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Palestine vote finally turns the tide

By Joseph Wakim - posted Friday, 30 November 2012

If the Gillard government champions an anti-bullying culture on the national stage, it must follow suit on the international stage. The vote to promote the Palestinian status at the United Nations General Assembly is a test case of our integrity.

Of the 193 member states, only a handful of hard core pro-Israel loyalists are expected to oppose the Palestinian upgrade resolution to non member Observer state, on par with the Vatican.

At a time when the Gillard government has launched a Royal Commission into child sex abuse by religious institutions, and a Judicial Inquiry into abuse in the Australian Defense Forces, Australians are encouraged to stand up against bullying and power abuse. How hypocritical it would have been to bow subserviently to the US-Israel 'how to vote' card?


The parallels between the national and international bullying tactics can be seen when scrutinizing the seven deadly 'arguments' against the UN resolution.

First, only direct negotiation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel 'without preconditions' will lead to a peace accord. This falsely presumes that they are two equal sides with equal bargaining power, forgetting that only one side is backed by the 'most powerful nation on Earth.' It presumes that Israel will not abuse its military superiority as leverage. It also ignores the fact that Israel refuses to deal directly with the Hamas government of Gaza which it regards as a terrorist state.

Second, a vote to upgrade Palestine could lead to retaliation by the US financially and Israel militarily. The US Congress may freeze US$200 million in development aid to the Palestinian Authority. This is akin to threats of 'remain silent or I will unplug your life support system and bring you to your knees'. Yet a crippled Palestine is trying to rise up from its knees to its feet.

Third, Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop has touted that 'the drive for greater recognition at the United Nations is an attempt by Palestinian leaders to enable them to bring action against Israel through the international courts.' This argument specifically refers to Palestine applying for membership of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice where legal claims can be made about war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is akin to telling the 'abused victim' to remain silent and renounce the rule of law so that the 'outlaw' is protected with immunity and impunity. This is a furphy - since when has Israel been afraid to rise above these international courts?

Fourth, Bishop argues that the vote 'risks conferring increased international status on the militant group Hamas which governs Gaza'. So we support democracy in the Arab Spring narrative, but not when the wrong government is elected in Gaza in 2006? This is akin to arguing that Hamas can be trusted for direct negotiation but not for an international promotion.

Fifth, 'to recognise a state when there is no state...on the a nonsense [and] ...will harm the cause of peace by raising and then dashing expectations', as touted by Peter Wertheim, the director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. Is he seriously care more for the Palestinian sentiments than the Palestinian Authority? Is he seriously surprised that there is not much left of the shrinking map of Palestine which has been systematically 'divided and conquered' so it is fragmented and crippled? Arguing about ill defined state borders is a little rich when Israel has no agreed borders and ignores the 'indefensible' Green Line defined by the Armistice Agreements of 1948.


Sixth, the vote is an 'illegal act' because it is a 'unilateral attempt to force Palestinian statehood'. Of course, this ignores the ever expanding Israeli settlements which are both illegal and unilateral. On Foreign Minister Bob Carr's own blog dated 25 July 2012, he shares his meeting with Friends of Bethlehem where they discussed many matters including 'concern about the growth of settlements around Bethlehem'.

Seventh, the vote may require the United Nations Security Council to follow suit. This is another bluff, as the US has clearly demonstrated that it can and will flex its veto power to block any move to upgrade Palestinian status. Of course, the US is highly critical when Russia and China exercise that same veto power when voting about military intervention against another sovereign state – Syria.

There should be no surprise that the tide is turning. Foreign Minister Bob Carr warned of this when Australia won a seat at the Security Council on 19 October: 'Labor governments have been prepared to depart from America.' Arab and Muslim communities are tuned in to a proliferation of media sources who are taking a growing interest in Australian politics so that the voters are more enlightened than ever. These voters are exposed to far more graphic images of Palestinian injustices, and far more frequently, on the plethora of satellite TV channels.

The tide is turning with Australians in general. Exactly one year ago, a Roy Morgan Research poll revealed that the majority of respondents surveyed believe that Australia should vote Yes to recognise Palestine as a full member state of the United Nations. While 51 percent responded 'yes', only 15 percent responded 'no', and 20 percent preferred Australia to abstain. Our Prime Minister should never be bullied to reflect anything other than our people.

The vote to upgrade the Palestinian status was not just a test case of whether we were on the 'right side of history', but the right side of humanity. It was not an unfriendly act against Israel, but an action to bring a friend back to the fold.

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About the Author

Joseph Wakim founded the Australian Arabic Council and is a former multicultural affairs commissioner.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Joseph Wakim

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