Anthony Albanese has shifted his position on a ceasefire under pressure from sustained protests at Israel’s genocidal onslaught on Gaza—but still won’t demand Israel stop the bombing.
The Australian government voted for a non-binding motion for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” at the UN General Assembly. This was a weaker version of a motion passed in late October, on which Australia shamefully abstained.
But a joint statement from Albanese and the Canadian and New Zealand Prime Ministers issued just before the vote shows that he is still backing Israel’s continuation of the war.
The statement had not a word of condemnation for Israel’s deliberate targeting of hospitals, journalists or civilians that has seen the death toll reach more than 18,000, including almost 8000 children.
It made it clear that Albanese was advocating only another “pause” in Israel’s attack for humanitarian reasons, and supported a long-term ceasefire only if Hamas completely surrenders, laying down its arms and unconditionally releasing all its hostages.
This amounts to support for Israel’s declared war aim of wiping out Hamas.
The statement also repeated the lie that Israel’s attack on Gaza was about a “right to defend itself” as well as unverified Israeli claims about Hamas’s use of sexual violence on 7 October and the claim it uses “human shields”.
Albanese is still parroting the idea that Hamas’s attack is to blame for Israel’s savagery. But it is Israel alone that is responsible for the violence. Israel is a militarised settler state that was founded on mass ethnic cleansing 75 years ago and has been expelling Palestinians from more and more land ever since.
Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem for more than 50 years, subjecting Palestinians to a regime of apartheid and terror.
It unleashes brutal violence against any form of resistance including non-violent demonstrations, including the two Palestinian Intifadas in 1987 and 2000 or the more recent Great March of Return in 2018.
Gaza has been under a crippling blockade for 16 years, with the population of 2.3 million kept barely above starvation levels, without safe drinking water or functioning electricity, even before the current attack. This has been a policy of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians—a war crime under international law.
Hamas has a right to resist Israel’s occupation—including by armed force. It is continuing the Palestinians’ legitimate struggle for national liberation that has been ongoing since 1948.
Albanese’s statement hypocritically claims to “support Palestinians’ right to self-determination” while at the same time saying there “is no role for Hamas in the future governance of Gaza”. Yet Hamas was democratically elected in the last elections held in 2006 in the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinian support for Hamas is still at 76 per cent, according to an Arab World for Research and Development poll taken during the current war. This is because Palestinians support their efforts to resist Israeli oppression.
Outrage at Israel’s onslaught on Gaza is growing worldwide. Even US President Joe Biden, who continues to oppose ceasefire resolutions at the UN, has admitted its bombing of Gaza has been “indiscriminate” and that Israel is losing global support.
Continual protests here have put huge pressure on the Labor government to abandon its support for Israel.
We need to add to that pressure. Australia should break its military and economic ties with Israel, stop exporting weapons and military equipment that are being used in Gaza and the West Bank, and expel the Israeli ambassador.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong should cancel her planned visit to Israel in January.
We need to keep building the movement to free Palestine and to demand Albanese backs a permanent ceasefire and condemns Israel’s brutal war as well as its ongoing apartheid policies and occupation of Palestine.
By James Supple