Australia must stop arming Israel

If the world stopped arming Israel, its genocide in Gaza could be bought to an end.

Israel can only continue to massacre Palestinians because of the billions of dollars it receives in military aid from weapons’ exports to the West.

The United States provides Israel with more than US$3.8 billion of military aid each year. Shamefully, this has been ramped up under Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration.

Right now, Biden is asking for Congressional approval for US$14.1 billion in “supplemental” aid for Israel: about US$4 billion for air defences; US$1.2 billion for Iron Beam, a laser weapons system to destroy missiles; and US$2.5 billion to support US military operations in the region.

While Anthony Albanese’s Labor government is not stumping up the same amount of military aid, it is nevertheless complicit in Israel’s war crimes.

The US-controlled Pine Gap spy base, hosted by Australia near Alice Springs, collects and analyses surveillance data from Palestine to aid Israel in its carpet bombing of Gaza.

Australia has provided more than $13 million in military exports to Israel over the past five years. Since 2017, it has issued 351 permits for weapons for Israel, a Senate Estimates hearing was told last year.

Yet Labor is refusing to give any detail about the type of military equipment it is exporting to Israel.

Victorian Labor is just as complicit. It has signed agreements with the Israeli Ministry of Defense and has partnerships with Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems.

This is why the movement to free Palestine is demanding that governments come clean on military aid being provided to Israel, including military export licences.

The movement has exposed how weapons corporations are making obscene profits from killing Palestinians, mostly women and children.

The demand for an arms embargo on Israel has had some success. A Dutch court ordered on February 12 a delivery of F-35 jet parts to Israel be stopped. It said there is a “clear risk” that the parts are being used in “serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

Spain suspended all arms exports to Israel after it launched its attack on October 7. Spanish foreign minister José Manuel Albares told Al Jazeera that they realised the “importance” of a just and permanent solution for Palestine.

Activists in Victoria are stepping up the pressure on Australian-based defence companies, such as Heat Treatment Australia (HTA), which provides heat treatment for components of F-35 Joint Strike fighters.

We have to redouble our efforts to stop Israel’s ethnic cleansing: Israel’s ground offensive in Rafah, southern Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians had been sent by Israel, are now in the frontline.

Satellite images obtained by the BBC show virtually every open space has been taken up by temporary shelters: the population density has risen from 4100 people a square kilometre to almost 20,000.

If Labor really were concerned about human rights, as it says it is, it would impose an arms embargo on Israel.

Australia, like other Western governments, is selective about such measures. Under Scott Morrison, the Coalition was quick to impose an arms embargo on Russia after it invaded Ukraine.

Australia has had no problem selling weapons and technology to countries accused of war crimes, including Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia.

We must also demand the government stops subsidising weapons corporations. It was revealed in 2019 that a Canberra-based defence company, Electro Optic Systems, received more than $40 million in subsidies to sell weapons systems to Saudi Arabia which were used to bomb Yemen.

Labor’s complicity in the genocide in Gaza goes beyond providing military exports and refusing to condemn Israel’s genocidal acts.

It is rooted in the government’s direct links and investment in the military industrial complex. We can’t forget that, in 2018, Morrison decided that Australia would strive to become one of the world’s top 10 defence exporters.

Albanese continued the Coalition’s militaristic legacy by ratifying the $368 billion AUKUS agreement and continuing to fund weapons technology, such as $399 million on the MQ-28A Ghost Bat drone.

Israel’s genocide, using state-of-the-art technology provided by the West, is a powerful argument to shut down the whole industry which is only ever used in unjust wars of aggression which target the victims of imperialism.

Weapons companies, such as HTA, can be retooled to produce socially useful products to advance the necessary energy transition from fossil power to renewables.

Fighting the military industrial complex that supplies Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza has to be a central focus of our continuing struggle for peace and self-determination for Palestine.

[Sue Bolton is a member of the Socialist Alliance National Executive. She is also a Merri-bek City Councillor and initiated one of the first council motions nationwide calling for a ceasefire.]