Below is the text of a letter to the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (3 March 2023)
Dear Senator Wong,
Re: The current round of violence and disorder in Israel and the Occupied Territories
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society Inc. (AJDS) was established in 1984 as a politically progressive voice in the Australian Jewish community.
Our organisation has promoted a just solution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine since our inception, one that accounts for the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians in conflict resolution. Our positions have frequently been at odds with the ‘official’ Jewish organisations, yet we have also been far ahead of them on many issues. We view with considerable alarm the current situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Thus, in 2011 we had an opinion piece in the Age and SMH supporting the creation of a Palestinian state. We continue to engage with the broader community, including parliamentarians, and Palestinian Australian organisations offering a progressive perspective on the situation in Israel/Palestine. Our positions are similar to those found in many progressive Jewish organisations in Israel and the US.
The recent murder of Israelis in the West Bank by Palestinian extremists is no excuse for what Israeli newspapers are calling a pogrom by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the village of Huwara. We condemn this indiscriminate punishment, as we do the raid on Jenin in Area A on the West Bank which resulted in bystander deaths in the previous week.
The current Israeli government is dominated by extremists of the worst kind including, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. There can be no pretence that the Israeli government is concerned about the security of Palestinians or that the Palestinian Authority is capable of preserving law and order.
This breakdown is also reflected in the use of police, including the brutal border police, tear gas and water cannon against unarmed Jewish pro-democracy protesters in Israel, where the situation is only going to get worse as an extremist agenda is implemented. It is only a matter of time until Jewish Israeli civilians are killed by their own forces or settlers incited by the hateful rhetoric of Israeli ministers.
Israel is on the path to being a democracy in name only, like Hungary or Turkey but also ruling over annexed territory, in contravention of international law. An apartheid state will become law.
We know that there is a principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries, but given that Israel is an occupying power, the situation is very different. We believe that it is important the Australian government take a stand as one of Israel’s long-standing friends. These actions could include:
- A public statement from you decrying the violence being perpetrated in the West Bank, particularly the actions of settlers and the military against Palestinians under occupation, as well as the attacks on Israeli citizens by police within the Green Line in Israel.
- Putting a ban on visits by Israeli politicians such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
- Calling in the Israeli Ambassador in Canberra to reinforce this message, and presenting the Ambassador with a formal letter outlining concerns to be conveyed to the Israel government.
We know that such a message from the Australian government would not be supported by some Jewish leaders, but given the seriousness of the current situation, it would resonate with many in the Jewish community.
Finally, we bring to your attention a submission made to DFAT on Australia Israel Trade in 2022 in which the AJDS addressed the issue of Australian trade in goods and services from the Occupied Territories. In it, we said that neither the Australian government nor any company or charity in Australia should be engaged in any trade or investment with Israel in the Occupied Territories. This submission can be found at https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/for-australian-business/feasibility-study-strengthening-trade-and-investment-israel-submissions#submissions.