Telling the world

Last week saw the United Nations Asian Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People held in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian News Agency reports:

In the 16-point Kuala Lumpur Declaration issued at the end of the meeting, the participants reaffirmed the permanent responsibility of the world body to Palestine until the Israel-Palestine conflict was resolved based on the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The peace settlement must also be based on the Madrid terms of reference, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map for Peace to ensure the inalienable rights of the Palestinians were fully realised in all aspects.

The Arab Peace Initiative mooted in 2002 by Saudi Arabia, among others, calls for comprehensive peace between Arab nations and Israel, while the Road Map for Peace envisages establishment of an independent Palestinian state co-existing peacefully side-by-side with Israel.

The participants comprising international experts, government representatives, Palestine delegation, inter-governmental organisations, UN entities, parliaments and civil societies also emphasised that Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories, now in the 40th year, remained the root cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Dr Andrew Vincent, director of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, presented a paper at the conference (read it here.) He was “ashamed” of Australia’s position towards Palestine at the UN and the country’s foreign policy directions in the last years:

These fears and insecurities [of Muslims and refugees], used so successfully by the current Prime Minister, have led Australia, throughout its short history, to ally itself with what we call “great and powerful friends”. For the first part of the twentieth century it was Britain, and now since 1945 the United States. Indeed the whole of Australia’s foreign and security policy is predicated on the US alliance, and on keeping Washington happy, no matter who is in the White House or what misguided policies the White House may follow. Australia is far less sophisticated in this than our independent-minded neighbor New Zealand and more like America’s tiny Pacific dependencies such as the Marshall Islands, or Palau, our recent voting partners in the UN General Assembly on the Question of Palestine.

Vincent went on to discuss “voices of moderation” and the ways in which the Zionist lobby has attempted to censor Palestinian voices:

The pro-Israel lobby attracted some very unfavorable comment as a result of these events [the 2003 Hanan Ashrawi affair], which seriously divided Australia’s Jewish Community and the community at large, as the attack on Ashrawi was seen by many as an attack on free speech itself. A young Jewish journalist, Antony Loewenstein was so angered by the Ashrawi affair that he began researching a book, which was released this year entitled My Israel Question. This book quickly became a bestseller, much to the fury of the pro-Israel lobby.

I am proud to report that Antony Loewenstein is a member of the Board of Macquarie University’s Centre for Middle East and North African Studies, and some months ago we had a book-launch for him. But as a result of his Board membership, and of public comments I have made in the media, in recent months the University, the Centre and I have been attacked in Parliament and in the mainstream media, and accused of being one-sided critics of Israel, even though we often host pro-Israel speakers. But at least debate has not been stifled.

Vincent tells me that many of the conference participants were very interested to hear about Australia’s nonsensical position on Palestine. “The Australian diplomats were also notable for their absence in the opening session of the conference”, he writes, “which was attended by all other diplomats in the city (except the US).”

Australia’s mainstream media rarely examines how internationally isolated our nation has become when it comes to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Aligning ourselves with the dying Bush administration and a handful of Pacific island is both immoral and embarrassing.