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Issue #1649      July 30, 2014

Editorial

Opportunism writ large

Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered condolences to the families who had lost loved ones in the “terrible tragedy” – the downing of Malaysian passenger jet MH17 – and demanded “justice for the dead.” He wasted no time in attributing blame to Russia for the “shooting down” of the MH17. Dennis Shanahan writing in The Australian (19-07-2014) proclaimed: “Tony Abbott has gone further than any other world leader in pointing the finger at Russia as being responsible for the ‘murder’ of 298 people including 28 Australians.” No examination of the site, no evidence whatsoever – blame Putin and in doing so, reinforce ongoing US demands for sanctions against Russia.

“Without bothering himself about evidence and operating only on speculation, Mr T Abbott assigned guilt,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “Abbott’s statements are unacceptable.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop was a little more circumspect, conscious of what was required to give Australia the international credibility to use its seat on the UN Security Council and hopefully become involved in the investigations.

In an act of opportunism of the lowest order, Abbott aided and abetted by the corporate media, is using the tragic deaths to play domestic politics. Abbott is strutting the world stage, negotiating with Russia and getting a motion through the UN on the MH17. “The nation has a true leader in Tony Abbott,” wrote Simon Benson in the Daily Telegraph (25-07-14). “There is no doubt that he has led the world. Those that know him will tell you that he is no ‘surrender monkey’.” Benson didn’t stop there, “The fact that he put a spine into US President Barack Obama and got Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone – twice – may seem remarkable for a minnow such as Australia.”

In Australia, Abbott’s image as a “strong world leader” has been enhanced according to the media, but his government’s policies remain as unpopular as ever and the Coalition still lags behind Labor. Internationally, he is serving US strategic plans as the US increases pressure on reluctant European nations to impose sanctions on Russia.

At the same time another, even more horrendous tragedy is unfolding. For three weeks now Israeli forces have been bombarding Gaza. At the time of writing the Palestinian death toll had passed the 1,000 mark, a large percentage of them children. Thousands more have been seriously injured and seen their homes, hospitals and other facilities bombed to smithereens. More than 140,000 people have fled their homes (or the rubble that remains), many seeking protection and shelter in buildings run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

UNICEF official Osama Damo described the ongoing operation as “a war on children.” “There is literally no safe place for civilians in Gaza”, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson Jens Laerke said. At the same time 40 Israeli soldiers have been killed inside Gaza and in Israel three Israeli citizens are reported as losing their lives.

When it comes to concern for Palestinian lives, there is deadly silence from our “strong world leader”. When three Israeli students were killed, Abbott extended his condolences to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Daily, the media show the horror and tragedy of this ongoing massacre of the Palestinian people – flattened buildings, bodies in the rubble, people crying as they hold loved ones or dig through the rubble looking for child or mother. Surely such a humanitarian crisis is deserving of at least the description of a “terrible tragedy” from the Australian government. Why isn’t Abbott strutting the world stage in defence of Palestinian lives? Fortunately, the people of Australia are not so callous, as can be seen from the thousands who took to the streets around Australia on Sunday and in previous rallies.

In the case of the Palestinian people, there is overwhelming evidence of who is committing these horrendous crimes against humanity. The Australian government, the US and many of its Western allies are collaborators with imperialist interests in Israel’s aggression towards Palestinians and aims to build a “Greater Israel”. So don’t expect to hear Tony Abbott describing this slaughter of more than 1,000 innocent people as a “terrible tragedy” or demanding “justice for the dead”. Australia and the international community have a responsibility to protect the Palestinian people and bring Israel to justice. The Palestinians are prisoners in their own land with all borders closed by Israel and Egypt and no safe place to go.

Next article – National Committee to Free the Cuban 5

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