The Netanyahu government finally slaughtered so many Palestinians that, after weeks of silence about dozens of other killings, the Turnbull government had to react. Like plenty of media outlets, though, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was struck by a sudden attack of passive voice. In a media release titled “Palestinian Protests in Gaza” (not, say, “Mass Murder By The IDF”), Bishop expressed the government’s “deep regret and sadness over the loss of life and injury”, as if some vast accident had struck the sixty dead victims of Israeli Defence Force bullets and tear gas.
The nearest the government came to actual criticism of Israel — or even a faint allusion that the sixty people were dead as a result of IDF actions — came in its call for “Israel to be proportionate in its response and refrain from excessive use of force.” Of course, Palestinians were also urged to refrain from violence, in the time-honoured “we urge both sides to show restraint” model of equating heavily armed government forces and unarmed protesters who have been mown down by them.
Bishop’s call for Israel to show restraint perhaps drew a wry smile from figures within the Netanyahu government. No government other than the Trump administration has been more ardent in its support of Israel, and the Netanyahu regime personally, than the Turnbull government. In both Netanyahu’s visit to Australia, and Turnbull’s visit to Jerusalem, Australia’s relations with the current far-right government have been characterised by the most extraordinary pandering (to “Bibi”, as Turnbull simperingly addresses him), even as corruption allegations have swamped the Israeli Prime Minister. Netanyahu has only been doing what Trump and Turnbull have encouraged him to do in ignoring international law, and the rest of the international community, in continuing to occupy ever greater portions of the West Bank and immiserating and humiliating Palestinians ever further. And now we call for restraint, just because sixty Palestinians are dead?
As always, the comforting pabulum of the two-state solution wasn’t far away. “The Australian Government is committed to a future where Israel and a Palestinian state exist side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders,” Bishop said. This is despite knowing full well the two-state solution is now just a fantasy, destroyed by relentless settlement expansion and de facto annexation of occupied Palestinian territory that has long since made a viable Palestinian state impossible without a massive program of decolonisation from the West Bank that will disrupt the Israeli economy. Netanyahu’s goal is the maintenance of the status quo — Palestinians contained in unviable mini-states over which the IDF retains control, with a steady expansion of Israeli settlements in defiance of international law, and the occasional “mowing the grass” slaughter of Palestinians to keep them in check.
The Turnbull government’s “commitment” is to enabling this outcome, by turning a blind eye to Israeli massacres and issuing pro forma calls for restraint when the bloodshed is so great that staying silent isn’t workable. Bishop hopes “an enduring peace can be found”. The only peace on offer to the Palestinians from Netanyahu is that of the grave.