The US has long been the undisputed worst country in the world in terms of brazen partisanship to the Israeli hard-right. But now, having also been a long-time offender, Australia is looking to decisively cross the finish line in second place.
Another embassy in Jerusalem?
On 16 October, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced that he is considering moving the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Morrison, who replaced Malcolm Turnbull in August, said that no decision has yet been made but that he will be consulting on the matter with his cabinet and other governments around the world.
Such a decision would make Australia the second Western country to relocate its major diplomatic office in Israel to the city, following US President Donald Trump’s move earlier this year. (The Czech Republic, Guatemala and Paraguay have also said they will make the switch, though Paraguay later back-peddled.)
Trump roundly criticized
The international community roundly criticized the Trump administration for the relocation, since Jerusalem is broadly considered to be contested territory. Most countries will hold off from recognizing it as Israel’s capital at least until the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict ends.
Australia’s own record
Morrison’s announcement comes in the same week as the UN General Assembly voted on whether to appoint Palestine, which sits in the assembly as a non-state member, to lead the organization’s G77 group of developing nations. The vote passed with 147 votes in favor, three opposed, and 15 abstentions. The three “no” votes came from Israel, the US and Australia.
This adds to a long record of disappointing votes in the UN on the issue. Between 2004 and 2010, for instance, Australia was one of the few nations to vote “no” on the motion to support a “Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine”, which takes place most years. In each case, almost all nations voted in favor, with Australia joining only Israel, the US and a handful of minor island nations in casting opposing votes.
Australia and Israel have a similar history. Like the US, they were both born out of settler-colonial situations; both of which caused great injustice to the people already there. Some have argued that it is therefore no coincidence that Australia would sympathize with the right-wing Zionist position.
Others have argued that Morrison is simply making a cynical, reckless and politically-motived calculation. His party faces a by-election in the parliamentary seat vacated by his predecessor in a district with a large Jewish population. And with a parliamentary majority of just one seat, Morrison’s governing centre-right Liberal Party would either have to rule as a minority government or lose power altogether should they fail to win.
Either way, this latest move adds another chapter to the country’s shameful history of cozying up to the worst elements of the Israeli right while putting one more stumbling block in the path to a Palestinian state.
– Take action with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
– In the UK, write to your national or local politicians to ask them to push for peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
Featured image via Justin McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons