The Australian government has a strong record of condemning killings in Israel and Palestine. “Shocked by the brutal killing of Itamar Ben Gal, a father of four, near Ariel today. Such violence and terror cannot be justified. Heartfelt sympathies to his family and loved ones,” tweeted Australia’s ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan in February, after the murder of a rabbi from an (illegal) Israeli settlement in the West Bank in February. “Appalled by the killing this weekend of three family members enjoying a Shabbat meal. My thoughts are with survivors, family and loved ones,” Cannan tweeted last July after another Palestinian terrorist murdered Israelis in another West Bank settlement (also illegal). Cannan’s predecessor Dave Sharma regularly condemned violence, such as the truck attack on Israel Defence Force soldiers in Jerusalem in early 2017.

Presumably, given the slaughter of 16 unarmed Palestinian protesters by IDF forces and the wounding of hundreds more at the Gaza border on Friday, Cannan would have offered his thoughts to the “survivors, family and loved ones” of the victims? However, his normally busy Twitter account has been strangely silent for several days. Indeed, given the sheer scale of the shootings by the IDF, and the large death and injury toll, the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would have at least offered a feeble expression of concern?

Nothing. Labor’s Penny Wong had nothing to say either. Only the Greens’ Richard Di Natale called for an independent investigation. (Israel believes there’s nothing to investigate.)

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The killings by the IDF were intentional, and carefully pre-planned ahead of the protests. Earthworks were put in place to afford positions for IDF soldiers. Over 100 snipers were deployed, and permitted to fire at protesters even when there was no threat to life. This was despite Hamas urging protesters not to attempt to cross the border and not to use violence. “Nothing was carried out uncontrolled,” the IDF said in a tweet subsequently deleted. “Everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed.” Numerous protesters were shot while praying, walking or running away from the border.

As Israeli human rights group B’Tselem noted, “Shooting unarmed demonstrators is illegal and the command that allows it is manifestly illegal.”

Australia’s double standard on Palestine — in which the murders of Israeli settlers in the West Bank by terrorists draw condemnation while the murder of Palestinian protesters by IDF soldiers prompts only studied silence — is unsurprising given the remarkable grovelling by the Turnbull government to far-right Israeli regime leader Benjamin Netanyahu. “Bibi and I get on very well, and Bibi and Sara and Lucy and I get along very well,” Malcolm Turnbull gushed during a visit to Israel last year, following up Netanyahu’s visit to Australia early in 2017 — during which he embarrassed Turnbull by refusing point-blank to endorse a two-state solution immediately after Turnbull had. Netanyahu now faces an extraordinary array of corruption allegations, with Israeli police recommending he be prosecuted over bribery running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, including gifts from James Packer.

Australia’s policy on Palestine appears to consist of mouthing “two state solution” platitudes long after it has been recognised such a solution is no longer possible, an “all the way with Bibi” mentality — and hypocritical silence in the face of his regime’s killing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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