Albanese feasts while Gaza starves

25 October 2023
Vashti Fox

While Israel, with US and Australian backing, is carrying out a genocide, Anthony Albanese is living it up in Washington. A luxurious three-course dinner is being served tonight at the White House—in the name of global “comfort” and “healing”—including short ribs, meat falling off the bone, while limbs continue to be ripped from bodies in Gaza City.

White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo has promised that decorations for a diplomatic celebration of Albanese’s arrival would “bring that same natural ease of being in someone’s home, with tables featuring blooms in vases large and small, making guests feel as if they are sitting in a field of flowers”.

Talk of flowers brings to mind a Democracy Now! interview with Palestinian human rights lawyer Raji Sourani, whose home in Gaza has been destroyed. He began by describing his villa, with its “very nice garden and flowers”. “Out of the blue”, he said, the bombing began. “I felt the heat of the flame, and I saw the ball of fire. And every time, especially this one, I thought it’s our end.” One bomb landed directly on the house, which was destroyed. Vases of flowers for some, flames and destruction for others.

They won’t have to worry about such devastation at the state dinner Washington. Presumably many of the attendees make a killing out of selling weapons of mass destruction, or by lobbying for those that do. No, the real worry in Washington isn’t the genocide in Gaza. It’s the media optics.

“In a time when so many are facing sorrow and pain ... we made a few adjustments to the entertainment portion of the evening”, first lady Jill Biden yesterday announced. White House event planners have cancelled the appearance of the 1980s pop group the B52s. The presidential press corps felt it might not play well to have Albanese and Biden dancing (or at the very least shuffling) to the music of a band named after a nuclear bomber. The real weapons shipments to the murderous Israeli regime will of course continue, and for long after this almost faux pas is forgotten.

Apart from being a display of how little Biden and Albanese care about the victims of Israeli aggression, the dinner is another indication of the importance of the military, political and diplomatic alliance between Australia and the US. In an age of increasing tensions between China and the United States, and between Russia and the West, Australia is a vital cog in the US imperial machine.

“The United States and Australia may stand on opposite sides of the globe, different hemispheres, different seasons”, White House Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre notes. “But despite our distance, we share so much dedication to democracy, a reverence for freedom, a devotion to equality and a love for the natural wonders of our nation.”

Well, that’s the Hallmark gift card version handed out to a pliant Western media, which duly repackages the messaging for Western audiences.

In reality, far from having a dedication to freedom and equality, the US and Australian ruling classes have a joint interest global domination. Israel plays a crucial role in the bloc of states committed to Western supremacy, being vital to US capitalist hegemony in the Middle East. US support for Israel is based on a cynical assessment of its strategic value in a region home to a significant amount of the world’s oil reserves and arguably the most important trade route through the Suez Canal.

Political and economic control over the Middle East has historically given the US leverage over its rivals, and Israel has been a stable partner in the area. When country after country was rocked by revolutionary upsurges in 2011, Israel’s ruling class remained secure. But Israel doesn’t play the role of the West’s regional “watchdog” for free—it receives a minimum of $3.8 billion in aid every year.

The US-Australia alliance is the main reason Australia so unambiguously backs Israel. Indeed, since the signing of the ANZUS treaty in 1951, Australia’s Middle Eastern policy could be described as largely a copy and paste job of US Department of State media releases.

After the 1967 Israeli military victory over the Arab states, US aid to Israel began to rise significantly. Australian support followed suit. Since the late 1960s Australia almost never voted in favour of resolutions critical of Israel in the UN. This unofficial policy continues, Albanese and Penny Wong repeatedly declaring that Israel is merely “defending itself” in its crushing of Gaza.

Today’s Labor leaders are part of a long line of ALP governments that have maintained an absolute commitment to Israeli barbarism. In the 2008-09 war on Gaza, when 1,400 Palestinians were murdered, Julia Gillard (who was acting prime minister when Israel began its operations) maintained that the Palestinians were the aggressors.

In the aftermath of that war, the UN launched a fact-finding mission, headed by Richard Goldstone. The report he produced revealed that Israel had committed war crimes such as targeting civilians and using them as human shields. Australia voted against the report being submitted to the General Assembly. Gillard said that this was because of a commitment to Israel’s “security”.

There’s no point appealing to the purported humanity of these “leaders”. Their military and political alliances take precedence over any calculation of what is just. Israel could, using US-made weaponry, wipe Gaza from the map, and Albanese and every other politician would still take every opportunity to dine at the White House and repeat endlessly the euphemism about Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

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