Australia drops ‘occupied’ from references to Israeli settlements


The Abbott government has ruled out using the term “occupied” when describing Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, prompting suggestions about a shift in Australia’s foreign policy.

The government on Thursday delivered a statement to clarify its stand on the controversial question of the legality of settlements after the issued flared up at a Senate hearing the night before.

The attorney general, George Brandis, on behalf of the minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, said it was “unhelpful” to refer to historic events when describing these areas, given the ongoing Middle East peace process.

“The description of East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful,” Brandis told a Senate estimates hearing.

“It should not and will not be the practice of the Australian government to describe areas of negotiation in such judgmental language.”

Brandis sparked a heated debate the previous evening when he stated that no Australian government of either political persuasion “acknowledges or accepts” the use of the word occupied.

A number of senators disagreed, pointing out that Australia had voted in support of UN resolutions in 2011 and 2012 where such language was used to describe the East Jerusalem settlements.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, among other senators, suggested that dropping the term occupied would be a “massive shift” in Australia’s foreign policy.

Xenophon tried unsuccessfully to determine whether the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had changed its legal advice to the government on settlements.

In line with protocol, the secretary of Dfat, Peter Varghese, did not discuss the department’s legal advice before the Senate committee, but did concede the word “occupied” had been used by the government in the past.

Bishop raised eyebrows in January when she questioned which international law had declared Israeli settlements illegal.

The former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr was a vocal critic of settlements, which opponents cite as a key obstacle to a future Palestinian state and a lasting peace agreement with Israel.

June 6, 2014 | 5 Comments »

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  1. On second look: The article seems to be ambiguous on whether Australia is adopting or should adopt all the terms cited.

    However, Australia’s stance is causing a major reaction from the Arabs.

    Palestinian Authority Plans to Lobby Muslim Countries to Punish Australia for ‘Occupied’ Territories Decision

    What ever Australia did, and to whatever length, it was NOT minor to elicit this response.

  2. CuriousAmerican Said:

    These changes include:

    You might be in error, from your citation:

    Australia’s decision to call a spade a spade will hopefully encourage other countries to follow suit – as well as implementing international action to make some further changes in the duplicitous diplomatic double speak involving the use of misleading and deceptive language which has hindered rather than facilitated any resolution of the conflict.

    These changes include:

    From this quote it appears that the list may include “further changes” and not just those changes australia made.
    Can you clear this up please?

  3. Actually, the Australians did something quite substantial

    You are too cynical.

    These changes include:
    1. Replacing the term “occupied territories” with the term “disputed territories” to clarify that Jews also have legal rights in these territories in addition to those claimed by the Arabs.
    2. Using the 3000 years old term “Judea and Samaria” to replace the term “West Bank” – first coined by Jordan in 1950 to erase any trace of Jews having lived there after having been driven out by the invading Jordanian army in 1948.
    3. Substituting “Palestinian Arabs” for “Palestinians” and “Palestinian people” – terms first appearing in the 1964 PLO Charter that excluded former Jewish and other non-Arab residents and their descendants having any rights.
    4. Referring to the conflict as the “Jewish-Arab conflict” – which commenced in about 1880 instead of the “Palestinian-Israeli ” conflict – which only commenced in 1948.
    5. Omitting any reference to the term “State of Palestine” until the provisions of the Montevideo Convention 1934 are complied with.

  4. This is NOT an endorsement of Israel right to its land, but a shift that lacks moral courage. Jewish people need to stop being so “grateful.”