Originally published in Green Left Weekly.
The Abbott government has sunk to a new diplomatic low, with Foreign
Minister Julie Bishop suggesting Israeli settlements should not be
Bishop made the comments during a visit to Israel. In a January 15 interview with the Times of Israel,
she argued “the issue of settlements is absolutely and utterly
fundamental to the negotiations that are under way and I think it’s
appropriate that we give those negotiations every chance of succeeding”.
When asked if Israeli settlements inside Palestinian territory should
be considered illegal, she replied: "I would like to see which
international law has declared them illegal.”
If Bishop were interested in an answer, she would have to look no
further than the 49th article of the Geneva convention, which says:
"[An] Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own
civilian population into the territory it occupies”.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the convention
does apply to the West Bank — occupied by Israel during the 1967 war —
and that settlement building and the construction of the apartheid wall
that protects the settlements are in violation of the convention.
The Obama administration reaffirmed in November they "do not accept
the legitimacy of continued settlement activity" after negotiations
between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government broke down.
However, the truth is Israel's allies, such as Australia and the US,
have never exerted any real pressure to stop the expansion of
settlements or insist on their removal from Palestinian territory in the
The US continues to guarantee Israel's "qualitative military edge"
over its neighbours. A 2007 memorandum of understanding guarantees $30
billion of military aid over 10 years.
Since the election of Tony Abbott’s government, Australia's pretence
of diplomatic neutrality on the issue has been shed in favour of
bold-faced support for Israel. As negotiations were breaking down,
Australia abstained from a UN resolution calling on Israel to "stop all
But global pressure on the apartheid state is growing, despite the
blind eye turned by Western governments to the crimes and atrocities
committed by Israel.
The latest wave of activism has targeted actress Scarlett Johansson
for becoming the new face of Israeli company SodaStream, which makes its
products in the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.
In a recent interview with Channel 2, Israel's Minister of Justice ,Tzipi Livni, said Israel was facing "South-Africa style isolation" due to the settlements, and that they were "bricks in the wall of isolation around us”.
It is a position in stark contrast to that of Bishop, who said in the Times of Israel that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is “anti-Semitic”.
She said: “It identifies Israel out of all other nations as being
worthy of a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign? Hypocritical
Her comments were criticised by the Australian Jewish Democratic
Society, which said: "It is time for Australia to speak plainly to
Israel about the urgent need to end the settlements, eliminate settler
violence and set in place an internationally-supported process that
results in withdrawal from the territories and a final resolution of the
Bishop's comments have brought Australia's unilateral support for
Israeli settlements back into the media. But the movement for BDS is not
concerned only with settlements or settler violence.
The three fundamental demands of the BDS movement are for ending the
occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and dismantling the apartheid wall;
recognising the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full
equality; and respecting the right of return of Palestinian refugees
The movement stands for justice for all Palestinians — those exiled
or assimilated by Israel as well as those in the West Bank. That is what
makes BDS so threatening and terrifying to apologists for Israeli
apartheid like Bishop.