Tilda Swinton among 2000+ artists calling for Gaza ceasefire
They accuse governments of “aiding and abetting” Israel’s “war crimes” in Gaza
Palestinians face “collective punishment on an unimaginable scale”
Governments should “end their military and political support for Israel’s actions”
Renowned actors Tilda Swinton, Charles Dance, Steve Coogan, Miriam Margolyes, Peter Mullan, Maxine Peake and Khalid Abdalla are among more than two thousand people from across the arts who have signed a letter saying that: “Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them.”
The artists, including Robert del Naja and playwrights Tanika Gupta and Abbie Spallen, condemn “every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them”.
THE LETTER IN FULL
We are witnessing a crime and a catastrophe. Israel has reduced much of Gaza to rubble, and cut off the supply of water, power, food and medicine to 2.3 million Palestinians. In the words of the UN’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, ‘the spectre of death’ is hanging over the territory.
Gaza is already a society of refugees and the children of refugees. Now, in their hundreds of thousands, bombarded from air, sea and land, Palestinians whose grandparents were forced out of their homes at the barrel of a gun are again being told to flee – or face collective punishment on an unimaginable scale. Dispossessed of rights, described by Israel’s minister of defence as “human animals”, they have become people to whom almost anything can be done.
Our governments are not only tolerating war crimes but aiding and abetting them. There will come a time when they are held to account for their complicity. But for now, while condemning every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them, our obligation is to do all we can to bring an end to the unprecedented cruelty being inflicted on Gaza.
We support the global movement against the destruction of Gaza and the mass displacement of the Palestinian people. We demand that our governments end their military and political support for Israel’s actions.
We call for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of Gaza’s crossings to allow humanitarian aid to enter unhindered.”
We mourn the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives.
We call for peace with justice and an end to Israel’s occupation, apartheid and ongoing genocide;
We call on the Australian government to condemn Israeli war crimes, recognise Palestine and support the ICC investigation;
We call for immediate sanctions on Israel;
We call on Australian trade unions to impose boycotts against Israeli apartheid as they did to isolate apartheid in South Africa;
We call on all Australian organisations and entities that have investments or partnerships in Israeli companies which are complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and apartheid, to divest from such ties.
BDS Australia believes that this tragedy is wholly the result of the impunity given to Israel since 1948 by Western and other governments which have allowed Israel to constantly violate international law and impose its violent military occupation and colonisation throughout the occupied Palestinian Territories and the inhumane 16-year blockade of Gaza.
Palestinians have long called for justice in international law only to be progressively dispossessed and subject to an apartheid regime while Israel and its allies including Australia, maintained the lie of a 2-state solution.
The silence from the Australian government over Israel’s current indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, and the rapidly mounting civilian death toll and widespread destruction, continues this long and disgraceful record of double standards and gives Israel increased impunity and incentive to commit further war crimes.
This year has already seen more Palestinians killed, and more arrested and held without charge, than for three decades. The armed campaign of ethnic cleansing, led by settler militias that enjoy near-complete impunity, has intensified, with their leaders now sitting in the Israeli cabinet. The Hamas attack on Israel came in response to an incursion by these armed thugs supported by Israeli forces, into Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest shrine, with the clear aim of forcing out Muslim worshippers. It also came after increased ethnic cleansing of Palestinian rural communities and major military incursions into the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin this year.
The building of Jewish-only illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank has reached a record level this year. The entire settlement-building programme is a war crime, in breach of the unambiguous prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention: “An occupying power must not move any part of its population into the territory it occupies”.
Key international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights reports have shown conclusively that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution against Palestinians, both grave crimes against humanity in international law. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, his government and the Opposition do not even acknowledge these findings, yet Australia as a signatory to international conventions, is obliged in law to take action to end these crimes.
Labor in 2022, went to the election with a national policy platform that committed it, once in office, to recognising Palestine as a state “as an important priority”. No progress has been made on even this modest demand.
This is significant in withholding Australia’s support for the investigation by the International Criminal Court into war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories since June 2014, when indiscriminate Israeli bombardment killed over 2,000 civilians in Gaza.
As the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “It is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”.
Through its collusion in closing off legal, diplomatic and political pathways to justice, Australia has blood on its hands. The Palestinians have been driven, by Australia among other countries, to the last resort of rebellion against tyranny and oppression.
The state of Israel continues to deny the right of self-determination to Palestinians and continues to dispossess them of their land. We aim to rectify this injustice in ways that will allow both Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace, security and equality, exercising self-determination as described by the United Nations Charter.
Recognise that the state of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and the expropriation of Palestinian land, water, airspace, and resources is illegal and must be opposed.
Recognise that the September 2022 Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur found that “the occupation is not merely belligerent ,but is settlercolonial in nature and that Israel has prevented the realisation of Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, violating each component of that right, wilfully pursuing the “de-Palestinianisation” of the occupied territory.”
Support freedom and statehood for the Palestinian people.
Recognise that our ability to resolve the climate crisis is made more difficult by the ongoing violent conflict in the region and peace and stability are required for regional and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.
Call on all parties to comply with international law, relevant United Nations (UN) resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
Recognise that the state of Israel, as the sole State power exercising control over all Palestinians, has the primary obligation to comply with such laws.
Recognise that Israel’s ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land is rendering a two- state solution unachievable.
Reject and condemn all forms of violence, especially against civilians, whether perpetrated by a state, organisations or individuals, while recognising the right of the Palestinian people to resist Israeli occupation in accordance with international law.
Oppose all forms of racism, religious or cultural intolerance and discrimination, in Australia and internationally
Demand the protection of human rights in the Palestinian territories and Israel
Recognise that the state of Israel is practising the crime of apartheid against Palestinians as noted by prominent human rights organisations – including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as Palestinian and Israeli groups including al-Haq, Yesh Din and B’Tselem.
Recognise the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their place of origin through a just and acceptable solution based on UN Resolution 194, or compensation for those who choose not to return. Additionally, support the establishment of international mechanisms guided by international law to facilitate this outcome.
Recognise that the rise of right-wing extremism in Israel is contributing to the intensification of repression, violence and a further worsening of the humanitarian situation for Palestinians.
In accordance with the Australian Greens Resolution on Boycotts, Divestments & Targeted Sanctions, support the tactics of boycotts, divestments and targeted sanctions that are strategic and human rights aligned on: a) Government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated entities of the state of Israel and the Israeli military and/or; b) Corporations, entities and organisations that profit from or are complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights
Affirm that criticism of Israeli government policies and actions is not antisemitic, and therefore oppose the adoption and enforcement of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism which conflates criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism. Recognise the rise of hateful and violent racism and bigotry including antisemitism and Islamophobia in Australia and commit to the development of thorough anti-racism policies.
Support and promote an open, human rights-aligned public debate about the state of Israel’s policies toward, and treatment of, Palestinian people.
Recognise the particular impact on children living under military occupation and exposed to conflict, in terms of their physical, psychosocial and social development needs.
Recognise that the state of Israel’s policy of conscription has involved young people in conflict and occupation which is counter to the goals of peace. Goals The Australian Greens will work for:
The end of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and the removal of the Separation Wall.
The removal of Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from all the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including the land and sea blockade of Gaza.
The equitable allocation of all natural resources, including water.
Full equality before the law for every person, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, language, race, gender identity, class, disability, sexuality, or other social status.
The Australian government to join the international community in recognising the statehood of Palestinians and maintain the position of not recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The support of progressive political and civil society movements within the state of Israel and in the Palestinian Territories
The Australian Government to recognise and uphold the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in relation to investigations into the actions of members of the government of the state of Israel, the Israeli Defence Force, Palestinian Authorities and armed groups to ensure individuals found to be responsible for crimes under international law are brought to justice. Additionally, the Australian Government to use all diplomatic and peaceful means to ensure all parties to any such investigation cooperate and comply fully with all requests, requirements and rulings of the Court.
The Australian Government to support initiatives in the United Nations, including the International Court of Justice, to hold the state of Israel, Palestinian Authorities and armed groups accountable for crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations; including but not limited to the expansion of illegal settlements, targeting of civilians, treatment of civilian populations within their jurisdictions and treatment of enemy combatants under their control.
Australia to promote human rights of Palestinians in its diplomatic relationships with those directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.
The involvement of progressive women’s organisations in establishing and building peace, in line with the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
The Australian Government to increase support for NGOs promoting peace with justice for all Palestinians and Israelis.
The Australian Government to work for UN-supervised removal of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, from all states in the region.
In independent Australian foreign policy in relation to South West Asia and North Africa region, based on principles of peace, disarmament, ecology, self determination and human rights. As preliminary steps to the achievement of the goals, the Australian Greens call for:
The immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli military from all Palestinian cities, towns, refugee camps, surrounding areas and transport routes, allowing freedom of movement of Palestinians.
The immediate release of Palestinian political prisoners and all Palestinian child prisoners held in Israeli detention.
The end of dispossession and destruction of Palestinian homes by the authorities of the state of Israel and Israeli settlers.
Palestinian control of their borders with Jordan and Egypt.
The immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including expansion, and the simultaneous commencement of the repatriation of the Israeli settlers from the Palestinian territories.
The immediate dismantling of the separation wall.
The deployment of an international peacekeeping force endorsed by the United Nations to monitor the implementation of the above preliminaries by the parties; ensure that civilian populations are not exposed to the risk of hostile attack; and provide assistance to re-establish infrastructure.
An immediate end to refusal of, or hindrance to, medical aid to Palestinians and an end to the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, agriculture and homes by authorities of the state of Israel and Israeli settlers
International support to establish a joint healing process, based upon the principles of a truth and reconciliation commission.
Australian, international and Israeli assistance programs in the Palestinian territories which together are sufficient to repair and rebuild Palestinian infrastructure, institutions, agriculture and the environment, and democratic civil society.
UN-endorsed measures, such as targeted sanctions, as needed and in conformity with Australian Greens policies.
An end to Australian taxation deductions for donations to states, institutions and organisations engaged in violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in Israel and Palestine, including settlement activity.
Given the continuing disregard by the state of Israel of calls to halt settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Australian Greens:
Call upon the Australian and State governments to halt military and security trade and cooperation with the state of Israel.
Reiterate our call for the immediate freezing of all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Call for the removal of existing Israeli settlers and Israeli security and military forces from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
That the Australian Greens: • Acknowledge Australia’s history of cultural, consumer, sporting and labour movement boycotts as a legitimate, non- violent political expression in support of national liberation, health, human rights and environmental causes. • Support the application of targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments by the Australian Government when they are strategic and human rights-aligned and one or more of the following criteria are met: • The grave repression of the human rights or democratic freedoms of a population by a government • The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction • Internal or international armed conflict • Genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity or the perpetration of war crimes • State-sponsored mass violence • In the event of a military coup These criteria should serve to assist the deliberations of the Australian Greens and of the Australian Greens Party Room when considering calling for the application of targeted sanctions, boycotts or divestments against: • Government or state officials • State entities • State-affiliated or state-funded entities and/or; • Corporations, entities and organisations that profit from or are complicit in the violation of human rights. The Australian Greens reaffirm its support for the following calls made by the Australian Greens Party Room Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the following boycotts, divestments and targeted sanctions: • Targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments on Myanmar’s military junta, government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated corporations for the 2021 February coup and treatment of the Rohingya population • Targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments on Iranian government officials and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated corporations including financial asset freezing and visa bans on key officials, the IRGC and morality police • Targeted sanctions, boycotts and divestments on Russian government representatives, institutions and state-affiliated corporations including boycott of the Russian oil and gas purchases.
Eminent American-Jewish international legal scholar Emeritus Professor Richard Falk, will be in Sydney next week. Professor Falk is a tireless advocate for the universal application of international human rights law as the basis for a sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine. He was United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 from 2008 to 2014.
We are disappointed that his views have been characterised as controversial and that, baselessly, he has been labelled ‘antisemitic’ by some pro-Israel commentators, such as in last week’s edition of Australian Jewish News (AJN). Disappointingly the editor of the AJN has so far refused to publish Professor Falk’s point-by-point refutation of the allegations made in AJN, so we publish it here.
We read with alarm that an application has been made to the Minister for Immigration, David Coleman MP, to revoke Professor Falk’s visa. This week we wrote to Minister Coleman, as well as to Senator Keneally as shadow minister, seeking their reassurance that Professor Falk will have no difficulty entering Australia on 2 July.
In reply to Jewish News, Professor Falk asks what is controversial about his view that sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians ‘depends on respect for Palestinians’ rights and an end to Israeli violations of international law.’ As UN Special Rapporteur he was accused of being ‘antisemitic’ or a ‘self hating Jew.’ Yes, he criticised states ‘from the perspective of international law and morality’, but has never criticised the ethnicity or religious identity of any people. Yes he has written about the ‘collective punishment’ of the civilian population of Gaza ‘which is unconditionally prohibited by an occupying power in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.’ That writing ‘was intended as a wakeup call to encourage a more humane and legally appropriate approach to the civilian population of Gaza.’
Barrister and author Greg Barns issued this statement supporting Professor Falk’s visit:
‘In a liberal democracy freedom of speech and ideas must include the ability to present divergent views and opinions on issues. The conduct of Israel and the treatment of the Palestinians is no exception to that core value. Yet too often in Australia critics of Israel and those who, like Richard Falk bring their expertise to the issue and reveal uncomfortable truths, are harassed and bullied by elements of the pro Israel lobby. This preparedness to shut down criticism of Israel should have no place in a nation that purports to defend freedom of speech and freedom of thought.’
Stuart Rees OAM, Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Sydney and founder of the Sydney Peace Prize notes:
‘Zealous supporters of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians display an appalling cruelty and total indifference to the rules of international law. In response to such cruelty, Professor Richard Falk, a highly distinguished jurist and political scientist, has spent a lifetime working to promote peace with justice to benefit Israelis as well as Palestinians. Despite being vilified for his efforts, he continues to advocate respect for universal human rights and will not be stifled or intimidated by bullies. The Australian BDS movement is privileged to welcome Professor Falk to Sydney. He will address one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues, a future for Palestine. ‘
A Future For Palestine, with Professor Richard Falk – presentation, then in conversation with Professor Stuart Rees OAM Parliament of NSW, Theatrette, Macquarie St, Sydney Thursday 4 July, 2019, 6-8pm
EDITOR: Disappointingly the editor of Australian Jewish News has so far refused to publish Professor Falk’s point-by-point refutation of the allegations made in AJN last week, so we publish it here:
The article starts by reporting ‘concerns’ over my visit to Australia in response to speaking invitations in Sydney this July to address Israel/Palestine relations. At the outset I should say that my true position has always been to identify the conditions for peace between the two peoples. What has made my views controversial in the more militant pro-Israeli circles is my contention that a sustainable peace as distinct from a ceasefire depends on respect for Palestinian rights and an end to Israeli violations of international law. In my reports to the UN for the six years I served in this unpaid UN post, I attempted to do this in an objective, fact-based manner sensitive to the application of international legal norms. When I began my term as Special Rapporteur I made a formal appeal to extend my mandate to cover Palestinian violations of international human rights law, but this effort was rejected by the Human Rights Council after considerable debate by governmental representatives.
As for the specific allegations in the article, let me respond as best I can from a remote location far from my office. First of all, I have never ‘endorsed’ conspiracy theories, the allegation undoubtedly referring to my very limited writing about the 9/11 attacks on the United States. It is true that I wrote a favorable foreword to David Ray Griffin’s first book on the subject, A New Pearl Harbor, but it is also true that the book raises 17 questions that were at the time unanswered in the official account of the attacks, and deserved to be answered convincingly to put doubts to rest. It should be appreciated that Griffin, a close friend, is a distinguished professor of religious philosophy who is a founder of ‘process theology’ along with his academic colleague John Cobb. In subsequent commentary on my blog and in journalistic pieces I repeated in various ways that valid suspicions remain about the official version of the 9/11 attacks, but I have never supported conspiracy theories that offer alternative versions as to what happened. To plead for a removal of suspicion is not to allege ‘conspiracy,’ although when such suspicions are not removed, further doubts naturally emerge, but in the spirit of skepticism not an instance of conspiracy thinking.
It is true, especially while serving in an unpaid position in the UN as Special Rapporteur, I was accused of being ‘anti-Semitic’ or a ‘self-hating Jew’ guilty of spreading anti-Jewish ‘tropes,’ but these accusations came from similar sources as this defamatory article. Although frequently a critic of the behavior of states, especially from the perspective of international law and morality, I have never directed my criticism at the ethnicity or religious identity of any people, including of course, Jews. In this vein I have been critical of Israel for its state policies as I have been of many other governments, including my own. I have consistently affirmed my Jewish identity, and it is a nasty slur to suggest otherwise or to merge my criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitic attitudes. Those that do so never examine the reasonableness of arguments contending that Israel is guilty of serious violations of international humanitarian law.
The article in the Australia Jewish News also refers to my contention that Israel subjugates the Palestinian people in a manner that violates the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. This conclusion emerged in the course of a jointly authored contract academic study commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Council for West Asia (ESCWA). The study reached this conclusion on the basis of available evidence, but makes no claim of being legally authoritative. It was removed from the ESCWA website on instructions from the UN Secretary General after representatives of Israel and the United States demanded the repudiation of the report, and threatened dire consequences if this was not done. It is notable that the head of ESCWA at the time, Rima Khalaf, resigned in principle rather than follow the SG’s instruction. It seems relevant to note that the Report was never ‘repudiated’ by the UN and in fact received the endorsement of member governments of ESCWA.
Three additional allegations warrant a brief explanation. First, a 2007 article called ‘Slouching Toward a Holocaust in Palestine’ was a journalistic statement of concern about Israel’s practices toward the civilian population of Gaza, with particular reference to reliance on tactics that seemed fairly described as ‘collective punishment,’ which is unconditionally prohibited by an occupying power in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention covering ‘belligerent occupation,’ and a mainstay of international humanitarian law. The piece made an admittedly provocative reference to collective punishment of German Jews in Hitler’s Germany. It was meant to be a shocking reference, a wakeup call that sought to encourage a more humane and legally appropriate approach to the civilian population of Gaza, long denied basic rights. It was not meant as a comparison of Nazi and Israeli orientations, but I admit that it could be so interpreted, and was for that reason, perhaps, an inappropriate way to express my position.
Secondly, the posting of an anti-Semitic cartoon. Unlike the article, this was a complete mistake that was the result of an accidental oversight on my part. As implied in the article, the cartoon has nothing to do with Israel. It was concerned with the American opportunistic influence exerted over the International Criminal Court in The Hague, illustrated by its actions against Gaddafi in conjunction with the NATO operation in Libya in 2013. As I have explained many times, when posted I never noticed its anti-Semitic character because the image of the Jew was so small on the Google image page as to seem indecipherable and irrelevant. When this was brought to my attention the cartoon was immediately removed from the blog, and if the text of the post is read it makes no reference whatsoever to Jews or mentions Israel. The bad faith of critics such as the author of this derogatory article was demonstrated by completely ignoring my explanations, and even more so by widely disseminating a greatly enlarged version of the cartoon that tries to convey the impression that it was impossible for me not to have known of its anti-Semitic content when I posted the cartoon.
Thirdly, my comments at the time in reaction to the official coverage of the Boston Marathon terrorist event, which attracted some prominent criticism. Let me say that my point was simple and banal, and made by many others without evoking such angry reactions. I suggested that American foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular reference to Israel, was bound to have reverberations, including inducing extremists and disturbed persons to engage violently. I think this is a fact, borne out by experience of such sociopathic behavior. I denounced the terrorist violence of the Boston Marathon bombing at the time and never suggested that the U.S. change its policies in response. In this sense, my comments were torn from context to create effects never intended by me.
Finally, the article refers to several high-profile public officials, including the UN Secretary General at the time, who repeated such allegations, criticizing my views and behavior. As far as I know all of these allegations followed upon letter writing campaigns that repeated the insults, distortions, and defamatory remarks of this article, often organized by UN Watch, an NGO operating out of Geneva known for such tactics as ways of discrediting anyone voicing serious criticisms of Israeli state policy. When I inquired about the SG’s remarks to his chief assistant, he sheepishly acknowledged that ‘we didn’t do due diligence,’ which is UN-speak for admitting that my piece on which the denunciation was based was never read.
My professional life was mainly devoted to scholarship and teaching, the core of which was as a faculty member at Princeton University where I spent forty years as a professor of international law. I repeat in conclusion what I expressed at the outset. My entire career has been devoted to work for peace with justice at home and abroad, including in many settings apart from Israel/Palestine. To suggest otherwise is a clear example of character assassination.
Richard Falk San Foca, Italy June 22, 2019
This website is maintained by BDS Australia, which is affiliated with the coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement and by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a BNC member organisation.