On 5 November, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed (GA/10883) the report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (aka Goldstone Report), which concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed possible war crimes. The vote was 114 in favour to 18 against, with 44 abstentions and 16 absences.
Australia, of course, voted against. The UN website reported as follows on its whys and wherefores:
"Australia's representative said his delegation had been deeply saddened by the conflict in the Gaza Strip and Southern Israel and that it regretted how efforts to address the situation since had stalled. Australia had voted against the resolution on the Goldstone Report because of its flawed content. However, that did not undermine the humanitarian welfare of of the Palestinian people before, during and after that crisis, which remained unacceptable. Australia did support a proper investigation of any breach of humanitarian rights and laws. It was crucial for such a serious matter to be dealt with properly. He called on both parties to investigate them and to inform the Member States of their results."
To amplify on this:
a) Australia's representative was so deeply saddened he had to have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.
b) For Australia's representative, Israel's brutal hammering of Gaza was in reality more of a border dispute, involving Gaza and Southern Israel in equal measure. He was, in fact, so burdened with sadness and regret that he was quite oblivious to the mutterings of 114 other representatives to the effect that, if they'd had to choose, they'd sooner have seen out the conflict on the Israeli side of the border, thankyou very much.
c) Yes, for Australia's representative, the Goldstone Report was hopelessly flawed. It existed. Perhaps if it'd been a Regev Report...
d) Oh yes, the humanitarian welfare of the Palestinian people... Of course, the poor buggers were up Shit Creek minus the proverbial paddle before, during and after that crisis, weren't they? Australia's representative finds that unacceptable. But not unacceptable enough, apparently, to provide them with said paddle.
e) Crisis? Yeah, like when you can't find a corkscrew to access the chardonnay.
f) And the Australian representative's idea of a proper investigation? A proper investigation is strictly in-house, know what I mean?
Mind you, Australia wasn't alone in voting Goldstone down. So too did Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Israel (naturally!), Italy, Netherlands, Panama, Poland, Slovakia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and the United States. And, of course, it was joined by its mini-mates in the Pacific, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. Now when it comes to lining up in the General Assembly with Israel, the United States, and Australia, these Pacific minnows, need I say, have real form. To take but one example, when the UN General Assembly passed resolution GA/10534 on 17/11/06, condemning an earlier Israeli hammerings of the Gaza Strip, only 7 countries voted against: Israel, the US, Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. What's going on here?
A little googling casts some light on this bizarre alignment. Take Palau (pop:20,000), for example, a cluster of 300 islands administered by the US until 1994 when it became 'independent'. Palau's UN 'ambassador' (2004-), Stuart Beck, an American-Jewish television company executive married to a Palauan, is described on palauun.org as a man who "champions Israel." And how did Beck become Palau's ambassador? Simple: "I said to them, 'Look, you don't produce anything, you don't manufacture anything, nobody's after your labor pool, you don't have anything that anyone wants... so the only thing of value you have is your UN vote... So they said to me, 'Why don't you do it?'"
Then there's Narau: The New Zealand Herald (12/4/04) provides this thumbnail sketch: "The tiny Pacific nation of Nauru came under scrutiny during the 90s when it acted as a money-launderer for the Russian mafia. The tax haven filtered an estimated $107 billion through 400 off-shore banks, all registered to a single Nauru government mailbox. It also sold its passports to non-citizens... The 21 sq km nation of just 12,000 people is now paid by the Australian government to house asylum-seekers in detention centres. It has been on the verge of bankruptcy after nearly a century of phosphate strip mining left it a nation of bleached coral pinnacles."
Israeli historian, Tom Segev, tells the amusing story (Nauru on our side, Haaretz, 11/12/06) of how he tried to place a call to Nauru's UN 'ambassador', Marlene Moses, "to thank her for her country having stood by my country in its time of difficulty" and "ask her how they decide there in Nauru to support, for example, Israel's refusal to return East Jerusalem to the Palestinians": "'Yes, it's a country', I insisted to the operator... She had been working there for years and no one had ever asked her to connect them with Nauru. 'It's a country?' 'Yes, a small one. And it supports Israel'. 'You're kidding', the young woman said. 'It supports Israel?' 'Yes, though it's even smaller than Sderot'. 'That doesn't matter', said the operator, 'as long as it supports us'. The telephone connection to Nauru is out of order. The operator promises to make a special effort, perhaps via Australia. It didn't work. Later, I read on the Foreign Ministry website that there are no phones in Nauru." On finding out that both water and electricity on the island are strictly rationed, and recalling the Australian TV series 'Embassy', set in East Timor, Segev was prompted to entertain "a thoroughly arrogant colonialist sort of idea: 'Was it possible', I wondered, 'that Nauru automatically votes as Australia does?'" So he rang Jonathon Chew, first secretary in the Australian Embassy. Mr Chew "gently but firmly" set him straight. "'Nauru is an independent nation', he explained to me. He could assure me that Australia does not dictate to independent nations how to vote in the UN. Australia opposed the draft resolution [calling on Israel to dismantle its West Bank settlements] this time, too, as it has before, because it felt that it was not sufficiently balanced and therefore would do nothing to promote peace, and Australia, of course, supports efforts to promote peace." Segev was left to reflect: "Evidently this is also the view of the United States, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and Nauru. At least half the people of Israel support the main points of the UN resolution, as does the vast majority of the people on the planet, but it's nice to know that we have friends and that we're not alone." Oh, and he never did get through to Marlene Moses.