Australian Jewry laments country’s vote on Palestinians


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Australian Jewish leaders are "disappointed" that the government voted in favor of a U.N. committee’s “one-sided” resolution on Palestinian self-determination.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry President Robert Goot and Zionist Federation of Australia President Philip Chester sent a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith Tuesday saying they were “disappointed” because Australia’s vote for the resolution was a departure from the government’s normal policy of abstaining.

“We were even more disappointed,” they wrote, “that our community was not given advance notice that the change of vote was being contemplated.”

The resolution, adopted Nov. 12 by the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian), reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to an independent State of Palestine. It urged member states of the United Nations, as well as the specialized agencies and organizations of its system, to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in realizating their right to self-determination.

Mark Leibler and Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council in a letter Tuesday to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued that the resolution omitted any reference to Palestinian obligations, and thus “perpetuates the counter-productive narrative that Israel’s policies are the sole obstacle to peace.”

They were similarly nonplussed last year when the Labor government voted in favor of a motion condemning all West Bank settlements and another motion to apply the Fourth Geneva Conventions to the West Bank and Gaza.

For the previous decade, under the conservative government of John Howard, Australia backed Israel at the United Nations on virtually every occasion.

Meanwhile, a report in the Solomon Star claims that Israel is sending a Foreign Ministry official to the Solomon Islands next week to find out why it was the only country in the Oceania region to vote in favor of adopting the Goldstone report, which accused Israel, as well as Hamas, of war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war.

The island nation’s recent diplomatic engagement with Iran was cited as a possible reason for the vote, according to the newspaper.

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