Earlier this month, Canberra announced that it will officially refer to the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as “occupied Palestinian territory,” and, moreover, that it deems it “illegal” for Jews to live in the West Bank. In October of last year, the Australian government also reversed its predecessor’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Oved Lobel comments:
Apart from its criticism of Israel, the government says little about other issues and countries in the Middle East. There’s the slight exception of Iran, but even there Australia’s response falls short. [Foreign Minister Penny] Wong used Australia’s Magnitsky powers to impose thematic (human rights) sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities—long after the U.S., Canada, the UK, and the EU had begun doing so—in December 2022, in February this year, and again in March.
It also took Australia substantially longer than most of its allies to condemn Iran or impose sanctions against it for supplying drones and other weapons to Russia for its attack on Ukraine. Australia’s government has not criticized any action by Iran since the foreign minister condemned the May 19 execution of Majid Kazemi, Saeed Yaqoubi, and Saleh Mirhashemi. Iran has reportedly hanged at least 423 people since the start of 2023 and its “morality police” have returned to arresting women for not wearing their hijabs “properly.”
The government has had little to say about events in the Middle East outside of Israel and Iran even though 2022–23 has seen overwhelming regional shifts. In addition, an Australian citizen, Robert Pether, remains unjustly jailed in Iraq, something that ought to warrant a statement.
Meanwhile, pressure has been maintained on Israel despite the Palestinian leadership’s longstanding refusal to accept two-state peace offers or, in recent years, even to engage in negotiations on the subject.