Australia’s decision to snub a US-led statement in support of Israel at the UN has been applauded by the country’s former Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans. The 77-year-old welcomed Canberra’s decision to back a UN probe into Israel’s violations and said that it signalled a “decent, principled” approach and a more “balanced” policy towards the Middle East.
Twenty-two mainly western countries backed a US statement concerning the Commission of Inquiry (COI) established by the UN following Israeli aggression in May 2021, including the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The statement criticised the UN Human Rights Council for what it said was its “long-standing disproportionate scrutiny” of Israel.
The UN has repeatedly dismissed the allegation as preposterous and has insisted that whatever focus it has on Israel is the result of the Apartheid State’s daily human rights violations that now stretch over many decades. The consensus of major human rights group is that Israel is not just guilty of illegally occupying the Palestinian territories, it is also guilty of the crime of apartheid.
The mandate of the Commission is to “investigate, in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, all alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law”, and provide annual reports.
In its first report last week COI said: “The continued occupation by Israel of Palestinian territory and discrimination against Palestinians are the key root causes of the recurrent tensions, instability and protraction of conflict in the region.”
The Commission also noted that impunity is feeding increased resentment among the Palestinian people. It identified forced displacement, threats of forced displacement, demolitions, settlement construction and expansion, settler violence, and the blockade of Gaza as contributing factors to recurring cycles of violence.
“Our review of the findings and recommendations of previous UN mechanisms and bodies clearly indicates that ending Israel’s occupation, in full conformity with Security Council resolutions, remains essential in stopping the persistent cycle of violence,” COI Commissioner, Miloon Kothari, noted. “It is only with the ending of occupation that the world can begin to reverse historical injustices and move towards self-determination of the Palestinian peoples.”
In what appears to be a shift away from the previous anti-Palestinian government, the new Labor-led government of Anthony Albanese backed the COI’s findings. “I think it’s an excellent start for the new government to give a very clear message that it’s going to adopt a decent, principled and balanced approach to Middle East issues, which is long overdue,” Evans said to Guardian Australia, welcoming the decision.
Three of the countries in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing grouping – the US, the UK and Canada – signed the statement criticising the inquiry but the remaining two, Australia and New Zealand, did not.