Australia's decision not to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital is welcome – but not enough

Australia must start holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law and actively support Palestinian human rights

The Australian government's decision not to recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, reversing an earlier decision made by the Morrison government, was the right decision, in line with a clear consensus from the international community.

Only a handful of countries recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, most of which were led by far-right governments at the time. International law is clear on this issue, given that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory illegally annexed by Israel.

The fact that the Morrison government only recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, as opposed to the entire city of Jerusalem, makes no difference in that regard.

As international law professor Ben Saul points out: “Recognizing West Jerusalem as its capital is still against the consensus of international law… The position of the Morrison government is also absurd, as Israel does not claim 'West' Jerusalem as its capital, but all of Jerusalem. It's like oddly recognizing half of London as the capital of England."

While this decision was welcomed, it was barely enough. Australia must start holding Israel accountable for its ongoing daily violations of international law and for actively supporting Palestinian human rights.

As attention now turns to the political implications of this decision, Jerusalem and the West Bank are on fire. The past few weeks have seen a significant increase in settler, police and military violence. Armed settlers, backed and supported by the Israeli army and police, attack Palestinians in their homes and on their land, during the olive harvest season, and the army has surrounded many Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank under effective siege.

In Jerusalem, entire neighborhoods, such as Shuafat and Anata, face an Israeli blockade, with Palestinians responding with civil disobedience, taking to the streets in their thousands and striking.

Israel has been involved in ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem since its occupation in 1967. Following the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, Israel has extended residency status to Palestinian Jerusalemites living there. This residency status, however, does not provide stability or security, and does not protect Palestinians from expulsion, temporary or permanent, from their own hometown.

Under Israeli law, the interior minister can revoke the residency status of Palestinians, and since 1967 more than 15,000 residencies have been revoked. It is part of Israel's policy to become Jewish and vacate the city from the Palestinian population.

The Old City and all neighborhoods in Jerusalem such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and Jabal Al-Mukaber face a policy of ethnic cleansing, with hundreds of families facing the threat of expulsion. Palestinian homes were expropriated by the state under a law that only allows Jews to claim ownership of property owned before 1948 by Jews, while Palestinians are prohibited from making claims to property they owned before 1948.

The international human rights community agrees that Israel is practicing the crimes of apartheid against Palestinians. Recent reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the former and current UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian Territories, and Palestinian and Israeli NGOs concluded that Israel has implemented a system of racial domination, with an "intention to oppress and dominate Palestine" .

Apartheid Israel, the UN Special Rapporteur on the OPt, Francesca Albanese, decided just days ago in her new report, “is a hallmark of settler colonialism, and a war crime under the Rome Statute”. Jerusalem Old City.

Australian reversal in West Jerusalem: how did it happen and what was the reaction?

The question of the status of Jerusalem has nothing to do with the history of the Jews in Jerusalem. There is no denying that the Jews had a history in Jerusalem. Christians and Muslims also have a history in Jerusalem. Jewish history in Jerusalem cannot and should not be used as an excuse to justify the occupation and displacement of Palestinians. The Palestinians in the city have a long and documented history.

They are an inseparable part of the city and are entitled to protection.

It is time for Australia to follow the international human rights community's recognition of Israel as an apartheid regime and use its powers to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity, including, as Rawan Arraf has pointed out, by “dropping its objections to international crimes. judicial investigations into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

Symbolic gestures, while important, should not be the last word. More concrete actions that can help ensure that international human rights standards and international law are upheld.

Lana Tatour is lecturer in global development at the University of New South Wales.


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