Labor doubles down on support for genocidal Israel after ICJ ruling

Medics transport an injured Palestinian child into Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, October 2023. Photo: Wafa (Palestinian News Agency) together with a (APA images)/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

The most significant finding of the January 26 provisional ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

If Labor really did care about human rights, justice or even just international law, it would have taken immediate steps to end its complicity in what the ICJ said is a “catastrophic humanitarian situation … at serious risk of deteriorating further”.

Instead, it has doubled down in its support for Israel’s genocide.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s decision to suspend funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), has been roundly condemned.

Francis Boyle, United States human rights lawyer, argued on X that those countries that have cut funds to UNWRA are “also directly violating Genocide Convention article 2(c)” which relates to “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

He said it is “no longer the case [that Australia and other countries that cut UNWRA funding are only] aiding and abetting Israeli Genocide against the Palestinians in violation of the Genocide Convention”. These states “are now directly violating Genocide Convention article 2(c) by themselves”.

This coordinated approach by the US, Australia and other key imperialist countries can only be interpreted as a political counter attack against the ICJ’s interim ruling.

These governments know Israel is not “defending itself”, yet they have consciously decided to escalate their support for the rogue state.

Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong are active perpetrators of this genocide, despite their mealy-mouthed words about a “sustainable ceasefire”.

The even more conservative Opposition’s only complaint is that Labor has not gone far enough to support genocidal Israel.

Wong’s attempt to justify the government’s decision made it worse.

She said it was a “temporary pause” to funding and promised to “engage closely with UNWRA”, while praising UNWRA as doing “vital, life saving work”. Her weasel words were aimed at trying to pacify the Arab-Australian communities, once a significant part of Labor’s base.

What prompted this attack on UNWRA at this time of indescribably intense need?

Israel made allegations that 12 (out of 30,000) UNWRA employees had, in some way, supported or aided the Hamas attack on October 7.

These allegations were likely based on “evidence” extracted under torture. UNRWA is the main provider of humanitarian assistance and is the second-largest employer in the Gaza Strip, where two-thirds of its population of 2.3 million Palestinians are refugees.

UNWRA is investigating the allegations and terminated the employment of those of the 12 people who are still alive.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 150 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza have been killed since October 7. This is the largest loss of staff during a conflict in the UN’s 78-year history.

Nobody who supports justice could consider cutting funds to the main organisation trying to support Gazans fleeing from one end of the strip to the other.

Yet, at least nine imperialist countries have done that within 48 hours of Israel’s allegation.

Israel has long wanted to destroy UNWRA. It is aiming to force UNWRA out of Gaza, according to the Times of Israel which, on December 29, cited a classified government report.

Coordinated support for Israel to destroy UNWRA is part of that plan.

It should also be noted that while Labor was quick to make public its decision to “pause” funding to UNRWA, it has yet to publicly call on Israel to comply with the ICJ ruling, which puts the onus on Israel to prove it is not committing genocide.

Labor claims to have had a “clear and consistent” position since October 7, urging “all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law”, and calling for “civilians to be protected and hostages released”.

This is wrong.

Questioned in a Senate Estimates hearing on October 26, Wong refused to call on Israel to end its siege of Gaza, with her offsider offering that “sieges” are “not in themselves prohibited under international humanitarian law”.

In a similar vein, defence minister Richard Marles falsely told Insiders on October 15 that “Israel is acting within the rules of war”.

The 16th week of mass pro-Palestine protests across the country (not to mention many, many more smaller actions) clearly demonstrate, a significant majority of Australians do not support Labor’s cowardly approach.

Socialist Alliance is working with those who say Labor must publicly support South Africa’s genocide case at the ICJ and condemn Israel’s genocide; demand an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire; provide immediate and substantial aid to Gaza; and end support for weapons or components going to Israel.

[Alex Bainbridge is a member of the Socialist Alliance National Executive.]