This is how Australia handles Palestine; contempt with a smile

A Sydney-based friend wrote the following letter to members of the Labor Party in early November 2011:

Dear Member

I wake this morning to hear once more, with dismay, of the craven obeisance of the Australian Labor government to the wishes of the United States in voting against the recognition of Palestine at UNESCO.…  At least a vast majority of other member nations were not so pathetic and self-interested, and voted to recognise and hopefully speed an end to one of the most heinous human rights abuses currently being perpetrated on the planet.

I spent 10 days in the West Bank earlier this year, and as one of (very) few Australians who has thus witnessed first hand the nature of the oppression and discrimination being inflicted on the Palestinian people, I find it incumbent to inform as many people as possible of the actual situation in the Occupied Territories.…  Naturally this includes informing Australian voters of the disgraceful track record of the Australian Labor Party in backing every policy and opinion of the Israeli government.

The ALP is in sufficient trouble without further alienating what is a core constituency, those informed and decent people who regard human rights as pre-eminent in the conduct of its foreign policy.…  Especially those ALP members currently sitting in marginal inner city electorates in Australia should be aware that such policy decisions as that enacted overnight at the UN force all thinking Australian voters to direct their attention to the only party with a principled policy position on Palestine, the Greens, whatever misgivings we may have about other aspects of their policy-making.

I have recently given a presentation to group of interested Australians about my trip to the West Bank.…  I would be very happy to give a similar presentation to ALP members and anyone else who is interested in what is really happening in Israel.…  It might offer some balance to the views proffered to those ALP members who are so quick to accept Israeli-government sponsored junkets to the Middle East.

Regardless, I hope some realistic understanding of the oppressive policies of the Israeli government might inform future ALP decision making, and that voters interested in human rights will be able to look to the ALP once more as a party who can be trusted to defend the rights of suffering people around the world.

With the release of Gilad Shalit (and his subsequent call for peace and reconciliation) the ALP could begin with one small step and push Israel to lift its illegal blockade of Gaza.

A few days ago The Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP, Federal Member for Sydney and Federal Health Minister, responded and her comments show just how utterly compliant Canberra is with Washington on Middle East policy. We aren’t independent. We don’t think for ourselves. We parrot talking points given to us by DC. We don’t truly care for Palestinians and their freedom. And for that reason, Australia, along with America, will never bring peace to Palestine and they should both be shunned as honest peace-brokers:

Dear ****,

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding Palestinian statehood.

Australia strongly supports a negotiated two-state solution that allows a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a secure and independent future Palestinian state.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, underlined to both sides Australia’s strong support for a negotiated two-state solution during his visits to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in December 2010 and March and April 2011, and urged parties to return to negotiations.

I have raised this issue with the Foreign Minister who assures me that Australia’s decision to vote against the Palestinian resolution reflected Australia’s strong concern that consideration of Palestinian membership in UNESCO was premature.

The matter of Palestinian membership of the United Nations (UN) had only recently been placed before the UN Security Council (UNSC).… 

Australia believed we should allow the process of UNSC consideration of Palestinian membership of the UN to run its course, rather than pre-empt it by seeking to address this question in different UN forums.

The Foreign Minister assures me that if a Palestinian resolution is introduced to the UN General Assembly the Australian Government will consider it carefully before deciding how to vote.

The Australian Government strongly supports the aspirations of the Palestinian people for their own state and is providing practical support for Palestinian institution-building in support of a future state.

On 18 September 2011 in New York Mr Rudd signed with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad a five-year, $120 million development partnership with the Palestinian Authority.… 

This partnership includes regular budget support delivered through the World Bank. It is part of more than $300 million in development and humanitarian assistance Australia will provide to the Palestinian people over the next five years.

This increase is expected to place Australia in the top ten donors to the Palestinian Territories next year.

Australia has also launched a scholarship program focusing on disciplines critical to institution building including law and public sector management. Under this program Australia will provide up to 50 post-graduate scholarships to public officials and legal academics. The first scholars under the program will commence study next year.

Australia is also the 10th largest donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – the main provider of social services to the 4.7 million Palestinian refugees.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me and letting me know your views on this important issue. Regarding federal issues in the future, it would be best for you to contact your Federal Member of Parliament, the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP and Member for Grayndler, as Kingston Rd Camperdown is outside the electorate of Sydney.… 

Best wishes,

Tanya