Bombers should be named
WHILE US President George W. Bush launches his Iraq surge with an additional $US700 billion ($A897 billion) and 21,500 troops, Australia pledges $A5 million to mop up the mess in postwar Lebanon.
The human and financial cost of war continues long after a ceasefire is declared, especially if landmines are deployed.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer announced the Government's commitment on Australia Day eve, but it was undetected on the media radar in the shadow of our national fireworks.
The major platform of the pledge was $1 million to assist the UN's clearance of unexploded ordnance. Downer's statement declares: "The UN estimates last year's conflict left 1 million explosive remnants of war in Lebanon. As well as endangering lives, these have made large tracts of land inaccessible for crop harvesting. Australia is a global leader in mine clearance."
This chest-beating is fraught with curly questions.
Why does his media statement use euphemisms like the conflict rather than cite the UN correctly when it refers to cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah?
With our $1 million pledge, are we equating one dollar with every unexploded bomb in Lebanon? One dollar for every potential loss of human life?
While the statement refers to the devastating 34-day war that killed 1301 Lebanese and 157 Israelis, why does it dare not name those on both sides who committed these war crimes?
Why is the statement so damning of the bombs but never names the bombers? Is it assumed that all readers already know or is it deemed irrelevant in the context of apolitical humanitarian aid? Perhaps any finger pointing of Israel is a political landmine that our Foreign Minister needs to tiptoe around.
When Australian Democrats Leader Lyn Allison issued her media release after her visit to Lebanon last October, she had no difficulty referring to the areas destroyed by Israeli bombardments in south Beirut and southern Lebanon.
Allison explained that the US-manufactured M24 cluster bombs are attractive to children who mistake the bright objects for toys such as an orange ball and butterflies. Last December, she proposed an Australian ban on the use, construction and stockpiling of cluster bombs (it is now before a Senate committee).
According to the UN, about 40 per cent of these cluster bombs fail to detonate upon initial impact, rendering them live landmines just below the surface of the ground, littering homes, streets and orchards.
Cluster bombs disperse smaller bomblets or submunitions over wider areas and remain live for decades.
Rather than a buck per bomblet policy, a more fair dinkum commitment would be to support Allison's Private Bill to prevent Australia's involvement in cluster bombs.
Also, we should support the 25 nations who recently committed to a new international agreement to regulate cluster bombs and back international efforts to circumvent the supply chain of cluster bombs by pressuring the US to stop supplying Israel with these weapons. Other measures include supporting the UN by demanding Israel fully honour its commitment to the section of Security Council Resolution 1701 which calls for the "provision to the UN of all remaining maps of landmines in Lebanon in Israel's possession".
Lastly, we should call a spade a spade on the international public record by naming Israel and indeed Hezbollah.
When issuing statements and letters during the conflict in July 2006, Downer was never evasive about naming his protagonist, repeatedly referring to Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.
While this $1 million commitment could prevent further deaths and amputations, it is futile to supply Band-Aids without confronting the causes of the cuts.
Joseph Wakim is a founder of the Australian Arabic Council and a former Multicultural Affairs commissioner
Von: 11.02.2007, http://www.news.com.au, by Joseph Wakim