Academics call on PM to end Labor’s Israel complicity

June 21, 2024
Protesting for Palestine in Gadigal Country/Sydney on June 16. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

“Why collusion with this grotesque Israeli government?” asked 150 Australian academics in an open letter sent to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on June 14.

They said they were writing in “sadness and despair” at Labor’s support for Tel Aviv’s genocidal attack on Gaza.

The 150 scholars criticise Labor’s support for the Benjamin Netanyahu government and urged it to acknowledge the genocide, the slaughter in the West Bank and to support the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC).

They also urged it to follow the example of Ireland, Spain and Norway and recognise the State of Palestine.

They said Albanese must drop the excuse that Israel has to “defend itself” based  on an aberrant attack by Hamas on October 7, as the war on Palestine started with the 1948 Nakba.

Professor Stuart Rees said there is “no ‘moral equivalence’” between Israel and Hamas.

“Even a cursory reading of history reveals decades of Israeli terrorism and massacres of Palestinians by Israeli forces which far outstrip the Hamas murders of October 2023,” he said.

In May 1948, Israeli declared itself a nation in “a land without a people for a people without a land”. Palestine, of course, was far from empty; it was populated by Indigenous Palestinians.

Israeli forces ethnically cleansed around 750,000 Palestinians from their own lands, pushing many into neighbouring nations, including Jordan, while others became internally displaced.

Israel’s violence against Palestinians in Gaza is a continuation of the Nakba, only today the genocide is livestreamed to the entire globe.

Rees is the founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation, that seeks to promote interest in peace, justice and universal human rights. Each year it awards the Sydney Peace Prize. Renowned Palestinian academic and human rights advocate Dr Hanan Ashrawi received it in 2003.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Rees about why Labor is throwing its support behind the greatest atrocity of this century.

Why is Labor colluding with the Israeli government’s genocide in Gaza?

There are a couple of main reasons. They are frightened of offending the Israelis, who they regard as their modern time allies and they are frightened to offend the United States as they take their foreign policy cues from Washington.

The third thing is that they are frightened of being wedged by the Murdoch media as “antisemitic” if they dare to question the Israeli slaughter.

How do you describe what is happening in Gaza? 

It is the worst slaughter, genocide, since 1948, when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were driven from their homes, tens of thousands were murdered and 500 towns and villages were erased from the face of the earth.

The slaughters of Palestinians have been ongoing since 1948 and we can document about 30 of them.

But the wretched Western media likes to assert that it is all about Hamas and that this slaughter and barbarity only started in October last year.

Many have called this the worst atrocity crime since World War II. What do you think?

Israel has been preparing for it since 1948, due to the fact that the West has turned a blind eye to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and to the 17-year-old siege on Gaza.

It is the worst atrocity, because we’ve been asked to witness it, told what it is about and then expected to be passive and sit silently by and watch.

The world may not have entirely known the details of the Holocaust, but we very much know exactly what the Israelis are doing right now.

The academics’ letter said the nation’s attitude towards Israel and the rights of Palestinians should rely on facts and history by “adherence to the rules of international law and by ideals of a common humanity”.

It’s obvious that Israel has trashed the latter two, but can you elaborate on the reading of history that Anthony Albanese should open his mind to?

They either don’t read history, or it is inconvenient for them to reveal that the massacres by Israelis of Palestinians completely dwarf anything that Hamas did last October.

Albanese’s reading of history is affected by his political calculations; given the forthcoming election, he is frightened to offend Sky News, the Murdoch media and the wretched dogma of the Opposition.

Instead of praising university students on campuses, or the people protesting in major cities each week, he likes to say they don’t know what they are doing.

What do you think about a Prime Minister telling his constituency that they don’t know what they’re doing?

Courage in public life is rare. The exceptions are the members of the Green Party and the teal independents. They’ve written to me and said that they completely agree with the tenor of the academics’ letter to the PM.

The major parties are merely mouthing this notion that they are in favour of a world human rights order.

The academic’s open letter also gives a nod to the open letter from public servants, which calls on Labor to end its support of Israel. Some of those people would have been risking their jobs. How significant is it for academics to be putting this to the government?

It is significant; the alternative would be for us to stay silent.

People are feeling powerless about this slaughter that they are asked to watch every night; a permanent feeling of powerlessness leads to depression.

On behalf of the academics, we at least tried to say: “We’re here. We protest. This is not how we think. There is something called human rights. There is something called justice. There is something called a common humanity, and we wish to write to you about it.”

In many respects, as members of staff, we were trying to support what the gutsy students are doing.

What toll is Albanese’s position on Gaza having on people?

People who have not previously been involved in politics are reacting with a great deal of anger and despair.

He’s complying with genocide by refusing to recognise Palestine and yet by refusing to use the word “genocide”. It’s very sad, but it’s also disgraceful.

Do you think Israel’s genocide is causing political rifts here and, if so, do you think the major parties are aware of that?

Israel is determined that this war has got to go on until the year’s end, because “everybody in Gaza is Hamas” and “all of Hamas should be eliminated”.

There is no way that Labor can win the next election, and I’m saying this as a member of the Labor Party! The dreadful alternative is Peter Dutton.

Hopefully, the independents, the Greens and the teals will benefit because their views are much more in tune with the public feeling.

There will have to be a hung parliament.

Gaza, of course, won’t be the only issue. But, for example, in NSW, there are enough constituencies where the Arab Australian population is large enough to have an impact, because people are not going to forget Labor’s positioning on Gaza.

[Abridged from an article in Sydney Criminal Lawyers, for which Paul Gregoire writes.]

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