InternationalVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 32

Australia must recognise Palestine to promote peace

Over the last eight months, we have witnessed the mass killing and displacement of Palestinians and the devastation and destruction of Gaza carried out by Israel under the guise of “self-defence”. As the Israeli government continues to disregard its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and cease genocidal acts, it is imperative for influential nations to take a definitive stance.
Australia, with its global standing and democratic values, is in a strong position to facilitate peace. An important step in this direction is recognising a Palestinian state. It is also a moral and ethical imperative.
On May 29, a motion was presented to the lower house of the Australian parliament by the Greens to vote on whether Australia should follow Spain, Norway, Ireland, Slovenia, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations in recognising Palestinian statehood, but it failed to pass as 80 MPs voted against it.
My party, the Australian Labor Party, has consistently argued that such motions are political machinations on the part of the Greens in order to score “cheap points” and sway the public. Even if that were the case, this “politicking” does not detract from the underlying fact that a genocide is ongoing, and the Australian public knows it. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been slaughtered, among them 15,000 children.
Australians have seen for themselves the image of seven-year-old Sidra Hassouna hanging from a wall with her legs blown off and the footage of a man holding the corpse of 18-months-old Ahmad beheaded by an Israeli bombing. They have heard the sound of six-year-old Hind Rajab’s last words, desperately pleading for help as Israeli tanks closed in on her.
Social media is rife with images and videos of children with multiple limbs amputated. Entire families have been wiped off the registry. According to the Geneva-based Euro Med Human Rights Monitor, more than 70,000 tonnes of bombs have been dropped on Gaza between Oct 2023 and April 2024.
Australians have read the endless human rights reports from the likes of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even Israel’s own B’Tselem describing the governance in Israel as akin to “apartheid” and Gaza as an “open-air prison”. They have heard Israeli ministers calling for the ethnic cleansing and occupation of Gaza. They have seen the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rule that there is a plausible case of genocide in Gaza. They have watched the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) request arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes.
France has affirmed its support for the ICC. Sweden has done the same. Germany has announced it would arrest Netanyahu if the ICC warrant is issued. US Senator Elizabeth Warren has stated that there is ample evidence for international courts to find Israel guilty of genocide.
Renowned American Professor John Mearsheimer who came to Australia’s Centre for Independent Studies, has emphatically asserted that Israel is choosing between apartheid and ethnic cleansing in its treatment of Palestinians. UN experts have stated that Israel has committed at least three acts of genocide over the past eight months. UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese has stated that “Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza is an escalatory stage of a long-standing settler colonial process of erasure”.
This is why a recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is imperative. Australia’s recognition would be a symbolic and bold rejection of Israel’s current bid to erase the Palestinian people. Recognition of a Palestinian state would not frustrate a peace process; rather, it would rescue that very peace process and keep it alive.
This is the reason why Ireland, Spain, Norway and Slovenia moved to recognise a Palestinian state. It was not to reject or antagonise Israel. It was to rescue the process Israel is frantically trying to destroy.
Australia must reinforce the fundamental moral principle at the heart of the conflict: the right to self-determination. The Palestinian people, like any other, have an inherent right to govern themselves, to live freely on their own land, and to build their future. This right is enshrined in international law, including in the United Nations Charter.
By recognising a Palestinian state, Australia would be affirming its commitment to this universal principle and frustrate Israel’s bid to crush such aspirations of the Palestinians.
Israel is seeking to erase the agency of the Palestinian people. Australia must stand up to restore and reinforce it. Our country must not become one that smothers voices calling for justice, or one that censors the oppressed seeking freedom. Australian hearts have an affinity for justice. This is the reason why our students across the country are standing up as their predecessors did when they denounced the wars in Vietnam, and Iraq, and Afghanistan. The students were right on each of these generation-defining conflicts. Will it be that history repeats itself again by which we ignore them again?
In opposition, our prime minister and the Labor Party were fierce champions of Palestine and passionate voices for justice. I ask that we summon that spirit of old and do the same in power. Let historians write of us that we were on the right side of history, that we boldly reinforced international law, and that we were a shining beacon and voice for freedom. It is time to recognise Palestine.