In the days after the October 7 attack on Israel, Australia vowed to stand with Israel. It appears to have forgotten that pledge.
When the United Nations General Assembly voted in October in favor of an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza, Australia abstained because the motion failed to explicitly mention, let alone condemn, Hamas. James Larsen, Australia’s representative to the UN, said he could not support the resolution because its failure to name the October 7 culprits meant it was “incomplete.”
Last night, the UN General Assembly again voted resoundingly in favor of a ceasefire. This time, Australia abandoned its principles, broke with the United States and the United Kingdom, and supported the motion — despite it still failing to condemn Hamas.
What a difference two months makes. Larsen said on Tuesday that Australia’s position is that the extent of human suffering in Gaza is “dire and unacceptable.” Nevertheless, in voting with the anti-Israel majority, his government is crab walking away from its unequivocal support for Israel and especially its people. Unlike the US and the UK, Australia’s Labor government capitulated to the stridently vocal and viciously assertive pro-Palestinian lobby at home.
While the Labour Party in the UK has held the line and continues to back Israel despite intense pressure from the party’s own MPs and activists, Australia’s Labor Party has given in, abandoning solidarity with Israel and breaking with its allies.
Even Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s own cabinet is divided and compromised. A senior minister, Ed Husic, who is Australia’s first Muslim to sit in cabinet, broke ranks with his own government. This week, he condemned Israel’s military action as “very disproportionate” and said that Australians, especially actors and journalists, should be free to express concerns about the loss of innocent life in Gaza without being “professionally blacklisted.”
Normally, collective responsibility would require Husic to resign for seemingly opposing his own government. Instead, it appears that Labor changed its position on Israel to suit him. It did so after pressure from MPs representing constituencies with significant Muslim populations, the far-left and the vehemently pro-Palestinian Green party.
A Jewish opposition MP, Julian Leeser, aptly summed up the government’s backflip, and its voting for the latest UN motion. “This is a motion about Grayndler (Albanese’s own constituency, under threat from a growing Greens vote), not Gaza,” Leeser said. It’s hard to disagree.
What has happened in Australia since October 7 is a national shame. The trouble started with the ugly pro-Palestine protest at the Sydney Opera House two days after the attack. This soon turned anti-Semitic, with shocking chants of “fuck the Jews” and “gas the Jews.” In the weeks since, disgraceful images of flagrant antisemitism in Australia have flashed around the world. In Melbourne last month, a delegation of traumatized family members of Israelis murdered and taken hostage on October 7 was harassed by aggressive pro-Palestine activists.
Australians like to think of themselves as easy-going, tolerant, and accepting of social and ethnic diversity. The awful truth is that we’re not, and what has happened here in the past two months highlights that old hatreds, enmities and bigotry are never far beneath the supposedly serene surface of Australian society.
Unwilling to take on these dark forces, the unravelling of the government’s solidarity with Israel reflects the morally lazy political choices it is making. Instead of backing Israel at its hour of need, it chose the path of least resistance.
The human tragedy in Gaza tears at everyone’s hearts and consciences. The suffering and the loss of life is harrowing, especially for Australians with family and friends in Gaza. Israel must continue to do all it can to minimize casualties in accordance with international law. But if Israel’s key Western allies like Australia walk away, as Australia did in the UN on Tuesday, and discount the barbaric atrocities of Hamas on October 7, Hamas is the only winner.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.