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Open Letter to Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong

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Dear Senator Wong

Open letter – Military links – Australia and Israel

Like very many Australians, members of Australians for War Powers Reform are appalled and horrified by the slaughter of so many civilians in Gaza and the destruction of their society by the Israeli Defence Force.

I am therefore writing to raise our serious concern about what appears to be a continuing defence relationship between Australia and Israel.

As you know Israel is currently being investigated for alleged genocide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and is accused by the UN and multiple human rights organisations of serious war crimes. Australia is now being accused of complicity.

A number of these issues have been raised in public debate but there appears to be a great deal of confusion about whether Australia is in fact exporting any weapons or weapons parts to Israel.  While the government has repeatedly stated that such exports have not occurred for some years (“many, many years” in the words of Defence Minister Marles), such statements do not appear to match the available evidence.

We would therefore appreciate it if you could please address the following questions.

  1. The Australian Trade and Defence Office in Jerusalem

The DFAT website’s country brief for Israel states that: ‘Since 2017, Australia and Israel have expanded cooperation on national security, defence and cyber security. Defence officials began annual strategic talks in 2018 and in early 2019, Australia appointed a resident Defence Attaché to the Embassy in Tel Aviv… The Australian Trade and Defence Office in Jerusalem, which opened in 2019, is facilitating trade, investment and defence industry partnerships’.

Question: Does the Australian Trade and Defence Office in Jerusalem facilitate defence exports from Australia to Israel, or does it not?

  1. Change of Australia’s policy?

Question: If there has been a change of policy in relation to trade and partnerships with Israel on defence matters, when did this change of policy occur?

  1. Transparency and the Arms Trade Treaty

Question: If there has been such a change of policy, why was it not publicly announced?

Such an announcement would be in keeping with the ALP’s commitment to provide more transparency and accountability in government. Transparency in the transfer of conventional arms is also required under Article 5 of the Arms Trade Treaty to which Australia is party.

4.  Violations of IHL, undermining peace and security, and the Arms Trade Treaty

The ATT also states, in Article 7, that nations exporting arms shall assess the potential that the arms or items to be exported could undermine peace and security, or be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).

Question: Does Australia monitor end-use of its exports of weapons and weapons parts, in order to ensure compliance with the ATT?  If so, how is this monitoring done?

5. F-35 parts

In Senate Estimates last week a Defence Department spokesperson confirmed that Australia contributes to a global supply chain of F-35 parts via a central repository in the US, but indicated that whether or not the parts end up being used by Israel in the current war was not taken into account in the decision as to whether to grant an export permit or not.

Question: How then does Australia ensure compliance with Article 7 of the ATT in its exports of F-35 parts, if we do not even know where they will end up?

6. Smartshooter

On 6 November 2023 an email was sent from the Austrade and Defence Office in Jerusalem in relation to Smartshooter, an Israeli company manufacturing automated weapons systems which have been used in Gaza. In August 2023 Smartshooter announced the establishment of its new Australian subsidiary, Smash Australia, to provide automated weapons to the Australian military.

Question:  What steps has the government taken to ensure that Smartshooter’s work in Australia does not contribute to war crimes?

7. Elbit Systems

On 28 February 2024, Israel’s Elbit Systems was awarded a contract worth approximately A$917 million to supply systems to Hanwha Defense Australia for the Australian Land 400 Phase 3 Project.

Elbit is the primary provider of land-based military equipment and unmanned aerial vehicles to the Israeli forces and is the country’s biggest defence company.

Question: Given that Elbit Syetems produces drones being used in Gaza is it appropriate for the government to award such a lucrative contract to this company?

We look forward to receiving your response to these questions.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Bartlett

President

Australians for War Powers Reform

 

 

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