Truth Is Misinformation: Wong-Albanese Doublespeak on Gaza

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Truth Is Misinformation

On the second sitting day of federal parliament this year, Greens MP Adam Bandt moved a motion calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. And with the death toll of the Israeli-perpetrated massacre then at more than 27,000 Palestinians, one would have hoped that all agreed.

However, only six of our elected officials sided with their humanity to vote for an end to the mass killing: the four Greens MPs Adam Bandt, Stephen Bates, Max Chandler-Mathers and Elizabeth Watson-Brown, along with independents Helen Haines and Andrew Wilkie.

So, teal rings blue, it would seem, on matters of blood. And this lower house vote came just weeks, after the International Court of Justice ruled on 26 January, that Israel is plausibly perpetrating a genocide upon the Palestinians of Gaza.

For his part, foreign minister Penny Wong’s righthand-man, assistant minister Tim Watts, continued with the same tired line about Israel having the “right to defend itself”, despite tens of thousands of civilian deaths, with 70 percent of the entire death toll comprised of women and children.

Indeed, since the Netanyahu government began its assault on Gaza’s Palestinians, foreign minister Penny Wong and PM Anthony Albanese have propagated an official line that bends the truth to the extent that those perpetrating a mass slaughter of innocents can’t be criticised or stopped.

In regard to Wong’s habit of bending the truth in order to block it on Gaza, Greens Senator David Shoebridge first pointed it out in December, as he’d been raising her department’s own information on arms to Israel with her and the minister had been charging him with spreading misinformation.

War is peace

“It’s extraordinary that the information we find about Australia’s weapons exports to Israel does not come from the government,” Shoebridge told Sydney Criminal Lawyers, a fortnight back. “Indeed, the government is doing everything it can to hide the truth.”

On 5 December, the Greens justice spokesperson quizzed Wong on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website stating that over the 5 years to 2022, Australia exported $13 million in arms and ammunition to Israel, yet she claims there has been no such exports for the past 5 years.

“I know there’s a lot of disinformation and misinformation circulating… I would encourage the senator to make sure that he does not contribute to that,” Wong said fobbing off this line of questioning.

“It is really very irresponsible of a senator to suggest that a government department is engaging in misinformation and disinformation at this time,” the foreign minister continued, dodging another truth and acting as if it is an affront for a fellow parliamentarian to raise such serious questions.

That was not the first time Wong reproached Shoebridge’s queries in such a manner, and nor was it the final. Last week saw the senator put a list of issues regarding arms to Israel to the minister, and she charged him with dealing in mis- and disinformation once again.

Shoebridge questioned the minister in regard to F-35 plane parts, drone engines and armoured steel being exported to Israel for military purposes, as well as having raised the point that her department’s figures show Australia provided further arms and ammunition to Israel in October.

Wong refuted the October 2023 export claim, and she restated that no weapons exports had occurred over the past 5 years. And in response to further questions regarding the continued export of materials used in weaponry to Israel, the minister implied Labor doesn’t support BDS boycotting.

“The foreign minister, Penny Wong, is being about as transparent as George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth,” Shoebridge said, the week prior to the pair’s latest exchange. “The bald facts are these: Australia has issued hundreds and hundreds of weapons export permits in relation to Israel.”

Ignorance is strength

Wong is not reserving her “truth is misinformation” tactic for Shoebridge, as Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi found the same on the first day back this year, as she was asking why Labor has sunk to its lowest point on Gaza and cut funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Israel cut food, water and other supplies entering Gaza four months ago, which was a region already suffering under a 16-year goods blockade. And based on some hearsay evidence Israel raised, Australia and around nine other donor countries cut aid to the region undergoing mass starvation.

“In four months of Israel’s genocide… you haven’t uttered a word of condemnation, yet it took you no time at all to suspend lifesaving funding to UNRWA, further enabling collective punishment of Palestinians as Israel continues its rampage and massacre in Gaza,” Faruqi stated on 6 February.

The foreign minister responded that there was “so much in that question which is false” and went on to add that Faruqi was “weaponising the conflict” by asking why desperately needed aid was cut. 

So, while the Greens senator raised the urgent matter of aid being cut to a catastrophe unmatched in recent times, Wong rather accused Faruqi, in calling for aid for Gaza, as fishing for votes. And the Greens charge stands regardless of whether Labor had doubled UNRWA funding prior to cutting it.

“Minister, I do not need a lesson in gaslighting,” Faruqi then countered, as she succinctly labelled Wong’s Ministry of Truth approach to Gaza matters.

Freedom is slavery

The Wong-Albanese Ministry of Truth approach is in sync with a broader campaign on the part of government, both Labor and the Coalition, along with western allies and the western mainstream media, in continuing to frame the clear atrocities perpetrated on the part of Israel as self-defence.

Yet, the ICJ ruling made certain that Israel was to cease all acts that are genocidal, and that there is a “plausible” genocide taking place triggers all nations a party to the Genocide Convention, which includes Australia, to take immediate steps to stop the attempt to destroy a specific group of people.

Israel, however, laid the charges against UNRWA staff having taken part in the 7 October Hamas attacks, which were allegations based on no evidence, on the day following the ICJ’s ruling on South Africa’s genocide application.

Lawyers in the US and the UK have already commenced proceedings in regard to charging local politicians with complicity in genocide. And questions are being raised in Australia about the potential for local litigation, as all the forms of genocide are crimes in this nation’s domestic law.

And the contemplation of such action has been focusing on whether the cutting of aid to a genocide site, where mass starvation is underway, is arguably a form of collective punishment, and whilst this is not a standalone offence, it’s likely captured within the elements of the crimes of genocide.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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