The following article by Patricia Karvelas appears in today’s Australian newspaper:
More than 170 eminent Australians, including Kevin Rudd’s nephew, artist Van Thanh Rudd, have signed a petition calling on Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard to cancel her planned visit to Israel.
Ms Gillard will later this month lead a delegation to the inaugural Australia Israel Leadership Forum, but there is mounting pressure on her not to go because of what critics say is Israel’s poor human rights record.
The delegation will include former treasurer Peter Costello, Liberal frontbenchers Chris Pyne and George Brandis, and Labor backbenchers Mike Kelly and Mark Dreyfus.
Canberra-based academic Ned Curthoys, a research fellow at Australian National University, is behind the petition. He told The Weekend Australian the “temperature is rising” over the planned delegation, with other Labor MPs and ministers, including Tanya Plibersek, lobbying Ms Gillard to cancel the trip immediately.
The petition will be sent to Ms Gillard on Tuesday.
Names on the petition include Greens MPs Ian Cohen and Lee Rhiannon, journalists John Pilger and Antony Loewenstein, Jewish actress Miriam Margolyes, Jewish Australian writer Sara Dowse, and academics such as sociologist Raewyn Connell, Associate Professor Jake Lynch, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict studies at the University of Sydney, and retired CSIRO scientist Bill Snowden.
Also on the petition is Van Thanh Rudd, the artist son of the Prime Minister’s brother, Malcolm.
The petition says: “We consider this trip a dreadful affront to the many Palestinians left maimed, wounded, traumatised and homeless by Israel’s devastating assault on the Gaza Strip in late 08/early 09.
“We reject the oft-touted cliche that Israel is a democracy like Australia; rather we remind those intent on strengthening cultural and political exchange between Israel and Australia that Israel is not a state for all its citizens but a state that explicitly advances the interests of one ethnicity alone, a state of affairs that is simply unthinkable in modern Australia.
“Every parliamentarian ought to think seriously about the moral implications of Australia normalising relations with a state that is still under investigation for war crimes committed during Israel’s Cast Lead operation,” the petition reads.
Ms Gillard has argued the visit will highlight both the strength and potential of the Australia-Israel relationship.
“It will provide an excellent opportunity to build stronger ties between our two nations and their people,” she said.
“I know from my previous visit the intensity and diversity of Israel’s people, how their situation encourages innovation, commitment and lively democratic discussion of the issues facing the country and the world.”
Ms Gillard will meet senior members of the Israeli government during her visit.
“I intend to reaffirm Australia’s ongoing support for Israel’s right to live in peace and security within defined borders,” she said.
“I will also reiterate that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East must be based on a two-state solution to the conflict.”
She will also visit Ramallah and meet leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
Ms Gillard will visit the US before going to Israel.