War criminals should not be welcome in Australia

The Palestine Action Group is organising a protest on Thursday 23 Feb, 6:30 at Sydney’s Town Hall Square, to coincide with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Australia. Damian Ridgwell explains why.

The Australian government is rolling out the red carpet for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned visit this month.

Julie Bishop, who visited Israel late last year, said she wanted to “reaffirm our absolute enduring commitment to the state of Israel and our friendship”. This is the latest in an appalling history of Australian government support for the brutal policies of Netanyahu and the Israeli state.

Netanyahu exemplifies the horror of Israel’s attempt over the last 69 years to ethnically cleanse the Palestinian population. His first coalition government rested on an alliance with hard right settler parties Shas and Yisrael Beitenu. He appointed renowned hard line settler Avigdor Lieberman to the foreign ministry. Lieberman calls for the mass expulsion of Palestinians who still live in Israel, and called for the beheading of Palestinians who resist apartheid policies.

Netanyahu’s government has overseen a huge increase in the construction of colonial outposts (“settlements”), often populated by extreme right wing militias that carry out attacks on nearby Palestinian communities to terrorise them into vacating the land.

Along with the increase in the number of settlers in the West Bank, there has been a rise in settler attacks on Palestinians – many of them carried out with the complicity of the occupying Israeli military.

Under Netanyahu, there have been two wars on the Gaza Strip. In 2012, 200 Palestinians were killed in a week of bombardment, and in 2014 more than 2,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 10,000 injured.

Australian governments, both Labor and Liberal, have given Netanyahu uncritical support while he carries out these war crimes. Julie Bishop’s invitation to Netanyahu is just the latest event in this history.

The Palestine Action Group is organising a protest on Thursday 23 Feb, 6:30 at Sydney’s Town Hall Square, to coincide with Netanyahu’s visit. These meetings of Australian politicians with war criminals like Netanyahu play a big role in normalising the relationship between Israel and Australia, create a veneer of respectability for the Israeli state and help it cover up the brutal violence on which it is founded.

So it is important that people in Australia come out to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.