We should support the Palestinians, not Israel

Arriving in Australia for a four-day diplomatic visit on Wednesday, 21 February, Benjamin Netanyahu is the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit Australia.

Netanyahu – who also held Israel’s prime ministership between 1996 and 1999 – is responsible for the ongoing illegal blockade of Gaza, as well as Israel’s brutal military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In 2014, he ordered Israel’s 50-day murderous assault on Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,250 Palestinians, including almost 1,500 civilians, one-third of whom were children. In addition, more than 11,230 Palestinians were injured, including 3,436 children.

Despite Netanyahu’s well-documented record as a war criminal and human rights abuser, he has been warmly welcomed by Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In a sycophantic comment piece published in the Australian on the day of his arrival, Turnbull declared Israel “a miraculous nation”, which had “flourished despite invasion, conflict and an almost complete lack of natural resources, other than the determination and genius of its people”.

He went on to extol Australia’s support for the Zionist state, while condemning those who sought to hold Netanyahu and Israel accountable for war crimes against the Palestinian people. Turnbull not only condemned the UN Security Council’s reaffirmation of the illegal nature of Israel’s colonies on occupied Palestinian land, he also said that his government “deplore[d] the boycott campaign designed to delegitimise the Jewish state”.

The Turnbull government’s enthusiastic welcome of a war criminal and human rights abuser should come as no surprise. Successive Australian governments, after all, have overseen systematic human rights abuses of refugees and asylum seekers and implemented genocidal policies against Indigenous people.

Australia, like Israel, is a settler-colonial state, built on racism, ethnic cleansing and inequalities that are codified in law and built structurally into the economic, social and political system, ensuring that the settler population is legally, socially and politically privileged over the Indigenous population. In 2006, then Israeli ambassador to Australia, Naftali Tamir, in an interview with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, explained the racist nature of the settler-colonial alliance between the two countries:

“Israel and Australia are like sisters in Asia. We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don’t have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not – we are basically the white race. We are on the western side of Asia and they are on the south-eastern side.”

There is nothing “miraculous” about Israel as a nation. Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been an openly racist state, using both military force and legally sanctioned discrimination to impose an apartheid system both inside the Zionist state and in the Palestinian territories it illegally seized in 1967.

According Adalah, an Israeli human rights organisation for Arab minority rights, there are more than 50 laws that discriminate against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens in areas such as property rights, political activity, education, criminal procedures, employment and marriage.

In addition, Palestinians living in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem endure a regime of more than 3,000 military regulations which “govern” every aspect of life. These military orders, which can be issued at the whim of a military commander, are not made public but can affect Palestinian legal identity, education, employment, healthcare, housing, political activity and freedom of movement.

Israel was created in 1948, as Zionist militias depopulated more than 500 Palestinian Arab villages and towns, forcing more than 750,000 Palestinians to flee to neighbouring countries and internally displacing another 150,000. The Zionist state has never ceased ethnically cleansing Palestinians either inside Israel or in the territories it seized in 1967.

Currently in Israel’s south, more than 80,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel from 46 “unrecognised villages” are fighting against Netanyahu’s attempt to ethnically cleanse them from their traditional lands. Despite the majority of these villages being in existence prior to 1948, the Israeli state has repeatedly denied them legal status, excluding them from government maps and the provision of local and national government infrastructure, such as electricity, running water, sewage, telephone lines, as well as educational and health facilities and services.

As a result, the villages are regularly threatened with destruction. One such village, Al-Arakib, which is home to more than 300 people, has been demolished by the Israeli state and rebuilt by its residents more than 100 times, while the village of Umm al-Hiran is currently fighting Israel’s attempt to raze it to the ground in order to establish a Jewish-only township in its place.

Earlier this month, the Israeli parliament approved the “Validation Law”. The law, backed by Netanyahu, allows the Israeli state to expropriate private Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank for the construction of illegal Israeli colonies. The law is in violation of both international law and the UN Security Council Resolution passed on 23 December, the same resolution condemned by Turnbull in the Australian.

By condemning both the UN Security Council Resolution and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, Turnbull has made it clear that he has no interest in upholding Palestinian rights, international law or supporting a just peace in the Middle East.