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On eve of a military training exercise with Israel, Australian civil society organisations redouble call for end to military cooperation

ActionAid 3 mins read

Leading Australian human rights organisations are calling on Defence Minister Marles and the Australian Government to withdraw from RIMPAC, an upcoming military training exercise with the Israel Defense Forces due to take place in Hawai’i, from 26 June – 2 August.

 

ActionAid Australia, The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network and the Australian Centre for International Justice have all made the call on the Deputy PM.

  

As the Israeli Government’s war in Gaza continues to subject innocent civilians to relentless bombing, violence, and extreme shortages of food and water, Australia must cease military cooperation with Israel and end Australia’s involvement in the crisis in Gaza.  

 

In addition to facing criticism for its inclusion of Israel, RIMPAC has long been condemned by Kānaka Maoli in Hawai’i, and other Indigenous peoples across the Pacific, as reinforcing colonialism in the region. 

 

Environmental activists have also opposed the exercise, pointing to destruction of ecosystems, and islands and atolls that have been left uninhabitable by military exercises. Increased sexual violence against women and girls during RIMPAC drove the Hawai‘i State Commission on the Status of Women to run a public anti-trafficking campaign during the exercise in 2018. 

 

Minister Wong has repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza and called the cost of this conflict “catastrophic”, and what is occurring in Gaza “horrific”. But Minister Marles’ willingness to have Australian troops train in cooperation with the Israeli Government, supporting it to “achieve its national objectives”, compromises the strength of this message. 

 

Australians do not want to play any part in violence against Gaza’s innocent civilians. Polling in February showed four in five Australians support a ceasefire in Gaza, and a majority support the Australian Government taking more action to achieve that goal. 

 

The Israel Defense Forces have disregarded calls for a ceasefire, targeted civilians directly through airstrikes, destroyed water facilities, and sieged hospitals – preventing civilians from accessing critical healthcare, medical supplies, and the drinkable water they need to survive. The death toll now exceeds 37,000 – over half of whom are women and children. 

 

For months, our organisations have called on the Government to end any and all military cooperation with the Israeli Government, and to champion calls for a ceasefire. A range of authoritative individuals and bodies, including scholars, UN experts and the International

Commission of Jurists have warned of the risk of genocide in Gaza. 

 

We continue to be deeply concerned by Australia’s supply of parts for the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber, which Israel is using in its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. In the Netherlands, a court has ordered the government to stop shipping F-35 parts to Israel. A similar case is underway in Denmark. Nothing from Australia should be used for bombardment, death or destruction in Gaza.

 

Australia must do all it can to prevent further harm to the nearly two million people in Gaza living through this conflict, through actions, not just words. We continue to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civilians, civil society organisations and trade unions in the occupied Palestinian territories facing violence and occupation.  

 

We call on the Government to: 

  1. Immediately suspend all military aid, assistance, and cooperation with Israel, including through military training exercises like RIMPAC. 

  2. Continue to call for an immediate, permanent, and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza. 

  3. Take urgent action to ensure that Israel acts in accordance with International Humanitarian Law, using all diplomatic means available, and demand perpetrators of international humanitarian law violations and atrocity crimes are held to account. 

ActionAid Executive Director Michelle Higelin said:

 

"It is deeply concerning that the Australian Government is continuing military cooperation with the Israeli Defense Forces as though its business as usual by allowing the IDF to participate in this joint military exercise. The IDF is engaged in a brutal war in Gaza that has displaced the majority of the population and had a devastating impact on civilians,” said Ms Higelin.

 

"Palestinian women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  They are facing extreme difficulty accessing health care and living in constant fear of displacement and violence.  The entire population of Gaza is facing severe food insecurity with famine now prevalent in Northern Gaza. 

 

"Under no circumstances should Australia be engaged in military cooperation with a defence force that has cut off the food supply for the civilian population,” said Ms Higelin.

 

ABOUT RIMPAC 

 

RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, coordinated by the United States. In 2024 it will run from 26 June-2 August in Hawai’i. In 2022 Australia sent around 1,600 personnel, and multiple ships and aircraft, to take part in the last RIMPAC. RIMPAC’s aims are stated as “fostering multi-national cooperation and trust, leveraging interoperability, and achieving respective national objectives”. 

 

Contact: Tim Brunero 0405 285 547

 

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