Top Palestinian diplomat urges Australia to back ceasefire in looming UN vote | Australia news #Top #Palestinian #diplomat #urges #Australia #ceasefire #looming #vote #Australia #news

The top Palestinian diplomat in Australia is urging the government to back a Gaza ceasefire in a looming UN vote, saying the world must stand against increasingly “catastrophic” conditions in the besieged strip.

Izzat Abdulhadi, the head of the Palestinian delegation in Canberra, appealed to the Australian government not to abstain like it did in a similar vote in October, saying “leadership means to have a principled position even if it has a huge risk”.

But he also pointed to growing internal Labor party pressure to back a ceasefire and said there was also “huge anger and fury and criticism in the Palestinian community, Muslim community, Arab community here” on Australia’s stance on the conflict to date.

The UN general assembly in New York is due to debate a resolution demanding “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza on Tuesday local time, with a vote expected on Wednesday morning Australian time. General assembly resolutions are not binding but carry political weight and reflect global views.

The US vetoed a similar resolution at the 15-member security council last Friday and argued that a ceasefire now “would only plant the seeds for the next war because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace”.

In an interview with Guardian Australia, Abdulhadi said the situation in Gaza was “very dire now” and about 1.9 million people – or 85% of the population – were internally displaced.

The Australian government has not revealed how it will vote in advance, but Abdulhadi said another abstention would be “unacceptable for Palestinian people”.

When the previous UN vote was held in late October, the Australian government said the proposed resolution was “incomplete” because it did not mention Hamas as the perpetrator of the 7 October attack.

Abdulhadi said he had heard directly from Labor party rank-and-file members who were “very critical of the position of the government when it comes to this issue of a ceasefire”.

“I think we have a lot of grassroots members of Labor who are not satisfied at all with this position, and they consider this unacceptable,” he said.

“In the future, when Australian politicians reflect about what happened to Gaza, I think they will regret it [not taking a stronger stand].”

‘Intergenerational trauma’

Abdulhadi represents the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah – a rival to Hamas – and is not in control of Gaza.

Because Australia does not recognise Palestinian statehood, Abdulhadi has the status of head of the general delegation of Palestine, rather than ambassador. He met with the foreign affairs minster, Penny Wong, last week to make the case for a ceasefire.

Abdulhadi said the Hamas attack of 7 October – in which about 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel and more than 200 others were taken hostage – did not justify the scale of Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

He said the conflict was fuelling “intergenerational trauma of Palestinians” and he asked how people whose mothers or fathers were killed would “support peace”.

“I’m a strong believer of peace and I want to exist with the Israelis, because I know that we are both in this land and we want to live peacefully,” Abdulhadi said.

“But what they are doing is sending a very strong message that power and naked power is the only way to end the occupation, not through a political solution.”

Smoke rising from the Shuja’iyya district of Gaza after Israeli strikes on 9 December.
Smoke rising from the Shuja’iyya district of Gaza after Israeli strikes on 9 December. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

The Israeli ambassador to Australia, Amir Maimon, said in a separate interview with Guardian Australia last week that people calling for a ceasefire should “concentrate their efforts on bringing Hamas to surrender”.

Maimon said he had assured the Australian government that Israel was “doing its utmost” to avoid civilian deaths in Gaza, where the Hamas-run ministry of health has reported that 18,205 Palestinians have been killed and 49,645 injured.

Maimon firmly rejected claims that the innocent people of Gaza were being collectively punished for Hamas’ atrocities, saying “we instructed them, begged them to leave their homes … to reach safe zones”.

But Abdulhadi reacted with incredulity to the ambassador’s statement. “This is really a joke – ridiculous,” Abdulhadi said.

“We can see it on the TV every day that these children are under rubble, they are killed, they don’t have access to hospitals … what is this if not collective punishment?”

Abdulhadi said that Gaza was also under a “brutal siege for 16 years” and asked: “How can you not call this collective punishment?”

Israel has previously defended the Gaza blockade, citing Hamas rocket attacks and incursions.

A senior Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad, said last month that the 7 October attack was “just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth”.

Asked about the security dilemma such rhetoric posed for Israel, Abdulhadi said the Palestinian Authority was “very clear that we are against killing civilians from both sides – and our political vision and strategy is different from the vision and strategy of Hamas”.

But Abdulhadi questioned the viability of the stated Israeli objective to eliminate Hamas. He said the situation would be “exploited and hijacked by extremists”.

The Australian government has said it supports “international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire” but such steps “cannot be one-sided” and must include Hamas stopping attacks on Israel and releasing all hostages.


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