The crisis in Gaza calls for a fundamental rethink.

by Paul Grégoire, 5 June 2024, original post here.

Thousands of Australian Public Servants Speak Out Against Israeli Atrocities
Paul Gregoire

One of the big news stories last Thursday was over 300 Australian public servants had signed an open letter calling on the PM and his government to end their “support of the genocide, ethnic cleansing and illegal occupation of Palestine by immediately ceasing all military exports to Israel”.

This is significant as the public is now well aware that criticising Israel’s assault on Gaza can result in termination, especially, one would consider, from government. But eight months into a livestreamed genocide, circumstances are so dire that the open letter now lists over 2,000 public servants’ names.

A more than sixfold increase in public servants putting their necks on the line marks a seismic shift in the political climate, with the first signs of the rejection of the official government position on Gaza appearing as mass street demonstrations last October and as university solidarity camps in April.

But these local changes are linked to global events underway prior to Gaza. The Ukraine war has strengthened the China-Russia alliance. The growing intergovernmental BRICS organisation portends a multipolar future. And the AUKUS alliance appears a futile attempt to maintain US dominance.

And according to former diplomat Dr Alison Broinowski, whose career with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade commenced in the 1960s, the global reaction to Gaza is unprecedented, international systems are hanging in the balance, while Australia doesn’t have to be a US outpost.

Disgruntled and mortified employees
“I was impressed and encouraged by the open letter from public servants,” said Broinowski, and she added that it “shows that their bosses don’t dare dismiss them”. And the fact that their numbers are multiplying exponentially reveals the internalised fear of speaking out is dissolving.

The public servants employed at all levels of government have the same demands as protesters: stop arms and weapons parts to Israel, end surveillance data sharing from Pine Gap to Israel, cease dealings with Israeli military companies and disclose Israeli export licence arrangements.

“The US-controlled Pine Gap surveillance base, hosted by Australia near Alice Springs, supplies intelligence from Palestine to the Israeli military,” explained 2,073 public servants on Tuesday. After collecting data, it then “supplies it to Israel which uses it for its assault on Gaza and wider genocide”.

Some other points multiple public servants raised with their boss Anthony Albanese are that his nation “may now be violating international law and complicit in criminal warfare” and that officials who continue exporting weapons to Israel could be liable for aiding and abetting war crimes.

Broinowski added that like the public servants, she and a coalition of antiwar agitators are doing whatever they “can to point to our government’s complicity in war crimes, and its lack of transparency about supporting Israel in committing them, and about wars in general”.

Promises made to break
These days, the onetime counsellor with the Australian Mission to the UN, Broinowski is a spokesperson for Australians for War Powers Reform (AWPR): a campaign to see the decision to enter a foreign conflict be made by the entire parliament, as currently, the PM holds war powers.

Federal Labor ran for government in 2022 on a platform that included recognising Palestine and holding a war powers inquiry. Instead, Labor ministers have framed the mass slaughter of Palestinians, as Israel defending itself and that it has a right to act in this manner.

And given that monumental backflip, it’s no surprise that Albanese’s war powers inquiry allowed him and eight other Labor ministers to maintain the decision to go to war. Indeed, defence minister Richard Marles wrote a letter to the committee demanding it come to the conclusion it came to.

As for her former public service colleagues, Broinowski hopes they’re emboldened to further “point out that Pine Gap itself, and the US installations in northern Australia, go beyond support for Israel, and potentially implicate us in a disastrous and losing war with China: our main trading partner”.

Right now, as part of the AUKUS alliance with the US and the UK, Australia is a main player in a buildup to war against China, supposedly over the self-governing territory of Taiwan, but, as far as the experts are concerned, it’s actually about China threatening US economic hegemony.

The new world disorder
“If the Palestinians are obliterated in Gaza, as some Israelis intend, and the world does nothing what will be unprecedented is a global division: West plus Israel versus global East and South,” Dr Broinowski told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

“That could be repeated in the West Bank, where Israeli leaders are already arming local settlers to displace Palestinians,” she added. Violence in the West Bank was mounting prior to the October 7 Hamas attacks, and it’s been escalating ever since the catastrophe in Gaza began.

Eight months into the Israeli perpetrated wholesale massacre and starvation program in Gaza, Broinowski warns that the globe did not intervene in the 1994 Rwanda genocide and nor that perpetrated against the Rohingya in Myanmar over 2016 through to 2018.

A stark difference right now is that South Africa has launched a genocide case against Israel with the International Court of Justice. And International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan recently announced that he has applied for arrest warrants against the Israeli PM and defence minister.

The ICJ ruled on 26 January that Israel is perpetrating a plausible genocide and ordered it to stop and restore aid to Gaza. South Africa has returned twice to the ICJ, as Israel has ignored the orders. And not only has Tel Aviv resisted, but it’s rather escalated behaviours it’s been ordered to stop.

But what if this continues? Well, as Dr Broinowski put it, “It will reveal not only the powerlessness of the international courts but of the whole UN system, in which the US veto in the Security Council can allow these atrocities to continue.”

“It will also divide the modern world: the West versus the rest,” she underscored. “Once again, Australia has to choose.”

An independent and peaceful Australia
Human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter’s recent article in Declassified Australia follows a freedom of information trail that shows that key government departments have been concerned about genocide and war crimes since October, but only in terms of how to publicly deny they’re existence.

Yet, this didn’t have to be the way. Labor could have made different decisions once in office, some of which it suggested it would. Although no PM has seriously considered questioning Pine Gap and the ever-increasing US inroads onto this continent, since Whitlam. And we all know the reason why.

As for the nation’s current resolve to follow the US leader, Dr Broinowski said, “It seems that some advisers take the ‘realist’ view that the international law-based order can enforce nothing and so Australia should go on backing its ANZUS and AUKUS ally in its self-ordained ‘rules-based’ order.”

“The crisis in Gaza calls for a fundamental rethink about where Australia stands,” she underscored.

Released in February, the Marrickville Declaration is a statement from a coalition of 30 civil society organisations, including AWPR, who are calling for an end to AUKUS, with its drive to war on China, the increasing inroads of the US military here and the top down militarisation of Australian society.

These groups envisage a truly independent nation that acts as a beacon for peace: one that would actively oppose genocide, rather than the joint Albanese is running that considers the country as a forward base for the US to war on China, whilst suppressing all criticism of Israel’s genocide.

“Experience shows us that any criticism of Israel is declared antisemitic, while the courageous students, who peacefully oppose genocide, are joined by Jewish Australians,” Dr Broinowski said regarding Albanese’s disinformation drive, “not that much of our mainstream media report it.”

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