WAKIM: Australia must find balance on Palestinians 10Jan14 January 10, 2014

by Joe Wakim
The Herald Sun
10 January 2014

2014-solidarity-with-palestine-unTHE world body that created the state of Israel in 1947 has proclaimed 2014 the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Yet Australia was one of the seven opponents of the UN General Assembly vote on November 26, alongside Israel and the US.

Sometimes the best way to bring home the Palestinian plight is to bring it closer to home metaphorically: imagine living in a four-bedroom home with a garden that has been in your family name for many generations. Then, there is a door knock and authorities say you now need to allow refugees to live in one of your bedrooms. You accommodate.


You now need to share your kitchen and bathroom.

More refugees and their relatives arrive. Now you need to sacrifice a second bedroom. Your family start to complain that they feel suffocated.

Your tenants are now armed and behave more like landlords. They insist that you now need to squeeze your growing family into one bedroom, or you are free to leave to live with your relatives in another neighbourhood. The new settlers now need priority access to your kitchen and bathroom. When you complain that this is unfair, you are told to use the kitchens and bathrooms of your neighbours.

The locks in the house have been changed, as have the locks to the control room that houses the water and electricity mains. The settlers now wish to demolish the ancestral home and the garden in order to build a larger house. Trees and personal connections to the land are uprooted. You are welcome to stay as a tenant so long as you stay within your confines and obey their landlord rules.

The majority of your neighbours have witnessed this catastrophe and have protested peacefully about illegal expansions. However, a couple of mansions in the neighbourhood have provided armed guards to protect the settlers from unbalanced criticism.

From the confines of your shrinking one-bedroom bunker, you are asked why the two families cannot live in one home as equals in peace and harmony.

Perhaps Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop would pose such an absurd question. During the pre-election week, Mr Abbott pledged that “we are firmly committed to restoring the Australia-Israeli friendship to the strength it enjoyed under the Howard government”.

This golden age saw foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer promote an unprecedented allegiance to Israel. After the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006, he trumpeted that “Australia had been more supportive of the Israelis than 99 per cent of the world” and that “being called pro-Israeli (is not) a badge of shame”.

Is this restoration representative of our Australian population? In November 2011, a Roy Morgan Research poll revealed the majority of respondents surveyed believe Australia should vote “yes” to recognise Palestine as a full member state of the UN. While 51 per cent responded “yes”, only 15 per cent responded “no”.

Before the so-called Arab Spring, Israel was touted as the only democracy in the Middle East. In December, Mr Abbott qualified Israel as “the only mature pluralistic democracy in the Middle East”.

How is it that this “bastion of Western civilisation” that was founded by refugees has now created its own refugees?

By abstaining from rather than supporting UN resolutions to end “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories”, the Abbott Government will be voting against the “free world” and relegating itself to a handful of incomparable member states such as Papua New Guinea and South Sudan. It will be voting to sustain human misery and rendering a two-state solution totally unviable.

As more “peace talks” buy more time for more Palestinian land to be settled, there is more imbalance between occupier and occupied. This is best brought home with a floor plan of the shrinking territories in question.

Hence it is ironic that the justification for our policy change is that “Middle East resolutions must be balanced” and based “on its merits”. This wrongly presumes that there are two equal sides and any imbalance is tipped in Palestine’s favour.

The imbalance is evident when only one side deploys unmanned drones for military surveillance. Only one side has the backing of “the most powerful nation on Earth” by US President Barack Obama’s own admission.

The Abbott Government needs to fulfil its loyalty to our own democracy before it pursues loyalty to a foreign democracy.

Given our bipartisan support for a national apology to our dispossessed people, it is highly hypocritical to now cuddle up to those doing the dispossessing.

Joseph Wakim is founder of Australian Arabic Council and author of “Sorry we have no space”.

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