the system of arbitrary detention and torture of Palestinian civilians including women and children without charge, trial and access to family, lawyers and medics.

After numerous reminders and appeals from people across Australia, you did finally reply in an undated letter sometime after July 9, 2012 and advised that: “The Australian Government is concerned about the practice of administrative detention and consistently calls on all states to honour their international obligations in terms of the treatment of prisoners. During Israel’s last appearance before the UN Universal Periodic Review Working Group, Australia questioned Israel about reported mistreatment of detainees and asked about steps to promote a culture of personal accountability, to ensure that the treatment of detainees was in accordance with international standards, and that those responsible for ill treatment were prosecuted.”

Your reply indicates your government has not actually confronted Israel directly. :
Your department, by your own admission:

 

  1. Broadly addressed ‘all states’ but did not specifically address Israel. In contrast, you have not minced words when naming and shaming other countries:“We must not lose sight of the connection between the missile project and nuclear test and the total smothering of human rights in North Korea.” (Bob Carr, Human rights Lost in North Korea’s Atomic Glare, The Sydney Morning Herald) In that same article youalso quoted the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, as stating:

“They should not be allowed to overshadow the deplorable human rights situation in the DPRK which in one way or another affects almost the entire population and has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”

      2.   Referred generally to ‘the treatment of prisoners’ but not specifically to ‘the practice of administrative detention

      3.    Omitted to mention that ‘Israel’s last appearance’ referred to was in 2008! In other words, your department knowingly provided an answer to an Australian citizen with facts pertaining to 2008.

      4.   Has nowhere voiced its concern that, when every one of the UN’s 193 member states is obliged to participate in the Universal Periodic Review, Israel has abstained from the Working Group Periodic Review and thereby avoided scrutiny of its human rights abuse in Occupied Palestine.

5.   Is unwilling to mention whether you are satisfied that Israel has since complied with Australia’s recommendations and if not, what your department has done about that non-compliance
After several letters asking for more information, your department replied, on August 22, 2012, that: “Senator Carr expressed Australia’s concerns over the detention of minors and ongoing settlement activity during his recent visit to Israel. The Australian Embassy had previously made representations on the detention of minors, including in the course of two visits to the Ofer security complex and juvenile court.”

However, it appears that those two visits eventuated only after The Australian’s Middle East Correspondent, John Lyons, in Stone Cold Justice, his report on Israel’s horrific detention and treatment of Palestinian children in military courts
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/stone-cold-justice/story-e6frg8h6-1226202202928
quoted Sydney barrister, Gerard Horton, as saying: “Australian diplomats have shown no obvious interest in the military courts despite our Ambassador to Israel, Andrea Faulkner, being told about the treatment of children a year ago. She refused to comment on the situation for this story. Says Horton: “It is disappointing that of all the diplomatic missions in the region, Australia has been conspicuously silent on the issue of the military courts.”

This is what the report details:
“Once bound and blindfolded, the child will be led to a waiting military vehicle and in about one-third of cases will be thrown on the metal floor for transfer to an interrogation centre.
“Sometimes the children are kept on the floor face down with the soldiers putting their boots on the back of their necks, and the children are handcuffed, sometimes with plastic handcuffs which cut into their wrists. Many children arrive at the interrogation centres bruised and battered, sleep-deprived and scared.” The whole idea, he says, is to get a confession as quickly as possible.
DCI has documented three cases where children were given electric shocks by a hand-held device and Horton claims there is one interrogator working in the settlement Gush Etzion “who specialises in threatening children with rape”. Some cases contain horrifying allegations, such as this one from Ahmad, 15, documented by DCI, who was taken from his home at 2am, blindfolded and accused of throwing stones. “I managed to see the dog from under my blindfold,” he says. “They brought the dog’s food and put it on my head. I think it was a piece of bread, and the dog had to eat it off my head. His saliva started drooling all over my head and that freaked me out. I was so scared my body started shaking … they saw me shaking and started laughing … Then they put another piece of bread on my trousers near my genitals, so I tried to move away but he started barking. I was terrified

Again, it appears from your second letter that:

  • Given the extent of Israel’s systemic child abuse, you merely, in the course of your visit, ‘expressed concern’ but did not ‘condemn’ Israel. Your mild language and cheerful bonhomie, coming in the midst of a visit to Israel and vigorous physical expressions of affection with Israel’s leaders, may be seen as a nod and a wink by Israel.
  • You ‘expressed concern’ onlyover the detention of minors’ and not against the practice of administrative detention per se – the detention of political prisoners (including women) without charge or trial and access to family, legal counsel or medics.


Your claim that your department is diligent and unbiased is not borne out by your/Australia’s:

 A.      Conspicuous silence in the UN Security Council: It has been over ten months since Australia won a seat in the UNSCon 18 October 2012 at a cost of $23.6 million (there were other hidden costs to taxpayers: foreign aid has increased by more than $3 billion since Kevin Rudd launched the UN bid in 2008). For all the money spent, Australia has been studiously silent in the UNSC on:

  •      i.     Israel’s child abuse: If you brought up Israel’s child abuse privately during your visit to Israel, why did you not bring the matter up before the UNSC?

(Palestinian children have lived under Israeli military occupation for over 46 years. Since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, Israeli forces are responsible for the deaths of 1,397 children in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including 1,031 in Gaza. From December 2008 to January 2009, in the offensive known as Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed at least 353 children, including 26 kids in or near schools. At the end of 2012, during the most recent offensive in Gaza, 33 children were killed.

Over the past decade, around 8,000 children have been arrested and prosecuted in a system where ill-treatment of Palestinian children is widespread and systematic. Nearly 80% of Palestinian children experience some form of physical abuse during their arrest, transfer or interrogation. Israel is the only country in the world where children are automatically charged in military courts.

Since 2008, DCI-Palestine has documented 73 cases where Palestinian children have been held in solitary confinement, sometimes for periods up to 29 days. They are repeatedly subjected to coercive interrogations and are denied access to their parents and legal counsel. Confessions or statements obtained by coercion or force, and in some cases written in Hebrew, are rarely excluded in the Israeli military courts, which maintain nearly a 98 percent conviction rate, according to DCI-Palestine evidence).

Please contrast your silence with this statement by Alistair Burt, United Kingdom MP responsible for Middle East relations…..” Israeli representatives have outlined the various steps that Israel has taken to address the concerns expressed in this and other reports and to reduce the legal disparity between the treatment of Palestinian children and the treatment of children in Israel. These actions have included the creation of a special court for minors; a change in the age of majority; reductions in the length of time children can be held in pre-trial detention and in the period children can be held before being brought before a judge; and steps to grant parents legal status to be represented in court.

We welcome the steps taken to date but have pressed for further measures, including the mandatory use of audio-visual recording of interrogations and an end to solitary confinement for children. We have also outlined our concerns on the issues of night-time arrests and the continued transfer of Palestinian child and adult detainees to prisons inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

More details about Israel’s child abuse/torture can be found on:http://www.btselem.org/torture/201308_etzion

  •      ii.       The Prawer Plan: The Israeli government is planning the largest single attempt at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the 1948 Nakba. Even after receiving an online petition with 167 signatures calling on you to raise the Prawer Plan in the UNSC, you have sat silent. In contrast, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who is presiding over the UN Security Council this month, criticized on Tuesday, August 6, the veto power of the permanent Security Council members and how this power has been used to prevent the adoption of resolutions related to Palestine and Israel’s occupation.

The Begin-Prawer Plan, which is the name of the law calling for the mass relocation of the Bedouin, passed its first reading in the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday, June 23. The 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. If the law is fully passed and implemented, it will mean the destruction of up to 40 Bedouin villages. Over the ruins of these villages, the Jewish National Fund—an Israeli para-statal organization with a charitable branch in Canada—will plant forests and help to establish Jewish-only settlements as part of its four billion dollar campaign: Blueprint Negev.

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

These Bedouin Israelis are already the poorest sector of the population, many of whom live in villages “unrecognised” by the Israeli government and who are denied basic services such as electricity, schools and healthcare.

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 — yet another gross violation of international law. Palestinians have lived in these villages for centuries.

In contrast to your abject silence in the UNSC, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who is presiding over the UN Security Council this month, criticised on Tuesday, August 6, the veto power of the permanent Security Council members and how this power has been used to prevent the adoption of resolutions related to Palestine and Israel’s occupation http://www.imemc.org/article/65924

  •    A.        State of Denial about Israel’s Apartheid practices and human rights abuse: In your opinion piece, “No Plan B For the Middle East (The Australian, July 3, 2013)”, you go to great lengths to state: “The Palestinians must abide by the terms of the Gaza ceasefire of last November and end all rocket attacks on southern Israel,” but make no mention of Israel’s far more lethal attacks on Gaza, its sniper attacks on and use of white phosphorus bombs on civilians.


  B.         B.       Providing Israel with immunity from war crimes scrutiny in the UN:
i.    Australia’s vote on UN’s Goldstone Report
:  Australia was one of 18 countries to vote against the United Nations Goldstone Report into Israel’s 2008/2009 brutal assault on Gaza at the UN General Assembly in New York on November 5.Australia’s opposition to the UN’s adoption of the Goldstone Report gives the strong appearance that impunity for war crimes is allowable for some.
                   ii.        Abstention: In February 2010, Australia abstained from voting on a further resolution which requested the UN Secretary-General to submit a further report on investigations into violations of international humanitarian human rights law during the Gaza Conflict.
iii.        Failure to criticise Israel’s attack on a humanitarian flotilla: Australia failed to criticise in the UN Israel’s specific violence against the Gaza relief flotilla in May 2010; and support a UN call for an independent investigation

C.        C.  Complicity in maintaining the siege on Gaza and the consequent humanitarian crisis: In the months that followed Israel’s brutal 22-day attack on Gaza in 2008-2009, Australia stood “almost alone” with Israel as one of only nine countries to vote against a UN resolution calling upon Israel to end its life-crippling blockade of Gaza even at the height of the resulting humanitarian crisis it caused.

D.        D  Selective Indignation:
·         In an article Human rights Lost in North Korea’s Atomic Glare in The Sydney Morning Herald, you described N Korea in these words: “We must not lose sight of the connection between the missile project and nuclear test and the total smothering of human rights in North Korea.mistreat its citizens to a degree that should be unthinkable in the 21st century”. You also quoted the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, as stating: “They should not be allowed to overshadow the deplorable human rights situation in the DPRK which in one way or another affects almost the entire population and has no parallel anywhere else in the world.”
·         In the Q & A programme on ABC TV, you have spoken out against, and I quote: “Sunni terrorism”.
·         On 29 May 2012, you issued the following media release on your official website: http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/2012/bc_mr_120529b.html

“Syrian Chargé d’Affaires, Mr Jawdat Ali was this afternoon notified of the Minister’s decision to expel him from Australia in response to the massacre of more than 100 civilians in the village of Haoula.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr said Mr Ali was advised at 4.30pm today that he and one other diplomat from the Syrian Embassy were required to depart the country within 72 hours.

“The Syrian Government can expect no further official engagement with Australia until it abides by the UN ceasefire and takes active steps to implement the peace plan agreed with Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan,” Senator Carr said.

“This massacre of more than 100 men, women and children in Haoula was a hideous and brutal crime.

“The Syrian Chargé has again been advised to convey a clear message to Damascus that Australians are appalled by this massacre and we will pursue a unified international response to hold those responsible to account,”.

Senator Carr said an international response could include referrals to the International Criminal Court and imposing UN sanctions such as an arms embargo as well as financial and travel restrictions on identified individuals and entities.”

·         Likewise Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently said he would consider recommending Syrian military and political figures be referred to The Hague for prosecution for war crimes. He also described Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons thus: “It is an offence against humanity and arguably is a crime against humanity. Therefore, it is now critical that the international community move towards agreement on a robust international response to the regime.”

In contrast, we do not hear any public criticism from your Government of Israel’s human rights abuse/state terrorism/war crimes.
  A.
Hosting Israeli war criminals: Australia welcomed and felicitated a delegation of 35 Israeli leaders indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in December 2009 including:

I.          Ehud Olmert who ordered:
•The 2006 cluster bombing of Lebanon which killed 1,200 people
•The 2007 blockade of 1.5 million people in Gaza. Collective punishment is illegal under international law even as a response to real crimes, let alone as a response to democracy
•The December 2008 brutal attack on Gaza which killed 1,400 people including 900 civilians

II.         Avi Dichter responsible for:
1)    Extrajudicial killings and war crimes including both direct and indiscriminate attacks against civilians. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), approximately 724 individuals were killed in these extrajudicial killings carried out by Israel between September 2000 and March 2008; the victims included 228 civilian bystanders, of whom 77 were children. In 2007, Avi Dichter canceled a trip to Britain over concerns he would be arrested due to his involvement in the decision to assassinate Salah Shehadeh, the head of Hamas’ military wing in July 2002. Fifteen people were killed in the dropping of a one-ton bomb on Shehadeh’s house, including 9 children, and injuring dozens more. Extra-judicial executions are war crimes under international law.
2)
   The attack on Al-Daraj, a densely-populated residential neighbourhood in Gaza. He made the decision to carry out the “targeted” assassination with the knowledge that the so-called target’s wife and approximately 10 other civilians would be killed in the attack. The attack completely destroyed 9 apartment buildings and partially destroyed or seriously damaged 30 more. Among the victims of the bombing are Ra’ed Matar, whose wife, Eman Ibrahim Hassan Matar, and three children (ages 1 ½, 3 and 5 years) were killed, as well as his sister (10 years), niece (2 months), and grandmother. Mahmoud Al Huweiti’s wife, Muna Fahmi Al Huweiti, and their two sons (ages 4 and 5 years) were also killed. More than 150 people were injured in the attack, including Marwan Zeino, whose spinal vertebrae were crushed. He sustained injuries all over his body and remains unable to work due to mobility constraints and pain.The bombing of residential neighbourhoods is collective punishment.
3)
   Torture: From July 1, 2002, on the day the International Criminal Court was established, until May 2005, Dichter was head of theShabak, the Israeli intelligence service (GSS). As head of the Shabak, Dichter ordered the tortures of detained Palestinians – an activity explicitly prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute and the International Convention against Torture. Torture is a crime against humanity.

In contrast to Australia’s warm welcome to war criminals, former Israeli GOC Southern Command Doron Almog flew to London In September 2005 and found that a British police officer was waiting in the terminal with an arrest warrant. Almog remained on the plane and returned to Israel to avoid an embarrassing incident.


F
   Endorsement of Israel’s siege on Gaza, war crimes and ethnic cleansing in Palestine: On March 12, 2008 , Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, delivered a bipartisan motion celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary as follows:

I move: That the House:
(1) celebrate and commend the achievements of the State of Israel in the 60 years since its inception
(2) remember with pride and honour the important role which Australia played in the establishment of the State of Israel as both a member state of the United Nations and as an influential voice in the introduction of Resolution 181 which facilitated Israel’s statehood, and as the country which proudly became the first to cast a vote in support of Israel’s creation
(3) acknowledge the unique relationship which exists between Australia and Israel a bond highlighted by our commitment to the rights and liberty of our citizens and encouragement of cultural diversity
(4) commend the State of Israel’s commitment to democracy, the Rule of Law and pluralism….’

For Australia to pass a motion in support of 60 years of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by Israel, particularly while Israel is involved in an illegal and brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, is a disgraceful violation of international obligations. The motion condones Israel’s carpet-bombing of Beirut in 1982 killing 18,000 people, mostly civilians,  and again in 2006, and its obliteration of Jenin and other West Bank areas in 2002. That motion also trivialises: (1) the 1948-’49 Al Nakba ethnic cleansing and genocide by Israel, (2) the consequent expulsion of and permanent consignment of 80 percent of Palestinians to squalid refugee camps and (3) an international commission’s findings that Israeli authorities or forces were directly or indirectly responsible for the massacres and killings in Sabra and Shatila which have been reported to have been carried out by Lebanese militiamen in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila in the Beirut area between 16 and 18 September 1982.

For Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to praise “Israel’s commitment to the rights and liberty” of her citizens and “commend the State of Israel’s commitment to democracy” in the face of Israel’s appalling human rights record and imposition of Apartheid is a an act of utter political cynicism.

G Endorsement of war crimes and crimes against humanity and a siege on an a people facing a humanitarian catastrophe:  former Prime Minister Julia Gillard led a 40-member delegation to Israel within months of Israel’s commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

Finally, as Australia assumes presidency of the UN Security council this weekend, I appeal to you and your government to place your humanity above your ethno-religious predilections or Zionist ideology and place Australia on the right side of history. You must recognise the sanctity and dignity of all human life – including Muslim.

I have attached a copy of this letter in Word format for your convenience.
Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

David Albuquerque

With e-mailed copies to:
1.    Australians for Palestine
2.    Justice for Palestine, Brisbane
3.    Amnesty International
4.    The Age
5.      Sydney Morning Herald
6.     Press TV
7.  Channel 9 TV
8.    Australian Federation of Islamic Councils
9.    Crescents of Brisbane
10.  Haq Islam
11.    Human Appeal International, Melbourne and Sydney
12.  United Muslims of Australia, ASWJ Lakemba
13. Islamic Support & Information Centre
14. Islamic Women’s Association
15. Islamic Centre WA
16. Global Islamic Youth Centre


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