What are we doing? by Paul Heywood-Smith

Wake up Australians. What are we doing? Do we realize that we are, by our silence, by our apathy, by our support for Israel, making ourselves accomplices to war crimes. This must be the lowest point in our otherwise proud history.

Let us start with the simple facts. These facts cannot be disputed. They are objectively stated. Israel is an occupier of other peoples’ land – in the West Bank – in Gaza – in the Golan – and in the Shebaa Farms area of Lebanon. These lands were so occupied by force during the 1967 War. They cannot be retained by Israel consistent with international law. The UN Charter so declares. Australia is a signatory of the UN Charter. It must refuse to recognize any attempt by Israel to keep these lands. The occupation of these lands is illegal. That has been so held by the International Court of Justice in its ruling on the legality of the Wall in July 2004.

Those are the facts; now for the comment upon those facts. It is my belief that the following comment cannot be challenged by any unbiased observer.

The continuing conflict between the Israelis on the one hand, and the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon on the other is due solely to the continuing illegal occupation of these lands.

Those Arabs who engage in violent acts against the State of Israel are resisting the illegal, immoral and unjustified occupation. Their right to so resist is recognized by international law. They are not terrorists. They are no more terrorists than members of the French resistance who engaged in violent acts against the Germans in WW II.

Nor is it appropriate to allow the legitimate resisters to be divided up and denied a legitimate right to resist. Thus it is no answer to say of Hezbollah in Lebanon: “They are not Palestinians. They have no interest in what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza”. Hezbollah includes the descendants of Palestinians expelled from Israel in 1948-1949. But even if they are not such descendants they are brother Arabs. They have no less interest in the conflict in the Occupied Territories than, e.g., Australia had in the outcome of the Boer War in South Africa one hundred years ago, or, even World Wars I and II. We regarded ourselves in those wars as having an interest because of our affinity with Great Britain. Hezbollah have at least as great an affinity with the Palestinians. And I have not even alluded in the above to the direct interest which Hezbollah has in the Shebaa Farms area of Lebanon, currently occupied by Israel.

I am angry at the presentation of the conflict in the media. When an Australian is killed fighting in the Israel Army in South Lebanon our Foreign Minister publicly mourns his loss. Would he have made a similar statement if a Lebanese Australian was killed fighting under the banner of Hezbollah? Yet it would be the Lebanese Australian fighting to end an illegal occupation who is acting in accordance with international law. The Israeli Australian on the other hand is fighting to defend an illegal occupation.

I am angry at the inane mantras that are continually thrown up to us. “Israel has a right to exist”. Which Israel is said to have a right to exist? Is it the Israel whose borders are co-extensive with the current land controlled by Israel including the Golan, West Bank, Gaza and the Shebaa Farms? If so, no, that Israel does not have a right to exist. Such right is denied to it by international law.

Is it the Israel that Olmert says that Israel will converge to if Israel cannot find a “partner for peace”(for which phrase read “partner ready to capitulate”)? That Israel is said to include the Golan, the Shebaa Farms, 40% of the West Bank, and the airspace and borders of Gaza. If so, no, that Israel does not have a right to exist. Such a right is denied to it by international law.

The only Israel that has any claim to a right to exist is that with borders which existed prior to the 1967 War. And it is an Israel which recognizes the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and a sovereign State of their own and which respects that State’s sovereignty, all of it, including its right to trade freely and openly without Israeli control and middle men.

If Israel resolved to stop trying to steal another people’s lands and withdrew to its ’67 borders I have no doubt that the vast majority of the nations and people on this Earth would allow it a right to exist. Unfortunately it would seem that Israel and its co-belligerent, the United States, cannot contemplate compliance with international law. In the event the World must suffer – through interminable security checks at airports, periodic acts of violence, (Bali, New York, London, Madrid), insecurity, invasion of privacy, cant, hypocrisy, outrage, whatever.

There is now a suggestion that Australia should join an international force in South Lebanon. We must not participate in such a force unless Israel agrees to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. There would be a case for our participation in those circumstances, to keep the peace during the withdrawal. But unless Israel does so agree the only effect of such participation is to assist Israel to continue its illegal occupation.

 Paul Heywood-Smith

 Paul Heywood-Smith QC is chairman of theAustralian Friends of Palestine association– a not-for profit organization which promotes peace in Palestine based on International Law and relevant UN resolutions”.

About Father Dave

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four
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