Wong sounds alarm over civilian deaths and ‘just’ peace

January 17, 2024 by AAP J-Wire
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As the number of Palestinians being killed in the Gaza war continues to climb since the October 7 Hamas attack, Penny Wong has urged for genuine steps towards peace and security.

Penny Wong meets hostages’ families       Photo X

The foreign minister was “deeply moved” by her meetings with the Israeli families of hostages taken in the October 7 terror attacks, as part of her week-long visit to the Middle East.

“I greatly admire the strength they continue to show,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I assured them that in every engagement I have with relevant parties, I will use Australia’s voice to call for the immediate, unconditional and safe return of their loved ones.”

Penny Wong meets President Isaac Herzog    Photo: X

In a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Senator Wong shared the “strong concerns the Australian people have about the civilian death toll” in Gaza.

Senator Wong began her visit to the region with a stop in Jordan on Tuesday, where she met with her counterpart Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, King Abdullah II and the UN’s senior humanitarian co-ordinator Sigrid Kaag.

“I don’t think Australia can come to the region, demand specific assurances,” she told reporters in Jordan.

“Our view is that peace ultimately will come if there is genuine progress towards peace and security for Israel and for the Palestinian people and their legitimate aspirations for statehood.”

In a meeting with hostages’ families

Jordan is one of the few Arab countries to have signed a peace agreement with Israel, as the nation has a large Palestinian population who were displaced from their homes at the creation of the Israeli state.

Hearings have begun at the International Court of Justice after Israel was accused of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

Describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as dire, Senator Wong said Australia respected the independence of the ICJ and its role in upholding international law.

“Our support for the ICJ and respect for its independence does not mean we accept the premise of South Africa’s case,” she said.

“We will continue to work for a just and enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Penny Wong hears one story

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia wasn’t a participant in the case against Israel.

“The foreign minister made Australia’s position clear,” he told reporters.

“That doesn’t mean that we agree with some of the assumptions that they have in the South African case at all.”

Senator Wong announced an extra $21.5 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinians, including $4 million to the Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency medical services, $6 million to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency and $11.5 million to refugee programs in Lebanon and Jordan.

The foreign minister will also visit Occupied Palestinian Territories and the United Arab Emirates during her Middle Eastern trip and meet with Palestinians impacted by Israeli settler violence in the West Bank.

She has been criticised by the coalition for not visiting the southern Israeli towns where the Hamas attacks took place.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said it was “unforgivable” Senator Wong would not go.

“She should see the areas that on October the 7th changed this landscape forever, both politically and for the communities,” Ms Ley said.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, met Senator Penny Wong.

Katz said he expressed his gratitude to Wong for her “expression of solidarity with Israel and her crystal clear condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Hamas on October 7th.”

“We held a constructive meeting today in which we discussed the importance of continuing the traditional excellent relations between Australia and Israel,” said Katz.

The two foreign ministers were joined in their meeting by family members of Israelis still held hostage in Gaza, Romi Gonen, Michael Levy and Louis Har.

Katz said that Minister Wong expressed her commitment to publicly call and act for the release of all the hostages.

“Even though Australia may be far in distance,” he said, “the close cooperation [between Australia and Israel] will continue and strengthen.”

ABC Breakfast’s Michael Rowland asked Senator James Paterson, Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and for Cyber Security. about Penny Wong’s decision not to visit the sites of the October 7 massacre.

Senator James Paterson addresses the Senate

He said: “It would have been an important gesture for the Foreign Minister to be there and to see for herself the horror firsthand. When David Cameron was appointed Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom within almost a week of his appointment, not only did he travel to Israel, this is in November last year, he went to southern Israel. He visited Kibbutz Berri, one of the sites of those horrific massacres of Jewish people, the worst massacre of Jews since the end of the Holocaust. And he himself said it was important for him to be there, to experience that. And I think it would have been important for our Foreign Minister to do the same. I think it’s very unfortunate. Israel is not a big country. It’s not a long way away. It would have been a very small detour to do that, but something that would have meant a lot to the Jewish community here in Australia.

On being asked to explain to viewers what UNRWA does. His reply. “UNRWA’s a United Nations agency which operates in Gaza and the West Bank, and it has in the past been implicated with funding inadvertently, organisations like Hamas whose schools run by UNRWA, have been implicated in teaching anti-Semitic content to their students. An UNRWA teacher was implicated in the holding of an Israeli hostage in the most recent Gaza attacks. UNWRA is an organisation which we cannot be assured Australian taxpayers money is well spent and even David Feeney, a former Labour MP, was critical of this decision last night on social media. I do want the government to be able to reassure Australians that taxpayers’ money won’t end up finding its way to Hamas because they’ve decided to give money to UNWRA.


AAP with J-Wire and TPS


3 Responses to “Wong sounds alarm over civilian deaths and ‘just’ peace”
  1. Gil Solomon says:

    I am horrified that senior leaders in Israel took photo Ops with this woman.
    Photos which she will use for propaganda purposes.
    The political naivete of Israel is astounding.
    Apparently Israeli Hasbarah no longer exists.

  2. Liat Kirby says:

    What a disaster. That’s how I view it. Better Penny Wong had not gone to Israel at all. It’s only been used as a side-line to the more important Labor Party job of supporting the Palestinians and making speeches about peace with Labor’s ideological and completely unrealistic platitudes.

    How humiliating under the circumstances that Israeli officials and the families of the hostages had to be appreciative of Penny Wong’s exalted presence – she could hardly say other than she did about October 7 and the plight of the hostages. Her words went one way and her action in declaring gifting of
    so many millions to organisations such as UNRWA, Red Cross and Red Crescent, another. The whole thing a shameful affair and a waste of time. for Israel. I can no longer bear having to listen to her ‘international humanitarian law’ mantra that is attached to everything she speaks of – she applied it to the latest as well, the International Court of Justice in the Hague.. She universalises everything, so touches nothing.

    Jewish Australians will not forget this pathetic response from our government.

  3. Michael Lewis says:

    To say “Jordan is one of the few Arab countries to have signed a peace agreement with Israel, as the nation has a large Palestinian population who were displaced from their homes at the creation of the Israeli state” is repeating the rhetoric of those who seek to ignore history. Jordan represents 0ver 75% of Transjordan and is, by sheer size and population, a “Palestinian state”. Those who fled Israel in 1948 at the insistence of the Grand Mufti and others, paid the price of losing their homes. Israel did not force them out.

    FM Wong’s decision to not visit the areas where over 1200 Jews and others were butchered due to “time constraints” is an embarrassment to Australia and The Australian Jewish Community. That ‘she shared the “strong concerns the Australian people have about the civilian death toll” in Gaza’ to President Herzog was more important to her that expressing the strong concerns of our Jewish Community. FM Wong has left no doubt in my mind that she is no friend of Israel or the Australian Jewish Community.

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