Labor’s Palestine hypocrisy

As discussions over a long overdue permanent ceasefire in Gaza drag on, Labor and the increasingly hysterical Coalition are manoeuvring to deflect from their own complicity and culpability in prolonging Israel’s war by accusing the pro-Palestine movement of causing social division and of being antisemitic.

Labor and Coalition MPs in the past few weeks have blamed Palestine supporters for “vandalism” of Labor MPs offices and student encampments on universities for a rise in antisemitism.

The Green Party, which has been pushing for a permanent ceasefire and for Labor to take concrete action to sanction Israel, has come under particular attack.

Greens MPs have continued to probe Australia’s role in the arms trade supply chain with Israel and pushed Labor on its supposed support for a two-state solution.

But Labor MPs, one after the other, continue to deny Australia has approved any military or weapons deals with Israel or Israeli companies.

This is despite the Department of Defence granting two export permits to Israel in February.

While Australia does not supply Israel with complete weapons systems — Germany and the United States are its key suppliers — companies here do make crucial parts, without which a machine cannot become a weapon.

NSW Greens Senator David Shoebridge in early June placed on the Senate Estimates record that Australia does make parts for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets being used to bomb Gaza.

Australia also signed a $917 million contract with Israeli-owned Elbit Systems to install weapons systems into a Korean-designed infantry fighting vehicle, which will be constructed in Corio, Geelong — Defence Minister Richard Marles’ electorate.

It has also been revealed that Marles has only recently “tightened” the rules on military shipments to Israel: instead of a junior Defence Department officer approving “low-value” deals, it now has to come to his desk.

Australia’s complicity extends to allowing intelligence from the US-run “joint” spy base at Pine Gap to be passed on to Israel for its genocide in Gaza and perhaps also in the West Bank.

Semantics and allegations of antisemitism cannot hide the facts: nearly 40,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in the carnage and more than 85,000 people have been injured. Mass starvation is being used as a weapon of war — another crime.

Labor (and the Coalition) may want to keep any discussion of this terrible war and its crimes to a series of claims and counter claims, but Labor’s support for Israel, despite the warnings from international legal bodies, is on the record.   

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese keeps pointing to Labor’s pro-ceasefire vote at the United Nations on December 13 as evidence Labor supports an end to the war.

But Labor plays a role in giving Israel the cover it needs to continue the now nearly nine-month war.

A government truly committed to a lasting and permanent ceasefire could cut all defence ties with Israel, completely stopping the two-way arms trade.

It could place targeted sanctions on Israeli. It could prevent Jewish settlers who have attacked Palestinians from come to Australia. It could increase the number of visas for Palestinians, especially from Gaza, seeking refuge.

It could issue a statement of support for the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court rulings and it could recall Australia’s ambassador to Israel.

However all of these steps would jeopardise Australia’s military alliance with the United States, including the AUKUS deal.

Consequently, Labor has done nothing concrete to pressure Israel to stop its genocide in Gaza.

Australia was only one of only a handful of countries which rushed to block funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, following Israel’s unsubstantiated accusations that the agency’s staff were involved in the October 7 attacks.

Foreign minister Penny Wong did not explain why she reinstated the (pathetically small) $20 million to UNRWA in March, only that she was “deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation”.

Weasel words won’t cut it.

The crimes of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government are clear for all but the die-hard supporters of apartheid Israel to see.

While the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice rulings, when and if they come, will be unenforceable, they nevertheless give moral and political weight to the global movement for Palestine.

Even if Israel agrees to a ceasefire tomorrow, a highly unlikely scenario, the movement for justice for Palestine has to continue to apply the pressure on Labor.

Every rally, vigil, meeting, occupation or workplace motion that supports the rights of Palestinians, and highlights their 76 years of struggle for self-determination in their indigenous homeland increases the pressure on Israel, the US and Labor to stop the genocide.

[Sue Bull is a national co-convenor of Socialist Alliance.]