During the recent 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, only the United States and Australia voted against all five resolutions condemning Israel’s illegal occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights. Three of the five resolutions concerned issues that have, until this point, garnered broad and bipartisan support in Australia. The resolutions a) acknowledging the Palestinian right to self-determination within the 1967 borders, b) calling for an immediate halt to settlement expansion and c), denouncing Israel for its ongoing human rights violations in the occupied territories, are all implicit in Australia’s official and long-standing position on the conflict, i.e. a two-state solution. We hope that, despite this recent and contradictory voting, Australia continues to support international law and maintain its respected status in the international community and the rules-based system.
However, by joining the American and Israeli circle at UN forums, Australia has in fact chosen on this occasion to ignore international law (including but not limited to Articles 49 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention), specifically the Palestinians’ legal right to statehood and the concomitant illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem which preclude such statehood. We fear that, as a result of this latest stance, the morale, aspirations and hope of the Palestinian people will be further diminished. This is especially true with respect to Australia’s voting against the resolution that called for “ensuring accountability and justice for all violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”
Domestically, the Arab and Muslim communities are overwhelmingly supportive of the Palestinian cause and three consecutive opinion polls have shown a clear majority of wider public support for Palestinian self-determination. We also fear that the recent voting pattern will have a negative impact on the vibrant and esteemed relationship between Australia and the Arab World, which both the Australian and Palestinian governments have worked hard to enhance and promote over the years.
The government of the State of Palestine regrets Australia’s recent voting at the UNHRC for the prejudicial and one-sided precedent that it ultimately establishes.