Saturday, November 17, 2007

Australia must oppose collective punishment in Gaza

This letter has been sent to the Australian politicians listed. These leaders cannot act with impunity when their actions or ommissions are likely to lead to the deaths of non combatants. The Westminster system of Ministerial Responsibility must be rigorously enforced, as recommended by former Australian Prime Ministers, Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam in their letter.

To: Prime Minister, John Howard

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer


Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Robert



Australia’s role in the blockade of Gaza

16 November 2007

Dear Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

We are a group of concerned Australians acting now because the blockade of Gaza is escalating to a new and concerning level that will profoundly affect the lives and welfare of over 1 and half million people (women and children included). This has followed upon an almost complete paralysis of economic, social and administrative activity. This siege has included a prohibition of infant milk powder and denial of crucial medical supplies for patients who are largely disallowed from leaving the Gaza Strip.

Australia has enabled the Israeli Government to carry out acts which the United Nations have declared to contravene the Geneva Conventions (Article 33 of the Fourth Convention). The prohibition on collective punishment, does not just refer to criminal penalties, “but penalties of any kind inflicted on persons or entire groups of persons, in defiance of the most elementary principles of humanity for acts that these persons have not committed” (ICRC).

Australia has repeatedly and consistently voted in the United Nations to give approval to actions of the Israeli government that violate the Geneva Conventions. The voting patterns of the majority of nations in response to numerous UN Resolutions demonstrate that Australia approves these acts by the Israeli government. According to Geoffrey Robertson QC Ministers of the Australian government have individual responsibility for the consequences of their acts or omissions. Similarly the Australian people have a collective responsibility to correct their government’s errors when these are brought to their attention.

The inevitable consequences of the Israeli military blockade include the infliction of severe malnutrition and ill-health, suffering and the premature death of Palestinian infants and children. The United Nations have not approved this blockade. The blockade of Iraq from 1991-2003 caused the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqi children and has been acknowledged that United Nations committed an error of judgment in pursuing this course of action.

We believe that the Australian people would wish to instruct their government to abide by the 1949 Declaration of Human Rights and its successor Protocols and Covenants which Australia has ratified enabling this country to take an honourable place within the community of Nations.

We call upon Prime Minister John Howard, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd, and Shadow Foreign Minister Robert McClelland to respect the wishes of the Australian people not to be implicated in any acts or omissions which would result in collective punishment to non-combatant civilians and particularly the most vulnerable members of the Gaza community.

We are yours faithfully

Here is the link to Antony Loewenstein's blog:

send your own copy of this letter

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