The Guardian • Issue #2012

Australia “opposes” US statement on UN report into human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine

Photo: Matt Hrkac – (CC BY 2.0)

Australia has refused to sign a statement, alongside over twenty other countries, released by the US regarding an inquiry into human rights violations in Palestine and Israel. A statement delivered by US Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Michèle Taylor held that Israel has been unfairly targeted by the UNHRC and stated that:

“We continue to believe that this long-standing disproportionate scrutiny should end, and that the Council should address all human rights concerns, regardless of country, in an even-handed manner.”

Among the signatories who backed these claims were Germany, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Bulgaria, Togo, Cameroon.

The US contends that the Committee of Information (COI) inquiry, set up last year, into human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine, is too open ended and would make Israel the only country permanently under investigation by the UNHRC. Australia opposed the claim that Israel is the only country under constant scrutiny but is in agreement that the UNHRC disproportionately focuses on Israel. The COI has only been in existence for just over a year and was set up in response to the escalation of violence that occurred in May 2021 (see Guardian ‘“How long will it last?”: Ceasefire in Palestine’ #1963). The COI report didn’t exclusively focus on Israel but also cited the disregard of the State of Palestine for upholding human rights. The report stated that Palestine frequently justified its human rights violations due to the ongoing occupation of their territory by Israel. The report also made the same claim about Hamas in the West Bank.

While signalling a slight shift in Australian foreign policy, it does not mark any major departure from the US. The refusal to sign was not over broader US policy in the area but simply that the US called for the COI to be ended. Australia’s UN Ambassador Amanda Gorely stated that:

“Viewing any conflict from one perspective will not achieve that goal […] Australia remains deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict, loss of life and human rights abuses, and the lack of progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution.”

One is left wondering how exactly it’s possible to arrive at this “just and enduring two-state solution,” particularly while expressing concerns over human rights violations, when the balance of power in the region is so fundamentally uneven.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Minister, Penny Wong, said the new Labor government has “taken the opportunity to elaborate on our approach to the Middle East peace process by issuing a national statement” and that “Australia’s statement is consistent with a long-held bipartisan position.” There doesn’t seem much to elaborate on if the new government is simply going to remain in lockstep with the US, as it historically has done, under the guise of adopting a “bi-partisan position.”

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