The “second stage” of Israel’s war on Gaza has begun. The three-week-long aerial bombardment has already killed close to 8,000 people. Several thousand more are reported missing and presumed buried—dead and alive—under the rubble of obliterated residential apartment buildings.
Now ground incursions—backed by more intensive shelling and the severing of communication in and out of Gaza—are expanding the means of destruction and, inevitably, the number of people murdered in the territory.
“I am shocked by the intolerable level of human suffering”, Mirjana Spoljaric, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, posted on X on 29 October.
“People are being killed and forcibly displaced from their homes, and water and fuel are running low. The atrocity is on a scale never seen before in Gaza”, Doctors Without Borders said in a media release a day earlier.
In the face of this utter barbarity, Western politicians have at least had to provide lip-service to the idea of humanitarianism. So there have been increasing calls for Israel to abide by international law and to safeguard civilian life by letting aid into Gaza.
But lip-service is all that it is. For weeks, the “civilised world” has greenlighted this genocide, providing moral, diplomatic and military support.
Two weeks ago, when the death toll in Gaza had topped 2,500, when civilian infrastructure was being obliterated and the siege was crippling utilities and hospitals in the territory, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong addressed the Senate, reaffirming that Israel—the apartheid state carrying out genocide—“as ever ... has a right to defend itself”.
The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Friday passed a resolution calling for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities”. Despite everything that has been publicly documented about the horror raining down on Gaza, Australia abstained. This is unforgivable on the part of the Labor government, which again has tied itself to US prerogatives.
The UN motion was not binding on anyone. It was a gauge of opinion; a very limited test, which simply asked of governments around the world, “Ought this crime continue?” Yet the Australian government could only equivocate.
If anyone previously took seriously the international posturing of Penny Wong, with all the feigning of concern about other countries’ human rights transgressions, this government now surely has lost all credibility.
Again, the US (which voted against) and Australia have given more moral support to the apartheid regime. Indeed, despite the shifting diplomatic language and broad calls for restraint internationally, there has been no let-up. The Israeli escalation came as the General Assembly was in session.
There is now clearly unease in the West about the geopolitical ramifications of the ongoing mass murder in Gaza. That has resulted in a change of diplomatic language from the UN and from a range of states. These shifts in tone don’t change anything. Nor do they absolve the West of its complicity in these atrocities.
It is notable, for all the purported concern about the humanitarian crisis and killing of civilians in Gaza, that there has been no proposal to sanction Israel. The aid keeps flowing, the trade missions remain open, no assets have been frozen.
The only thing we’re seeing is empty words, a non-binding motion, a bit of increased posturing by some to provide an appearance of balance.
There may be pressure brought to bear on Israel to pull back in the coming weeks. Australia and the US might at some point flip and call for a cessation of hostilities. That won’t change anything either.
They have blood on their hands. At every key moment, they have provided cover for these criminal acts.
And it’s not just in Gaza. In the occupied West Bank, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 have been arrested since 7 October (“arrest” or “administrative detention” is what Israel calls it when it takes Palestinian hostages). The military has distributed arms to Jewish settlers, who have reportedly increased their attacks on Palestinian residents and farmers.
Within Israel, there appears to be a pogromist atmosphere. “Since the war broke out, many Israeli Arabs [“Palestinians”—RF eds.] are afraid to leave their home”, Deiaa Haj and YahiaEden Solomon report in Haaretz. “They tell of attacks, threats of murder, humiliations and racist curses hurled at them, as well as having their employment in Jewish cities terminated. Many describe the feeling in one word: dread.”
Al Jazeera reports that thousands of Palestinian workers have been “rounded up by the Israeli army” and taken away—to where, nobody seems to know.
“At any given point, there are thousands of Palestinians ... held in administrative detention by Israel”, Miriam Marmur, a spokesperson from Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation, told the news outlet. “But these are the first Palestinians to be held en masse. The nature of their detention, the revocation of people’s permits and the fact that Israel is so far refusing to divulge any information about where they are ... that is not something I have seen before.”
What has Australia’s “party of labour” said about any of this? Nothing. Zip. Nada. It is the great enabler.
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