Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine
5th May 2021
The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where applicable, prosecutes those accused of the world’s most severe crimes. As stated on their website, this is a “court of last resort” and one that works respectively with national courts. The ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict has been subject to this court for the Israeli government’s continuation of imposing extreme and confining restrictions on Palestinian human rights. They have continued to restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip, and are facilitating the illegal transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In February, the International Criminal Court issued a landmark judgement stating that the prosecutor of the court has the authority to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine. What was surprising about this trial was the statement made by Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne, stating; “Australia has deep concerns with the ruling of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court” and the court “should not exercise jurisdiction in this matter.” Australia is a member of the ICC and claims to advocate for human rights. Just the month before, Australia condemned China for their abuses against Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. So why is Australia overlooking the human rights abuses in Palestine? Australia’s rebuke of international justice in Palestine is not really about human rights but more of a geopolitical stance. Australia has consistently supported Israel in its decisions, but why are they so quick to defend them?
“Unsurprisingly, Australia is an ally of the United States of America, which has been a firm supporter of Israel since the 1960s. The United States of America has prioritized the continuation of a close and supportive Israel–United States relationship. Support for Israel is nearly unconditional for the US government and remains a vital issue in domestic US politics.”
Also, Australia does not recognise the ‘State of Palestine’ which was part of Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s statement. Another reason is the growing tension between China and Australia caused by the trade conflict between the two countries and most recently Australia criticising the horrific treatment of Uighur Muslims in China. Nevertheless, Australia cannot be called a supporter of human rights if they are trying to block international justice for Palestinians, an indigenous group within the West Bank. This begs the question: is Australia’s defence of Israel a result of both settler states dispossessing their indigenous populations? Australia’s alarming stance and support of the Israel government has shown that their continuing and condoning behaviour is segregating indigenous people from the wider population. Furthermore, it shows that this nation has yet to come to terms with its own history.
Australia is home to around 15,000 Israelis and also has many pro-Israeli pressure groups. One of these groups is called the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA), which was established in the year 1927, in Melbourne. Although the lobby in the United States is most aggressive, Australia being an ally, is seeing pressure from these groups and some Australian politicians like Melissa Parke have been falsely accused of antisemitism by groups like the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). The false accusation of politicians has been utilised as a weapon of touted anti-discrimination by those who do not recognise Palestine. Is this weaponization silencing people, especially government officials, from speaking out against Israel’s actions?
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s statement shows that the country has much to overcome and, most of all, Australia’s rebuke of international justice for Palestine is dangerous. For years Palestinians have been subject to severe crimes and now, in the wake of a pandemic, Palestinians are victims of a vaccine segregation effort made by the Israeli government. The ICC’s judgement to investigate Israel’s oppressive actions is now allowing for hope and justice. Australia claims it is an advocate for human rights, but its stance on Palestine shows otherwise. Australia is using this as a progression of geopolitics, where instead this should be about the safety of real people and showing support for the ICC’s decision to bring war criminals to justice.