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AIJAC disappointed by FM Penny Wong’s comments regarding a Gaza ceasefire

Nov 12, 2023 | AIJAC

A Screenshot from Senator Wong's controversial Statement on ABC-TV's "The Insiders" on Nonv. 12, 2023, as republished on her feed on X (formerly Twitter)
A screenshot from Senator Wong's controversial statement on ABC-TV's "The Insiders" on Nov. 12, 2023, as republished on her feed on X (formerly Twitter)

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today expressed disappointment over Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong’s comments on ABC-TV’s “The Insiders” regarding Gaza this morning, saying they were “disturbing”.

Senator Wong stated: “we all want to take the next steps towards a ceasefire” before adding no ceasefire could be “one-sided.”  She also called for Israel to “cease the attacking of hospitals.”

AIJAC Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein described Wong’s comments as “disappointing and disturbing.”

“Make no mistake, any move towards a ceasefire without the release of the 240 hostages Hamas holds, and concrete moves to dismantle Hamas’ military infrastructure and end its rule over Gaza, amounts to a call for a victory for Hamas – a murderous genocidal terrorist movement.  A ceasefire will only allow the continuation of Hamas’ despotic and corrupt rule over Gaza and years of ongoing attacks on Israeli civilians, with Hamas spokespersons openly saying their goal is to try to repeat the unprovoked, murderous mass-terror wave of October 7 ‘again and again’.”

“As British Labour leader Keir Starmer recently pointed out, ‘a ceasefire now will only freeze this conflict and would leave hostages in Gaza and Hamas with the infrastructure and capability to carry out the sort of attack we saw on October 7.’ Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and even left-wing US Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders have also made similar points. Senator Wong should also understand this basic and undeniable reality.”

Dr Rubenstein also said he was particularly disappointed at Wong’s lack of balance and questionable statements regarding international law in relation to Hamas entrenching itself in healthcare facilities.

“Hamas is committing gross war crimes by using civilians as human shields in hospitals. International law is absolutely clear that the war crime of using a civilian facility such as a hospital for military purposes renders that facility a legitimate military target – though of course, requirements under the Law of War regarding distinction, necessity and proportionality still apply.

“Senator Wong’s claim that Gaza’s hospitals remain ‘protected’ sites,  and by implication, immune from attack under international law, even as Hamas has reportedly located its main command centre under Gaza’s Shifa Hospital, amounts to a misunderstanding of what International Humanitarian Law actually says. Worse still, it effectively aids and abets Hamas in committing the war crime of using human shields by arguing it should be given immunity from attack, and effective impunity to carry out other crimes, when its operatives do so.

“There is ample evidence that Israel is taking every precaution to warn civilians to evacuate facilities that are being used by Hamas before it launches any attacks. There is no evidence that Israel is failing to comply with the Laws of War as it faces the terrible difficulties and dilemmas of attempting to end the threat from a terrorist organisation which has embedded itself deeply within a dense urban area and attempted to employ all of Gaza’s civilian residents as hostages and human shields. Everyone regrets the tragic civilian casualties that have occurred in the current Gaza war, but both legally and morally, it is Hamas that bears the responsibility for them.

“For the sake of Gaza’s civilian residents, as well as for the essential security of all Israelis – who continue to suffer under Hamas rocket barrages even now – the Government should support all legal means to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities, and oppose any end to the current war which does not achieve this absolutely vital goal.”

Dr. Rubenstein also noted with respect to Senator Wong’s call for humanitarian pauses in Gaza that Israel has already begun implementing such pauses on a daily basis, and considerable aid is already entering the area from Egypt with Israel’s cooperation.

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