Contributed by Jim Hayes
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Australia and it will be used as a political ploy to make a point around thew world. The point is that Israel’s actions have support. The purpose is to counter the reality of almost total isolation.
Israel’s continued brutalisation of the Palestinian population and the accelerating wave of new settlements on designated Palestinian land has been leading to growing consternation and a call for action by the world. Only through the protection of the United States and less than a handful of other countries, including Australia, have current Israeli government policies and actions been possible.
But under Netanyahu, Israel has moved so far along this road that even its protector has found itself compelled to come out and caution against excesses. So fart he Australian government has been silent.
Netanyahu has been a key architect of the recent stepping up of the anti-Palestinian drive by Israel. While the Palestinians have been suffering as a result, the drive is also causing a growing opposition at home. Israelis and Jews around the world have been coming out in bigger numbers against the actions of the country that has been built in their name.
The new conscription law that makes national service in the armed forces mandatory is contentious. More so because this is seen as part of a plan for military action against the Palestinians. Another issue has been restriction on studying the Tora, the holiest book in the Jewish religion. Opponents suggest that a religious Jewish based state runs against the traditional teachings.
The division saw more than 50,000 American Jews marching in New York. Rallies were even bigger in Israel, where they have been violently suppressed by the police. On 1 February thousands of Jews and Palestinians joined in a march against Palestinian home demolitions.
Netanyahu is also facing several corruption investigations and his suitability as a head of state is being widely questioned.
While the Australian government gives Israel support, there is opposition in Australia. Last year a group of politicians signed a joint letter. Jewish and Palestinian groups in Australia are calling for change, as are other human rights organisations. There is a large movement for change within the Labor Party.
If Netanyahu’s visit goes ahead, it will be met with a range of actions around the country.
The Australian government cannot escape from the fact that because of its charged political nature, this is no ordinary visit by another head of state. It will be seen by the world as a statement of whether our government stands for well documented aggression, joins Netanyahu in his militant opposition to the right of Palestinians to have their own homeland, supports the illegal settlements and stands against world opinion and resolutions adopted by the United Nations.
The alternative is for the Australian government to cancel the visit. This would signal to the world that the Australian government wants to play a constructive role as an ambassador of justice for all.